Thursday, December 25, 2008

Conservation of Wait

So you may have heard of various conservation laws of science, like conservation of energy or conservation of mass. I discovered a new one driving to Michigan through the third winter storm in five days. It is the conservation of wait.

For New Englanders travelling to West Michigan, the shortest distance and time is through Ontario, Canada. You need passports these days to cross the international border twice. I consider this such a farce, as semi trucks steam through unabated. Yet families waste hours waiting in long queues. What is the purpose here? A truck could carry countless bad things undetected. My take is border patrol makes honest folks wait a long time to discourage all border crossing.

We left early to beat the storm. Amazingly, we made it to Buffalo before the storm. I made the (bad) call to keep going, cut across Ontario since going was good, then spend the night upon crossing back into the states at Port Huron. Surely at midnight, re-entry into the US would entail no wait. We no more than got into Canada and the skies opened with torrential snow. The sequence of QEW/403/401/402 quickly became treacherous. Remote Hwy 402 degenerated into a doubletrack down the centerline with our car scraping bottom the whole way. I believe they pulled the plows. What should've taken 3hrs took over 5hrs. So what do we find at the port of entry at 2am? A long queue! It seems it doesn't matter how few cars are crossing, you WILL wait a long time. Wait is conserved.

Tuesday morning I was able to squeeze in a quick ski at Great Brook before we left for Michigan. It was -5F when I left the house with Fastwax Blue on the skis. The grooming was excellent. The base had set up nice and firm. What more could you ask for? How about some glide. That was the slowest snow I've been on. I'd almost fall over the front of my skis trying to V2. It was pretty much an all V1 junk workout. The snow whistled boisterously under my skis. The poles chirped. I remember as a kid playing on the Lake Michigan beach. Skuffing feet in the sand made whistling noises. This aggressive snow made the same sound. Had glide like sand, whistled like sand, must be sand, right?

Pigeon Creek

Despite taking many more hours to get to West Michigan than usual, we had a little time to spare. I thought about riding, but recent 20" of snow left a lot to be desired of the plowed roads. They were dangerously narrow, snowbanks higher than me, 6" of slush with pouring rain at 37F. I could ski too. So which would have the least suckiness factor? I opted for safety. I decided to check out Pigeon Creek Park where the county grooms a large trail network. Having what I felt was my slowest ski ever on Tuesday, I figured it couldn't get any slower than that. I was way wrong. 20" of new powder, snowmobile groomed (soft), with intermittent drizzle/wet snow made for the mother of all slog fests. This was worse than that one time Skogs and I skied at Bretton Woods a couple years ago. I had essentially no wax on my skis, as the dry abrasive snow at Great Brook turned my bases white. This didn't help. I just didn't have time to wax. The whistling sounds my skis made yesterday were traded for the wushing sounds of slushy snow today. The park is dead flat, was groomed nice and wide for skate, yet I barely averaged 10kph. A new PR. I worked hard for it too. The viscous damping was unreal. It seemed I went slower down the slight drops than up. Can't complain though. Anything that gets you outside breathing hard for 80 minutes is all good.

Dead flat Pigeon Creek

So that made for a 42F temp swing in two ski outings. Wax was wrong for both. I must say the price was right for Pigeon Creek - free. It seems many places to ski here are maintained with grants and tax dollars. Cool. I bought a season pass at Great Brook while there for $60. I just hope warm spell doesn't destroy the huge base they have. Thunderstorms are in forecast for MI this weekend, and I think both skiing and riding are going to be destroyed for the rest of my trip. They expect flooding.


Mookie said...

My buddies and I went to Quebec City for Carnivale in 2005. We made unbelievable time from CT to Stanstead and to our suprise- no line! Our luck would soon change. We were held for over 3 hours, interrogated, and my car was stripped- all while semis were breezing through carrying WMDs. I was told that they found "cocaine residue" (sure) on my license and I thought we were going to get the full body cavity search by what looked liked a woman (jury still out) who kept snapping her rubber gloves in front of us. The Frenchies were probably having a slow day.

Hill Junkie said...

We got tagged coming into Canada on our way back from Michigan one year. They completely gutted my car, laid it all out on the concrete on a bitterly cold, snowy night. They emptied glove boxes, pulled floor mats out, emptied wife's purse, went through all of the luggage, you name it. Never got an explanation why. This was non-Frenchie Ontario. I was BS to say the least.

Luke S said...

Huh. I've driven to both Quebec and through Ontario to get to NW MI nearly every year as far back as I can remember, and other than some long waits I've never had a problem getting across the border at all.

Great Brook, as it stands, will need another 6+ inches of snow to be good skiing after this weekend's warmup. I was there today and the skiing was great, if thin, fast, well groomed (by GB snowmobile standards). There are pretty significant icy and bare patches now, although very little was totally impassable.

Hill Junkie said...

I tried to ski locally this morning. Quarter to half an inch of ice covered everything except trees. It was more than the snowmobile groomer could handle at Pigeon Creek. Surface was so hard and slippery I couldn't even walk on it. Saturday is supposed to be 2" of rain here, 3" up at Traverse City where I wanted to ski the Vasa trail. Looks like it will be at least a week before I can ski again. Riding studs on the icy roads this morning was a hoot. I talked with one other crazy mountain biker on the road with studs. We were both socked to see each other.