Driving in a Winter Terrorland.

Winter Gridlock

Oh. My. Good. Hell.

Ladies and gents, allow me a moment to paint a mental picture for you. Imagine, if you will, that you have a job in another town, one not all that far away, but, ahem, on the other side of a mountain or 12. This job is great, with co-workers you enjoy, and the pay is good. The drive, on a normal day, only takes about 20 to 25 minutes (well, when you drive like I do) to complete, and largely consists of a winding highway climbing its way through a place called Parley’s Canyon. Aside from the quantity of semis, it’s actually a nice drive—assuming you have a reasonably reliable car…

Until it snows.

Gridlock 2Icy Car Park

Now, keep in mind that despite my having been born and raised in Salt Lake City, I hate the cold, the snow, and “winter extreme sports.” I’m sort of a fish out of water… well, at least for part of the year (I quite enjoy the summer heat here). Now, add in the special ingredient of having spent a week, right before winter hit, in sunny Tijuana. Going from “cold” days at 60° to “sunny” days at 5° is a bit of a depression-inducing shock to the system. But I have a heater and warm clothes to bundle up in, so I manage. But, oh, that drive…

I woke up yesterday morning feeling like I’d been a stand-in for the cans tied to the rear fascia of a wedding limo, and decided to take the morning off and “phone it in” for the rest of the day’s work. I awoke a few hours later to discover several missed calls on my phone (if you’ve ever tried calling my mobile number, you know how rarely I hear it). While it looked overcast, but otherwise okay outside, apparently Parley’s was a mess, and Park City was in “blizzard conditions.” Everyone at work seemed to have phoned me and said “if you haven’t left yet, don’t.” That’s an amazingly refreshing voicemail to get… “Hey, stay at your warm, comfy home today… it sucks up here, so don’t come in. See you online.” Or words to that effect.

Aside from the being sick, it made for a great day of work (on a forthcoming website and an ad to be run in Computer Shopper magazine) that included watching Big Trouble In Little China and eating a Western Chicken from Carl’s Jr. Oh but the horror that lay in wait for me…

This morning arrived like a kick in the huevos: I’d slept in a bit (as per usual… not a morning person in the slightest), and I was still sick, albeit not to the level that had glued my ass in bed the prior morning; yet, I could find no logical reason to play the “telecommuting” card and stay home. The sun was shining, I could stand without feeling a strong desire to fall over, and I needed my copy of Illustrator CS2 at work (one of these days I’ll be able to afford an upgrade at home). Thus, I revved up the 6 and proceeded to Interstate 80. And everything fell apart.

Before even arriving at the mouth of the canyon, traffic came to a grinding halt. I don’t mean it was congested, or slow… it just stopped. Long enough for me to start taking pictures with my camera phone (and I almost never use my phone while driving, so that says something). Long enough for me to memorise the contents of every nearby car’s bumpers and rear windows. Long enough for me to contemplate getting out into the balmy 14° weather for a nice stroll.

After a few ten minute chunks of time, we started moving at speeds rivalling that of my brother’s first car (an ’84 Subaru that will forever live in infamy for never breaking 40mph on any hill) and I started to feel a bit better. I even saw Kat driving to work as well, and we exchanged the pleasantries associated with seeing a friend or co-worker on the road (ie, we waved like goons at each other, then tried not to look at each other again as we drove in close proximity). However, I hadn’t even hit the construction yet… oh joy.

Fast forward to find me sitting in the left lane, once again parked, contemplating eating my underripe banana to fend off starvation. At this point, I had left my house over an hour prior, and my phone was ringing. Voicemail. It was Jon from work, checking in, wondering if I was still sick. I sent him a message about being stuck on 80, and contemplated wishing for Armageddon to come, if only to watch Bruce Willis burn up in the atmosphere again.

The construction was really a non-event… they’re fixing the major pot holes that appeared a week or so ago after a big storm hit Utah, and the actual section of the road closed down was relatively minor. However, we all know that for some reason, people don’t know how to read the “lanes closed ahead” signs, and drive as far as humanly possible before getting over, thus causing gridlock. The rest of my commute took about 5-10 minutes (and it was about 70% of the distance), and after sitting in my car for over an hour and a half, I was finally in the…

Icy, snow-encrusted parking lot from hell! at work.

To let you know how damn cold it really is in Park City right now, let me let you in on something I noticed as I walked to my car tonight: my nose hairs started to freeze the second I walked outside. Seriously. I couldn’t tell what that odd sensation was for a few seconds until I sniffled a bit, and the hairs crackled apart. Inside my car, I soon discovered that the ambient temperature gauge on my dashboard does indeed work for negative numbers…

I need to move.