Friday, December 11, 2009

The Drive That Will Live in Infamy

Driving across country was never going to be an easy thing to do. Driving cross country in December was going to be difficult, but doable. When we saw that we might encounter some snow, we moved our departure up a few hours. Little did we know that wouldn't do us any good.
And thus began our adventure.
On Monday I ran around preparing us for the trip and checking the Weather Channel both online and on TV regularly. Scott was able to get off work at noon, rather than 4 pm, which we thought would help us get out of town earlier. We left my house at about 4:30 and headed south.
Originally the plan was to take the I-70 route across the country. The I-80 route (which is technically 1 hour shorter) is notorious for getting closed in bad weather across Wyoming and Nebraska. Knowing there was possible snow in the forecast, we opted for the I-70 route. There is also an I-40 route that goes through New Mexico, Arizona, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Tennessee. It is about 400 miles longer than the other two routes, but in theory doesn't see as much snow. I hadn't really considered that route at first, partially because I could see a massive snow storm in Central and Southern Utah where we would have to drive to get to I40.
Ha. If I only knew then what I know now.
So we took off and headed for Spanish Fork Canyon, en route to Moab and I-70. I spoke to my friend the bank manager just before leaving. He was calling the Spanish Fork branch to arrange for me to stop by. When he hung up the phone, he told me that the manager warned him the roads were in bad shape, and there were several accidents. Like so many others, he cautioned me to drive safely. And off we went.
In hindsight, I should have listened closer to the bank manager. By the time we got just those first few minutes down the road to Spanish Fork I was worried about the snow. We thought we were going to be a few hours a head of it.
We were wrong.
I drove us the first six hours of the trip. I didn't trust Scott's snow driving abilities. I also didn't trust my ability to not scream at his driving in the snow. So I drove. I drove an average of 40 mph for six hours. It was awful. The roads weren't slippery, they just weren't visible. The drifting snow over the roads made it impossible to see the roads. And I've heard far too many horror stories to trust the cars in front of me, or to just trust someone else's tire tracks.
It took us from 5 pm to 2 am to get to Grand Junction, Colorado. According to Google Maps, it should take roughly 5 hours. But no, it took us about 9.
At 2 am I had had enough. Scott was asleep by that point, but I needed a break. So we pulled into a motel parking lot in Parachute, CO. I fell asleep from 2 am to 5 am, at which point I woke up FREEZING. (I had turned the engine off.) Funny story there. Later we would find out that it was a windchill of -15. Which explains the FREEZING part. But more than that I woke up to find the car was completely covered in snow.
Here's a little picture of the parking lot!

Things to note about this picture. First, all the cars you see are in fact 4WD large trucks, and not actually cars. Also, the snow is about 6 inches deep.
Other things to note. We were in a Jetta GLI, which a much much lower base than a truck. And it isn't a 4WD.
From 5 am to 6 am, as I was crazy enough to attempt to drive out of the unplowed parking lot, getting NOWHERE, it snowed another EIGHTEEN INCHES.
After driving approximately 6 inches every ten minutes, I finally got out of the car to see how far we had made it. (The answer was nowhere.) That was when I realized the snow was up equal to the hood of the car. Yeah, we weren't going anywhere. But my stubborn determination wasn't going to be swayed. A nice man with a plow came over to help get us out of the parking lot. I could still see cars driving on the road, and therefore I was convinced if we could just get out of that dang parking lot all would be well.
I was wrong.
The nice man with the plow couldn't even get us out of the parking lot. He did however back in to our car, cracking the bumper pretty good.
We finally managed to get across the street to the gas station. It only took an hour to cross the street!
That was where we found out that the highway was closed just a few minutes up the road. Scott was far from a happy camper at this point. We gave up and WALKED back across the street (our car now being stuck in another foot of continuously falling snow at the gas station) to the motel and got a room. We slept there and hung out for a few hours. Finally I found out the highway was open, and we resumed digging the car out of the gas station. It only took 7 men pushing us to get my car out of the gas station. But hey, we got out.
And then we resumed driving in the snow down a highway that we couldn't actually see. Again, photographic evidence that this was a very bad idea.
What should have taken us about 4 hours to get to Denver took a mere 6 hours. At which point, I really was ready to just cry and go to the airport and fly home. But we held out and kept driving. And driving. And driving.
Here's a fun little picture of what the roads looked like-

Finally, exactly 24 hours after we entered the god forsaken state of Colorado, we left it- by way of I-40. My father was anxiously monitoring the storms for us across the country. Since we were clearly no longer "ahead" of the storm, we realized we couldn't continue on I-70, and we turned south after Denver and proceeded to I-40.
And another picture of the insane roads. This one is of the trucks in their mile-long lineup putting on their mandatory chains.

Somewhere in Oklahoma we stopped for an early morning breakfast at IHOP where I saw the coolest and freakiest bird swarm ever. When we pulled into the parking lot there were several hundred birds sitting on the grass. I tried to take their picture, and they flew up and swarmed over me.

Thankfully from here out the story gets boring. We managed to drive the rest of the way across the country in 24 hours. Nothing to report. We made it to our parents' house at 3 am Thursday morning. Keep in mind we left Monday afternoon with the expectation of making it to VA around 1 am on Wednesday morning. Only 26 hours off...

But we're here now. We're slightly caught up on sleep. Our mother has fed us, and we've started making the rounds visiting our family members. Tomorrow is our grandfather's viewing, and the funeral is on Saturday. More on all of that yet to come.

1 comment:

  1. Holy cow! I am stunned and I haven't even seen the pictures yet. I'm glad to hear you made it there all in one piece. Wow.


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