A winter vignette

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Yesterday we had clue of our first storm of the season moving into Kansas City. Friday was to warm up, and then start drizzling, with the temperatures slowly dropping, but stay above freezing until I would get home from work. Which was fortunate, since I was riding by bicycle home.

When I got out to my bicycle around 4:40 p.m. I could see the misted layer of moisture on my bicycle seat, but the concrete and pavement downtown were definitely wet, not frozen. The ride home was basically without incident, until I climbed the last hill home, out of the flat plain that North Kansas City was built on. I turned the corner at the church and suddenly pedaled with almost no forward traction for awhile. I wasn’t sure what happened (later I realized that the wheel had lost traction on ice). But I continued on until making the turn onto my home street, going a mere 5 mph, where I totally wiped out and fell onto my left forearm and elbow.

It was at this time that I realized that the road had ice on it. The change in elevation had caused things to freeze. I picked myself up (padded and protected by my layers of warm clothes and the helmet) and pushed my bicycle around the corner. I had to pop the chain back on a couple of times before I got it right, and then coasted very slowly down the hill until I reached my house.

The weather report I checked when I got home said it was 33 degrees out, but obviously it was colder on the top of the hill where my incident occurred.

The evening had some additional precipitation, nothing you could really see coming down, but by morning you could see the lightest of glazes thoroughly coating decks, walks and roads.

My usual procedure on weekends is to take the dog for a walk each morning with the bicycle and the Walky Dog attachment. But with the incident last night, I decided to walk the dog along our usual 3.4 mile Saturday route. Bundled up with my usual cycling cold weather gear (except replacing my cycling shoes with winter boots), I took the dog out the front door on the leash.

He promptly ran out and splayed himself on the deck. I walked off the deck and had to pull him along with me to get him going. He tended to slip a bit along the front walk and on to the driveway, where he seemed to get excited about something across the street and started trying to pull me there. I could feel the driveway slightly slippery beneath my feet and so tried to walk on the leaves along the edge to give me traction.

The drive and road were both covered in the thinnest of ice layers, easy to walk on, easy to slip on if you gave it the wrong application of pressure.

We got to the other side of the road, and I could see two mastiff-sized dogs (same size or larger than Rocky) coming our way. Rocky was excited to go to them. I planted my feet, and watched Rocky run in place on the slick road surface as the dogs approached. Their owner popped out the door and started calling them off, though they didn’t seem at all threatening, merely exploratory in their interest. I called out a greeting to the neighbor and then Rocky and I continued up on the hill to do our excursion.

At the top of the hill I came across the Kansas City Police car I often see parked along that street. This time it wasn’t parked in front of one of the usual houses, but between our street and the next street. It was rather unusual to see it parked there, no one around (though it is usually parked and unoccupied when I see it) with the ice glazed over it. I often wonder if and why the officer is allowed to drive the car home (assuming it is home) that way.

I could tell from my route that none of the side roads had received any attention from the city road crews. When we crossed Winn Road we could see that it had some treatment — there were patches of wet that indicated salt to melt the ice.

Over along the Russell Street stretch we saw our usual pack of yard dogs that barked up and down their half-block of fence as we passed by, and turned to head down the hill on Cleveland.

Halfway down Cleveland we noticed a pickup truck coming down the hill very slowly behind us; and not staying on its side of the road. I moved off the road to watch whether it might skid into where we were, but its weaving was an attempt to slow enough to turn into a driveway on our side that was above us. It made the driveway, and managed to stop in the driveway, though I think it wanted to stop sooner.

It made me wonder whether going uphill or downhill would be easier in these conditions.

We got to the bottom of the hill and took our usual side street that connects us to Chouteau Trafficway, and the park trail that wends on the west side of Chouteau.

The surface of the paved trail was interesting. You could see parts that seemed to have nice veined patterns on it, and sections that seemed perfectly smooth like glass. When the dog stopped to use one of the newly planted trees for a marking post, I noticed that one side of the tree was perfectly glazed with ice, while the other was perfectly clean and dry. The rain had obviously misted from the North and not the South along Chouteau.

The cars along the street were a mix. There was one blue pickup that seemed to move very slowly. Yet after it was gone the rest of the cars seemed to be moving along at a decent, though relaxed pace. The Trafficway seemed to be cleared fairly well by the city road crews. Yet whet I got near the intersection of Chouteau and Parvin I watched a truck, which had been moving sedately, take longer that it intended to stop, and skid fully ahead of the white stop line and crosswalk, though managed to stay out of the intersection. So obviously the road conditions were spotty.

It was when we got onto Parvin, but before turning back onto Winn Road that I saw the city plow truck coming along I waved, and gave thumbs up, and waved again, followed by another thumbs up to the driver. As he went by I saw the salt go down behind him. Proof the city was doing its job.

When we got home I pulled out the salt melt and coated the walks and driveway, then we packed the family into the car to do a run up to the library, and over to Sam’s club for a pizza combo breakfast. We explored Sam’s club for a bit, and then came home.

The highway was clear, though most traffic was at a 40-50 mph speed, and entrance and exit ramps were less cleared. Sam’s club lot was well kept. It was getting back to our street, and coming up our own hill that was the question. And there was no problem getting up our hill. Turning into the driveway was the issue. That slight incline meant I just got the car out of the street but no further — and that despite having used the ice melt before we left.

Fortunately I had ashes from the fire that I dumped on the driveway, along with more ice melt.Still took me too long. I spun my tires to much before I was able to ease slowly enough to keep traction and get the car into the driveway.

We had seen the smallest of snowflakes in the air at Sam’s club and on the way home, the lightest of dustings on our street and driveway when we got here. Now we are looking out the windows at the slow falling of larger, fluffier flakes. We can see it on the roof across the street, a layer of snow on the roads, but nothing yet that we could call accumulation. Will we get the 1-3 inches they are talking about. And will it cover and hide the treacherous ice that is on the roads and other surfaces? Time will tell.

Thus is my vignette on the first storm of the season (which isn’t even winter, since winter isn’t technically here yet).

But we are safe and warm at home, and plan to stay here that way, assuming nothing makes the power go out.

 

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