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Alicia explores the Southtowns: Winter commute from the city to the Southtowns

FA UN FREDDO CANE! — In translation, it’s bitterly cold. As an urban walker/beach cruiser enthusiast, I have had to quickly grow accustomed to winter driving in both the city and the Southtowns. Photo by Alicia Greco.
Throughout four years of high school and four years of college, I never owned a car. Since I graduated and started working this job at The Sun, I have rapidly become an experienced driver.

While in high school, I hitched rides from friends. Carpooling was a necessity, when it came to track meets, midnight bowling or the early morning commute to school.

During college, I resided on campus, living the dorm life, until I upgraded to upperclassman off-campus housing. There was hardly ever a parking spot around campus and the estimated time to find one was 20 minutes, if you were lucky. I was grateful to not have that burden.

Everywhere I wanted to go was within walking distance. During sophomore year, I became the proud owner of my beach cruiser, which I named Robert Plant. It helped me get to friends’ apartments, Elmwood Avenue or Allen Street and, since it has fenders on the tires, that nasty line of dirty water that can imprint on your back during a rainy day was never a concern.

With brightly colored headphones, a basket and a chainguard I personally decked with broken mirrors, I became known around campus as “the girl with the awesome bike.”

Then, I graduated. Being car-less was not easy to get around, when trying to find a job. After I scored this job here at The Sun, I became the owner of a 2013 Toyota Corolla©. In addition to gas costs, monthly car payments are now a fixed part of my finances.

I currently live in the city of Buffalo. In May, I was a fresh graduate with an approximate 30-minute commute to work in the Southtowns which, at the time, was an extremely unfamiliar place to me. For the first two weeks or so, I got lost basically every day and quickly became accustomed to using roundabouts.

Since that time, the thrill has worn off, for the most part, but for a good span of time, my heart would race with adrenaline while cruising the Skyway, with the setting sun melting beyond the Buffalo skyline.

The foliage of fall began to dissipate and the clouds grew grayer by the day. Winter – my arch nemesis – arrived. Unlike many Western New Yorkers to whom I have spoken, I do not prefer the four seasons. Constant sunshine with vitamin D calls to me. Wintertime (other than the joyous excitement of the holidays) makes me sad and cold, and my neck aches from hunching away from the biting air.

After just getting acquainted with the ways of the road, I was filled with dread, thinking about the Skyway’s winter transformation.

The first terrifying drive of the season went well, in that the worst of it were my heart palpitations. In the beginning of December, I drove home from the office in the elements. The roads were not awful in the Southtowns; everything was pretty well plowed, unlike most days in the city. It wasn’t until Route 5 became the Skyway that visibility went kaput.

All that could be seen through the white, blizzard mask were faint, red beams from taillights ahead. My Sicilian amulet – which my family calls “Vito” – swung from my rearview mirror. This little guy, holding up the mano cornuto, a hand gesture used to ward off the evil eye, is half “cornicello” (which means little horn) and half man.

Led Zeppelin resonated from my speakers, as I thought, “At least if I die, I’ll be listening to Zeppelin.” Motorists surrounding me were going 20 – 25 mph and I found myself taking deep breaths and wondering whether I should have taken an alternate route. Thankfully, I made it safely back into the Elmwood Village, although my commute took me an hour longer than the usual time.

In exploring the winter “wonderland” of WNY, I have noticed many differences between driving within the city and the Southtowns. Potholes are barely existent in Hamburg, compared to Buffalo; be grateful, Southtowners.

Plows in Hamburg are up to par, whereas, in Buffalo, it took approximately three days into heavy snow for the plows to grace the streets. Drivers in the city do seem to know how to navigate a little bit quicker in the slush.

My miles are racking up, but I hardly get lost anymore. I am no longer full of anxiety when my car slides at the right-hand turn from Legion Drive to Camp Road.

I wouldn’t give up living in the city for anything, especially snowflakes, but I must say, I breathe a little bit easier in my commute, when my car is cruising up Route 5 toward the village.

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