FrostBurn Day 1

Today I headed out from Rochester and drove to Cooper's Lake Campground (205 Currie Rd., Slippery Rock, PA) to attend FrostBurn.  Last year it was during President's Weekend in February but they mentioned that they planned to change it to Martin Luther King weekend this year.  Ali and I realized we'd have to rearrange her mom's annual visit to accommodate the trip — but we forgot and, although I remembered again in November, it was too late.  So, it was just me this year.

The trip out was not bad, except for lake-effect snow around the lake near Buffalo.  I slowed down to 45 MPH or so and was getting frequently passed, but after 80 miles or so I did successfully drive out of it.  I arrived around 4 p.m. or so and got settled in.  The commercial campground where the event is presently held is located on a hill, and the organizers decided to split it up so there were people camped on top and at the bottom. Initially I was placed at the bottom of the hill.  Since I had the rear-wheel-drive Buick Roadmaster, I figured it would be impossible to drive down.  And since I also had a 180-pound base to the winter shelter I made, I really had no desire to try and make that happen either.  Thankfully there were some spaces available at the top so I camped there.  Also, I had access to electrical power: even though my winter shelter was pretty good, the predicted sub-zero temperatures would have been overwhelming without use of the electric heater I had at-the-ready.  As it turned out, I never even got to try it out that night.

Because of the cold — it was, after all, no warmer than 5°F outside — I decided to consume and share the two bottles of homemade wine I brought rather than let them freeze.  I got to meet lots of nice people and check out the whole event. Along the way, I met another Jason who ended up … umm … overdoing it, and ended up in bed early.

By the time all the drinking and debauchery was done, I was leaving the lower section and really don't remember much of what happened.  Based on legend, I became "the guy who passed out in the snow," "almost died," or "got frostbite."  As it turned out, this guy Tony helped me up the hill and let me stay in his heated RV overnight.

So now as you all cluck your tongues and "tsk-tsk", let me add two things.  First of all, I didn't go out with any plan whatsoever to end up passing out.  And second, this event isn't like day-to-day life: it's more like a village or an extended family.  Rather than stepping over somebody passed out, anyone there would have stopped to help.

That said, it got down to -11°F in nearby Slippery Rock, PA and, depending on who you asked, it got as cold as -14°F or -18°F — so there was some real danger of getting injured out there.  Thankfully I had on a full 4 layers on my legs and 6 on my torso along with chemical warmers on my hands and feet that were still working by morning.  For the most part it was pretty comfortable.

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Wintry Mix and Spin

Ali and I headed to The Blue Horizon Restaurant (1174 Brooks Ave.) for breakfast. The place is definitely an ideal diner. Anyway, this morning it snowed a little — maybe an inch or so — and we didn't think it was a big deal, so we decided to drive out to check out gas fireplaces. Ali mentioned a place on Hudson [which I think is Fireplace Fashions (1936 Hudson Ave.)] and we also wanted to head out to Pettis Pools; the waitress helped us out and found the address in the phone book and we decided to try and find Pettis Pools and Patio (1186 Manitou Rd., Hilton) first.

We headed out on 390 and noted that we were at the Blue Horizon when the big car crash happened that closed it back in February of this year. I was driving the Roadmaster and when we got to the turn onto 490 West, I slowed way down, expecting that there might be ice as it was exactly 32°F outside. The turn was pretty clear, though … until I went to accelerate onto 490. The big wagon started fish-tailing but I managed to reel it back in and avoid either spinning out or hitting anyone else. The highway was pretty much wet with a slushy mix, but there was something wrong: there were dozens of cars spun out and off the road.

The mystery was solved on the first bridge we came to as the wagon fish-tailed a bit again. Since it was straight road and only for 50 yards or so, it wasn't hard to keep things under control.  We forged ahead, but saw more and more cars spun out. Apparently every single bridge was covered in solid ice, albeit giving the illusion that it was just more wet slush. We decided to give up our quest and get off at the next exit, but there was one more surprise.

A Honda Pilot started to go out of control in front of us on the next overpass.  It swerved left then swung right and ended up skidding sideways down the road and slamming into the right guardrail, coming to rest right in our lane.  Ali wanted me to stop, but I was on the icy bridge and was just barely touching the brakes until we cleared the overpass and I braked hard, stopping in time to avoid T-boning the poor guy.  The driver of the Pilot got it out of the way and I decided to just run over the piece of plastic bumper laying in the road.  Unfortunately it was dragging under the car.  Fortunately we ran it over when I got onto the shoulder and we got the hell out of there.

We were passed by a car going far too fast and then likewise by a charter bus (which was also half into our lane, the prick).  The exit to Rt. 386 was next and I couldn't bear to watch the bus careen across that overpass — and, naturally, also couldn't avoid watching.  However, they successfully slowed down for the cars that had already spun out.  The trip home was much slower and safer — amusingly taking us right past the Blue Horizon once again.

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