Cory Farley, voted "Best of Reno" 26 times in 27 years by readers of his column in the Reno Gazette-Journal, takes an unconventional look at topics from presidential elections to the best way to cook Brussels sprouts.

Location: Verdi, Nev, United States

Sunday, January 06, 2008

If only there were another way...

Four hours shoveling snow this weekend, three of them Saturday and one Sunday, thanks to a long driveway I share with two neighbors who have four-wheel-drive trucks. If they don't go somewhere right after a snowfall and pack things down, we can't get the Mazdas out to the street.
Sometimes if they do go somewhere, we can't get out. The ground clearance on a Protege5 is pretty minimal; if there's more than about five inches of snow, it piles up ahead of the spoiler and the car g-r-a-d-u-a-l-l-y s-l-o-w-s d-o-w-n. Then I can either wait for the neighbors or shovel the snow out of the way, back up, get a running start and hit it again, repeating as necessary.
Climber measure their ascents in "pitches," the number of times they have to move the rope to reach a summit. My record in the driveway, in the Great Snow of 2004, is 10 pitches--10 times barreling along until forward motion stops, then getting out and shoveling.
Saturday was a five- or six-pitch day. I would have been out in two hours, but while I was clearing the last five feet, a snowplow came by and put up a two-foot berm.
"I can blast through that," I thought, but I couldn't. I high-centered the Mazda, lifting the front wheels off the ground on a ramp of snow. That meant hiking back to the house for a real shovel, a digging implement, because my cheesy snow shovel wasn't long enough to reach under the car or stout enough to dislodge the icy wedge. There was a reason I left Santa Monica, but in January I can't always remember what it was.
When I finally got the car out, I drove down the street and passed a neighbor, a livid and pudgy middle-aged guy with whom I've disagreed on nearly every major issue that's come up in the 20-plus years we've lived near each other. His driveway is paved and about 50 feet long, compared to my 100 yards of dirt, but it's never felt the blade of a manually operated tool. He clears it (at the slightest provocation) with a snow blower that probably cost more than my kids' cars.
I stopped to talk with another neighbor, and she offered coffee, and soon we were sitting inside watching through a window as the first guy struggled with his blower.
If I'd been working with my shovel, I think I could have cleared his driveway in 15 minutes. The snow was powdery, and the surface is paved and smooth, so you would pretty much just walk along behind the shovel and give it an occasional toss to clear the way.
It took Pudge 15 minutes just to get the blower started. The battery apparently was dead, and after he pulled the cord 60 or 70 times, it occurred to him to check the gas. Whatever he found inspired him to go get a can from the garage and top it off, and 15 or 20 pulls after that, the thing popped and banged and sputtered to life.
He cleared a strip a couple of feet wide and as long as the driveway at about half the speed I could have managed manually. When I stood up to go, 10 minutes later, the air on his end of the block was blue with smoke. He'd wrestled the unwieldy blower through about a third of the job, covered his front porch with hoar and nearly hidden his back gate under a coat of half-melted snow that was already freezing into an icy armor over the latch.
"How's that thing working?" I asked as I headed for my car.
"Slow," he said.
"Well, keep after it," I exhorted.
"Aah, it's a pain in the ass," he snorted. "I'm supposed to be at the gym in 10 minutes."


Blogger ReconRanger said...


I was checking out a GPS this afternoon at REI and the guy that wanted to sell it to me had trouble turning it on and then wasn't sure what features it had.

"It has an altimeter and an electronic compass," he said.

Only he couldn't find those features on the model he was demonstrating.

I told him about the time I hit a road juncture in the middle of the Nevada desert and, where there should have been two roads, there were three.

I pulled the direction off my map of the road I wanted, shot an azmith and identified the road, and motored down the road of my choice.

No GPS would have done that for me. Needless to say, I am still a map and compass guy and I allow myself to NOT appear in the gym once the snow is off the likely avenues of approach. I've done enough.

Oh, incidentally, did I wish everyone a "Happy Holidays?"

Good. I didn't think I did.

7:14 PM  
Blogger mindervillain said...

The only snow blower I've ever owned was a tiny 2 horsepower, single stage that I bought at Coast to Coast when I moved to the Lake in 1971. With a tiny driveway, about 20 by 30, the mini-blower rarely got used, but did a satisfactory job when the back muscles gave out.

It went to Michigan with my ex-wife about 20 years ago, a minor part of the settlement in a divorce that came from issues like whether to rehabilitate the same deteriorating driveway in concrete or asphalt. Clearly the marriage was doomed from the beginning.

