Seen from the O'Neill Bridge in downtown Neillsville, the O'Neill Creek is covered with snow, and the trees appear gray and lifeless on a snowy Monday morning.
The snowstorms that blew into the area in mid-March weren't expected - at least I didn't notice them. I'd gotten used to snow, ice, rain and snow, ice, rain that I didn't hear the winter storm warning or see the snow.
I wasn't fazed until I almost got lost in it at 10:30 at night on a dark and lonely road near Bakerville and again on Highway 10.
Imagine driving on a snow-covered road, but you can't see the road; you see snow through your headlights. There aren't any street lights, the moon and stars are shrouded; they won't guide you anywhere. The dark surrounds you and bright lights are useless; you see only a kaleidoscope of distorted flakes.
Your only hope is to follow someone's tire tracks. Staying on your side of the road is no longer a possibility, staying on the road at all is near impossible.
Visibility shrinks to a point that you're looking down a narrow hole lit with two headlights. No one else is driving on the road, knowing it is foolhardy to attempt travel in a storm at night. The brave people who can drive in this kind of weather are smart enough to stay home.
But there are a few terrified souls like myself who must drive through it to get home since we've worked all evening. The only other choice is to be stranded in the middle of a road to be hit by a snowplow when morning comes. It's scary.
Everything appears black, only a shining light pierces the dark. I don't know where the turns are or the nearest house, even the road signs have snow covering them; they appear like stick figures frozen in the wind.
The radio plays a tuneless sound that's distracting, so I turn it off and listen to my own voice repeat, "Stay on the tracks, stay on the tracks," but it isn't a comforting sound. My mumbling voice begins to sound like a scratched record stuck on the same lyrics.
When the road straightens - I think it straightens - I am relieved when I reach the quaint town of Granton. A street lamp shines a hazy light into the scene as though I'm watching a black and white classic movie on an old TV with snowy effects.
I grip the wheel tighter with one hand and call my brother as I crawl through the snow, driving slower on Highway 10. He doesn't answer.
The snowplows won't be out until early morning, pushing the white heavy blanket of snow aside to make a passage for morning travelers. But I'm a night traveler; I need a snowplow.
As I pass Fannie's Supper Club and Neillsville is close, I almost cry for joy when I see OEM Fabricators. The snow has gotten deeper, and I can see the edge of town, so I can walk home if I have to.
I turn onto Court Street, but when I get to the stop sign I won't stop (cops aren't patrolling the streets this late) I speed into my garage, braking before I hit the wall.
I can't believe it takes me one hour and 30 minutes to drive through a snowstorm. It feels like eight.
And gosh darn it if we didn't get more snow a week later on Monday.
I stayed home and found my shovel.