Downtown Palmerton Weather Station

Just a quick post to announce my home weather station here in Palmerton. If you want to know what the weather is in my back yard (now why would you want to know that?), just click on the link below:

Weather Underground Downtown Palmerton

I’ll be adding a weather cam in the near future, overlooking the town and Blue Mountain.

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Yeah, It’s Been Awhile…

Seems like I’ve lost the desire to write a lot these past few years. We’ve been here for almost 4 years now (July 5th), and a few things have happened that should have coaxed me back to the keyboard, but the times have been a bit rough, and I don’t like sharing the bad stuff, if ya know what I mean.

The family has had a crisis, in that we have lost contact with both of our daughters, along with the grandchildren. Don’t ask. Although they live only 12 miles away, it might as well be a thousand. Will it be fixed? Only God can answer that.

BUT – I finally have some news to write about. Last May, Jen finally had her hip replaced, and that is a miracle in and of itself. The doctor is one of the finest hip-replacement surgeons in the area, and Jen was in and out of the hospital in less than a week, with a new titanium hip. Recovery was very clean, with very little pain, and very little therapy needed, and since then, she has said that it’s as if she never had a bad hip. She’s never felt better, and it was about time, after 6 years of suffering.

Now, Jen has been looking through Zillow for the past few years now, trying to find us a forever home. And she has found several with great potential, but they seemed to keep slipping through our fingers. We want to stay here in Palmerton – everything is so close and convenient, within walking distance. It’s a small town, very patriotic, very friendly, very clean. And the property taxes especially are low compared to most of the surrounding areas. We ended up looking at 4-5 places, and they either went before we could make an offer, or weren’t as good condition-wise as we hoped.

So when she logged on a few months ago, and found a place with a great price only a few blocks from where we were renting, she jumped on it. The real estate agent said he couldn’t show it for a few days, but Jen insisted that we look at it immediately, and he found another agent willing to meet us and give us a walk-through.

The place was built in 1943, which is modern compared to most of the other places in town. Most of the available real estate was built in the early 1900’s – the place we rented was built in about 1910. It was a 3 bedroom, 1 bath, two-story half (most homes around here are 3, 4 or even 6-home row homes, with very few singles, aside from the small bungalows in parts of town). It was really clean, considering no one had lived there for several years. But it had been maintained by the owners, and even the neighbors had pitched in to keep the place up.

We loved it right away, and even before we got an inspection, we put in an offer. It had been on the market for one day! The next day, we found out our offer had been accepted, and we immediately went to work to get the financing. I’ve been working with Veterans United Mortgage ever since we got up here, keeping the data flowing in case we found a place, so they were ready to start the paperwork. This was in November of last year, and within a week, we were approved and ready to start planning our move.

We closed in February (and always said we didn’t want to move in the middle of the winter), but the weather seemed to be cooperating, and we had a great gift from our realtor, Mary Jo King, of Jim Christman/Keller-Williams (again, right here in town) in that they had a small box van for free use by their clients to move. If you have been reading this from the beginning, you’ll see that there was no family to help with this move (and we didn’t bother to ask), so for 6 weeks, Jen and I moved everything in our old place over to the new house, one small load after another, a couple of days every week, because I also had to work at Lowe’s. All in all, we used that truck about 8 times, and finally we got down to the “heavy stuff”, the dining room table, buffet, bed, several dressers and cabinets, etc.

For that we hired two guys from a moving company. The final day of moving, which was March 28th, we had the van parked out front, and these two young guys knocked on the door. “Yes, can we help you?” Well, they were the movers sent over to get the big stuff loaded. I offered them a hand truck that was on the van, and they said, “We won’t be needing that, boss!” Turns out, those two skinny guys moved everything in that house, loaded it on the truck, and unloaded it at the new place, in less than 4 hours. All by hand and muscle! They even put our bed back together and partially made it!

We were moved. Our last day in the old rental was March 31, and we still had some small items that kept popping up. But we vacuumed and shampooed the whole place, cleaned everything, left the keys on the kitchen counter, and closed the door for the last time.

