That's a Dodge Durango under there. We've been in blizzards from North Dakota to Nebraska. We've seen sixty mile per hour winds pack snow sideways against tree trunks six inches thick. We've pushed our way through snow drifts several feet tall. But I've never experienced the kind of dread I felt during this Rocky Mountain snow storm. On the Plains, the snow blows around like wind-driven shards of glass, piling up across roads, leaving flats stripped of snow and so enshrouding the horizon that you lose your sense of direction. None of this happened in the Rockies...it just kept snowing, and snowing, and snowing. Visibility wasn't the worst I'd ever seen, and the wind wasn't an issue...but watching the snow just pile up, wondering when and if it will ever stop, being sequestered in a small hotel room while the restaurants and grocers in town run out of food, waiting for TV signals to bring us news of road conditions (oh yeah, the War in Iraq started this week in 2003 - to add another dimension of surreality we had to watch "Shock and Awe" as well) was a type of dreadfullness that I never want to experience again - give me a plains blizzard anytime!
My wife is about 5'4", or 64". Total snow fall at Winter Park during the blizzard was 96"! I tried to repay the generosity of our hotel owner (a fellow Iowan!) by helping to scoop snow off the walk and parking lot. I shoveled my fair share of snow, but getting the last hotel room in Winter Park during the height of the blizzard was invaluable - the Iowa connection pays off once again (our friends had to pack 10 deep in a one-bedroom apartment in Fraser).
Not much boarding getting done today...so much snow they closed down the mountain. When they finally opened the mountain the snow was so wet and heavy that it wasn't much fun anyway. So much for braving the biggest blizzard in decades...
The worst avalanche conditions in decades in the Front Range left us trapped in Winter Park for days. I'm glad we didn't see one in action, but the shoulders of I-70 were littered with avalanche debris and we could hear crews mortaring slopes in the backcountry - kind of eery to see helicopters flying around and hear mortar shells going off...reminded me of Red Dawn!
We spent all day trying to get over the mountains to Summit County, but got turned away by state troopers more than once. Finally, we were able to make it up Berthoud Pass...just in time: they closed the pass about an hour after we made over the summit.
On St. Patty's day they dye the Chicago River green...not such a big feat when you consider that the river is pretty much green all year round!
The signs on the trail read: "DANGER - Lock car doors." Cahokia is not in the nicest neighborhood, but I'd be more worried about industrial pollution than being robbed.
Pilot Knob State Park, just outside of Forest City, IA (where they make Winnebago RV's), is a kame - a glacial landform created during the retreat of the last ice sheet to cover Iowa 15,000 years ago. There is a huge wind-turbine farm within view of the observation tower - Iowa is leading the development of wind energy on the Plains.
The neighboring property owner is planning on building homes on top of the hill, along old Skyline Drive. Quite a shame, but at least your uncle's farm is preserved - it's an oasis in the city.
The Legend of Wolfman Hollow:
At nearby Waubonsie Church, there is a small cemetery with gravestones dating back to the 1850's. One family plot is the eternal home of the Wolf family. The Wolf family lived nearby, along this narrow, winding, slot-canyon of a road in the Loess Hills of Western Iowa. I'm not sure exactly why they call it "Wolfman Hollow," instead of just "Wolf Hollow" - but on a moonless night late in summer, when the leaves on the overhanging oaks are thick, you don't want to stick around and find out why.