Holy cow … or maybe holy shit … is all I can say about my drive on March 6th. I drove between Denver, CO and Jackson, WY. I left Denver around 9am and the drive should have been about 8.5 hours. It was 11.5 hours. That extra 3 hours was entirely due to the weather and road conditions.
I checked Wyoming road conditions for 2 days leading up to the 6th, and of course they were fine on those days. But on the actual day I had to drive, they were insane. For most of Wyoming the problem was that damn wind. In places where there was enough loose snow on the ground, that wind creating blowing snow that iced up the highway AND caused very poor visibility.
Denver, CO to Fort Collins, CO — Sunny, clear, warm, but windy. I’m not sure of the actual wind speed, but let’s say it was low to moderate.
Fort Collins, CO to Laramie, WY — Sunny, clear, cool/cold, windy, and at times, blowing snow. This stretch was mainly high winds. The roads, for the most part, were clear and dry. But since I was driving north and the winds were blowing from the west, I had to battle the wind the whole time, as it was constantly pushing the car to the right.
Laramie, WY to Rawlins, WY — Overcast, cold, blowing snow and extremely windy. The combination of wind and blowing snow also created a lot of ice on the highway. This is where I got on the I-80 to head west. For the first 30 minutes it wasn’t too bad. The wind was worse than the previous section, but because I was driving into it, I didn’t have to battle it too much. BUT, the all hell broke loose.
Somewhere near Elk Mountain, WY (which is a tiny town I think, I only knew it as an exit ramp from the highway) visibility reduced to nothing and accidents started to happen. At one point, the overhead electronic sign said that there was an accident 2 miles ahead, be ready to stop. At this point I was going very slow and following a truck. When there’s low visibility I like following someone so I can judge exactly how far I can see. And it gives me some warning if something happens ahead of me. This was the day when that method came in very handy.
The truck in front of me started to brake, so I started to brake. I skidded a little, but it wasn’t too bad and I came to a stop way before the truck. I was actually more concerned about vehicles coming up behind me and hitting me because they couldn’t stop, so I actually pulled onto the shoulder. THAT’S when I noticed the car in the ditch on the right AND the car in the ditch on the left!
We ended up sitting there for at least 30 minutes, maybe more. When we were finally allowed to move forward, I discovered there were actually 3 cars in the ditch on the left, and they were all damaged (they’d hit each other). (The guy on the right was just stuck in the snow.) Do you know how crazy this weather was? Crazy enough that MY TIRES FROZE TO THE ROAD WHILE I SAT STILL WAITING FOR THE HIGHWAY TO OPEN!!! I’ve never had that happen before, it was insane. My brakes also felt funny. I think it might have been ice. I drove along the shoulder for a little while, slamming on the brakes every now and again, and they eventually felt normal.
As we slowly moved westward, not going anywhere above 30 km/h, we passed 3 more accidents. The first one we past was the worst. It included multiple tractor trailers all smashed into each other and crumpled up. Thankfully there were no passenger cars stuck in-between them. In front of those trucks was an actually snow plow in the ditch! (I guess you know it’s bad when the plow can’t even drive.)
The next 2 accidents also involved tractor trailers, but they didn’t look as bad. The police had managed to open enough space beside each of these accidents for us to get past, but in some cases we were driving on the shoulder of the road, not the road itself.
I think we ended up driving at least 20 miles doing no more than 40 km/h. Then the weather and roads started to look better. By the time we got to Rawlins, it was a completely different road — but they’d closed the highway going east, so everyone was stuck in Rawlins. I’m having trouble remembering if I stopped in Rawlins or kept going. I think I stopped, because I would have had to reset the GPS for Rock Springs, but I’m not sure.
Because I was driving into strong wind, the car was working overtime. I was regularly running at 4500 RPM! I ended up stopping for gas at every stop simply because I didn’t want to run out if I was stuck running at 4500 RPM for hours! And in case I ended up stuck on the highway again.
Rawlins, WY to Rock Springs, WY — The easiest part of the drive all day. Sunny, clear, dry, but windy. But again, I was driving into the wind, so it was easier to handle. I *know* I stopped in Rock Springs to fill up with gas AND to get a coffee. (Oh, now I remember, I stopped in Rawlins for food only.)
Rock Springs, WY to Jackson, WY — It seemed that regardless of how west I went, I was still in the middle of prairie and grasslands. It was so boring! This stretch was overcast and night came while I was driving. It was still windy, but it had reduced significantly. There were bad sections of the road for the first hour after Rock Springs, but after that the roads were mainly dry — until I got to the mountains, then it started to snow.
I went down some sort of pass just before Jackson, but I couldn’t see anything. The snow was insane though, the snow banks at the side of the road were higher than my car. You couldn’t see around any corner because the snow banks were so high! The roads were snow covered, but not bad (in my books), but I still got stuck behind people going extremely slow. Because I was going downhill a lot, I ended up gearing down instead of braking. It saved my legs a little bit, which were already sore (I couldn’t use cruise control most of the day).
FINALLY, I got to Jackson itself. I was surprised, Jackson is a lot bigger than I was expecting. In my head I was imaging something like Banff or Jasper, but it’s more like Whistler.
I hadn’t made a reservation because I wasn’t 100% sure I’d make it, but the Rustic Inn, which is where I was aiming for, had lots of vacancies. I got a double queen cabin and it’s so cute! It’s not like the cabin I had in Tofino awhile back, it’s basically a hotel room but inside a cabin instead of a larger building.
There’s a couple feet of snow on the ground here, and it was flurrying when I arrived. I was starving, so I decided to order room service (it was 9pm and room service closed at 10pm, and I didn’t feel like going out again). Once the room service arrived, I regret ordering it, it was awful. Room service really is hit and miss.
Even though I was exhausted, it took a long time before my brain calmed down enough to fall asleep. I managed to get through all my emails before I fell asleep! Oh yeah – I also had a slice of cheesecake!