We are now the proud owners of a nice little 3/1. It’s got a little garage out back, a nice little back yard, a great front porch (so we can sit on the stoop this summer), and great bones. We are 2 blocks from our old place, still in the middle of town, right down the street from the beautiful little park. Sandy, our Papillion, loves the new digs, and Coco, our cat, has made herself at home, too. The move has really beat us up, though. Jen and I are still in recovery mode, and we still have a basement full of stuff we have to go through. It will soon be “garage sale” time, and we’re going to sell almost everything we moved. Jen is still saying that we brought way too much with us when we moved from Florida. Well, we won’t be moving again, hopefully ever from our new little home. Pictures will be coming as we get a little more settled in.

We are home for good! God blessed us with a beautiful new home, Jen’s health has never been better, and I’m still working for Lowe’s (with a nice raise, too). Palmerton is now really our home town, and I couldn’t be more happy!

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Happy 1st Anniversary to Our Li’l Palmerton Home

Well, I haven’t been too active up here for awhile – things have more or less settled in here in quaint little Palmerton PA.  Been working for Lowe’s since January, part time in the Electrical department, in the neighboring town of Lehighton, about 9 miles north.  It’s now well into summer-time, and we’re back into the high 80’s and have already had some low 90’s as well.

I recall the movie “Airplane” scene with Lloyd Bridges, where he keeps saying that “I picked the wrong week to give up…”

And it looks like we picked the wrong winter to move to PA.  Not really, though.  I had never been through a northern winter in my entire life.  Oh, I had been in New York, or Colorado, or Illinois during parts of winter time – I saw my very first snowfall when I was 18, at Chanute AFB in Rantoul, Illinois – but I never lived through an entire change of seasons, and experienced the first snows, the storms, the icy roads, the white-outs, and calling out from work because I couldn’t drive our little Escort through 3 feet of the white stuff.

It turned out that this winter, the winter of 2013-2014, was supposedly the worst winter to hit Palmerton in the last 5-6 years. But to me, it was just “winter”…I had expected much worse, like 10′ snowdrifts, being snowed into our little house, having to dig our car out of the snow. Well, actually, I did have to dig the Escort out of the snow several times, but I became very adroit at hefting that snow shovel.

And I became very good at driving in the snow. I skidded one time, on a 8% grade coming home on Christmas Eve (I feel a song coming on…), and that scared me enough to be a bit more judicious on the brakes and a little slower than the posted speed limit. But we got through this “worst winter in years” without any major damage, though the question still comes our way – “Why did you ever move from Florida up HERE?

Our little Escort has gotten us through a lot since we moved, and it was our only means of transportation for some time. When I got the job at Lowe’s, although it was part-time, I had to use our only vehicle to get back and forth, leaving Jen at home with no way to get around when I was gone. And the Escort is a ’98 model, so it’s got some miles and usage on it, the good thing being all of its time was spent in a Florida climate.

But since we arrived in PA, that little car has felt the move. After spending all of its time on flat Florida roads, it now had to climb and descend not hills but mountains. The drive to Blue Mountain Ski Resort goes from a 440′ start up to a little over 1000′.  That engine and transmission have been doing a lot of work, not to mention the brakes – coming down those slopes requires a constant pressure on the “other pedal.”  And so it was that our little car decided to let us know it was time for some major fix-up.  First were the brakes and tires…and the tie rods up front were worn, so they needed to be replaced. Then it needed a tune-up – turns out that all of the plug wires were arcing and killing the performance.  All of the fluids were replaced, and we have always run Mobil-1 synthetic in the car.  And then the biggie: the timing belt, which our mechanic said was supposed to be changed after 50,000 miles, was the original belt, and while the mechanic had the hood open, we also had the water pump changed. And of course, the last item, registering the car up here…we had kept our Florida tags on the car mainly because we still had a residence in Florida. But that ended a few weeks ago – more on that later.  I did not know that our Florida title had to be switched to a PA title, even though we own the car outright, but $146 later, we now have PA tags and registration.

So now, over $2000 later, the Escort is ready for our next year here in PA. It should be good to go next winter.  And since we own it outright, it was a lot cheaper to fix it up then to buy another car.

