We got insane amounts of snow over the Christmas holidays. All piled up, it was more than I’d seen since I was a kid in Trois-Rivières. I was pretty small then, so I’m sure it probably seemed even higher at the time than it actually was. We’re talking snow banks up to the top of stop signs, folks, and cars stranded on highway off ramps.

For Christmas, Claire and I bought each other a brand-new Arctic Cat 400 4×4 ATV to complete our rural disguise. We ordered it with a snowplow, but the dealership was out of stock. As we patiently waited for a shipment of plows to arrive, we got three separate 20 centimeter (8″) snow storms that we had to shovel by hand. Our driveway is vast, and our backs were killing us.

The morning after New Year’s day, I was headed back home after dropping Leo off at daycare to do some billable work. My cell rang, and it was The Call: the dealer had a plow! [Insert song of heavenly angel choir here.] This was indeed fortuitous, as another 40 cms was being driven furiously at us by a Nor’easter. Determined to leverage our investment (and frankly, quite tired of shoveling) I drove to Moncton from Sackville, with quad in truck, to have the plow installed. Road conditions were atrocious; visibility was next to nil, but I did see a big snowplow truck get stuck. The snow was drifting across the highway at such a rate that there are stretches I couldn’t have crossed without the big 4×4. Upon successful completion of my perilous mission, I phoned Claire at work to boast of my exploits. She was unimpressed.

Unloading the quad was an adventure, because with plow it only fits in the truck if you back it into the bed. You see, the plow is too wide to clear the truck’s wheel wells. So when I got home and tried to drive the ATV down the steep truck loading ramps, the low-hanging plow noseplanted itself firmly in the snow. Upon careful consideration, I decided the best way to free the stuck machine was to use its electric winch, anchored to a tree across the driveway from our garage. The fun began as I had to wade through chest-deep snow to get to the tree. The fun continued when I found the winch cable wasn’t long enough to reach the tree. I trudged back through the snow to retrieve a steel extension cable from the truck. Back to tree to secure the cable, and then back again to the ATV to activate the winch to begin the recovery process. I was working up a sweat.

I slowly took up the slack in the cable and began the winching process. The cable went taut, the tree groaned, and the extension snapped. I credit the snowbank through which the cable was running with saving me from a particularly nasty supersonic flying cable decapitation.

My dramatic survival drama aside, the winch cable got all twisted to heck as a result of the backlash, and re-spooling the winch properly took more time. There were many more trips back and forth through chest-deep snow to get the cable anchored securely and to eventually hoist the quad into a level attitude. It must have taken me a couple of hours to get the damn thing out of the truck, all told.

And so began the actual plowing of the driveway. As I figured out how to do this, I learned a bunch of lessons the hard way:

  • Shifting from forward to reverse with a semiautomatic ATV shifter is infuriatingly fiddly. After each pass, I would sit for a minute at a time tap-dancing on the foot shifter with my heel and toe with various combinations of transfer case lever position (while swearing through clenched teeth) to change the quad’s direction. I realized it’s best to find a plowing path that lets you turn around without backing up;
  • Don’t pile snow in front of the garage doors. It rather defeats the whole purpose of improving the mobility of your cars and it’s a b!+ch to move it after the fact;
  • Don’t plow the front walkway with the quad; (I got stuck, digging up the lawn and eventually having to use the truck with a tow strap to pull it out. Another half hour lost.)
  • A plow on a quad can’t push snow very high up existing snowbanks, so the only place for the snow to go is into the ditch across the street.
  • When you plow snow across the street, it makes a mess that you then have to clean up. Claire looked on with some irritation as I plowed the street.
  • Etc…

Anyway, next thing I knew, it was time to pick up Leo at daycare and I wasn’t quite done yet. I had to plunk Leo in the house with Claire and go back out to finish, which, of course, made Claire positively livid. It took a few hours before she talked to me again, and her first words weren’t terribly kind. (Apparently she took exception to me playing in the snow all day while she was at the office, then leaving her with a cranky three-year-old to keep doing more of the same. Go figure.)

Anyway, I’ll apply my learnings the next time and probably save many hours, not to mention our marriage.