Winter Storm Seneca Blows Through

Last night I participated on panel about Women In Secularism for Campus Atheists Humanists and Skeptics at the University of Minnesota. My fellow panelists were Stephanie Zvan, Niki Massey – who did a guest post for Biodork a few months ago – and Chelsea Du Fresne. It was awesome – there were a lot of thoughtful questions from the (mostly male) audience. We had a chance to talk about microaggressions, how to build and support diversity in organizations, and how to recognize when you might be dealing with an MRA.

The snow had started to fall at about 1pm yesterday afternoon. The snowflakes were big and fluffy and full of water – perfect snowman snow! When we left the panel at about 10pm, we had acquired several inches of snow. But this is Minnesota and the plows were on high alert; many of the major roads had been cleared at least once.

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Cold, Dark and Slippery

Yeesh! It’s been snowing all day today; a light but steady fall of pretty white powder came down during the work day. I left at 7pm so I missed the rush hour traffic, but even my kick-ass snow tires were put to the test on the drive home. I saw one accident on 35W North near Diamond Lake Road in south Minneapolis. Another car – which had been abandoned by the time I saw it – was at an unlikely angle high up a hill on 212 in Eden Prairie. TwinCitiesTraffic.com is showing FOURTEEN accidents in since 7:42pm (within the past thirty minutes).

Stay safe, all.

DSC_0079 (1024x683)

I was outside taking photos of the snow when I heard two horns bellow and squealing tires at this intersection. Cold. Dark. Slippery!

DSC_0080 (683x1024)Fresh snow in the city.

It is pretty though…

It’s our first big snowfall of the winter:

Picnic table with about four inches of snow, trees and snowy lawn in the background

Snow falling in the park behind my work.

Parking lot and work building in the background at dusk

Looking out across the parking lot at work. Snow. Snow everywhere.Bare tree branches covered in fresh snow

Snow piles up on the bare branches of a tree.Tire tracks through the snowTire tracks and a plowed aisle in the parking lot.

Happy Spring From Minnesota!

Here are a couple of pictures of budding trees, tulips and daffodils in bloom, and robins singing in…ah, no. That’s not it.

Spring Dog Walk

A hardy Minnesotan and her hardy Minnesotan dog were taking in the sunny Minnesotan springtime this morning.

Spring Escorting

Me outside of the women’s clinic this morning. Does that look like spring clothing to you? My frickin’ toes about froze off.

Spring Please

I saw this on the Minnesota Renaissance Festival’s Facebook page. This. So much. Please.

Traveling for the holidays.

The Hubby and I have been looking forward to seeing family at the holidays for a number of weeks. The downside is that this year seeing family involves an 11-13 hour road trip to southern Illinois over the winter season, which ended up meaning this:

The storm, part of a system that began in the Rockies earlier in the week, led airlines to cancel more than 1,000 flights Thursday and caused whiteout conditions that left roads dangerous to drive on. It was blamed for deaths in at least five states, with parts of Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan hit with more than a foot of snow. - from CBSnew.com

Ack! As part of our route we have to drive along 35 South, which was closed earlier in the week due to a 25-car pile up that resulted in two deaths and seven injuries. BUT, the storm had moved past by Friday morning, and so we started our journey from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Carbondale, Illinois at 1pm this afternoon.

Driving through most of Minnesota was fine – we hadn’t seen any of the storm up by us – but by the time we hit Iowa the roads started getting icy and we were down to about 45-50 miles per hour. Happily there was no falling snow, but the big semi trucks kept kicking up wet slush onto the windshield. It took us four hours and about a full bottle of windshield wiper fluid to reach Waterloo, IA, which is only about 30 minutes longer than usual, but I was DONE. I was exhausted from clenching the steering wheel, switching back and forth between lanes to find the least treacherous path (often one lane was often better plowed or traveled than the other), and swearing at idiot drivers going far too fast for the conditions. The Hubby took over for a little while, but when the sun set the highway became an even less appealing place to be. So we called it and found a hotel.

This:

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Is soooooo much better than this:

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That’s really what the highway looked like in some places!

The hotel has ended up being an unexpected treasure. It’s in the middle of nowhere, but it’s a new construction and clean, quiet, with comfy bed and pillows, very sparsely booked tonight and the staff are all very nice. We had a pizza in the common room (well, my gluten-free self had pizza toppings) and we played a couple rounds of Lost Cities and 7 Wonders before retiring to the room. Tomorrow we’re planning on being on the road at sunrise, but since it’s December that’s not until about 7:30am. We’re hoping that as we get further south and leave the path that the storm traveled the road will be clearer.

Safe journeys to all of you who are also traveling for the holidays.

Winter Car Wash

Those of you who drive in the winter know the frustration of dirty cars.  The salt, sand and slush that splashes up on the car is bad enough, but it’s not the only indignity.  There’s the constant spraying of windshield washer fluid, which cleans barely enough of the windshield to see through for about 30 seconds – unless you have ice on your wipers, and then it won’t even clean that well. And I dare you to try to walk through a Minnesota parking lot in the middle of January without smearing white-gray dusty dirt on your coat.

