Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Let it Snow

Interstate 90 at the Van Buren Street Interchange
Missoula, Montana
December 28, 2014

Whenever I tell Kevin I love him, he always asks "Why?" even though he knows this question drives me crazy.  Last Sunday, December 28th, provided a good example to show just why this man is so important to me.  He is the most generous man I know.

The day brought snow and cold temperatures, and during the night a lot of snow had fallen.  As we headed out for breakfast, Kevin asked if I thought our friend Mike would need to have his driveway plowed out.  Mike has been given a temporary position in Seeley Lake, which is about 60 miles northeast of Missoula, and one of the places in our region that gets a lot, and I mean A LOT of snow.  I gave Mike a call and found him with his mother in Missoula, but he would be heading up to Seeley in the early afternoon because he had no idea what he would find there.  We agreed that after breakfast, we would drive into Missoula, meet him, and follow him to his Seeley Lake home.  Just in case.

After breakfast, we made a quick drive home to pick up my camera (ALWAYS take your camera) and also to throw the chains into the back of the pickup.  I should note that Kevin has a big-ass plowing blade that in the winter usually lives on the front of the pickup.  He uses it to not only plow our third of a mile driveway, but also to plow out the rural fire station, the ambulance barn's parking lot, and the local Conoco station.  If you have a need for plowing, just call Kevin and he'll probably come as quickly as he can.  But with the kind of snow we were anticipating in Seeley, he knew he'd best have the tires chained as well.

The Blackfoot River near Angevine Park
No, this is not a black and white photo
December 28, 2014

What started out as a quick trip home came to a halt near the bottom of our driveway where we found our "next-door" neighbor on his knees putting chains on a Honda sedan that was half buried in the snow on the side of the road that leads to our driveway.  A young man was standing by the car, and occasionally assisting in tightening the chains.  Turns out our neighbor's son and his family had left the house to return to their home, and when they tried to turn off the driveway into the county road, they continued to slide across the road and into the snow bank on the far side.

After kibitzing for a while, during which time another neighbor showed up to lend his advice, our neighbor went back to his house to put chains on his own truck, and we headed home to throw the chains in the back of ours.  I took advantage of the time at home to load a few geocaches into my new Garmin so that I could show off my Christmas present to Mike.  As we headed back out, we found our neighbor ready to tow his son's car out of the ditch, and we waited patiently until the car was safely back on the road.  Only then did we set off for Missoula, almost an hour after we had expected to be on our way.

The roads between Plains and Missoula were wintry, to put it mildly.  As we approached the WYE where US 93 heads north after crossing Interstate 90, we began to hear radio chatter talking about a multi-car accident in the westbound lanes of the interstate.  Because of Kevin's present and past work with Search and Rescue, the Rural Fire Department and the Ambulance Corps, he has a police scanner in the truck which is always turned on.  As we listened, the Highway Patrol asked that the interstate be closed, at least westbound, because the traffic was making the situation worse by the moment.  When we first heard the call, there were two semis, a tow truck, and numerous private cars all involved in the wreck.  The Highway Patrol, understandably, wanted to minimize further damage.

Looking East from Greenough Hill
December 28, 2014

By the time we got to the WYE ourselves, a patrol car was blocking the westbound onramp and we were hearing that somehow the patrol had managed to block the interstate itself so that westbound traffic was forced to exit.  We, however, were heading east, so we drove past the westbound onramp, and took the large loop leading onto the eastbound lanes.  I also took the time to call Mike and tell him that we were, at least, much closer and should be at his place in fifteen to twenty minutes (ten miles away by the highway, but such were the conditions).  Mike suggested that conditions were getting worse by the minute, and he wasn't comfortable with us trying to follow him another fifty miles.  We agreed to leave it up to Kevin, as he was driving, and Mike agreed to wait for us to reach his house.

