Many readers might know that I live in pretty high country outside of Prescott, AZ. Our house is at 6600 feet elevation. In our community, people live between 6300 feet up to about 7500 feet. We have snow in the winter. We had a big storm Thanksgiving night that melted off kind of quickly and we had one a few days ago that because of the persistently cold temperatures and cloud cover has not melted. The picture in the header of this post is from a couple of days ago and it still pretty much looks that now.
For reasons pertaining to the dryness of our climate (but I do not know the exact science) our snow quickly turns to ice after being driven on that is treacherous beyond any reasonable intuitive expectation. I grew up in Boston and the roads there were nothing like what we have here. Our roads are mostly dirt roads. The county plows the one paved road and some of the dirt roads but even plowed, they are dangerous. Two wheel drive has no shot. Four wheel drive is a maybe, most of the time chaining up a four wheel drive will get the job done to negotiate the ice.
In the aftermath of the most recent storm, there has been report after report of vehicles going into ditches, blocking roads and so on. When this happens, you have to call a tow truck and today a tow truck needed to be winched out. The underestimation of our road conditions by people who don't live here is extreme...how bad could it be? On Saturday night the fire department had a medical call and long story short, two different ambulances got stuck, it was a third ambulance that took the patient to the hospital (typically the fire department is first on scene to a medical call but it is the ambulance company that transfers patients).
Dealing with the dangerous winter roads here is a legitimate challenge. As mentioned, chains are one solution. People can park down at the bottom of whatever hill they're on and walk back and forth or drive an ATV back and forth to their car if they have one.
There is another solution. The County leaves crushed lava cinders at the fire house for the community to use. The county plows spread them behind as they plow the pavement but they don't get spread on the county-maintained dirt roads for whatever reason. The cinders provide traction on the ice, they allow tires to bite. We live about 1/3 of a mile uphill from the paved road and we have to maintain that 1/3 of a mile which means in the winter, it is up to us to make it drivable or figure something else out, like walking.
Plowing is usually pretty easy. It is mostly downhill and doesn't take too long although last February we had two feet fall it it was too fast to get out ahead of which made plowing very difficult. Kind of like plow for 50 feet then jump out and shovel, then plow another 50 feet and repeat. After I plow I put down cinders. We have six 5 gallon buckets that I go fill up to bring home. The buckets are very heavy, heavier than five gallons of water, and it is tough work. Cindering can be tricky in that if it gets really warm the ice will turn to slush and the cinders can drop into the slush which then freezes at night and so turns out to have been a waste of time. I should note we leave one of our cars down at the bottom and have one up at the house.
We also need to make our road drivable for guests at our Airbnb (next door to the house we live in), we've been very busy this winter. Also, it would be nice to be able to drive to town if we need to.
Seeing/hearing about/being involved with accidents, I posted on the community Facebook page asking people to consider making better use of the cinders, maybe working with their neighbors to share the load noting that the cinders would make roads safe and drivable sooner and that although it might not prevent all problems it would prevent some. Thanks to cindering my road I was able to drive a car to the medical call the other night and get back home without incident. I would have taken my ATV if it came to that of course but driving an ATV at night when it is 20 degrees isn't that fun.
On another post in the Facebook group about vehicles getting stuck, someone commented "can somebody explain why putting cinders on the road is our responsibility?" To be clear this was not a response to me. If you've been reading this blog for any length of time then you know this is a huge hot button for me. The cinders example is just one of many where it boils down to someone preventing/solving their own problem or waiting for someone else to do it.
Being dependent on someone else to solve my problem is unacceptable (not talking anything dramatic like surgery). Living up here is a particular type of lifestyle. We are not off the grid but there are challenges that are not easily solved by waiting for someone else. Just about every aspect of living here is easier when you prevent/solve your own problems or simply accept that you'll live with the challenges. One example is power outages. The electrical grid is kind of fragile. We do not have a serious generator. We have a small one that is about the size of pump that you might take camping and it is pretty old. We'd use it for something serious (it was out for a week a couple of years ago) but if the power goes out for a few hours we'll just live with that until the power comes back. I am hoping that we will finally get a serious one in 2020, like a Generac or the like.
Things like fire wood, extra food and water and other things you might think of in this context are very mundane examples of how to prevent or solve your own problems. When we had that two foot storm last year, what if it took the county a few days or longer to get to us, it snowed in places here that are much lower in elevation that rarely get snow so there were many more roads to be plowed.
Now apply the concept to personal finance. Just as no one will care about whether you get out safely in a snow storm more than you, no one will care more about your financial outcomes like having a some sort of savings when you retire, not being so indebted that you spend more than you make, being able to cover an unexpected expense like new tires or a large veterinary bill.
"Why doesn't someone..." has to be one of the worst phrases there is. Every aspect of your life will be better and easier when you're self-sufficient.