Monday, March 2, 2009

Where I Wish I Was Right Now

Catching snowflakes, Lake Tahoe, February 2009.

A couple weeks ago, I was lucky enough to get to spend a weekend with these lovely ladies (and two of their equally lovely, but blog-less significant others) in Lake Tahoe. I've been terribly remiss in writing about it (surprise, surprise), but what a blast. We ate excessive amounts of fantastic food, drank lots of Bourbon and wine, knitted, watched a zillion episodes of How I Met Your Mother and, oh yeah, played in the snow.

Don't Kristin and Moose look all snazzy and experienced-like in their snow gear? This was the first time snowshoeing for both of them, yet somehow I was the only one who ended up falling on my ass (I'll spare you that picture). Alas, I have many talents, but graceful I ain't. (Oh, and I love that the dog actually seems to be catching some air in the above picture. A rare galumph-free moment?)

Oh yeah, and did I mention that there was a LOT of snow. Like, a lot a lot?

That's the view out the sliding glass door of the house we stayed in. See those big, fluffy snowflakes? Pretty. Of course, they're much nicer when you're inside in your flannel PJs, knitting in hand, sitting in front of a fragrantly smoking fireplace than they are when you're stuck in the car for 7 hours on the drive up. 7 hours! To drive 180 miles! That's an average speed of just 25 mph. And keep in mind, the first 100 miles of the trip were before I had even hit any snow. In October, the same trip took me barely 3. Anyway, see that grayish smudge behind the house below ours? That's Lake Tahoe. It's, like, less than a mile away but you can't even see a hint of it in this picture. So, yeah, lots of snow. Yay, snow!

This trip was, for me, also another lesson in being brave and diving into the things that scare me. I'd made it to Tahoe a couple times in warmer months, but this was my first time going in the winter. It's shameful, really, that I waited until my third winter here to get up there. But I was terrified of having to put chains on my tires. I grew up in Michigan, so I am no stranger to snow. In fact, I secretly kind of like driving in the snow. But out here, there are chain requirements in the winter. Basically, you always have to carry tire chains, and whenever it starts snowing heavily, you have to put them on unless you drive a 4 wheel drive vehicle with special traction tires. I think this is, at least in part, an over-reaction on California's part. Even in the worst of the snow, I never really felt like I needed the chains, though they did help a bit. But on another level, it makes perfect sense to require them, since most Californians didn't learn to drive in the snow, as I did, at 15. I think the chains are meant more to counter the stupidity of people who just don't know how to drive in the snow. When you have chains on your car, you CAN'T drive fast, even if you want to. The max speed with those puppies on is maybe 30-35 mph.

So anyway, I'd never put chains on my car before. I didn't even own chains. I was terrified of putting the damn things on wrong and completely screwing up my car. (You hear horror stories all the time of people improperly installing chains and ending up with thousands of dollars in damage when they come loose and wrap around the axle, etc.) But I've also been desperately missing snow -- playing in the powder on Mt. Hood over Christmas gave me a real taste for it.

And then I got this very generous last-minute invite to Tahoe for the weekend. And how much would I regret it if I didn't dive in and take advantage of a great chance? So it was really, really, REALLY time to just suck it up and deal with the tire chains.

And, as so often happens, all that anxiety was basically for naught. First, the chains only cost me $35, half of what I expected, and it was remarkably easy to get the right ones. I just wrote down all the numbers printed on my tires and the guy at Kragen Auto Parts gave me exactly what I needed. Second, I got the cable-style chains, since the wheels on my car are too close to the wheel wells for big fat chains. And as it turns out, cables are not actually all that hard to install. I practiced in the Trader Joes Parking lot before I ever got on the road. You basically just drape the cables over your front tires, tucking one end under the back of the tire, then drive a few inches in reverse to get them under the tires. Then you hook both ends together with a fairly simple hook-and-eye mechanism. It was a bit trickier installing them on the side of the road in the dark, with sleet pouring down. But still do-able. Next time I'll make sure I've packed my camping headlamp so I can see better.

Anyway, I got the chains installed properly, and made it to Tahoe safely. Though did I mention that it took me 7 hours? 7 hours ! Ugh. But you know what, 7 hours doesn't seem like so long when you finally arrive, to a beautiful house on the lake to a crackling fire, a big bowl of hot soup, and huge glass of wine waiting for you. Not to mention some lovely friends.

Anyway, I think Tahoe in winter suits me just fine and I can't wait to get back up there.

Lesson learned, universe. Being brave and diving in can lead to some pretty damn cool stuff.


Camels & Chocolate said...

Haha, looks can be deceiving, my friend ;-)

Moose said...

How did I miss the picture of you catching snowflakes? Love it.

ChrisC said...

Y'all actually weren't there when the snowflake-catching picture was taken -- I took it myself, holding the camera as far away from my face as I could. Good thing I have long arms :-) How was Mendicino?