Icy driveways and stranded drivers: Your valentine has been delayed in transit

By Patti See | February 15, 2024

  • A delivery truck sits stranded at the base of Patti See's icy driveway on Lake Hallie (photo courtesy of Patti See)

A delivery truck sits stranded at the base of Patti See's icy driveway on Lake Hallie (photo courtesy of Patti See)

Listen Online

There’s an old saying about the United States Postal Service: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night … etc…etc…” But, if you’re a driver delivering a package to the Lake Hallie home of writer Patti See? Well, good luck with that…


In Lake Hallie last Valentine’s Day, it was a balmy 41 degrees and rainy. When I left for work, I was hopeful the many layers of packed snow on my steep quarter-mile driveway would melt. Instead, it became a bobsled-run. Then, an Amazon van and its rescue tow both got stuck.

When I arrive home, I park at the top end of the driveway and start my trek down towards the idling flatbed tow truck.

The driver is wrapping a long strap—looks like a slack firehose—around a tree. Flatbed Man says, “I can’t get any traction so I’m winching myself up. Then we’ll get a smaller truck down here for the Amazon van.”

Amazon Guy gets out of his vehicle when he sees me. “I am so sorry this happened,” I say as a greeting. The same thing I just told Flatbed Man.

“Not your fault.” Same as I just heard from Flatbed Man. Still—we live here, and I did order the package.

Our driveway is legendary among delivery drivers. This one tells me he saw our package drop-off tote at the top of the driveway, but he says, “When I braked, I slid past it and couldn’t back up. I thought I’d come down and turn around.”

“How long have you been here?” I ask.

“Just a few hours. I’m getting paid to wait.” That sounds awful: trapped here, no idea for how long, and no bathroom. I offer him ours.

“I’m good,” he says. I offer food and water. He shakes his head.

Meanwhile, Flatbed Man inches his tow truck backwards up the driveway.

After Bruce and I eat a quick dinner, I put together a care package for Amazon Guy: bottle of water, ginger ale, sleeve of Ritz crackers, Kind bars, banana.

“Really?” Bruce says as he watches me rifle through our pantry.

This from someone who once coaxed a lost pizza delivery driver into the house when his car spun out halfway up our driveway. That teen made one wrong turn and he drove into a scene straight out of a horror movie.

Patti See's long, steep, icy Lake Hallie driveway on Valentine's Day 2023. (Courtesy of Patti See)

Patti See’s long, steep, icy Lake Hallie driveway on Valentine’s Day 2023. (Courtesy of Patti See)

Bruce often calls our isolated driveway “Donner Pass,” the California mountain feature named after the family who perished trying to cross the Sierra Nevada’s, winter of 1846. Unlike for those doomed travelers, there will be no cannibalism in this vegetarian’s yard.

Bruce served that Domino’s driver a sandwich and chatted with him at our kitchen counter until the kid’s dad arrived with a pick-up and tow rope.

I walk my snack  bag out to Amazon Guy. He accepts my offering through his open window. The passenger seat is filled nearly to the roof with envelopes and boxes, which means some disappointed sweethearts on this Valentine’s night

I imagine Amazon Guy calculating how many hours of gas in his tank and rechecking his weather app. Maybe he’ll melt his way out. More likely, our bob-sled run will just get slicker

He reports a new plan: Once Flatbed Man is out of the way, Dispatch will send a four-wheel drive vehicle for the packages and Amazon Guy. I tell him he can leave his van here as long as it takes.

Nobody knows the slow going of a flatbed tow truck being winched uphill from tree to tree except the guy connecting the strap to the next trunk—in an icy rain—and getting pulled a measly 36 inches at a time up a driveway over 600 feet long.

After waiting here four hours, the last two spent watching a “rescue” vehicle, Amazon Guy exists his van with a headlamp strapped to his forehead. He tells me he’s walking up the driveway and someone will pick him up. I can’t even offer to drive him since the flatbed is still in the way. Any customers who track their packages will see them stalled next to Lake Hallie until morning. It’ll be at least another hour until Flatbed Man makes it to the top.

Amazon Guy is wearing better gear than anyone in the Donner party. Their wagon train got stuck in snowy, rugged terrain; eventually they ate their oxen hide snowshoes.

When Amazon Guy lifts one foot to show me his ice cleats, he falls into the snowbank. How many times can I apologize? How about one more.

Patti See

Patti See

Patti See is a writer from Lake Hallie, near Eau Claire, Wisconsin.  Her essay collection “Here on Lake Hallie: In Praise of Barflies, Fix-it-Guys, and Other Folks in Our Home Town” was published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press. See’s blog “Our Long Goodbye: One Family’s Experiences with Alzheimer’s Disease”...
2024-02-15T13:03:10-06:00Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Sign Up Form

Sign Up for Our Bi-Weekly Newsletter

Get your favorite Wisconsin Life stories, meet the crew, and go behind the scenes.

Our Favorite Collections

Storyteller Rodney Lambright II's comic series about the rich relationship between a single father, his young daughter and his retirement-age parents.
For the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, we discover how Wisconsinites experienced the war both at home and on the battlefield.
Ice, cold and winter are an integral part of what it means to live in Wisconsin. "Ice Week" explores the many ways that ice defines us.
Food plays a central part in many holiday traditions. This series honors the foods and meals that make the day.
Escape winter with a look at some of Wisconsin's favorite sports and games.
"Living the Wisconsin Life" is an online series exploring the little things that make living in Wisconsin fun, interesting and meaningful.