But we needed another car.  Not to replace our Escort, but another vehicle that Jen could drive, something that would be a bit bigger, with 4-wheel drive for those winter snows we get up here.  Jen shopped around and found a great buy – a ’98 Ford Explorer, with low miles, cold A/C, great paint, fully loaded, great rubber, and a V-6 engine.  This vehicle had been garage-kept and the owner had never driven it in the snow – it was immaculate.  And the price was great, too!   Now we have 2 very dependable cars, including a winter-ready truck.

Anyway, we got through the winter without any major damage.  Aside from (more than) a few sore backs from wielding the snow shovel, winter turned to Spring, and another “first” occurred: I got to watch our mountain turn back to the lush green that it had been months before when we arrived.  I never knew trees could replenish their leaves so fast.  In Florida, trees simply do not shed – I take that back: our willow and winged elm did lose most of their foliage in the winter months, but that was the exception.

Now the trees out front were springing back to life…it seems like every morning when I looked out our bedroom window, there were more leaves.  The squirrels were back in action, and it seemed that they were actually playing in the branches; I hadn’t noticed them before, but now there were at least a half dozen zipping up and down the trees and in and out of the parked cars on the street below.  I just knew that one or more of them was going to pay the price for that, but I never saw any “roadkill” on our street…guess those squirrels knew the neighborhood.

And what was leaves all over the ground in fall now became blossoms and seed pods all over our front walk.  This time I used a broom instead of a rake, but it was still clean-up time again.  And it has stayed fairly cool as we headed toward summer – right now, as I write this, it’s late July and we’re still getting evenings in the 50’s!  I love it!  But I am remembering that when we arrived last year, it was in the 90’s, and I’m not looking forward to the hotter temps.  At least, I won’t melt…I’m a Florida cracker, and the heat just doesn’t faze me much at all.

Of course, some other things have changed in this time period.  Our little grand-daughter Penny, who was born on the 26th of this month, has reached her first birthday.  And she has been walking for several weeks now, and is on the verge of talking, too.  I have been “grilling” her on the most important word in her vocabulary: Grandpa!  So far, though, she only points at me and exclaims, “DAH!”  At first, we thought she was referencing her Daddy, but she seems to call most men “DAH!”  I have a picture of myself on my Harley hanging in my den, and she points to it and says, “DAH!”  Try as I might, I couldn’t get her to say, “Harley!”

I am learning my way around the area, but it behooves one to own a GPS around here.  There are few highways, and many different ways to get from Point ‘A’ to Point ‘B’, most of which require bob-sledding skills.  When one is driving down a 6% grade with constant switch-backs and hairpin turns, the brake pedal becomes the only control in the car.  I know that we will be replacing the brakes on a very regular basis up here, because my foot hardly leaves that left-hand pad on the floor.  Of course, going UP-hill is just as interesting.  On my way to work, I have had to take a detour because of bridge work on my normal route.  This trip takes me up and over a mountain, where the beginning elevation of 400′ tops out at 950′ before it heads back down again, all within 5 miles.  My poor little 4-cylinder Escort pants and puffs its way up the grades, and then it’s brake-pedal time down the other side.

But I can attest to the fact that it’s some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen. At the top of my current drive to work, I can see the mountains for 20-30 miles!  They’re old mountains, not the craggy peaks like the Rockies, covered in green and rolling up and down as far as one can see.  Sometimes, I get the feeling God must have had when he was doing His creation thing, and looked at His work and grinned!  I spent all of my life in good ol’ flat-as-a-pancake Florida, and never saw the beauty I am seeing now.  It was time to move, and I just happened to land in some of the best scenery in America.

Matter of fact, the Appalachian Trail runs right down the spine of the mountain in our back yard, and I am planning on hiking at least that part that runs from the Blue Mountain Ski Resort to the Lehigh Gap.  Palmerton is a very popular rest stop for those hiking the Trail, and we see them in town all the time.  There’s free lodging for them in town, which requires them to register before going up the mountain.  So I can take in a little bit of historical significance, right where I live.