Over the years I have rehabilitated myself. I am happily married and have a nice home in Gardnerville which has, as one of its selling points, an approximately 5000 square foot driveway. A driveway that covers more than twice as much land as the house.

My Sunday has been planned for me for almost a week - move approximately 22 bins of Christmas decorations, and the heaviest artifical tree ever built, upstairs into the store room above the detached garage.

So I shoveled the upper part of the driveway and, for good measure, all the walkways, moved a car out of the garage so I'd have access to the stairway, and hauled boxes and phoney tree parts for a couple of hours.

They tell me another storm is coming in. I've got roughly 1/8 of my driveway shoveled. My back is already sore. And, despite the fact that I would never use age as an excuse for anything, I do remember Pearl Harbor.

I have enjoyed Corey's column for years, and agree with almost everything he says. But if there's anyone out there who, upon reading today's column, has seen the light and is going to send their snow blower to a land fill, let me know. I might be able to find a use for it.

10:45 PM  
Blogger Steve_R said...

Let's see... It's winter, you live 20 miles from the snowiest spot on the planet (well maybe or maybe not,but the Sierra gets plenty of snow for sure), and you're not a recent immigrant from Hawaii. Quitcherbitchin.

Snowblowers don't do well on dirt, so hire a guy with a plow. You can still have the joy of cleaning the stairs and walks, but the 100 yards could be cleaned up in 5 minutes. Maybe your neighbors would chip in.. maybe not.

8:56 AM  
Blogger sabjoro said...

I got into the habit of shoveling the walk and drive because of a couple of little brats in the neighborhood. Every time it snowed they would be running up and down the sidewalk with their plastic sled and making all kinds of noise. A quick shoveling, bare sidewalk and they would have to stop and turn around. Less noise, well worth the effort.

Now, when the snow starts to fall, I sprinkle some snow melt before the snow starts to stick and it makes it easier to shovel later. When people walk on it it doesn't compress and stick and there is not the layer of ice I have to chip out.

1 bag, less than $10, is a good investment for the entire winter.

10:09 AM  
Blogger Pogonip said...

Why is it that some people will use a snow blower, then go to the gym? Why, in summer, are those same people likely to hop on their riding mower, zip around their yard, then get in the SUV and go off to the track/gym/golf course to get their exercise?

As far as that goes, why does my own dear husband of 30 years tell me that he'll do a chore after he goes for a run or walk? Am I the only person on earth who still thinks that going for a run, a walk, tennis, or a golf game is play, and that we don't play until after the chores are done? Plus which, if you do the chores without all these motorized aids, you don't need any additional exercise.

11:19 AM  
Blogger Skyshrink said...

Hey Cory....I'm not planning to die on the end of a shovel. I'll let you know how my new (to me) snow blower works after the next big storm...if we ever have another.

12:40 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

I never used to shovel my driveway. "Heck", I said, "it'll melt in a few hours, or day." Then the snowstorm of '05 hit, and I didn't shovel until I realized that it wasn't going away in a few hours.

I spent hours shoveling a path three inches wider than the car, and my neighbor was also shoveling his driveway. He had never done any shoveling either.

Next winter, we were both out with a snowshovel every time it snowed a couple of inches.

This year he isn't, while I still am.

9:14 PM  
Blogger EidolaC said...

Every time we invent a new machine we loose a group of muscles.

2:33 PM  
Blogger rosebud said...

thank god our president has so wisely acted to save us from even worse global cooling.

6:36 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

Digging out felt virtuous - the first day. It started feeling painful the second day, and then all the neighbors with their boy toys felt sorry for us geezers and dug us out while we were still doing what I considered an
admirable job. I was happy to say thank you and admire the three backhoes grooming other driveways.

The drive into work was nasty, but easier, thanks to the help of our neighbors. We had to move to BFE to finally have neighbors. In town, no one made eye contact, even after 16 years. The candidates are full of what it is to be an American. How about, be a neighbor????

10:52 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Never mind the blower vs: shovel debate, tell me more about having "coffee with the neighbor".

9:47 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

We shoveled our 100' drive twice in the last week for the exercise even though we live in a "why walk when you can ride" neighborhood.

I do though, own 10 gas engines in various machines... how did that happen?

7:57 PM  
Blogger jerhig said...

I have a snow blower that has never been used. it is in the garage at Graeagle and I forgot to bring to Sparks again. Good planning eh?

8:58 PM  

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