Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL


February 18, 2014

McNamee: The trouble with driveways

Winter weather causing problems for teams, reporters

EFFINGHAM — This isn’t a real estate tip: The key to a good house is its driveway.

My parents bought an empty lot in a developing neighborhood, when our family moved from our first house. A construction crew built it from the ground, up. It’s two stories, plus a basement.

We added a sun room, years later, on top of a wooden deck I jumped off of as a kid only to knock myself out on the landing, but that’s a coincidence.

There’s a two-car garage at the end of a cement driveway that’s comparatively flat to what I deal with now, though not as level as my grandpa’s. His driveway, oh, is excellent.

I park on an incline that is at least 45 degrees, now. It’s nobody’s fault, except maybe Earth, and it makes this winter an even bigger adventure, though I contemplate using that word because it has a positive connotation.

This isn’t zip lining in Hawaii, it’s winter in author Gary Paulsen’s “Hatchet” book series and main character Brian is being attacked by a bear.

My tires go through a gauntlet to get up the driveway and every day I slide on the road I know it’s because any tread the wheels had is burned into the face of the mountain at home.

The driveway challenges me to invent new ways to conquer it and I’ve adapted. I’ll take it at a gradual angle, like a NASCAR driver making a turn at Daytona.

It’s a “Turn right to go left” kind of thing, like Lightning McQueen on dirt in Disney/Pixar’s “Cars”.

I bought a shovel last week because my common kitchen mop was bent like a hula hoop from digging my car out of a snow drift created by a plow, way back when the first snowstorm hit.

I didn’t make it out of the driveway that first day, which was fine because everything was canceled. I called Korea-bound baseball player and former Newton star pitcher Ross Wolffrom home and wrote a story.

Too often, I make it to work and games are canceled anyway. I get it. I couldn’t drive a bus in this either, not that anybody would let me try.

In high school, I asked the local hockey arena to teach me how to drive the Zamboni for a story I was writing in the school newspaper. I figured there was only so much damage I could do in a glass-enclosed circle of ice, but they figured I’d destroy the city. We never found out who was right.

The arena’s owners exercised caution then, as school administrators are now.

I’ve heard calling school is like deciding to go to a classmate’s birthday party or stay home. It’s all about who is and isn’t going and when everybody is going to the party, it’s hard not to join them — but if you can get a group of friends to join you for a movie instead, that’s an easy decision.

The first thing I should’ve done to solve my driveway riddle was buy a shovel, but that’s why I’m not a school administrator. My decisions don’t make a lot of sense, sometimes.

Altamont’s decision to play its boys game on Friday, when everyone else canceled, didn’t make much sense to me only because it was out of the ordinary.

But Indians head coach John Niebrugge’s response, on Twitter, registered with me. We tweeted at him, asking if they were still playing St. Elmo/Brownstown, and this part of his response was perfect: “Gives us something to do!”

Hey, John, it gives us something to do, too.

St. Anthony girls head coach Bart Wiedman gave me an excellent quote in early January, after three days of mass cancellations. Like Friday’s game, the night’s lone survivor, St. Anthony and Shelbyville played each other Jan. 9 as the only two area teams in action. Wiedman said his team just needed to play basketball.

The only thing I needed to do Monday, after writing this column, was get back up my driveway. I don’t enjoy it, but I always find a way to get it done.

Maybe the shovel I bought is more commonly used for scooping cow pies, but it made my driveway easier to climb. I shoveled my spot three times Friday and my arms were shaking, but it was worth it.

It’s all about getting up the mountain and staying up, and my emergency break is the strongest arm I have.

In many cases, my parents can mosey their SUV straight into the garage and I’ve never appreciated that more than when I go for a visit and my car sits in the garage like it’s wrapped in a baby’s blanket.

That’s what makes the driveway a key part of any good home. It will still be a task to get up mine this spring, but my parents will have the same, easy cruise onto theirs.

Here’s hoping the school buses share my parents’ luxury this spring. I’d rather area coaches and players worry about winning games than getting in and out of their driveways safely.

If they need tips, I got some.

Alex McNamee can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 123, or alex.mcnamee@effinghamdailynews.com.


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