The temptation to take the car through a car wash is great. It becomes an obsession – the huge icicles that have built up in the wheel wells (WWIs aka boogers) and behind the tires grow longer each day. And like the crusty salt coating the undercarriage, the dirtiness of the car slowly eats away on you.

And then something crazy happens – the sun comes out and the temperature inches toward 10F. The sun!  It’s noon, the sun is at its zenith, the temperature is relatively balmy and you think…maybe, just maybe I could go through the car wash today.  The sun’s out, it’s less cold than usual…maybe the doors and windows won’t freeze shut afterwards. I could get the salt off of the car, and I’ll have the cleanest car in the state! Mwahahaha!

But this is why you don’t give in temptation: Two miles post-car wash:

The slush, man. The slush will getcha every time. 

But for a brief moment, my car was shiney.  It was brilliant.  It was the cleanest car on the roads that day.  For about 2 minutes.

Snow Angel or Drunken Stumble?

Or both? It can sometimes be hard to pick out the nuances that help determine the species of patterned snow-dent with which you’re dealing. I think the fact that we found him outside of Cause Spirits and Soundbar in South Minneapolis is a big hint, though.

And look – someone bummed him a smoke!

We found him at the intersection of Lyndale and Lake – southeast corner.  Stop by and say hi – he’ll probably be there until spring!

Lake Harriet Winter Kite Festival 2011

Late Report!  This was actually two Saturdays ago, on January 8th, but there’s been so much cool stuff going on…okay, I was just lazy.  Oh, naughty Zeus!

*****

Recently the Hubby and I went to the 2011 Lake Harriet Winter Kite Festival.  I learned about the event over at 22 Words and at the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation website.

Previously on the blog I’m complained expounded on my general disdain for winter activities because…umm… you have to frickin’ freeze to enjoy them.  BUT I am pleased to announce that I had a really great time.  There were no clouds in the sky, the sun was shining and we bundled up to stay warm.  I bundled up a LOT.  I had on gym leggings, jeans, a t-shirt, a long-sleeve t-shirt, a sweatshirt, a coat, hats, gloves and my warmest boots.

We arrived at the festival around noon just as things were starting up.  There were already a few people on the ice and maybe 4-5 kites were up.  It was a pretty nice set-up.  There were several tents and stands and the organizers had arranged a free marshmallow roast, free hot chocolate and cider, they were giving away little plastic kites to kids and they were well-staffed with volunteers.  Pssst: Click on any photo to make it crazy big.

 

The wind wasn’t being all that cooperative, but we managed to get our little kite up for a few minutes.

Okay, I may have been optimistic when I said we got the kite “up” for “a few minutes”.

After the kite flying we headed over to the Minnesota DNR tent where they were holding ice fishing demos.

It was kind of funny to watch; there was a lot of activity inside the tent, probably because it was heated.  There was one guy who looked SUPER into the whole ice fishing deal; he would glare at the hole in the ice and look up in frustration every time a kid would squeal or somebody would brush by him.  Also, we witnessed the amazing flash transformation of super-excited kids into super-bored kids.  They were practically jumping with excitement as they were handed the short ice fishing poles and the line dropped into the water, and after about 30 seconds of not catching anything they’d start to get fidgety, and then the complaining started.  I couldn’t blame them – that’s pretty much how I feel about ice fishing.

Ice fishing holes!  The first picture is of a hole that was drilled outside of the main tent.  The second picture is of an ice fishing hole that was drilled inside a small black tent.  It turned out to be accidentally cool and Tron-esque because of how the low light in the tent, the bright sun shining in from the open tent bottom and my confused camera worked together.

The other thing happening at the DNR tent was snowshoeing!  The tour guide helped the Hubby and I and another couple with two small boys get our feet into the snowshoes, which was not as easy as it might sound.  But eventually, we did it.

 

And then we were off.  We walked across the ice to a bird sanctuary located on the north end of Lake Harriet.  The guide lead us off trail so that we could experience snowshoeing through fresh snow.  It was a neat feeling; I sunk down further in the snow than I thought I would, but the broad, flat shoe distributed my weight so that I didn’t sink down to my knees as I would have in regular boots.  And, I only fell once.  Ta-da!

The snowshoeing tour was about 30 minutes long.  After we got back to the DNR tent we walked around and did a little kite and people watching.

And to end the day we roasted a few marshmallows:

There were a ton of people with some very pretty cameras on the ice that day – gigantic lenses and camera bags galore!  These websites have some fancy pictures that I suspect were taken with SLR cameras that had…like…zoom…and adjustable apertures…and stuff.

Star Tribune

CityPages Blog

This Flickr Stream

An awesome video that was filmed with an old-timey effect.

The Darkness of Winter

I’m not a big fan of winter in this particular part of the country.

