With the same confusion or disorientation one would experience when pinching themself to be sure they weren’t dreaming, I thumbed through the pages of my calendar book. “Yes! I knew it! There it is right there. March 21st was the first day of spring. This is supposed to be spring!” It hasn’t always felt like it.
We traveled a lot of miles during the month of April, covering 25 different states and seeing nearly as many various looks of spring.
We started with a trip to Washington, near Seattle. On and off we hit rain, snow, sleet, sunshine...and so on. At our destination in Sammamish, the weather was beautiful - just as one would expect in the spring. We completed our business there and returned home.
Leaving Minnesota, Sunday night, on a solo leg of the trip, I saw cars and trucks scattered like litter in the ditches, all the way from Duluth to the Twin Cities - dozens of them! I knew it was bad when I saw a state maintainer, pulling one of those big trailers with the huge wing plows, off the side of the road. The big truck slid off the highway on the right side.
Once in the grip of the deep snow filled ditch, the massive powerful truck was just as helpless as the passenger cars. A four-wheel drive truck in the center median shot snow high into the air while spinning his wheels trying to get un-stuck. “Stop spinning your wheels!” I wanted to tell him. “You’re just digging yourself in deeper.” I know this for certain. I’ve been there before as well.
I pressed on slow and steady toward my destination, Ottumwa, Iowa, then on to Kansas City, arriving safely. I returned home the following day to get Melissa and head off on our next leg of this journey. While passing through St. Paul, a large chunk of packed snow and ice flew off the top of a semi trailer. It hit my windshield, not just cracking it - but literally smashing the glass.
With the help of the good people at City Glass in Duluth, I was able to get the windshield replaced the same day and my car was ready to head out to Florida the next morning. The weather was beautiful. One would never know a big storm passed through here just a day before.
Crossing southern Wisconsin, the weather changed again. We pressed on through a nasty winter storm. Large state plow trucks worked three abreast with the same precision pilots would use while flying in formation.
One truck cleared the left lane. With his wing extended, he pushed the snow into the center lane. The truck in the middle lane caught the ridge of snow from the first truck. His big blade pushed the pile off to the right, then his extended wing caught the snow and continued pushing it to the right. The wave of snow kept growing.
The largest truck was in the right lane where he caught the pile and continued its progress, pushing it to the right. His big wing finally pushed the snow completely off the highway. It was amazing to watch them work so well together, clearing all three lanes simultaneously.
Eventually, the three trucks formed into one single file line, then exited the highway to the right. In my rearview mirror I could see them crossing the bridge overhead. I assume they were going back to clear the westbound lanes in the same fashion.
A large amount of traffic had built up behind the group of trucks. Most of the vehicles seemed content to drive on the freshly plowed roads behind the posse of big trucks. But there were also those who seemed bothered by the nuisance of these three maintainers taking up all three lanes.
The road ahead featured a plowed center and right lane. The left lane was unplowed and covered with heavy snow and slush. We were in the center lane, driving about sixty miles per hour, moving consistent with the flow of traffic.
A four-wheel-drive Chevy pickup went speeding by us in the left lane. His custom exhaust system was loud, deep and throaty. It seemed to say, “Out of my way, you pathetic little Subaru! I’ve places to go and you’re bothering me.”
He wasn’t very far past us when his tires lost their grip on the road. The truck, doing about 80 mph or so, was now sliding sideways down the road. Deep snow pushed by his tires was creating a cloud of snow - a white out. I couldn’t get into the right lane as there were cars there. I feared his tires were going to find some dry pavement and shoot him into our lane!
I felt like a NASCAR driver, pressing through a smokey crash. All I could do was maintain my position and pray to pass through unscathed. Soon, I passed the nose of his truck, perpendicular to my car, just inches away. His headlights shining directly into our car as we went by. We missed him. My prayers were answered.