As we’ve lived here, I’ve looking into the town’s history, and we live in a Super-Fund site…yikes!  I may have posted the history previously, but here’s another little tidbit about Palmerton, for those interested: Things to Do & See in Palmerton.

All in all, I do not miss my old birthplace state.  Although I lived there for 66 years, I feel as though I am at home here in PA, as though I never left.  Much of that feeling comes from the love of a wonderful woman, my wife Jen.  When she came to live with me in Florida over 17 years ago, she never felt like she belonged there, and never gave up thwe thought of someday going back to PA.  And I promised her continually that she would indeed go back one day – I just could never promise a date.  News of Penny’s impending birth proved to be the catalyst that got us going, and after a year’s preparations, we made that final drive that put us where we are today.  And I can say that all of my hopes and prayers were answered – Penny was born a wonderful, lovely and happy little baby, and we have grown to love our little row-home in downtown Palmerton, with its view of Blue Mountain and little Aquashicola Creek slowly trickling through our back yard, and the most important thing of all, Jen is so happy to be “back home” and really getting into taking care of 6 of our grandchildren (Anthony is 19, and can take care of himself)!

Incidentally, our home in Florida finally sold, and since we were no longer property owners down there, Jen decided she could no longer hold onto her FL driver’s license, so she went and got her PA ticket.  We are now both officially (and legally) Pennsylvanians.  To anyone out there who can remember Glenn Miller, we wish our phone number could be Pennsylvania 6 – 5 – oh, oh, oh!

And me?  Well, I’m working part-time at the Lehighton Lowe’s, enjoying the small-town atmosphere of my new home, and flying here and there with my flight simulator (my hobby of choice).  Part of my sim (MS FSX, for those interested) is photo-realistic scenery for the states of Florida, New Jersey, and of course, Pennsylvania.  I fly out of my nearest airport in Slatington in my A2A Cessna 172 and fly around the area here.  It’s a very nice way to see the mountains and valleys and farms as they are from the air, and I always get a  kick out of entertaining visitors by showing off my piloting skills and flying over our little house in Palmerton.  Most of them have never seen the town from the air.

And so – Happy 1st Anniversary here in Palmerton, and a Happy 1st Birthday to our little grand-daughter Penelope Lane Loper.  I am sure that there will be many more anniversaries (and birthdays) to come.

 

 

 

 

 

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I’m Finally Starting to Understand…

…what “seasons” are.  A few weeks ago – it was April 1st, to be exact, I was walking the dogs out back first thing in the morning, and I heard that distinctive “honk” of a Canadian goose.  At first I thought there were a few of them down in the creek, but look as I may, I couldn’t find a one.  More honking, only a littler louder, and I figured there were a few of them headed my way.

geese01

Well, I figured wrong!  In about 30 seconds, I had what seemed to be 200-300 of these magnificent creatures, in typical V-formation, cruising north right over my house!  Honking as they flew, it made for a very noisy and wonderful sight.  For the past months I have seen them in the fields around here, chowing down and probably making little baby gooses.  Some pastures were literally covered with them.  And there was that “squeeze-bulb” type of horn sound that they made, like the old horn on my bicycle.

Anyway, I just stood there, transfixed by the flight (and hoping that they had all gone to the goose bathroom before taking flight).  And that was that…I thought.  I was wrong!  As I got back to watching the dogs, I heard more honking, and sure enough, here comes another squadron of feathered flying machines.  Not as many this time, but still around 100 birds.

And they kept coming, every few minutes.  One flight was really sloppy, more like a ragged curve than a well-defined “V”, and I started yelling up at them, “C’mon, you guys!  Get it together! Get that leader out front and assume the formation! You’ll never get back to Canada flying that way!”  It was really funny!  The over-flight lasted about an hour, and I’ll guess I watched over a thousand birds zip over my house, headed home.  And it slowly dawned on me – they knew that winter was finally over, that spring has arrived, and it was time to go back home.

geese02

And I also started thinking that I am finally going to experience the true change of seasons now that I am up here in PA.  In Florida, we had summer, followed by a little fall, and then right back into summer again.  The trees didn’t turn colors.  Everything didn’t turn bare.  There was no snow, and it barely left the 40’s, even in January.  When it got “really cold”, I wore a light jacket or a sweat shirt, all 5 or 6 days of it.

