Whiteout.

In winter, cold air moving across the Great Lakes can gather moisture. The moisture becomes trapped in low-hanging clouds. Winds propel the clouds over land, where the moisture is then released in heavy snows, accompanied by strong winds (via National Weather Service). This is known as “lake effect snow,” and can create blizzard-like conditions, although for a shorter duration than a true blizzard. However, the distinction hardly matters if you’re driving through heavy snow, icy roads, and zero visibility.

My wife and I took advantage of the long Presidents Day weekend to head up to the Adirondacks in upstate New York. As we ventured north, we passed through a few small snow showers and a squall along the New York Thruway. However, once we entered Adirondack State Park, we encountered the worst whiteout conditions my wife and I had ever seen. As we battled the elements, we tried our best to keep calm and manage the drive safely. We knew our Jeep Grand Cherokee was well-equipped for winter weather, especially when rolling on Nokian tires. We knew the road well, and so were able to approximate our distances from the guardrails and shoulders. We used the Jeep’s built-in GPS to alert us when major curves and turns were approaching. We drove slowly, at some points no more than fifteen miles per hour. And after a nerve-racking 90 minutes, we reached our destination safely, having survived an awful storm.

So come long, then, on a journey that includes a white-knuckled drive through a wicked storm, some scenic views, cool drone photography, and great food. We’ll wrap up with some fun automotive updates, too.

Let’s begin:

An Adirondack Driving Adventure:

Map of Northeastern United States, with a red pin in location of Adirondack State Park.
Once again, our weekend getaway took us to upstate New York, and Adirondack State Park. This time, however, our adventure had an unexpected twist.
View of I-287 in New Jersey.
Our drive began pleasantly enough, with clear skies and little traffic on I-287 in New Jersey.
View of snow-covered road with limited visibility.
As we neared the city of Utica in upstate New York, we encountered a snow squall. A squall is defined as a brief, but dramatic, increase in wind speed, typically accompanied by precipitation (via Wikipedia). In this case, visibility rapidly dropped and we encountered a brief but heavy snowfall.

Although this brief video we filmed doesn’t truly fully capture the challenge of driving through a snow squall, it can at least offer some insight into the challenges presented by this weather event:

Clear road, with snow on roadside, and blue skies above.
The squall disappeared as quickly as it came, and we were treated to blue skies and clear roads. However, if you look in the distance, you can see clouds, an ill-fated omen of what was awaiting us in the mountains.
Map with route between Forestport NY and Old Forge NY along Route 28.
My wife and I have driven the 25-mile stretch of Route 28 between Forestport and Old Forge countless times. Even in the height of summer traffic, the trip rarely takes more than a half hour. This particular drive, however, would take almost ninety minutes.
Snow-covered road in mountains.
As we passed White Lake, snow began to fall heavily and the Jeep, usually unperturbed the elements, was buffeted by high winds.
Snow-covered road in mountains.
This was the last photo taken before we drove into the heart of the lake effect snow storm. Visibility rapidly deteriorated, the wind-driven snow falling so heavily that we could barely see past our front bumper. Driving slowly, hazard lights flashing, and using our knowledge of the road to guide us, we crawled our way toward Old Forge.
Jeep Grand Cherokee wheel with Nokian tires, in snow.
Our Jeep proved its value, and the Nokian WR G4 SUV tires were worth every penny in the abysmal conditions. Not once did the Jeep slide or skid on the hazardous roads. We made it to our destination safe and sound, if a bit frazzled.
Snow-filled sky with shore of lake in foreground.
There is a lake here, I promise! After arriving at our relative’s house, I walked down to Fourth Lake… or where Fourth Lake would have been if I could have seen it through the snow. Lake Effect, indeed.
Fourth Lake, covered in snow, under a blue and cloudy sky.
By the next morning, however, the storm had lifted and Fourth Lake looked beautiful.
Creek with banks covered in snow, and snow on trees on either side of creek.
I love how the mountains look after a fresh snowfall.
Eagle Bay Donut Shop
After taking in a view of the lake, I hiked down to The Donut Shop of Eagle Bay… of course!
Cup of coffee on banister with ordering window of donut shop in background.
When I arrived at the shop, the owner informed me that the cold weather had played havoc with some of the shop’s equipment overnight, and the first batch of donuts weren’t quite ready yet. She offered me a free cup of coffee while I waited. Beyond just the donuts, it’s the excellent customer service that keeps me coming back again and again.
Donut on plate.
Running a business in the Adirondacks is tough. Customers are seasonal, and unless you reside in a heavily populated area like Lake George or Lake Placid, business can get very slow. Good entrepreneurs know that keeping their business running requires a good product, excellent customer service, and catering to their customers. The current owner of the Donut Shop, who took over the store only a few years ago, has managed to keep up the quality of the donuts from the previous owner, while also expanding the menu, creating a warm and welcoming environment, and treating each customer with care.
Exterior of Toboggan Inn.
But even the best businesses close or turn over owners. The Toboggan Inn, a local favorite of mine, recently shut it doors for the last time. No word on whether a buyer has been found, or if a future owner will keep it as a restaurant.
Two cups of coffee on table, with neon sign outline of Adirondack State Park in background.
What goes well with a donut? How about some fresh coffee from Blue Line Coffee House in Old Forge! I also totally dig the neon outline of Adirondack State Park.
View of Fourth Lake, looking west.
I made some time for a little drone photography.
View of Eagle Cliff.
If the neighbors were wondering what the buzzing sound was, that would be my drone at 120 meters in the air.
Drone photo of mountains.
While Eagle cliff (bottom left) was a little too icy to climb, I managed to fly the drone over it for a view of the mountains to the north.
View looking downward at forest.
I am still learning to think “three-dimensionally” with the drone when I compose photos. Too often, I feel myself approaching the drone as if it is a camera in my hands. Features like the downward tilting camera lens, however, can create some more interesting compositions.
View of Fourth Lake from Arrowhead Park in Inlet.
While waiting to pick up dinner in the town of Inlet, we were treated to a beautiful sunset.
Sunset over Fourth Lake.
I know I rave about Jersey shore sunsets… but ADK sunsets aren’t bad either!
Ice-covered parking lot in park.
A bit of a “behind the scenes” moment… in order to get the sunset photos, I had to traverse this ice-covered parking lot. It had the consistency of a hockey rink that had just been prepared by a Zamboni. The things I do for you, dear readers!
Exterior of Screamen Eagle Pizzeria in Inlet, NY.
We got takeout from our favorite local pizza parlor in Inlet – Screamen Eagle! In the mood for pizza, hot wings, pasta, or any other warm comfort food? Screamen Eagle has you covered (including gluten free pizza).
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee, parked in Arrowhead Park parking lot.
As we were walking back to the parking lot with our takeout order, I realized how absolutely filthy Grace had become. She’s sporting the “Adirondack Look” in the photo – covered in frozen ice, slush, salt, and dirt.
View of Route 28, with Wigwam Tavern on right side of road.
After a fun, long weekend, we set off for our long drive home. Needless to say, weather conditions were a bit less dramatic for our return trip.
View of traffic on Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge.
We did encounter significant traffic on the New York Thruway, so in Kingston we decided to get off the highway and take a break. Our excursion took us over the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge, a mile long bridge that stands 152 feet over the Hudson River. The view of the Catskill Mountains in the distance was gorgeous.
View of Hudson River from top of Bridge.
As was the view of the Hudson River. No surprise: my wife took these photos and enjoyed the view, while I kept my eyes firmly on the road ahead of me. And gripped the steering wheel with sweaty palms. My fear of heights remains resolutely intact.
Car odometer reading 80700 miles.
After a seven hour drive, we arrived home safely once again. Although much of the blog’s focus has been on my high mileage Honda Accord, my wife’s Jeep passed its own milestone on this trip: 80,000 miles is now in the books. Next stop, 90k! Onward!

New Car Updates! High Mileage Updates! And More Updates!

Before closing, I wanted to share some new car news from a friend, a high mileage update from another friend, and a cool automotive anniversary as well.

