Snow-cial Distancing

I needed out of the house.

For the last month, I’ve been really good about staying at home. There have been multiple days where I don’t leave the house except to walk the dogs. When I get to the weekend, I need to get out and do something.

I was invited to a Spring Fling Snow Run by my friend Jason. Jason loves driving in the snow more than anybody I have ever met and I can always count on him to put something together. He also has some cool new spots I have never been, so I try to always say yes when invited.

The top five inches of a T post poking up through the snow (Photo by Nathan White)

April 14 is the last day that snowmobile trails are groomed and they become legal for wheeled vehicles to drive on again. This first weekend, before they are all torn up by other rigs, is awesome. The spring snow is firm and packs well under your tires and you can drive on top of four or five feet of snow just like you were driving in a few inches of snow. Throughout the day, I could intermittently see the tops of fences and T-posts in low spots. It was easy to forget how deep the snow was. Getting off the road into a soft spot means burying your rig to the axles immediately and needing a friend to come get you.

We met in town at an Albertson’s parking lot. It was nice to see some people again and say hi, but it was still awkward. I was raised to always stand and shake every man’s hand, look him in the eye, and say hi when I saw him.

I didn’t do that. In fact, I didn’t hug, shake, or fist bump anybody that day. I kept my six feet distance whenever I was out of the Jeep. Since I rode by myself, I spent most of the day isolated in the Jeep, anyway.

When we got to the trailhead, we were greeted by a Boise County sheriff. Because of stay-at-home orders, we couldn’t park in the paved parking lot with the restrooms. However, we were welcome to go across the street and park on the dirt lots. It was kind of silly, but I get it. The deputy was nice about it and waved at us as we started unloading rigs across the street.

And the day was beautiful. It climbed to 70 degrees, with bright blue skies, and bright white snow. These spring snow wheeling days are some of the most beautiful outdoor adventures. The air is clear and crisp and the light is so bright that even wearing your sunglasses you have to squint your eyes.

Bright skies and great views (Photo by Nathan White)

As the day went along and the miles purred away with the sound of a Small Block Chevy, I could feel the stress melting away from me. I turned the music up a little louder and drove a little slower. For most of the day, I was a corner or so away from the person in front of or behind me. People would give instructions on the radio of where to turn and we echoed the instructions behind us, but otherwise, I was alone with my thoughts staring out a Jeep window. I think I smiled more around each and every corner, all day long.

People do this type of meditation differently. Some people run, some hike, some paint, some build. I do it in the driver’s seat of a Jeep. I love getting to the top of a mountain and stopping, getting out, and just breathing. Looking around at the panorama of the snow-capped mountains is incredible. I try to use the panorama feature on my phone, but the picture never does the mountains justice. Their beauty is not able to be captured by iPhone.

We had a plan to do a lunch. Cliff and Jason always bring a grill and brats. I have tried to weasel my way in and bring food for several years with this group, but I have stopped and admitted that I am going to eat for free when I wheel with them. They enjoy doing it for others. These are the type of people they are.

Lunch Time (Photo by Nathan White)

It was a little different this time. Jason had an industrial-sized bottle of hand sanitizer. Everybody touched their own food and stood apart. We solved many of the world’s problems this weekend, standing in the snow and bs’ing. Every so often, the conversation drifted to “the virus,” but we were just as likely to discuss school, work, or Dana 60s. If more people knew how to stand on top of a mountain and talk, our world would be a much better place.

After lunch, we had to cut a tree out of the road that had fallen over the winter. We fired up a chain saw, made some cuts, and everybody grabbed a chunk and soon, the road was clear. We even had some slapstick comedy when Evan was putting his back into moving a chunk of tree. At the critical point, the dead tree broke in half, propelling Evan backward off the road. He did one and a half complete flips and did not stick the landing. Once he got up laughing, it was safe us all to laugh since he didn’t die.

My Jeep and my meditation (Photo by Brandy Coulombe)

We finally found a spot on the road that was drifted over with 30 feet of snow, slanted downhill. Trying to get over this would be suicide. At the time we were trying to find a way around, the Toyota’s front axle that was out front made “the noise.” If you hang around off-road rigs enough, there is an unmistakable noise that involves catastrophic failure. It isn’t exactly a pop or a grind, but both combined. It’s a big and unmistakable noise. We all heard that noise and knew we had gone as far as we were going that day.

After investigation, Nathan concluded that he had broken his front ring and pinion gear. As he drove it out, he could feel it skipping a tooth now and again but it didn’t lock up tight like we were worried about. Once we got out of the high snow levels, he was able to spin the hubs, shift the Toyota transfer case into two-wheel drive and make it back to the trailers with no trouble. Breaking stuff sucks but we all know nobody four wheels for free. It’s a hazard of the hobby.

 

This weekend, I did some snowcial distancing and it was awesome. I was able to see some friends I haven’t seen in a long time, drive up a mountain I had never been up before, and eat some food and solve all the problems of our current time, standing six feet away from people.

This Corona Break has reinforced how much of an extrovert I am. Lynette, my wife, is not. She is built for staying home and keeping her distance. I’m not. I miss my friends. I miss saying hi to people. I miss driving my Jeep with good people. I needed out of the house and driving an old Jeep in the snow with some friends at least six feet apart was exactly what I needed.

 

Written by: Nathan White