When we arrived up here in July, it was in the 90’s.  Hot!  We had 3 window air-conditioners going to keep our little place cool.  But in September, I had to wear thermal underwear to one of our grandson’s night-timer football games – it was in the low 50’s and windy.  And then I watched as the trees all started to change colors, all over our mountain and in the neighborhood.  We have several trees out front, and before long, I was raking leaves like crazy.

Talking to the locals, I was told that the winters up here were usually mild, with a little snow and some cold weather, but otherwise nothing to worry about.  That was in November, but by late January, those same locals were swearing at the weatherman, and telling me that this was the worst winter in 5-6 years!  Well, I was lucky enough never to have experienced a full northern winter in my entire life, and to me, this seemed like what a Pennsylvania winter would be like.  We had some 24″ snowfalls, and I had to constantly shovel our front and back walks, but there were no “blizzards”, no snow up to our windows, and there was only one day that I can recall where I wasn’t going to attempt to leave the house at all.

But overall, I wasn’t scared to death, nor scarred, nor sorry I had ever left Florida.  I have so many people up here find out where I came from and ask me repeatedly why I ever had the craziness to move here, when everyone up here wants to go to Florida.  And hard as I try, it doesn’t seem to sink in that two separate things are going on here:

I was born and grew up in Florida, and spent the last 66 years there.  And I saw it change to where I didn’t recognize much of it anymore. It’s like Disney World – you go there once and it’s another world, a fantasy place, an unbelievable experience. But after your 20th visit to the place, it’s really a bore and no fun anymore.  Ask a native who moved state-side from Hawaii why they’d ever leave Paradise, and they’ll tell you that it wasn’t a paradise to them. Same with me and Florida.

And the other reason was my family.  When I married Jen and took her to Florida, she never really accepted it.  Oh, she had actually married the first time in South Florida and had both her daughters there, but it was never her home, and she made it back to PA as fast as she could.  She’s a northern girl, and I had promised her that one day I would bring her back home.  And in January of 2013, Daughter Amanda called to tell us that there was a new baby on the way, and asked Jen if she could please come back home.  This is the “other reason” for moving here:

grandpa_penny03

That’s my little grand-daughter Penelope Lane Loper.  And I have never been closer to any of the other grand-kids than I am to her.  I was here before she was born, I was here at her birth, and I have been seeing her constantly ever since.  We’re having a friendly contest to see what her first word(s) are going to be, and I’ve been coaching her for months now.  Her first word will be “Grandpa!”  It’s amazing that every time she sees me, she lights up with the biggest smile, and she loves to hear me say, “Grandpa!” over and over.  She’s a regular visitor at our house, and a real blessing.  I love all my grandkids, but I wasn’t there to share time with them like I am with Penny.

So here I am, watching my 3rd seasonal change (and this the bonus, so to speak) – we moved here in the Summer, and I watched as Fall crept in and changed the landscape into such a cacophony of colors, and I raked all those leaves and watched as all the trees went bare and the sky darkened into Winter.  I watched the first snowfall with awe, and got tired of it several months later when my back couldn’t take the shoveling anymore.  I stood out back in a -20º windchill to let the dogs poop in our snow-covered back yard, and I drove once in a near-white-out where I didn’t know if I could stop the car.  And I learned that even the employers up here give their workers latitude in calling out when the weather is too inclement.

But now it’s time to watch as Mother Nature replenishes her outdoors with the wonder of Spring.  I am watching all of the trees break out in buds, and daffodils pop up in my back yard.  Just today, at my local VA clinic, I saw at least a dozen cherry trees in bloom, and the display in Washington D.C. has nothing on my local scenery.  The grass is coming back, and I can’t wait until our trees out front are full of green leaves again, and the squirrels are chasing each other up and down.  My little part of Palmerton is repainting itself to look like it was when we first arrived in July of last year.  And I can’t wait till it’s complete.