You CAN go back home again:

2018 Honda Accord sedan.
Longtime readers may remember my friend Josh, who purchased this 2018 Honda Accord to replace his 600,000-mile 2015 Honda Accord that was totaled in an encounter with a deer. At first, Josh was pleased with his new car, but for a person whose job has him constantly on the road, the 2018 Accord had a significant drawback in the winter.
2018 Honda Accord headlights covered in snow.
I’ll let Josh tell the story of why he decided to trade in his 2018 Accord: “I switched cars due to on-going issues with the factory LED headlights continually icing and freezing over with snow in winter driving conditions. The design of the headlights (inset from the front fascia, giving it a concave-esque shape) acts like a ‘catcher’s mitt’ to collect snow and ice on the housings, rendering them useless when the winter weather hits. This fundamental flaw solely drove my decision making in the transaction.”
2014 Honda Accord sedan.
Josh sold his 2018 Accord, and went back to a tried-and-true vehicle: a 2014 Honda Accord LX sedan, which is almost identical to his old 2015 Accord. Among the things that Josh is happy to have back besides headlights that don’t ice over? More comfortable seats, more accurate heater and air conditioning temperatures, better windshield wiper performance, more useful storage in the cabin, and a proper manual transmission.
2014 Honda Accord sedan parked in parking lot.
I asked Josh that if my readers were trying to decide between a 9th generation (2013-2017) or a 10th generation (2018-present) Accord, which one should they pick? This was his reply: “If you are going to drive the car in a snow-free climate, or where the car will not see snow all that often, then a 10th generation with the standard Honda Sensing may be the car for you (editor’s note: Honda Sensing is a safety system designed to help avoid collisions while driving). It is a solid car, complete with some of the latest tech that, up to this point, seems reliable. However, if you live in a snowy climate, or travel long distances frequently like I tend to do, I would go with a 9th generation. By the way, if you can manage it, get a 9th generation Accord with a manual transmission, and throw on some good snow tires for extra performance.” Thanks Josh! Here’s to many happy miles with your new car!

ANOTHER Milestone

Car odometer reading 900000 TRIP A 286.2
My friend Justin, whose 2003 Honda Accord has frequently been a star of our update section, recently crossed yet another milestone: 900,000 miles! Congratulations, Justin! We here at The Open Road Ahead are eagerly awaiting that day when you eventually hit a million miles with this car!

A Mileage Annivesary

Split image: Top: 2012 Honda Accord coupe parked in front Burns Honda Used Car building. Bottom: car odometer reading 192,192 TRIP A 38.0
On May 1st, 2015, I purchased my 2012 Honda Accord coupe with 42,192 miles on the odometer. A few days ago, I crossed a mini-milestone of my own: I have driven this car exactly 150,000 miles since I purchased it. It remains the best vehicle I have ever owned. Onward!

Wrapping Up

While I have traveled to the Adirondacks many times over the past several years, this trip was, without question, one of the most memorable. Although we had an excellent vehicle with great tires, we knew the road, and we drove carefully, I would be remiss if I did not also point out the other major factor that enabled us to reach our destination safely: the care and attention of other vehicles on the road. No one tailgated, everyone was driving slowly, and every vehicle we encountered had their hazard lights on. While I would not want to knowingly drive into such a storm again, the experience was invaluable for future winter driving.

And thanks for coming along on this snowy adventure into the Adirondacks along the open road ahead!

‘Til next time.

4 thoughts on “Whiteout.

  1. Glad you made it there and home safely. Great winter pictures! I really liked the perspective looking down at the trees from the drone.

    Josh’s 10th gen experiment ended early. It would be interesting to hear if other people experience the same issues in snowy weather in a 10th gen.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading! Now that I’m more comfortable flying the drone, I can focus more on exploring the features of its camera (without worrying so much about crashing into a tree or a mountain!). That’s an interesting question about the 10th gen – I really am surprised Honda’s engineers didn’t stop at some point and think about winter weather conditions for that headlight design.

      Liked by 1 person

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