Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Weather worlds

The commuting challenge continues. Here’s a new wrinkle: microclimates. I drive one hour to work. It takes 20 minutes from my home to Stowe, another 20 minutes to the interstate, and 20 minutes along the interstate and to the office.

The big surprise is that weather can be dramatically different from home to office. The day before yesterday I left a bit early to avoid the blinding snow squalls which were not only to hamper visibility but also to cause dangerous road conditions. For the first forty minutes there was almost no snow, but then at the edge of Stowe Village, it was as if I had dropped over the edge of the world into an arctic village. Snow, lots of it, blinding drivers and bringing traffic to a crawl. Twenty minutes expanded, I don’t even know by how much, so focused I was on the taillights ahead of me. At last, I could creep up my icy hill to welcoming dogs. Ahhhhh, home.

Yesterday, the reverse. The icy hill, always the first challenge, is plowed by two different towns, so conditions can be different between here and the dump half a mile away. Then messy roads in Morrisville, not so bad on the road to Stowe, and a terrible slick patch right in the middle of Stowe Village. I saw the car in front of me slide sideways, so I was prepared with a correction when my car did the same. Steady improvement in driving conditions eased my tense shoulders for the second leg of the journey, then the third was as if no snow storm had ever occurred.

In fact, there was only a dusting over there in the “banana belt,” warmed by Lake Champlain, as compared to another (yes, another!) six inches at my house. I suppose I must be more tolerant of the failure of area network news stations to accurately report what is going on at my house. It is not uncommon to see a storm with 2 inches of snow in Burlington, 6 inches at my house, and a foot in the Northeast Kingdom. They have area spotters who report on local accumulations, but it is not nearly so interesting to know after the fact how much snow came as it would be to know what was expected. Microclimates.

Still, I think I prefer living in the “snow belt” and commuting to the “banana belt,” rather then the reverse. If I am going to be stuck somewhere, I want it to be at home with dogs, food, and a big pile of wood. And it is comfort to know that if I make it off the icy hill, conditions will be better and better all the way to the office, with the exception of Stowe Village. For such a wealthy little town it is hard to understand how Village roads can be so much worse than the rest of my route, but I don’t spend a lot of energy trying to figure it out. Instead, I slow down, focus on the car in front of me, and try to breathe through Stowe.

At least a little, I can see now why people keep asking me if I will move closer to Burlington. Not yet, for sure, not until I have a better sense of what this new life will be like, and I really do love where I live. But I can see how the commute could wear. In a way, though, it is a lovely thing to have the world of work and the world of home be physically separated, whether by migration from microclimate to microclimate or—as I have had in past situations—by crossing water. The ability to draw that sharp line is, I believe, restorative to the spirit.

5 comments:

Mouse said...

I used to commute 90 miles from home to Cheltenham in Gloucestershire. At first it was tough and then I got used to it unless I left work at 11pm and the weather was bad. The trouble is that you don't notice the toll on your health until you stop, rather like banging your head on a brick wall really...

Karen said...

Oh, Mouse, I am afraid that you are so right. It sounds like you--like me--don't have the chromosome for commuting.

Well, never mind, we can only re-engineer one thing at a time. If this job turns out as well as I think it will, I'll worry about the commute in six months or so...maybe work at home a couple days a week, maybe move, who knows?

Mouse said...

Yes, flexibility in all things. I used to work from home from time to time and I really appreciated the extra few hours a day that it gave me, especially in summer when the garden beckoned...
another option is to make use of the commute time by learning Urdu or something similarly useful???
I can't help thinking it would be a shame to move from that lovely place though

T said...

I've been going back and forth from Stowe to a town 15 miles north of karen's place... from one bad microclimate to one worse... but you're right about Stowe's roads. How can everyone to the north of us manange to keep their roads clear and Stowe fall short?

Maybe they want the tourists to think there is more snow than there is?

Pauline said...

I spent twelve years in Danville, VT and merely getting to St. Johnsbury down suicide hill was enough to give me pause. It is delightful to read of the towns whose names I remember so well. Lovely site.