Last May, I began the process of scheduling a mini book tour this week. It's all set up and announced. It's "local," which means "in the same state that I live in." For a Westerner, quite a bit of ground can be covered by that definition.
Last night it started snowing (again), with a prediction for 6 or 7 (more) inches (12.5 to 14 cm). By morning, that much new white stuff was on the ground, and I was scheduled to drive 200 miles across some mountain passes that I know well enough to be very cautious about when the weather is bad. I've driven them in fog, sleet, rain, and snow—experiences I prefer to avoid, if possible.
After less than an ideal night's sleep, I optimistically dug out the car and cleared the driveway and sidewalks, poked at the tree branches again to knock off as much snow as I could, and then signed onto the excellent road-conditions website sponsored and maintained by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). The CDOT map is most useful and gets updated frequently. Road conditions are color-coded, so it's really easy to see what the surfaces are like. There is, however, no topographical information, so "icy and flat" and "icy with 7% grade" look the same. This is where it's good to have experience with the roads you're considering.
I noted that parts of I-25 and I-70 were closed, although not the parts I planned to use. Highway 85 north of Greeley was black (adverse conditions = in my words "you'd be really stupid to drive this road right now"). Most of the roads I would need were bright blue (icy = "cars are going off the road and being wrapped in yellow caution tape until the weather clears and the tow trucks are less busy; expect to see on average one abandoned vehicle, many of them 4WD, every half mile").
Highway 285, a crucial part of my route, was decorated with at least a half-dozen of the red circle icons that mean "restriction." The detailed information on those locations indicated that trucks, and along some stretches smaller vehicles, were being required by law to use chains. The highway wasn't closed, but when chain laws are in effect wise people don't join the melee unless it's an emergency, they have a bit of extra time to spend, and their tires are in great shape. Maybe they even have chains (and use them) themselves. The two sections of road that can be particularly ugly to drive (although spectacularly beautiful) are Crow Hill and Kenosha Pass. Those were, of course, included in the restricted areas. So was Turkey Creek Canyon, which is sometimes a clear part of the road even when the rest is not so good.
There is an alternate route, taking I-25 farther south (bright blue/icy all the way) and then angling over toward Penrose and crossing Wilkerson Pass, instead of Kenosha. Wilkerson has less precipitous grades and doesn't have Crow Hill east of it. The roads through that area were a mix of bright blue (icy), blue (snow), and green (wet, rain, slush), and there were no restrictions in place.
Yet Kenosha is southwest-facing (it would get sun, if there was any) and the plows would be out. It's the shorter route. I know it better. So I waited a couple of hours, and the chain-law restrictions were lifted and more of the road became blue, and some of it even green. "Rain" and "slush" mean "the stuff's melting."
The familiar route won. And it was all fine.
Here are some Crow Hill photos:
There was some slush. This wasn't the worst of it. I was glad I'd bought, and installed, new front windshield wipers yesterday. (I got strong wiper blades: on a previous trip through this area, I'd had to find an auto parts store mid-journey and get sturdier ones.) I need to put a rear wiper blade into the budget for next month. The biggest difficulties occurred when the slush kicked up and instantly froze on the glass. The new wipers handled that just fine, though. (At times, I had about 10 square inches (65cm2) of back window free of ice.)
Kenosha Pass was dry and clear, with the usual view-to-almost-forever. You can't tell, though, that there are 14,000-foot (4250m) peaks out there because they're covered in clouds.
Toward the south end of South Park, the day got brighter, with some sunshine breaks coming through.
On the drive, I saw two splendid herds of pronghorn. There were about a dozen stunning ones standing in a cluster just north of the Buffalo Peaks turnoff. If there hadn't been a semi right behind me, I would have found a place to pull off (not much trustworthy shoulder today) and snapped a picture. There was a smaller group not far from Salida.
Tomorrow night, I'll be part of Dies Librorum (the day of books) at The Book Haven independent bookstore in Salida. RSVPs are required, and there will be music, a couple of authors, and good food. Oops, when I went to retrieve the link, I learned that the event is FULL! Well, that will be fun! I'll be interested in seeing who turns up. Party!
Anyway, you can see how nice the day was when I reached Salida in the late afternoon. Perfect.
On Saturday afternoon between 1 and 3, I'll be at Serendipity Yarn and GIfts in Buena Vista. Buena Vista is a few miles back toward home, and on my outbound trip today I took a side jaunt to pick up some yarn (because I didn't have enough, right?).
Liz Gipson will be at Serendipity on Saturday, too, and we'll likely be playing with fiber in the upstairs. There's a whole lot of yarn in that yellow house, and an amazing selection of gift items, too. No advance planning or RSVPs needed. If you're in the area, come visit with us. Bring your knitting or spinning or weaving (if it's portable, as Liz's often is) or your questions about fiber. We like to talk about fiber.
I have a spinning wheel with me, and a couple of deadlines to work toward while I'm doing this. However, I also plan to enjoy a little quiet time when I'm not at an event.
Oh, two other things:
Today's Spinning Daily newsletter is called "Tools for Writing a (Rather Large) Fiber Book." It's about The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook, as regular readers of this blog might imagine.
And some folks have decided that this month is Wovember, not November, and are dedicating the time to raising people's awareness of how wonderful wool is. Yes! Natural fibers! There are great sheep photos on the website. I keep opening the page I linked to, seeing that Herdwick, and smiling. Thanks to Valerie for letting me know about this.
A good friend of mine would like me to remind folks that llamas also produce delightful, practical, and warm natural fiber. She's right.
Stay warm. I am.