This past Wednesday (February 11, 2009) I left Truckee around 3:30 PM to head back to the SF Bay Area. I knew another storm was coming thru the area but I didn't expect what hit, nor was I smart enough to simply stay put.
|White out over highway 80|
I had snowboarded on Tuesday & Wednesday and needed to get back for several Thursday meetings, so I was of the mindset that I would rather drive 5 or 6 hours home then attempt to get up early the next morning. I had both my dogs with me as well, though as far as they were concerned, nothing really big happened except that our drive was a bit longer than usual.
There was a sign that should have listened to at the start. Prior to getting on highway 80, I took my time filling up the tank and picking up a coffee at one of my favorites spot, Wild Cherries (in Truckee). Right as I attempted to turn onto 80, a Caltrans truck cut in front of me and closed the entrance. Since I was second in line to enter the highway, I quickly asked what the problem was, to which he said, "a major accident up the grade had closed the highway for thirty to sixty minutes." I waited about five minutes before a highway patrol men told me that I couldn't keep my car where it was and that the estimate of closure was going to be closer to two or three hours as the accident's severity was much greater than originally reported.
At this point, I should have just returned to my friend's place in Tahoe City as a light snow was starting to pick up pace. However instead I thought it would be interesting to see if I could go up the donnor pass road that runs parallel to 80, then enter the freeway up based Sugar Bowl result at the snow mass / norden entrance. When I reached the end of the road leaving Donnor lake, another local sheriff was diverting traffic so I knew I would have to come up with a story or turn around. At that moment I decided it was better to keep going, so I told the officer that "I was staying at a house on the main road across the street from the original Sugar Bowl lifts", he questioned my story but let me thru as the stack of cars piled up. I was one of only two (out of ten that I saw) that got thru the roadblock. As I climbed the pass, the snow continued to pick up and I assumed that I would end up stuck at the Norden entrance. However once I got to that entrance I was amazed to find that there was literally no other cars on the road and I was driving in an inch or two of fresh powder.
Which is precisely where things starting to go wrong, and thankfully (I can say this now with a chuckle) nothing went wrong but there were several dozen incidents when I had to pump my brakes to break a slide and/or turn out of my lane to avoid slowing traffic or obstacles. The next three hours were spent with two hands on the wheel, never exceeding twenty miles per hour and enjoying nearly every minute of it. I think a couple of inches of snow dropped during this period and as we descended from the peak it was a slippery experience that I will never forget. I have included photos I took from my iPhone here, they don't seem to do the experience justice but its what I got to chronicle the drive.
|White out over highway 80|