Whiteout Drive


Last Tuesday my wife and I needed to go North, and it was a blizzardy morning.  We had three route choices:

  1. The backcountry roads which don't usually get plowed.
  2. The mountain pass which usually gets plowed for the school bus.
  3. The southern freeway, which would most likely be plowed, but meant adding at least an hour and a half to our trip.

We chose the mountain pass as we expected that it would be cleared for the school bus, and we hadn't heard any notice about school being canceled for the kids in our valley, so we drove an economic sedan instead of the 4-wheel-drive truck.

As it turned out, the road had not been plowed at all.  To make matters worse, the snow was coming down heavily and the wind was blowing ferociously.

We drove cautiously, but quite a ways up the mountain we could no longer see the road, or more importantly, the sides of the road.  We came to a complete stop and thought about turning back, but visibility was so poor that turning around on that narrow road ran the risk of accidentally going off the road (which would mean getting stuck in a ditch at some places, or falling off a short cliff at others).

Soon after we stopped, I decided to get out and lead the car on foot, as I could actually make out the center line better on foot than from inside the car.  Just then, my neighbor Nolan caught up to us in his truck.  We let him pull ahead of my wife so that he could guide her, and I remaind on foot to guide him.

Along the way, we passed two cars going the other way.  One driver had lowered her window, so I gave her a cheerful, “Hello!” and she looked at me like I was crazy.

I walked and ran half a mile on foot in the blizzard until it cleared up enough that Nolan could see where he was going.  The photo above is of the procession, with me somewhere in front of the truck.  Visiblity was much worse than this when I stepped out of the car.

I got back in the car and we crept the up the rest of the way to the summit ... until our car got stuck only 30 feet short of the summit.

I wasn't able to push the car up the road, and my wife's efforts at the wheel had the car veering towards the edge.  Luckily, Nolan realized that we weren't behind him any more, so he came back and helped me push our car the 30 feet to the summit.

On the downside of the summit, Nolan let us get ahead of him so that he could see if we got stuck again.

On the way down I realized my sides were crunching in a weird way, so reached into my coat pockets and discovered that they had filled up with snow.

We made it safely into town, where some of the roads were actually plowed, and then the freeway was mostly clear.

When we headed home in the late afternoon, the storm had ended and the sun had been shining, and our mountain pass had actually been plowed, so we took the same route home and returned without incident.