Monday, February 26, 2007

Spikes and Spiders

My word, what a day. I thought coming up to Tahoe was supposed to be fun. Drake and I packed the car this morning and left the house at 10 am which I thought was pretty good time. We wanted to make it to Kirkwood around 4:00 pm. I checked all the websites that said Hwy 88 East was open so everything was all set up for success. First stop: Saturn dealership for some chains.

I remember when I bought the car they warned me that "regular" chains would not fit the saturn wheels. Whether or not that's true, I don't care to know anymore. I went to the dealer thinking I would buy some chains and be on my way. Little did I know the "spikes and spiders" as they call them would a) cost a fortune and b) need to be installed. I was super irriated thinking every minute counts when we're trying to beat the road closures.

From the dealership, we went to the ATM, got a cup of coffee and some bagels and were on the road but by now it was 11:49. Still, not too late, right? I called both the Kirkwood conditions line and the Caltrans line to find out the roads were still open and so, headed east. 100 miles later, we were at the base of 88 East, ready to head up over the pass--only 60 miles to go. Just to be safe, I called the Caltrans road conditions line again--only to find out the ROAD WAS CLOSED due to avalanche.

Drake and I, well not Drake, were left to decide whether to chance it over 88 E. and hope the road would open, or to head up to Sacramento and over Hwy 50, which was still open. Because the road was closed due to avalanche warnings, I figured it was a safer bet to go around, which was going to add another 150 miles to our trip.

By now it was chucking it down with rain but I was still hoping for the best. All the way up Hwy 50 it was pouring rain and I couldn't see any cars in front or behind me. I started to get nervous that I was the only one crazy enough to try and head over the pass in the storm. But when we got to the chain checkpoint, there were stacks of cars, some of them even regular little cars, like me. I slapped on the "Spikes and Spiders" and man, was it ever quick. That was worth $30 bucks, at least (the cost to have someone else put your chains on for you!) Then we headed the rest of the way over the pass--at 20 MPH. At times I had to stop completely due to lack of visibility. Eventually we made it over and I picked up the turnoff toward Kirkwood. There were fewer and fewer cars at this point and the clock had just gone 4:30. We had about 60 hours of daylight left but, to be honest, I wasn't sure what I preferred, dusk or dark.

With only 13 miles left to go, I encountered a Caltrans snowplow blocking the road, which immediately concerned me. But Tom, the driver, came over and said not to worry, they were pulling a car out of the snowbank up ahead and as soon as it was out, he would be heading up the pass and I could follow him. How cool is that? I felt extremely relieved at that point, even though the visibility was still very poor. Only trouble was, the tow trucks move even slower than the cars. So now, instead of 20 MPH, we were down to 10 MPH. and the light was fading fast. Then Tom pulled over and got out and told me I was a very lucky person to be following him (like he had to tell me that!) At which point, he walked behind my car and closed the gate telling me I was the last car that would be allowed on the road tonight. Holy Mackeral! I think I would have completely cried if I had gone all that distance and not gotten to our final destination. But we did--it only took 7 hours and 260 miles. I'm still trying to get circulation into my fingers after driving white knuckled for so many hours.
I think the storm may continue into tomorrow but Wednesday and Thursday are supposed to be beautiful so let's all hope for the best!

Drake at the checkpoint where we put on the chains

Drake and Tom--our Caltrans hero

Ahhhh, finally at home in our lodging.


Anonymous said...

Nice shorts Drake

Anonymous said...

That better not be a beer Drake is Drinking because I know where you live.