The Driveway Dilemma
The slope of red rock across the street peeps out from under its blanket of soft, powdery snow; five inches of fresh white lies over Lander and its quiet and cold this morning. Hugo excitedly packs his little blue snow shovel in the Tig so that he can help clear the sidewalks at school, and all I can think about is how wonderfully flat our driveway is.
We’ve lived in a lot of homes over the past ten years: small and cozy, big and bright, dark and dreary; perched up high, tucked down low; in the trees, above the canyon, overlooking the lake, in the ocean, in the ‘burbs; some with wheels, some with keels and some with an actual foundation (yes, I’ve been reading way too many Dr. Seuss books to Hugo).
Each Hefti Home has had its own flavor – a mixture of its charm and its pitfalls. I remember Hurd House with the giant bathtub and teeny garage; our sweet Potters log cabin with the wooden steps down the back hill, affording access to the railroad-tracks-turned-hiking-trail that ran along Phillips Lake. I logged many pregnant miles running on that trail.
I remember Hidden Valley Home up in the Jemez Mountains with its the spiral stairs-of-death and creepy, secret panic room in the basement. Free Range, our floating home for a year, with her dark wood and tiny little bathtub that we never used. Casa Uva with its never-ending stairs, projects, and views. Oh, that deck when it was done….I only wish we had more time to enjoy that beautiful deck, Stephane’s masterpiece.
There was Porthole Place, lovely, perfectly-laid-out Porthole Place with the perfect pool and perfect location- five doors down from Dan and Jess; all she needed was a deep clean and some TLC and she shone like the little suburban jewel that she was.
Then there were our “land boat” homes – The Great White Buffalo (pre-Hugo) and The Grizz (with Hugo). Oh The Places You’ll Go with The Great White Buffalo – and we did, thanks to Stephane’s fearlessness – he drove that thirty-one-foot behemoth into the wilds of Montana, up questionably-steep dirt paths in Telluride, and all over Colorado. We had the best views and the quietest spots because no one else had the balls to drive their big rigs where Stephane drove The Great White Buffalo.
And then there was our most recent home on wheels – the sweet, fancy Grizz, with her dreamy elevated bunk for Hugo, her shiny chrome Mercedes bling and automatic everything; she was short-lived, but essential to our transition to Wyoming.
Cycling through these memories of our past homes as I push snow from our wonderfully flat driveway in Lander this morning, I am reminded of all of the driveways we’ve removed snow from and how, for some reason, there was always a bit of drama that went along with them.
It all started in Maine, this driveway dilemma.
We arrived with the snow one January, sliding down the short-ish but steep driveway to our log cabin on the lake, Potters. Potters was the quintessential Maine cabin- small and cozy, overlooking a tree-lined, country lake. It was picturesque and quaint, yet, to access it, you paid a price: a steep drop into the hole in the trees where Potters sat. Getting a plowman in Maine in the middle of winter was like getting a Mainer to make eye contact with you (not going to happen). Luckily, I believe it was Cici, our landlord, that helped us find a man with a plow. After a big snow dump, sometimes he came first thing in the morning, sometimes he came the next day, sometimes not at all. Our plowman was always a little bit of a question mark and that driveway was always, even when plowed, questionable.
A steep, long, and winding driveway led to Hidden Valley House, up in the Jemez Mountains. We did not want to go through a winter slipping and sliding and I’m sure, ultimately parking at the bottom and hiking home, groceries and baby Hugo in tow. We were saved by our in-town home purchase that November and narrowly escaped a Jemez Mountain winter (although I’m sure it would have been beautiful; but a headache and hassle, nonetheless, and so it was avoided).
There was the winter of 2017-2018 in Los Alamos at Casa Uva – here our cement (hooray!!! first one!) driveway, although short, was extremely steep and, on top of that – north-facing (i.e., no sun for melting power). As I sat working one morning in my lovely office that looked over the canyon to the back, I heard a loud engine running out front. Stephane was on night shift, and he’d spent the night at the base in town as we’d gotten so much snow. Opening the front door to a sweet scene: one of our neighbors using his snowblower to clear our driveway, “because we need our pilot to be able to get to base on time!”
But by far, the ultimate driveway dilemma was the driveway with the ultimate length and grade: Hurd House. Hurd House, our second and final home in Maine, was almost exactly across the lake from Potters, and perched up high out of the trees. The steep dirt+gravel road leading up to Hurd House was impressive in both distance and incline. So much so that when it snowed, Stephane had to leave his truck parked at the bottom to ensure safe passage into work in the morning. So much so, that on numerous occasions the heating oil truck, after charging up and sliding down again and again, gave up and moved on to fuel other homes in the neighborhood.
Hugo was a newborn at Hurd House, we had no baby monitor, and we HAD to clear the driveway: we were down to the dregs of heating oil and it was crunch time- soon the house would be without heat. We had to clear and prepare safe passageway for the heating oil truck – it was do or die! I don’t know how Stephane had the wherewithal to think clearly enough (being a tired new father and flying his butt off all over Maine), but in a moment of brilliance, he called my phone using FaceTime, and set it in front of the sleeping Hugo while he pocketed his phone and headed for the door. Baby monitor problem solved, we were both free to perform the extremely athletic endeavor which was to clear multiple feet of snow from Hurd House driveway. It was thick, heavy, wet snow- not the light, fluffy stuff I was so easily throwing from the driveway in Lander this morning. We grunted, sweated, heaved and pushed that snow back off the driveway. At the bottom we laid sand and even some branches for traction. We called the heating oil truck man. He came. AND HE MADE IT TO THE TOP. Other than bringing Hugo into this world, this was our greatest victory in Maine. We could leave now with our heads held high.
Yes, these were my thoughts this quiet, still morning as I shoveled our wonderfully flat driveway in Lander. So many driveways, so many memories. The Lander driveway will contribute less dramatically to the Hefti Driveway Memory Bin, but has already served up some goodies: watching Hugo ride his mountain bike, dirt bike, and tractor mower (!) around the circular path, and evenings playing “tennis” with him as the sun sets behind the Wind River foothills. Next week we’ll see Dan’s white F-150 drive up our driveway, and next month, Jurg.
We’ve watched many come and many go up and down our dramatic driveways over the years.
Here’s to many more visitors. As to the dilemmas, well, they keep life interesting- I’m okay with dilemmas as long as my driveway is flat.