And the heat?  Well, growing up in Florida has taken care of that part.  I know it gets hot up here in the summertime – when we moved in, it was in the 90’s – but it’s all part of my new life here, the actual change of seasons, something that I am experiencing after 66 years of “summer” in Florida.  And that is what I am understanding – you can’t know what seasons are for until you live through all of them.  And I am just starting.  Bring on Summer!  And Fall! And Winter again!  I love it!

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It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over!

march_storm

The “Monday Morning” referenced in the above map is this Monday, March 17th, or St. Paddy’s Day if you’re Irish.  I had almost parked the snow shovel in the basement and put away my thermal underwear when my sweet Jen warned me that there has been snow in April up here, and “don’t count your chickens, blah, blah…”!  We just had one nice day of rain day before yesterday, and there is just a teeny bit of snow remaining on the ground, mostly along the curbs.  My back yard is snow-free, and the doggies are exuberant – they can actually sniff the ground without getting frostbitten noses.

And as I subscribe to the EPWA FB feed, I was greeted this morning by this new warning.  Oh, dear!  Using my trusty magnifying glass, I figure that we’re in the “Mix” zone, which seems to mean that we could get rain, or we could get snow, or we could get “snain!”  I can’t decide whether to get the snow shovel or a sump pump.  In any case, it looks like our winter isn’t quite over yet.  And I don’t know what the locals think about ol’ Punxsutawney Phil, but it looks like he might have been right this year.  I ain’t holding my breath.

I am glad that we’re almost out of this season.  For the locals (of which I will proudly count myself next time around), it has been a hard winter – there has been more snow than usual, and it has been a lot colder than usual. “Usual” being the last 5-6 years.  To me, it has been just a northern winter.  I had been expecting to measure the snowfall in feet, not inches.  I had expected to experience a lot of temps in the ‘minus’ column, but I can count the number of sub-zero days on one hand, with a finger or two left over.  I stood in our back yard with the dogs one night where the wind chill was -22ºF, but my multiple indoor/outdoor thermometers never showed any actual negative readings.  Yes, we had temps in the single digits a couple of times, but even those were rare.  I would say that the average for our neighborhood was in the mid- to high 20’s most of the time.

And so I got acclimated to the point where, when it got above 35ºF, I dressed very lightly.  I got used to the cold of winter without a lot of pain.  The hardest part was shoveling the snow, something that I first accepted with actual joy – “Look, hon!  I’m shoveling the sidewalk!” – and finally accepted as a necessary evil.  As I did to the icing – we ran out of rock salt, and learned that everyone had run out, and there was none to be found anywhere.  The stores had grown lax after so many mild winters, and had not stocked up.  The Lowe’s I work for ended up selling water softener salt instead.  They also ran out of snow throwers, everybody did.

So now, here it is, the middle of March, and we’re looking at another major storm.  I think they’re naming this one “Vulcan” and if I know my alphabet, this is the 22nd storm of the season.  And I moved from Florida for this??  But that’s okay.  The snow shovel is at the ready, my heavy winter coat still hangs by the door, and I still have a Florida license plate on our little Escort, just as a reminder, ya know!  So come on, storm, do your worst!  I don’t like bullies, especially cold ones!

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All of Pennsylvania One Big “No Passing” Zone

So I’ve been here in PA since July 5th.  It is definitely not Florida – I’ve figured that out.  My GPS does altitude read-outs, and I have yet to read any location below 250′.  Most of my driving has been in the mountains surrounding my home, Palmerton.  I live next to the Lehigh Gap, where they route State Road 248 in between parts of Blue Mountain.  The altitude is over 400′.  There are so many 2% grades around here that sometimes I feel like I’m on a roller-coaster ride. Wheeeeeeee!

But there is another side to the so-called “highways” around here.  Most of them are actually 2-lane roads, and they can go on for miles and miles and miles of double yellow center lines.  You know what that means, folks – No Passing!  Now I will say that for most Pennsylvanians, they respect this attribute, and I rarely get behind someone doing 30 in a 45 zone.  Quite the contrary, most people tend to speed around here – if the limit is 50, they’ll do 60-65.  Now, on a straight-and-level stretch of good road, that isn’t really a problem.  But when you’re talking about a road that goes up a 2% incline, takes several very sharp left and right turns, goes back down a steep decline while doing several S-turns…and you’re still doing 10 over the limit, you’re playing with the sanity rules.

