Down on the Farm: Heading south
This next limbo week between the two holidays I will spend traveling to Tucson, Arizona.
A long drive is about as good a way to spend the last week of the year as any. Does anybody get anything done between Christmas and New Years? Isn't it unpatriotic to even go to work during that week?
When Harry Reid suggested that the Senate might meet within a week of Christmas, some Senators accused him of joining the liberals and Satan in their war on Christmas.
But why should anybody else work if the Senate doesn't?
That question probably is best left unanswered.
I don't consider driving to Arizona to be work. It is merely making use of days that otherwise would be wasted visiting, taking naps and eating.
I haven't decided which route to take south yet. At least, I haven't announced my decision. It remains classified.
I plan to fake out the weather gods by making a feint in one direction, which I hope will draw the storms there. Then I will roar off towards the nearest high pressure system before those in charge of the weather figure out what is going on.
That is the plan, unless the Wikileaks guy finds out and ruins my life by publishing my route on the Internet.
The trip from northern Minnesota to Tucson, Arizona takes just under three days under normal conditions. However, late December is not the peak time of year for normal conditions.
You think blizzards don't happen in Texas? Think again. Texas is huge. The panhandle juts up into the Great Plains where the weather can go south in a hurry.
So if you take the south route, just plan to be stranded in a breezy room at a Super 8 somewhere on the Texas panhandle watching white powder sift in under the unweatherized door.
For that matter, blizzards happen in Arizona, too. Flagstaff is at 7,000 feet elevation. You can get snowed in there while just down the hill in Phoenix people cavort about in shorts.
Although New Mexico is as far south as Arizona, it, too, is dominated by high elevations and is prone to snow storms and high winds.
Last year, I drove I-25 from Denver to Santa Fe. The weather map showed that the weather on the route was perfectly clear.
At high altitudes, the sun's rays are stronger and the highway itself quickly warms to above freezing. The blowing snow sticks to the road, which creates miserable patches of blow ice.
Just when you get up a good 80-mile-per-hour head of steam, you come over a hill and enter a complete whiteout. No white stripes visible, nothing. You go on blind faith, not wanting to step on the brakes for fear the semi behind you will obliterate you, not daring to pull over, just hoping to stay in a rut which you can feel but can't see.
After an hour of such white-knuckle stress, I stopped at a remote, cold, unheated rest area to take a breather. There, I met an older couple who had just wiped out. Their minivan bounced off the railing on a bridge and spun in circles until coming to a stop in the middle of the road.
They were so shaken that they just wanted to sit at the rest area until the snow melted. I acted tough and said it would get better, but I sort of wanted to wait there until spring, too.
Another thing about the mountain west in winter: Snow can turn to rain in three miles. Three miles later you might have sunshine.
The squalls are so small that they don't make it onto the weatherman's radar. You can sit at the breakfast area of the hotel watching the local weather and never know that twenty miles down the road you're going to face a deadly whiteout.
It all pays off on the last day, however, when I come around the bend into the Tucson valley to find a pocket of paradise in January, a refuge for the storm-weary traveler that never disappoints.