The Bradlands

It's Winter

The weather this winter has not been ordinary. For about a week the highs in Seattle were below the average lows. In Leavenworth the same cold front created sub zero temperatures over night. For those weekends I stayed in Seattle skipping the weekend jaunt to the property. The drafty house I'm renting was enough of a challenge to keep warm.

I'm told the first big snow in Leavenworth usually happens around the first of November. It's mid December and as of yet no big snow. There's been a few dustings. 3 inches was about as deep as it has gotten. Last year when I was out looking at properties in November there was 2 feet of snow. All the while my realtor, Rita, and I were cruising Icicle Canyon on snowmobiles.

Luckily the temperatures are back around normal and I headed up Friday night. Snoqualmie Pass was clear and it was smooth sailing except for construction on I-90. I arrived in Leavenwroth around 7:00pm. Icicle Road was mostly clear of snow. I didn't need 4 wheel drive to get to my property. I turned off Icicle Road onto the access road that runs across my property and headed down the hill. Still no issues, no need for 4 wheel drive.

My parking area is accessible with a sharp right turn, more than 90 degrees, off the access road. I hadn't had the need to notice before that the road slants back the other direction from this turn. The snow was packed quite a bit as well since this is the road the neighbors across the river use to get to Icicle Road. I threw it into 4 wheel drive before attempting the turn. First mistake.

I gave it gas and of course, couldn't make a sharp turn. For those who haven't driven in 4 wheel drive turns aren't so easy. All wheels go the same speed which doesn't work well for turns. My transmission started popping and I started sliding toward the cotton wood that marks the left edge of the entry way. I attempted to straighten my wheels out and go in reverse but no dice. At this point I had a couple feet before I'd be t-boned into the cotton wood without the ability to back up. This was going to make a great "city boy from Seattle" story for my neighbors. I traveled the hundred miles from Seattle but couldn't make it the 100 feet onto my land.

The only option I saw was to skip the entrance and head down the hill while I still had room to make a left turn. I'd get to the bottom of the hill, put the chains on my tires, and approach from the other direction. Seemed sound to me.

Made the turn to the left avoiding the cotton wood. Down the hill I went. Step one complete except I was out of control. Any application of the brakes made the rear end of my truck slide around. With flashes of sliding down the road uncontrollably into the river I panicked a littleā€¦ or a lot. I let off the brakes, turned in the downhill skid and managed to straighten out. On each side of the road is a ditch. I thought about driving into the ditch just to bring it to a stop. But first I pulled on the parking break which allowed me to control the downhill slide a little better but not completely. I couldn't stop but with breaking, releasing, and turning into the slide I was able to navigate down the hill. At the bottom of the hill is a turnout which I had enough control to manuever into and came to a complete stop. I jumped out of the truck as did Rita. She was happy to pee and I was happy to be dry, alive, and to pee. Leaning against my truck I had to laugh a bit. I had grown up in a state where driving on packed snow and ice was a thing we did every winter. It wasn't easy but apparently my skills or even ability to judge the situation were incredibly rusty. I've become a Seattle driver.

I thought about spending the night at the bottom of the hill waiting for daylight to make the uphill attempt. I wouldn't be able to sleep though. My mind was racing. No sleep. Time for the chains.

I purchased tire chains a year ago from an auto shop on Stone Way in Wallingford. For an entire year I didn't take the 10 minutes to figure out how to use them. I deserved this.

Under diffused moonlight with overcast skies, a headlamp, and interior truck lights I read the instructions. The concept is simple. They wrap around the tires providing traction by using strips of metal to dig into whatever is below them. Put a thing through a thing, loop another thing, and hopefully you've done it right. There was no "snap". There was nothing that required strength or made me question if I'd be able to remove them. The assembly didn't inspire the confidence which I desperately needed.

With Rita pee-less and me as frantic as ever we jumped back in the truck. The only thing I could think about was starting up hill and sliding back down in reverse, again into the river. I had no idea how to control a truck sliding down hill backwards. With that thought off we went.

The chains chunked away. Metallic, gritty. Enough noise to make me wonder if they were digging into the ground or my wheel wells. The truck appeared to respond well to gas as I was able to increase my speed without spinning out. White knuckled I focused on keeping the truck straight without applying too much torque. Chunk chunk chunk. With every chunk I was hyper focused on every detail, wondering if it felt or sounded the same as the last, wondering if this was the sound it made right before it started sliding back down hill. Chunk chunck chunk.

When we reached the entry way to my parking spot my muscles were so tense I couldn't turn. I had to focus on each individual muscle to relax it. Slowly the wheels turned and we made it to the parking spot that I call home. I yelled. Rita and I jumped out of the truck. We ran in circles. She peed again.

-bradrer on Dec 15, 2013