bə-lō'nē mō'gəls(n.pl.) 1. A group of drinkers with a shredding problem. 2. The combination of snow, booze, and metal.


PA Powder Mission (Blue Gets Browned)

(Continuing on the catch-up, next is our storm chaser mission, tracking another snowpocalypse in the Mid Atlantic)

An early wake-up (5:30AM) started the mission.  We knew the blizzard was coming West to East and PA would be getting it before New York, with heavy accumulations.  So, if it started snowing here, it was likely already a disaster there.  Our destination was initially Camelback, but a last minute audible switched the plan to Blue.

So after a dark and stormy wake-up, I was greeted with a lovely crust of ice and sleet on everything.  Already, I was thrilled with the prospects of the 150 mile drive.  Over to Trafalgar, Dong and Brown mounted up and we headed out to Pennsylvania.  To check out the rest of the story and some video, hit here!

Forecasts the night before were claiming snow would start in the evening and get stronger all night, until it eventually would turn into a full blizzard by morning.  A quick check of the snow totals in the morning were disappointing.  It seemed like the storm might have stalled and the snow hadn't quite come yet.  The plus side was this would make for a much easier drive out.

Because damn near everything East of the Mississippi was canceled because of the storm, the roads were empty, while snowy and icy.  The highways were slow moving, but mostly clear and everyone seemed rationale.  No special ed drivers blowing past on the right side, no one seemingly really trying to test the limits of their 4WD.

Once off the highway though, a different story began.  The twenty-some miles on country roads were quickly becoming a disaster.  The confidence I had in my friend's navigation was also misplaced.  It turned out that his "rock solid" directions to the hill, were actually provided by a blue dot on a Blackberry and he didn't really remember at all how to get there.

With the non-existent traffic on these roads and the snowfall picking up, they got slicker and slicker.  Even with the Subaru the increasingly windy roads that Brown led us into were not awesome.  As we started sliding down a steeper hill into a sharp curve, I pretty much resigned myself that we were hitting the guard rail and let out an accepting "well, this is going to hurt."

Those awesome Japanese sure can make a grippy car, and traction was regained right before hugging the rail.  Thankfully.

After a few more "damnit! Browns" were uttered, we finally locked eyes on Blue.  One more push up the hill to the mid station lodge and we were there.  My only real thought at that point was how gnarly that same final climb would be going downhill after 12 hours of snow.

Walking from the cars to the lodge, it certainly looked like some snow had come down, but nothing like the totals they were claiming.  Undeterred, we got our lift tickets and geared up.  Thank you college ID for continuing to provide me discounted lift tickets!  So what I haven't attended a degree-granting institution in four years?

Right as we got out of the lodge the snow began picking up and the visibility that was already meager, disappeared.  One turn into the run and we knew the drive was worth it.  The snow was wet and heavy, but even with that, it was kicking up all over the place.  The main cruiser runs on the mountain were covered in awesome snow, that was only rapidly increasing in totals.

Temperatures floated around that 33-34 degree mark, so while snow fell, it was extremely wet.  Every flake hitting our jacket and pants almost instantly melted right into the material.  It was going to be a very very soggy day.

We took a quick beer-for-breakfast break and headed back out after some thirty minutes.  We were in for quite a shock.  In that small amount of time the heavy bands of the blizzard struck and inches of snow fell.  It just got heavier and heavier.  Even in the mellow terrain offered up by Central Pennsylvania, snow blew up on every turn and coated us in a shell of the white stuff.

Back at the lodge, soaked through, we started hearing announcements about road closures.  What started with some country roads, moved to the major highways.  Watching the breaking news alerts on the TV over the bar, we saw the snowpocalypse turn into a traffic-pocalypse.

There was no chance we were leaving Pennsylvania that night.  After some phonecalls, we found a hotel and plotted a course.  Dong was in charge of navigation this time.  The roads were way gnarly this time with heavy snow covering most of these PA back roads.  Slow going, but what looked like it could lead to death was actually quite easy.  We made it to some abandoned steel town next to the PA Turnpike and, in classic Boloney fashion, found the only open pizza place and alcohol supplier.

Making it back to the Country Inn and Suites we got a sick upgrade to a suite, and chugged sauce before a night of much deserved sleep.

In the morning the skies opened up and a brilliant blue bird day began.  We headed over to Camelback to get some more of the powder riding in, and we were quickly reminded of being in PA.  Brutal winds had kicked up and all of the 18 inches that came down the night before were already gone.  It almost made it seem like the powder from the day before was a total figment.  But we have the photos and videos to prove otherwise.

All and all our PA Powder mission was a shocking success.  While it's against my cardinal rule to drive South for snow, I might have to make that more of a guideline instead.

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