Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

Some old-timers were talking at a community gathering:

#1: Did you see the road closure signs have started to go up already?

#2: Yep, looks like spring breakup time

#3: Our road should be closed any day now (my neighbor…who lives on the same road as us)

Me: WHAT?!?!?

Cue yet another learning moment.

During the winter the ground here freezes from the top down. The colder the winter, the deeper the freeze – and this was a cold winter. When the weather starts getting warmer (high 30’s and up) the ground starts to thaw – also from the top down. So while snow and ice turn to water at the surface, the deeper layers – that are still frozen hard – prevent the water from draining away. So, until the thaw is complete, the top of the ground turns into a wet, muddy mess over a foot deep, capable of swallowing a car (unless the old-timers were exaggerating. They wouldn’t do that to an impressionable new-comer, would they?)

The network of dirt and gravel roads maintained by the county go through the breakup process annually. While in the mud-soup stage, any heavy vehicle would tear up the road leading to costly repairs and extra road work. To prevent this, the county posts the roads as “Closed to Loads” at the start of the breakup. Intended primarily for logging trucks, the ban also covers any heavy vehicle – like a propane truck, or diesel delivery truck, or UPS van. Cars and pickups are ok, but others face heavy fines if they violate the closure.

Being a curious newbie, I ask how long the breakup lasts.

“Oh, 2-3 months.”


My brain instantly goes to our 45% full propane tanks that can last us another couple of weeks. But 2-3 months? Even with cold showers, minimal cooking, lowering the thermometer, and switching to the wood stove for heat, there is no way we could stretch our propane supply to last that long. Evidently my panic showed loud & clear because there were murmured reassurances that we’ll be fine as everyone filed out.

First thing next morning I’m on the phone with the propane company. They, of course, know all about the breakup. They, of course, can get special permits for deliveries on closed roads – and can drive in with reduced weight loads. They assure me that, of course, the county isn’t going to prevent delivery of essential goods for 2-3 months. I hear “special permit” and immediately think long delays and cha-ching – more dollars. Actual cost: $0. Time to get permit: same day. We’re not in LA anymore.

We live about two miles off the highway on a combination of county, forest service, and private dirt roads. Sure enough, the “Road Closed” sign was posted on our road today. The road itself has a little bit of everything: snow, ice, bare patches, mud, puddles. If you’d like to join us on the e-ticket ride in, check out our video, taken from the passenger seat at speeds of 15-18mph while riding in our 4 wheel drive Element with Blizzak snow tires (love them!). My husband’s semi-steady-camming does not quite capture the full experience of our version of Disnelyland’s Indiana Jones Ride. The county-maintained part of the road ends at ~2:30 and we cross our property line at ~5:00. I guess someone forgot to cue the moose, so alas no moose sightings on this trip. Full disclosure: it’s not a very exciting video 🙂

Watch on YouTube: