Saturday, February 06, 2010

Tropical Treats for Blizzard Conditions

Ah, just like home - at home.

After a long day of clearing 113 tons of snow, one works up an appetite. And what better way to cap off a day freezing in cold, blustery weather than with comfort food from the warm climes of Hawaii?

Enter the Zippy's Chili.

I've waxed poetic about the virtues of Zippy's Chili. It's Hawaiian-style chili, which means it bears little resemblance to the chilis of Cincinnati, Maryland or Texas. There's some beans and there's some ground beef, but eveything else is a bit of a puree. But over steamed rice and topped with shedded cheddar and chopped sweet onion, and a healthy dousing of Tabasco, and it's just like being back in Honolulu.

For the authentic local experience, one really needs the red-skinned hot dogs from Redondo's but my favorite Sabretts pan fried in butter will do the trick. Smother in chili and oh, life is good.

Calculating The Value of Snow

After nearly killing myself last night after a night of intoxicating indulgence, I decided that I might as well break my back or encourage a heart attack by digging out from the blizzard that dropped 30 inches of snow on my house.

Thirty inches. You just don't know what that's like until the snow is mid-thigh deep and higher than the car doors you're trying to open. Insanity.

The shoveling begins.

After a few quick texts with my JHU Genius, we determined that I had to clear roughly 99,000 gallons of snow from the approximately 6,000 square feet of driveway that were covered in 30 inches of snow. If we presume that one cubic foot equals fifteen pounds by weight, then I had to clear roughly 225,000 pounds or 113 tons of snow.

Clearly, that's a lot of snow.

Now, calculate that my snow shovel is 24 inches wide and 15 inches deep and I can maybe scoop one cubic foot (by weight) of snow per shovel load, which translates into 15,000 scoops of snow.

Crap, that's a lot of shoveling.

And too much shoveling for daddy...

There's a Subaru in there. Somewhere.

Luckily, I've got Tim, the golf pro turned winter snow guy. He's got a Chevy 2500 with a snowplow that's ready to clear the driveway lickety split. Turns out Tim started plowing clients driveways about the same time last night that I started heading home. By his count, he got stuck twelve times over the last sixteen hours.

In order to clear a driveway of this size of the magnitude of this much snow, Tim needed to plow the drive four times over the course of the blizzard. Each pass costs me seventy-five dollars for a grand total of three hundred dollars.

The Sonoma starts to emerge from its slumber.

Three hundred dollars or 15,000 scoops of snow that I must shovel by hand? Which option would you choose? At that rate, each scoop would cost me two cents for that three hundred dollars - and how many days would it take me to scoop that much snow?

Let's presume that each scoop of snow took four seconds to scoop and toss into a pile. At that rate, it would take me seventeen hours of shoveling to clear the driveway. And that's non-stop without lunch or dinner.

Note to readers: when your vehicle is covered in snow, pull it out onto the county road before sweeping it clean. The government vehicles will then sweep the snow out of the way.

Even at my old sound department rate of $45 per hour, that would be worth $750 of my time. Three hundred dollars is a bargain.

Thanks Tim, and they're saying there's another snowstorm coming on Tuesday...

Just A Simple Drive Home...

It's nearly 1 a.m. - sleep here or risk it? Smart people choose the former...

When a massive blizzard and snow thunderstorm hits the city, most sensible people go home and stay home. Some people stick it out until the snow starts before going home. Smart people don't wait until nearly a foot has fallen before making their way home.

Instead of being one of those smart people, I decided to hang out, chat and reign victorious at Wii Bowling. As the snow started to accumulate, I was getting beaten at Wii Table Tennis. When the snow was pouring hard and the lightning dancing across the sky, I was drinking too much. At ten o'clock, when the snow had reached about six inches, I was still engaged in lively debate and the much victorious round of Wii Bowling.

By the time I started heading home, it was nearly 1 a.m. and there was about ten inches of snow on the ground. Should I go home or sleep at the shop? The weather people were predicting at least two feet of snow, my truck was parked on a snow emergency route and I would have to clear the driveway at home in the morning. No choice other than to drive home.

A photo to prove that I was here - in case I didn't make it.

I've driven in snow all my life. I'm rarely fazed by it. In fact, I want to get out there and drive in the snow. But tonight was bad. Some of the worst conditions I've ever experienced. The snow was so thick, I wondered if my Sonoma's undercarriage wasn't churning the snow beneath it. The snow tires threatened to lose traction every 100 meters. By the time I reached Cold Spring Lane, I thought this was a bad idea. Smart people would turn around and sleep in their shop.

By the time I reached Northern Parkway, I could barely feel the road through the steering wheel. Take Falls Road all the way north, or risk getting on the 83 North freeway? Falls Road was relatively flat but being a narrow, two-lane road through the woods meant a greater chance of skidding off into a snow-covered gully and freezing to death in this Snowpocalypse. Might as well take the freeway.

The ramp onto the freeway wasn't too bad, but the transition from the ramp to the freeway felt like a deathtrap. I was certain the truck was no longer riding on the freeway and merely gliding across the deep snow. The freeway itself was thick with snow and I tried to follow the tracks of the intrepid drivers before me.

But something was amiss. Why were those headlights growing in my windshield? In a moment, a dark blue Hyundai drove past me to my left, heading south on the northbound fast lane. That was weird. Was there some sort of massive carnage ahead? Was Godzilla around the next turn ready to munch me and my Sonoma?

On the southbound side of the freeway, a three vehicle accident occupied the highway. No traffic backup, just confusion.

Pretty much my view the whole way home.

I've often wondered exactly how people ended up skidding off the freeway. Tonight I nearly found out firsthand. With near zero visibility, one resorts to following the exposed tracks of the unknown vehicle who came before you. This set of tracks can actually meander across the width of the freeway, at times putting you into the emergency lane and dangerously close to the median strip. One false move onto the gravel median and wipeout. Time to freeze a frozen death.

I nearly ran straight off the roadway at least four times on the ride home. I passed several vehicles abandoned or that had flown off the pavement and into the: a) concrete median, b) guard rail, or c) into a ditch. Luckily, I wasn't one of them.

Smart people stay home in storm such as this one. Really smart people sleep at friends houses or their own shop. Foolish types hang out until the wee hours of the morning then attempt the treacherous road home - even though they know they should have headed home hours earlier so as not to risk their lives.

But it was absolutely worth it.