And these drivers do it all the time!  They seem to think that speed limit signs were made for…Floridians!  And that brings up the next problem.  I’m a fairly safe driver.  I’ve been known to do 5-10 over on places like an interstate or a nice 4-lane divided highway.  If it’s 65, I’ll probably be doing 70.  If 55, maybe I’ll be doing 65, tops.  That is open-road conditions, people.  So now I get on these rural avenues up here in PA, and they are 2-lane roads that might have a straight-a-way of 50′ and the rest is the equivalent of the Kingda Ka at Six Flags, and the speed limit is 50 MPH.  Now, on the stretch of 248 that I drive the most, I wouldn’t do 50 if you put a gun to my head.  There are non-banked turns out there that deserve to be rounded at maybe 35, if you’re Evel Kneivel.  I know of one straight-a-way in the route that’s about a half mile long, and I’m usually going 12-15 miles on this route.

Now, as I have explained, all of these roads are 2-lane venues. And due to their topography, they are also no-passing roads, from one end to the other.  Which means that if you need to get around another driver, you will have to wait until they decide to leave the road in front of you, maybe at an intersection, or a WaWa convenience store.  And since I am a safe driver, this almost never happens to me.  BUT, alas, the reverse does.

There I am, trying my best to maintain the legal speed and stay on the asphalt part of the road, while the rest of the PA NASCAR circuit is doing the equivalent of drafting my little Escort.  Usually, when you look in the rear-view mirror, you see the other car’s front end – headlights, bumper, and maybe even the front tires.  Not around here, you don’t!  I glance in the mirror and see…the whites of the driver’s eyes, including the bright red veins, which are popping out because he is furious that I am holding up traffic on this road.  The limit is 50, I’m doing maybe 52, and this guy is thinking that if he can scare me enough, I’ll pull off the road and let him pass me and get back up to warp factor 6!

This happens all over the place here.  It seems that most of Eastern PA is one big “No Passing” zone.  I think the road-striping equipment only has 2 nozzles on the back, and an surplus of yellow paint, which they are told to “use up, or else!”  The only good thing about this is that I rarely run into much traffic on these roads.  During rush hour, the back-up on 248 can be a half-mile or more, but it seems to move fairly smoothly.  And I seem to be the only car on the road that has problems with the speed limits – I have yet to feel comfortable driving the 50 MPH limit on the section of 248 between our place and our daughters in Northampton.  And sometimes I think that Jimmy Johnson would feel the same way – at least all he has to do is drive 200 MPH in a big oval with banked turns.

And let me add right here that nowhere in this tome have I mentioned snow!  All bets are off when that white stuff deposits itself on these roads.  I don’t even like to drive anywhere when it snows, but life goes on.  While snow exacerbates the ritual for me, it doesn’t seem to bother the natives at all.  Put on the snow tires, pull the seat belts a little tighter, and you’re good to go. Oh, no, I’m not!

I am looking at getting myself one of those dash cams soon, and I will record my driving “adventures” and post them on this blog.  That is the only way anyone will understand what it’s like up here.  And let me say that I did not come from a po-dunk little area with horse-drawn wagons – I came from South Florida, where traffic on I-95 is usually doing about 80 MPH…during rush hour!  And that’s an 8-lane super highway with spaghetti-bowl interchanges that defy directions.  I can drive with the best of them.

Just not here in Pennsylvania.  I’m looking at bus schedules as we speak!

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A Last Hurrah, Maybe?

It’s been an eventful winter for me as a novice Pennsylvanian.  Everyone I talk to up here keeps telling me that “this is the worst winter we’ve had in years!”  And it’s kind of strange, because to me it seems like this is the kind of winter that I always imagined would be like…well, winter.  In some respects, it’s even a little milder than I expected.  In my mind, I was thinking 3 to 4 feet of snow on several occasions, and so far, we have had two really heavy storms (by local description) that have deposited maybe 12 to 14 inches each.  The thing that I didn’t expect was to have the snow stay around as long as it has – we haven’t had any real snow in weeks now and I still have no access to my car in front of my house.  The stuff just doesn’t melt when the temps never get above 25ºF!

