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Slack tide: The driveway from Hell... when Hell freezes over

Posted: January 26, 2014 - 1:00am

To characterize what I’ve been doing to my driveway so far this winter as “shoveling snow” would be a misnomer, sort of like calling the stuff that collects at the bottom of a porto-john “honey.”

By the way, this is a real “honey” of winter thaw cycle we’re stuck in, huh?

To begin with, my driveway is long, steep, twisty and unpaved — you need 4WD to negotiate it in the middle of summer. The guardrail bears many a scar of those who’ve failed to heed this warning, from Priuses to taxis to pizza delivery guys to the several-ton roofing truck that ripped it halfway off its moorings. I’ve got a veritable obstacle course of popped tires in the yard.

But wait! There’s more. My driveway’s natural fall line ends in a drainage ditch and, beyond that, an imposing-looking utility box with an alarm and a phone number to call in case it goes off. Like if you’ve careened into it, for instance, in a several-ton roofing truck.

Also, we live high up on Blueberry Hill in West Juneau, a neighborhood some smug downtowners refer to as “Snob Knob.” Whatever you call our neighborhood — I like “We’ll-See-Who’s-Laughing-Next-Time-a-Tsunami-Hits Point” — we’re usually at or above snowline.

Now, in a normal winter, say, like the one we had been experiencing right up until Christmas Day, not only do we get two to three times more snow than the rest of town. What’s rain at sea level tends to be slush up here — several inches worth, which I usually don’t discover until right before we’re about to leave in the morning. Thus, I begin most days by backing down what I can only describe as a glacier smothered in chowder. Let’s just say my wife’s “oh crap strap” gets quite a workout.

Of course, we own a pretty heavy-duty snow blower and, while I may drink Diet Pepsi, enjoy cross-country skiing and admit to owning a DVD of “Steel Magnolias,” I love running gas-powered machinery as much the next guy. Few things smell more intoxicating than two-stroke exhaust on a cold day, although that could just be the carbon monoxide poisoning talking.

The thing about snow blowers is they only work on snow. The stuff I’ve had to “blow” is more like a dirty, gray Slurpee — like what you’d expect to get at a Bulgarian 7-11. I’ve probably spent more time clearing the snow blower’s chute and auger than the snow blower’s chute and auger have spent clearing my driveway.

Oh, what I wouldn’t give for one of those huge industrial snow blowers you see the city running. Or a plow rig for my Subaru (oh, how I dream of running a “Plowbaru”). Maybe I should get a KickStarter page.

At present, though, I’m forced to attack the driveway from hell — when hell freezes over (then thaws out, then freezes over again, then thaws, then freezes, then thaws again) — by hand. I employ three different types of shovels, an ice chopper, a pick-axe, a push-broom and where, in my laziness, I’ve allowed the slush to compact and harden, a wood-splitting maul. No wonder I’ve been popping so many ibuprofens lately; that might also explain the mysterious tingling sensations I get running down my left arm. Those are normal, right?

For some reason I view the navigability of my driveway as a measure of my manhood. Nothing fills me with masculine pride more than the sight of friends skipping carefree up and down my walk, in Dansko clogs, balancing Costco fruit plates; nothing shrivels my junk more than those same friends serving me with a slip-and-fall suit.

And so my driveway is my daddy; or, to put it another way, I’m my driveway’s b*itch.

I will literally spread a ton of gravel this year — without it, the driveway would be like a slanted ice rink, Zambonied each night with a glistening layer of snain. I’ve already thrown down 1000 lbs. of the stuff, which I shoveled into 20 five-gallon buckets; at $13 and change, that makes bulk pea gravel the cheapest consumer good I’ve ever purchased, at less than two cents a pound. I’m seriously considering serving it to my kids and telling them it’s granola, which, by contrast, can cost $10 for an eight-ounce box.

Anyway, I suppose I could always re-grade and pave our driveway — an excellent opportunity to run gas-powered machinery. Those things are awesome. I’ve also toyed with the idea of installing a tram, let people ride down for free if they spend $5 in my gift shop. I also wonder what happened to the old platter pull from the bunny slope at Eaglecrest. Maybe state surplus?

But then how would I fill my winters? And how else would I deter potential home invasions and/or unwanted door-to-door solicitors? The driveway may be from hell, but watching would-be proselytizers stop, assess the icy, muddy path that lay before them and reconsider — that’s heaven.

Note: with temperatures climbing into the mid-40s this past week, I’ve enjoyed a temporary respite. Letting the rain shovel your driveway for you is as idiosyncratically Southeast Alaska as a Subway “$5 Foot-Long” that costs $7.

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