By the time you read this, spring will have officially sprung. Well, at least it will be spring on the calendar. In Michigan, we have lost almost all hope of ever seeing Little Robin Redbreast as we continue to suffer the worst winter in memory if not in history.
Spring is but a dream to us.
Me? I finally escaped. I’m in SoCal working on an automotive reality show called Motor City Masters for truTV.
Driving down the 405 south out of LAX after months of winter almost made me weep, and it had little to do with the sun on my frozen brow.
No, it wasn’t the sun or the palm trees or the fact that I had to fish in my bag for my sunglasses (natives always get off the plane wearing theirs); it was that the Ford Taurus rental car I was driving had the most exquisite ride I had experienced in months.
Three of the four top car magazines in the United States are now in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I don’t know about the guys across town, but for months I’ve refrained from making any definitive comments about a car’s ride quality other than “D’oh! Oof! Ouch!” The streets of Ann Arbor look like they’ve been shelled and feel like an off-road rally course. The interstate is a nightmare of surprise craters, which doesn’t seem to slow down the local hooples in their raised four-by-fours. (They still do that in rural Michigan.)
Ride quality wasn’t all that bad for most of our ridiculous winter, because the roads were cushioned by a blanket of snow throughout the first two polar vortices. But then came a miserly three-day heat wave of temps in the mid-30s. I joyfully left the Siberian hat at home with the arctic parka and the mukluks and headed to the gym in spring attire. In the middle of my workout, it sounded like the building was being bombed. Thunder! Yes! Rain was coming! I headed to the lobby and looked out in stunned amazement at an epic blizzard. We had just experienced the rare phenomenon called “thundersnow,” which was in the process of dumping three inches of heavy, wet snow—the kind we call “heart-attack snow” because it’s dangerously heavy to shovel. An hour after it started, we had driving rain, followed by hours of 60-mph winds.
Because the ground in Michigan is frozen eighteen inches down, rain and melting snow—so much of it piled everywhere that parking has become a problem and our dogs have taken to pooping on the porch—have nowhere to go. So our office flooded.
And with the rain came the revelation of what had happened to our snow- and ice-packed streets. Potholes. Craters. Chunks of asphalt and concrete scraped up by snowplows desperately trying to stay ahead of a winter that no one could have anticipated. Our Four Seasons test fleet has already lost three tires and a wheel to potholes, with weeks to go.
Two days ago, an Ann Arbor News headline read: “Polar vortex makes another move at Michigan next week: See how cold we will get.” According to meteorologist Mark Torregrossa, this third encounter with the polar vortex will be dropping down upon us directly from the North Pole. “This outbreak of cold has the potential of producing the most widespread below-zero temperature pattern of any of the arctic outbreaks this winter,” he predicts. “The growing ice on the Great Lakes, and open-water temperatures near 32 degrees, will allow the arctic air to infiltrate Michigan with ease.”
Sorry, I’m skipping it. In fact, I traded the Taurus for a bright yellow 2014 Chevy Corvette Stingray, and I’ve been reveling in the revving, the downshifting and automatic rev-matching, the mighty V-8 engine’s roar, and, yeah, the cheery yellowness of it all. See you in a month, when this will all be a distant memory. All, that is, except winter-ravaged roads that are waiting for a $100 million Band-Aid from the state.
I swear to God I will not whine about the road construction.
For more of Jean’s musings, go to JeanKnowsCars.com.