Digging in

I’ll never forget my most traumatic snowstorm – two inches of fluff that fell on the Virginia foothills back during Bush Senior’s reign. Yep, 2 inches managed to wreak more havoc and stir more chaos than any system I’d seen before.

You’re probably wondering how I found myself planted in the Old Dominion state for the fateful cycle. The truth is, one of the major side effects of growing up in the San Juan Mountains is a strong, early desire to leave. And immediately after receiving my high school diploma, I bid my 11 classmates adios and set off for a region with an improved female-to-male ratio.

Two years into enjoying that ratio (and suffering from many of the unannounced byproducts of East Coast life), the campus lit up with buzz about a rapidly approaching storm. A “monster” had taken shape in the Gulf of Mexico and was tracking steadily north in a path the chubby weather people had already christened “ of the Century.” Outside the sun shone and birds were chirping, but my seasoned dorm-mates “knew better.” They promptly slammed the panic button and went into disaster mode.

“You’d better come with us,” advised a friend who hailed from the Chesapeake Bay. “This could be pretty serious.”

A short-car ride later, we were double-parked outside a super-market in the midst of full-blown, apocalyptic frenzy. Cars jockeyed for spaces, horns and alarms sounded loudly, and calls of rage and confusion filled the air. All the while, people with zombie-eyed faces of terror pushed multiple loaded carts out of the store. Children wept and sedans idled as mothers and fathers frantically loaded car trunks with supplies.

“We’d better be quick,” my pal said in stuttery voice. “This is way more serious than I expected.”

Once inside, my buddies elbowed their way through and went straight for the canned goods. Like a unit of rogue troops with long hair, they methodically grabbed the few tins of Spam and sardines still on the shelf and then greedily dove into the Chef Boy Ari and Chunky Soup.

“We need cans, lots of cans,” the leader announced. “Spoilage is the enemy here. If this storm plays out like they say it will, we could be stuck for weeks.”

After a quick march, the troop landed in “Housewares” and dozens of D-cell batteries made their way into their carts. A couple of space blankets, three bags of charcoal and a half-dozen Ready Whip nitrous hits later, my buddies were loaded to the gills and waiting in line for check-out. My cart contained a lonely six-pack of Milwaukee’s Best.

Chesapeake saw my empty cart and scolded, “Don’t even think about begging for Beefaroni when the shit hits the fan. You and your sixer are on your own this time, you mountain goat.”

That night, the prediction came to pass. The mouse dropping did hit the fan when two-inches of fresh touched down on Virginia soil. And as was foretold, all hell broke loose right on schedule at dawn the next morning.

Pinned down by that flimsy blanket of fluff, nearly every business in the city closed its doors. Closures hit the university and the school system, and hundreds of drivers learned winter driving skills the hard way. Major pile-ups clotted nearly every intersection. Hospitals were inundated and rescue crews worked doubles, most often responding to severe cases of panic disorder. Most ironically, three Virginia boys in their early 20s suffered bouts of Spam and sardine sandwich poisoning – a pernicious ailment characterized by abdominal cramping, severe bloating and bouts of noxious gas. Forty-eight hours later, my pals were still clutching their beer bellies and moaning. Outside, the birds chirped, the sun shone and the “Storm of the Century” had already become a distant memory.

As luck would have it, old Virginia rolled into my life again just a few days ago. Courtesy of the information age and a local media outlet that shall remain unnamed, our East Coast relatives came calling. They had just seen a televised report of Southwest Colorado getting pounded by a storm of Biblical proportions.

“We’ve been worried sick,” the voice on the other line sobbed in broken tones.

My wife Rachael offered the best answer she could. “It’s been pretty tough, and we’re definitely beat down,” she said in a somber voice. “Three days of skiing really takes it out of you, and when the power went out, it seemed like a good excuse to have a little party … I think we’re actually ready to go back to work tomorrow.”

My heart does go out to those who braved icy commutes in order to suffer through reduced work hours on Monday. And, I heartily sympathize with those who had to open family-sized tins of Chef Boy Ari and eat them in the dark.

But I also vividly remember a balmy, almost Virginian, time in the not-too-distant past. Back in sunny November, I believe this storm was exactly what each and every one of us was praying for.

– Will Sands



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Rolling retro

Vintage bikes get their day to shine with upcoming swap and sale