Streets in Missoula were a mess, but Mike lives relatively close to the Orange Street off-ramp, and we were soon parked in the alley behind his house.  Mike came out with two shopping bags full of books, four hymnals and a fourteen volume set of Elbert Hubbard's Little Journeys, printed in 1916, that he had inherited from his father, former Missoula Symphony Director Joseph Henry.  Knowing how much I love playing hymns, not to mention reading, Mike thought that I would appreciate having these books, and he's absolutely right.  I'll write more about Hubbard's stories in a future post.

Back on the Interstate heading east, I really was having second thoughts about the whole venture, especially considering that we would be driving back home in the dark with the storm apparently worsening by the second now.  We were still hearing chatter about the accident on the Interstate, and in a telling comment on how dysfunctional our state government has become, the Highway Patrol had not been able to get any response from the Montana Department of Transportation concerning closing the highway.  At this point, we had been hearing all the communications for over a hour, and could confirm, if anyone were to ask, that MDT was not responding.  It was at this point I took the first picture shown above which should give you an idea of just what the weather was doing to the highway.

In my experience, if conditions in Missoula are bad, then conditions along Montana 200 as it follows the Blackfoot River are usually worse.  I was really not looking forward to the next forty miles.  You can tell just how little light there was by the lack of color in the photo of the river.  And as I noted above, that is NOT a black and white photo.  I have done nothing to subtract any color from the original shot.

Pyramid Peak and the Bob Marshall Wilderness
Seeley Lake, Montana
December 28, 2014

Fortunately, the road was not as bad as I had feared, and east of the community of Potomac, we actually began seeing some, not a lot, but some color in the sky.  Cresting Greenough Hill, we saw the sun shining on the peaks of the Bob Marshall Wilderness, and that created the gorgeous winter scene shown above.  By the time we turned off MT 200 onto MT 83 for the last fourteen miles north to Seeley Lake, the road was clear.  I had hoped to get some good winter shots of Salmon Lake, but all we saw was a vast snow field where the lake normally lies.  There were a couple of ice fishing shacks up toward the north end of the lake.

Arriving at Mike's place, we found that someone had already plowed him out.  I asked if the shop needed plowing, but Mike assured me that someone would already have done that.  But, one of his co-workers was hard at work at home trying to clear his own driveway with a snow blower.  We got directions and headed over that way.

While Mike chatted with his co-worker, Kevin got busy plowing the driveway and access road.  He decided against putting on the chains, as it was getting late in the day, and without the chains, he couldn't do much about the high buildup on the sides of the road, except make them higher as he drove the plow back and forth along the road.  After six or so passes, he said he'd done about as much as he could, under the circumstances, and we picked up Mike and drove him back to his place.

Boy Scout Road, East Side of Seeley Lake
December 28, 2014

In Missoula, we stopped at El Cazador for supper.  Kevin had his normal Steak Fajitas and I had Chile Relleno a la Jarocha, which meant the that filling included shrimp and crab meat.  Very good.  I recommend it.  The streets of Missoula were, by this time, mostly ice covered, and still people drove way too fast for the conditions.  I wasn't sure if I'd be able to walk the half block back to where we had parked, but taking it slow and easy, I made it to the truck, and with Kevin driving judiciously, we made it home safe and sound.

Can you see why I love him so?  Who else would offer to drive 140 miles, one-way, on the off chance that a friend would need to have his driveway plowed?  And then, upon finding that the friend didn't need help after all, would volunteer to help a total stranger?  He's a good man, and I eagerly look forward to seeing what our lives bring in 2015.

Happy New Year!

1 comment:

Michael Henry said...

Kevin's generosity for plowing out my co-worker's driveway has been mentioned every day this week. The person who was supposed to plow him out still has not made it to help him and he would not have been able to get out his driveway without Kevin's help on Sunday. Yes, Bryan you have a great, kind and generous partner! Thank you for your company and help!


Ps: I look forward to your comentary on the collection of books!