But I have had the “pleasure” of shoveling the snow on so many occasions that I got tired of the chore.  What was at first enjoyable and kind of a cardio workout (which God knows I could use) became a real pain in the butt when I had to re-clear a path I had only hours before dug out.  I worked overtime to help my dogs, my poor Florida-raised pups, get to some semblance of earth where they could relieve themselves without freezing to death.  Thus the “crap circle” was born, and I kept that back walk and a modicum of ground snow-free just for them.  When it came to icing, out went the rock salt, which amazed me with its efficiency in melting the ice.  Problem was, this entire area actually ran out of rock salt because they were not prepared for this winter, and now people are buying water softener salt to try and do the job.

Anyway…the storms seemed to have gone away, and spring was being talked about with some major anticipation – the locals here are really bemoaning this year, and April can’t get here fast enough.  But just when everyone was thinking Punxsutawney Phil was wrong this time, we get a new forecast from our beloved Eastern PA Weather Authority.  They’ve gone into “Storm Mode” once again, because of winter storm Titan.

Now, down where I come from, our hurricanes generally do not get up to the 20th letter of the alphabet.  Even in a very active storm season.  But here we are, end of February, and we are looking forward to Titan. And of course, the rumor mill is really exaggerating this one…it’s supposed to be the “biggest one yet!”  I doubt it, but who knows?

In any event, the EPWA has just released their first call for the storm, scheduled to begin Sunday night (3/2/2014) and continue through Monday.  As you can see from their map, once again we are right on the border of 4″-8″ and 8″-14″ snowfalls.

titan_snow022814

Are we 4″ to 8″, or are we 8″ to 14″?

I just cannot see the “warning” portion of this storm.  We’ve had worse, and this is just more snow, not some kind of blizzard.  We’ve had 12″ before and it wasn’t show-stopping stuff.  Matter of fact, I’m learning to drive quite well in our little Escort in most snow conditions – front-wheel drive is proving to be very beneficial when the streets are snowy or slushy – and my worst-case scenario is having to dig the car out of the snow again.  I’ve learned to park the car with the wipers in the ‘up’ position so I can clean off the windshield easier, and I’ve also learned that an old broom does the trick in getting the snow off the roof, hood and trunk.

I’ve also learned about anti-freeze windshield washer fluid, and it keeps the glass very clean even in heavy snow.  I even have (thanks to my wonderful wife) a big bag of kitty litter in the trunk to get me out of those slippery situations, and I carry a wool cap and a set of gloves in case I’m stuck on the side of the road somewhere.  Added bonus – AAA Auto Club is a “must” up here, as is a good working cell-phone, and a GPS.  I would not want to have a mechanical break-down up here in these sub-freezing temps in the first place, but if I did, I want help dispatched in minutes, not hours.  And I don’t want to be frost-bitten when help does arrive.

See?  I’m getting more adapted to these Northern winters every day.  It’s kind of funny that this Florida boy has not been blown over by this winter, which the locals are cursing.  If I would have had to describe what I thought winter would be like up here, it would have been just about like this, maybe with a little more snow.  I was a little put out with all of the shoveling, and I even missed a few days of work because I just couldn’t make the 9-mile drive to Lehighton – something that never happened to me in Florida.

And now, here we are, facing yet another winter storm with the possibility of up to 14″ of snow.  But even the natives up here think this will be the beginning of the end, that March will, as Jen says, indeed come in like a lion and go out like a lamb.  Hopefully, we’ll be on the low side this time around, and by the end of the month, all of this snow will be a not-so-fond memory, and my back yard mountain will start to turn green again.  I’ve seen winter in  Pennsylvania, and it wasn’t so bad after all.  Maybe next year we’ll have a nice little snow blower to replace that shovel, and maybe even a new 4-wheel drive vehicle to make the winter travel a bit easier.

Time to start taking my shorts and T-shirts out of storage, and put these thermal underwear away.  Any time now…I’m waiting…

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