 I don’t like feeling cold down to my bones.  I don’t like the treacherous traffic, ruining the hemlines of my dress pants and jeans, having to choose between wearing one pair of ugly waterproof boots all day or carrying a second pair of shoes to work. 

I don’t like that it’s harder to exercise in the winter.  Not only is it less appealing to crawl out of the warm bed at 5am in the morning (super dark AND cold), but add to that the necessity of bundling up in extra clothes, wearing snow boots, scraping the car and driving to the gym on frozen or slushy roads.  Also in the winter I get less “natural” exercise like playing outside and walking places.  I still do all of these things, it’s just more of a pain so I do less of them.

I don’t play any winter sports.  I don’t even ice-fish – me in the land of 10,000 frozen lakes!  I’d like snowmobiling, but I don’t have a snowmobile or anywhere nearby to ride one.  I’ve tried ice-skating a couple of times, but I can’t seem to grasp the art of gliding over the ruts in the ice left by other skaters.  Roller-blading and roller skating I got; ice-skating I do not.  I’ll usually go sledding or snow tubing once or twice each year, and I was in winter running club in high school, but I think I may have joined because I had a crush on one of the other members…

No one in my family ever did downhill skiing or snowboarding when I was growing up, and frankly I’m not too excited to learn how to do either of those now.  First it looks…umm…cold.  And second, every time I think about getting up on skis, I imagine me bundled up like Ralphie’s little brother in A Christmas Story, standing at the top of the bunny hill, slowly starting downward, and just as things seem like they might go alright, I trip and bury myself in a snow hill with only my crossed skis left visible in the air above me. 

Nothing like the power of positive thought, eh?

One more thing.  The biggest thing: My evenings are shorter. 

They’re not really, they just feel shorter.  I usually leave work sometime between 4pm and 6pm – that’s the same regardless of the time of year.  The difference is a matter of sunlight.  In the summer I can work until 6pm and know that I have a good two hours left of daylight in which to do “things and stuff” – whatever it is that needs doing.  In the winter I start getting antsy around 3:30pm because I know it’s going to be pitch black by 4:15pm. 

That’s a problem because when it’s dark, it’s very cold.  That means I have to drive home in the Cold Dark, and I have to go grocery shopping in the Cold Dark, I have to go out with friends and family in the Cold Dark.    The Cold Dark is lonely.  Sound is muffled; lights are sharp and hurt to look at.  My cold face, fingers and legs become numb and feel stiff.  All I want to do is huddle under a blanket in front of a fire and let every available light bulb blaze.  I’m not inspired to run errands or leave my house for entertainment.  I feel like I should be hibernating until the sun resumes normal working hours. 

Occasionally I do find myself admiring the Cold Dark.  Not so much that I appreciate its presence for a full three months, but if I could have it for a week every year…I think I’d like that.

Take last night.  I left work yesterday at 6:15pm, later than most of my coworkers.  I work in a suburb, in quiet, sparsely-inhabited industrial park located on a lake near a golf course.  There is never a lot of traffic, and the trees and open lake make the world seem very big and wild at night. 

I bundled up in my many layers, and as I walked outside I noticed that a fresh layer of snow had carpeted the concrete walkways and asphalt parking lot.  I had left by a side door, and only a few sets of foot prints tracked from where I was standing.  They walked side-by-side, only diverging and disappearing into other footprint traffic at the end of the walkway as they split off to find their respective vehicles. 

Everything was so…still.  I took a deep breath and the air was cold in my nose and throat.  Outside smelled new, fresh, clean.  The parking lot security lights cut through the blackness, creating cones of light if observed individually, and together casting a dome of brilliance which gently faded at the edge of the lake shore.  The buildings across campus seemed to be Hollywood cutouts, backlit by unseen street lights, empty and flat.  If I walked behind them I wouldn’t have been surprised to see unpainted wood held upright by enormous 2×4 beams.

My warm breath fogged up my glasses, obscuring the silent world and shaking me out of my reverie.  The magic of the moment was further dispelled when I reached my car and had to use two hands to force the frozen door open.  The cold leather of my car seat quickly penetrated my coat and dress pants, and on the curved exit of the parking lot I lost traction under my tires, swerving gently sideways before regaining control of the car.

But for a short time, the Cold Dark had been regal, majestic and bigger than slushy roads, the wet gloves and my ennui.  For a moment it was beautiful, and I was happy to be in it.

Off to Madison, WI!

I’m off to Madison, WI with some friends to hang out with some other friends for the weekend.  I won’t have access to a computer, so no new updates until Sunday night!  Unfortunately, Madison isn’t far enough removed from Minneapolis longitudinally to escape the snow.  In honor of snow, this I leave you this bit of inanity from Letterman (click to view video at gawker.com).  It’s here…it’s LOTS of snow..Is it the snowpocalypse?  snowmageddon?  snow-mega-don?

Also, this dude!  Way to fuel the panic!  FREAKOUT!