Get In The Car Kids, We Are Taking A Trip. To Where? Wintertime, Naturally!
By Joshua York
It was getting to be late January, and I was standing river-side in the Chagrin Reservation, squinting into the mild sun hazily illuminated through the overcast cloud cover. My friend Pud’n’Snack walked up from behind me, and she poked a stick lazily a couple times into the slushy snow at the river’s edge. We were both a little disappointed yet again this winter. As pretty as the little falls near Squaw Rock looked, with the rocks all spackled with an inch or two of wet snow and the river flowing through glossy ice chutes, it just wasn’t exactly the scene we had set out to enjoy.
Pud’n’Snack and I had heard that we were getting 6 to 8 inches of snow today and decided to blow off some Wednesday work and get down with some sled-riding. With winter temperatures averaging in the mid 40s and snowfall totals resting around 25% of the normal mark, we were jonesing to use our snowpants and sleds to finally enjoy a little winter fun. We set out for my favorite sledding hill in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, all bundled and excited. About 4 miles south of downtown, we realized there was a problem. No snow!!
The couple of inches we had in Cleveland were caused by the lake effect and quickly dissipated to a dusting by Spring Road and then to nothing by Pleasant Valley. We looked at each other and knew what we had to do – head to the place that would have snow if any place would: Geauga County! We drove around to a number of known sleddin spots, but even in the big snow zones the hills were all exposed – mud and brown slush. Bummer. So we called off the sledding adventure and tinkered around the Chagrin River instead. I said to Pud’n’Snack, “I guess this is about it for any winter this year.”
Later that afternoon, my girlfriend Mere-Mere called me all stressed. She said they were supposed to get 16-20 inches overnight in Chesterland, where she lives, and over 30 inches a little further out in Chardon. This was very bad news for her, since driving on the roads of Geauga County is miserable in those heavy bursts. She said, “isn’t that crappy?” I said, “that is awesome! I am calling my dude Risha Red, and we are gonna drive out there and explore.” She thinks I am crazy. “Why would anyone on earth want to purposefully drive into 30 inches of blizzard,” she asked. And I told her, “because I need to take a vacation to the real winter!”
What my girl Mere-Mere is starting to understand about me is that I see Cleveland’s location as a perfectly centralized spot, with the ability to travel in multiple directions and to experience different activities depending on the weather of the day. I call it “weather tripping,” or “weather daytripping,” or “weather vacationing.” I understand and embrace the weird nuances of our ever-shifting weather and prepare with gear to take on any change that occurs. I would say that most everyone understands that a good ski or surf report will make you drop what you are doing to enjoy the perfect conditions. These are forms of “weather daytripping.” What about taking a drive to the countryside to see fall leaf change? – Also weather tripping.
From this location, we can really take this concept to another level. In the summertime, if the weather calls for a thunderstorm in the afternoon at Mentor Headlands, right at the time you are supposed to go to the beach, don’t cancel your plans. Since summer weather almost always comes from the west, try changing your plan and heading west to Lorain County, that storm will pass earlier, and you will have the rest of the day to swim!
In the fall, you can extend your leaf viewing by driving east to Geauga County in the first week of October, south to Summit County in the second week, and out west to Huron County in the third week: If you only have one weekend to go and see leaves, you can guarantee seeing the best set this way.
Weather daytripping is a cool concept really. This February, I drove down to Cincy to see my brother. I drove out of a blustery 25 degree Cleveland winter straight into the springtime. Cincy was 64 degrees when we arrived not but 4 hours later. Did you have any idea that in February it only takes driving a few hours to visit the spring? Even I was surprised by that difference of temperature. Shoot, even between Akron and Cleveland in the springtime, the difference of temperature can be almost 20 degrees.
One Easter, my dad got so angry because he thought we were blowing my mom and him off: We had 14 inches of snow dump on us, and after digging and spinning tires for 2 hours, we were still only 25 yards up my street. He said it couldn’t be that bad, and my mom was upset that we weren’t coming. After another hour of working on it, and a neighbor with a plow on his Jeep happening to plow on by, we freed ourselves from Auburn onto W 14th, which was bad but drivable. Halfway to my parents’ house in Akron, the snow dwindled to nothing but grass, and I am talking within about a mile’s distance: Ten plus inches down to green grass! 32 degrees to 48 degrees! No wonder my dad was mad. Luckily, I snapped a couple pics on my phone to show them. We were on a vacation to the spring.
This type of weather-based travel goes on in other parts of the country, too. I was chattin’ with a guy at my buddy Nascar Dave’s, who lived in Wyoming for some years. He said that the Rocky Mountains would suck up a lot of moisture so the thunderstorm clouds that would loom to the west would never culminate into rain. He said, as funny as it sounds, a lot of the Midwesterners would drive up a bit into the mountains just to take in a classic thunderstorm with rain downpours because it reminded them of home: Weather tripping to cure homesickness – Hunh, interesting.
So, to Mere-Mere’s question, “Why would anyone drive purposefully into a blizzard or a rain storm?” My answer is to escape the purgatory of a season that bears down on us. That’s the real answer. It’s not always about getting enough vitamin D or sunshine, or even fresh air. Cabin fever can happen in any season, when you are stuck in a pattern, when you really want to go somewhere, or when you want to do a certain activity that is not possible.
Even in this winter, where we have had plenty of sunshine and warm days, I still feel like I need to see something different. It is warm, but it is not warm enough to smell spring. It is balmy, but there are no vibrant leaves or colors. It is sunny, but you still can’t swim. It may snow, but there’s not enough to go sled-riding.
The best advice I can give you is to gear up to enjoy anything: Get some rain gear for hiking, a tarp to protect a tent, an awning to cover the beach picnic set-up, new windshield wipers, and good tires on the old ride for enjoyable driving. Forget what your phone app says about weather and be very skeptical of exclamation points and warnings from them. Get a good RADAR app for your phone and learn to read it. Otherwise, load up them kids in the car and just go for it. Take a vacation to the spring, to the summer, to the fall, or even to the winter.