Winter driving can be very hazardous, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. Caution, awareness, and patience are key to making it safely to your destination.
Being retired allows us time to travel when it’s best. Before retirement, we had deadlines to be home regardless of the weather. Sometimes the weather dictated whether we made it or not. Once we drove in a Wyoming blizzard, going from one delinator post to the next one, creeping along as the snow blinded us beyond seeing twenty feet. We followed a semi into Lusk, Wyoming and found a hotel where we were stuck for two days waiting for the storm to end and the road to be plowed. We were younger then and less smart.
Before we travel anywhere in winter, Hubby and I study road reports and weather forecasts. We adjust our driving time to get where we’re going without pushing beyond the limits of our driving abilities. We’ve begun stopping for the night by dark or shortly before because neither of us can see all that well in the dark. Bright headlights hurt our eyes and blind us more easily. It’s best for us be off the roads at night.
On our recent trip to Oregon, we left a day early to beat a storm that was forecasted to hit Jackson, Wyoming. We got safely over Togwotee Pass, through Jackson, and on to Idaho Falls while the roads were dry. They got dumped on the next day. We also beat the snow in the Blue Mountains of Oregon and got to Pendleton before the snow hit. The forecast was for rain from Pendleton on. We can handle rain while driving so we could relax after that.
We left a day early to come home (Thursday) because of a Montana snowstorm starting on Monday and lasting all week. We’d planned to spend a couple of days in Boise visiting friends and favorite stores, but a snowstorm closed Interstate 84 from Pendleton to Boise. So disappointing, but Mother Nature cannot be argued with. That pushed us to a northern route through Washington, northern Idaho, and Montana. The big storm was south of there so we didn’t expect snow on the way home.
We were wrong. It snowed on us the first day. Once we drove out of the snow, we hit wind which polished the snowpacked roads into ice. Western Washington had the most treacherous roads we’ve been on in many years. We skated along at 35 mph most of the way, all the while being passed by vehicles going 50 or 60. How they didn’t end up the ditch I can only wonder. We did. Even at 35. Ended up in the ditch. We were thankful for our 4-wheel drive because we drove out of our predicament.
Staying in Spokane, Washington, the next day was overcast but not snowing. However, we had several mountain passes to cross. Snow was deep up high, but the road crews had done a good job clearing the roads. Snow is easier to drive on than ice because it affords a degree of traction. It requires slow travel, but we had the time. The mountains were really beautiful for the passenger. The driver didn’t get to enjoy the scenery as much. Again, vehicles zoomed around us. We passed a bunch of slideoffs and one accident.
During the last day of travel, we had ground blizzards for a while. Those are when the wind is blowing snow around at ground level. It’s hard to drive in because they obscure the road and the icy spots so it’s hazardous. The snow swirls and moves in different directions. If you stare at the road, the moving snow makes you dizzy so you have to focus ahead and not on where you’re about to go. The delineator posts stick up above it so you can stay on the road, but it’s tricky staying in your lane. When a truck goes past, it throws up enough snow to cause whiteout for several seconds which is unnerving. Once we got past them, the road was dry. We made good time the rest of the way home.
By taking it slow and easy and tons of prayers by us, family, and friends, Hubby and I got home safely. For that we give thanks. But please, don’t anyone ask us to travel again this winter. We’ve had our fill for now.