Melissa and I were discussing how lucky that foolish driver was, and how the good Lord was looking out for us. While we were having this conversation, the idiot went flying by us again, in the still un-plowed left lane. Wow. I told Melissa, “Some people just don’t know how to drive in this springtime weather.” “Alabama plates.” She replied.
We made it to our destination. The tall palm trees on the lush green boulevards said, “Welcome to Florida.” The weather was mild for Floridians, but to a couple from northern Minnesota, the 79 degree temperature combined with the humidity was mighty warm. Fortunately, there was a good breeze to cool us and provide comfort. We visited the people we needed to see, then found a motel and called it a night.
The next morning, we headed out early. We drove north past St. Augustine, then found a pet friendly public beach. We wanted to take June and Edgar for a morning walk along the sandy shores of the Atlantic Ocean to enjoy this spring morning Florida style.
It appeared lots of people with dogs had the same idea. June was curious. Edgar was flat out nervous! When one large dog easily slipped his collar and came charging toward us, I quickly reeled June in while Melissa snatched Edgar up into her arms.
“Don’t worry, he’s friendly.” The owner called out to us. “He won’t hurt you.” That was no comfort. I wasn’t worried about us, I was worried about Edgar and June. The dog continued to charge, especially toward Edgar. June wanted to defend us, but I kept pulling her leash, turning so that I would stay between the attacker and June, Melissa and Edgar.
June growled, drawing the attention of the much larger dog. He started sniffing aggressively at June while I tried to shoo the beast away. The owner finally reached us, slipping the loose collar back over his head and pulling him away.
He made me angry. Sure, he had a leash on his dog, but that collar fit about as tight as a hula hoop around the waist of a skinny kid! Melissa and I agreed, there were too many animals on this beach to have June and Edgar there. We started for home.
Our next leg on this spring journey took us to the far east side of Pennsylvania and right to the Delaware River that divides PA from New Jersey. As we passed through southern Wisconsin, we couldn’t believe this was the same road we traveled during a winter storm just a few days before. Today it was gorgeous weather.
As we crossed Illinois into Indiana, the rain started. It rained and rained. As a matter of fact, it rained for the next 750 miles, all the way to our destination. I don’t mind driving in inclement weather. Sometimes, I really like it as it makes the drive more challenging, breaking the monotony of the white lines as they flash past the car going down the highway. I smiled. “April showers bring May flowers...right?” There were no flowers...yet.
The final segment of the April tour, would take us to Mobile, Alabama, where we would meet up with Melissa’s parents, then travel together to Austin, Texas.
In Austin, we visited Uncle Kenny and Aunt Gail. Their yard was overgrown with what looked like unruly tall grass. Kenny explained, we had just missed the beauty of the Blue Bonnets in full bloom, a spring treat in Texas. He needed to let the seed pods dry before cutting them, in order that Mother Nature could scatter them for next year’s crop of flowers. It seemed spring arrived in Texas before we did.
On our way home, we avoided I-35 until we were north of Dallas. It was fun driving the backroads along the state highways, seeing the colors of the Texas hill country in their fresh spring greens.
The further north we traveled, the less leaves we would see on the trees. Soon we saw only buds and the trees farther north were still dormant from winter. As we traveled, Melissa checked the weather online. “It looks like we got about three inches of snow at home last night.” “Snow? Three inches you say? I thought it was spring?” We shared a good laugh over that.
When we arrived at home a day later, the new snow was gone. There was still a small amount of snow in the ditches. In the yard, small patches remained where snow had drifted. Water in the ditches flowed swiftly down to streams and creeks, then on to Lake Superior.
In the month of April, Melissa, June, Edgar and I had traveled over 17,000 miles and saw many different interpretations of “spring.” From the west coast to the east coast, from the far north to the deep south. This was the first time I have ever experienced spring in so many different parts of the country.
I thumbed through the pages of my calendar book. “Yes! I knew it! There it is right there. March 21st was the first day of spring!” There was new life and new growth everywhere we looked. It is springtime all across America!
a broadcaster, pilot, writer, and our new Guest Columnist!