Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Northern plains blizzard

I've been following the weather up north as the SD, MN, IA area got slammed. The blizzard in the Black Hills dumped over 43 inches of snow on Lead SD, there were wind gusts reported at over 70 mph in the Rapid City area and thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of cattle died in the storm. Meanwhile tornadoes were ravaging Nebraska and Iowa.

The weather in the northern plains is fickle. The weather can change in an instant at any time of year, and the summers are brief. Some years, such as this one, there are snowfalls in May, and I remember more than once starting a fire in the wood stove in June to take the chill off in the house. Most years there will be a killing frost followed by several weeks of glorious Indian summer, but despite gardeners frantically covering their gardens to try and protect them and extend the harvest the plants seldom survive the first onslaughts of winter. Some years the snow comes early and never leaves until April.  Occasionally this doesn't happen until very late in the fall, but the average first frost date where I was living is Sept 15, the average last frost in spring is May 15.

 The wind is always blowing and the snow flakes are small and dry, they are always moving, like sand in the desert.

White-out conditions make it extremely difficult to drive anywhere even if the roads are open.

There are virtually no trees other than those in farm windbreaks. Once the wind picks up the snow there is very little to stop it, although fantastic drifts will form around any obstacle, a tree, a fence post, even a single stalk of dry grass.. This is the nearest neighbor's place, just under a mile away. 

This is my amazing snow blower that I sold last summer, having no intention of spending another winter up north. The almost 1/4 mile long driveway is visible in the background. The low area in the middle where it crossed the creek usually stayed fairly free of snow since it drops off fifteen feet on each side, but  the hill up into the yard and the slope out near the road drift terribly, and this thing somehow powered through an incredible amount of snow. Once the wind stopped it was a two or three day job to clear the driveway, assuming the wind didn't kick up and blow it all back in again.

This is what happens if you don't have a garage to put the vehicles in during a blizzard. 

Once the snow got more than 3 or 4 feet deep on the driveway I had to call a neighbor to come with the tractor and blower to clear the driveway, no matter how amazing it was my walk-behind snow blower would ever get through this!  The wind driven snow packs so hard that the drifts are sometimes solid enough to drive over.

The county road a mile south of the farm... the roads will clear off in a few days and a good January thaw will warm it up above freezing so you can get out on the bike, but it's not always much fun.

Somehow being stuck in Tennessee for the winter doesn't seem so terrible.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A rainy Sunday drive

I'm quite new to this whole blogging thing, having just started last year after I purchased my 'train wreck' travel trailer. I started following several full time RVer's blogs at that time and have added to the list over time to include tiny houses, vintage travel trailers, photography, van dwellers etc. A couple of the first blogs I started following were Gypsy's On The Road Again and Travels With Emma. It was fun to read earlier this summer when these two gals met up in Minnesota where Judy was working at the wildlife refuge and Gypsy was on a California to New York trip. After my trip to North Carolina to loan my travel trailer to my almost-son-in-law I read that Gypsy was only a day or so behind me and was heading for Paducah KY. I emailed her and mentioned I'd love to meet up since we were in the same neck of the woods, and a date was set.

Sunday morning I got on the road heading north. It was a beautiful sunny day when I left the house in middle Tennessee, but by the time I got to Nashville the sky was solid gray and getting darker by the mile. Just past the Kentucky border welcome center the first rain drops hit the windshield and the rain came down in buckets off and on the entire rest of the drive to Paducah. It's a good thing I had allowed extra time because traffic slowed to 50 mph at times in the heavy rain.

We had arranged to meet at the Caribbean themed Flamingo Row restaurant, and it turned out to be a good choice. The food was good, the decor was super bright and colorful, and the resident iguana was a hoot, nodding her head whenever a staff member walked past and wiggled their fingers at her. Here's a shot of the interior.
I had the server snap a pic of the two of us, but I'm not going to post it since we both have our eyes closed!  lol You'll have to check out her blog for a photo of us and also a shot of the iguana.
The rain let up sometime during the almost 3 hours we sat and chatted, and only dripped on me intermittently for most of the trip home. However there was a huge traffic jam that started just north of  the TN border and it took over and hour and a half to travel about 6 miles, all due to road construction that has one lane shut down.
 There is a fairly large population of Amish in Kentucky and while parked in the traffic I did get to see several buggies going across an overpass.

I also got a shot of this poor old barn which somehow remains standing despite missing most of one wall and portions of the roof. Barns up north with structural integrity issues almost never get to this point and still remain upright, they collapse due to the weight of the winter snow load.

I was also 'passed' - at a creeping pace - by a stock trailer with a couple longhorn cattle inside. It's really hard to see them, but the horns were nearly as wide as the trailer, so from tip to tip they must span six feet or more.

All in all it was a great day, and I hope Gypsy's path and mine cross again one day.