Friday, December 26, 2008
"Oh the weather outside is frightful . . ." =) Literally. True, we live in a mountain valley and wintry storms are to be expected. That said, I will simply share that we have seen some impressive winter storms this past week. Good times. ;)
On Friday, December 19th, I headed to Utah. We had been watching the weather reports carefully and while a storm was supposed to descend that day, it was predicted that the worst of the storm would hit our area around noon. I figured I could leave that morning and reach Logan before the worst of it came through. Guess what---the weather people lied. It began around 7:00 a.m. Originally I had planned to leave around 10:00 a.m. But when I opened the garage door around 7:00 a.m. and saw the mini-blizzard already bouncing about, I decided to leave earlier.
There were a couple of important reasons why I braved the weather to drive to the Utah realm that day. For starters, I was playing Santa. I had picked up a major gift from my mother to my youngest sister a couple of weeks before, helping my mother in keeping this gift a secret. It was important to deliver this gift to their abode before Christmas. Also, this year I had this same sister's name in our sibling gift exchange, plus I needed to take down a couple of gifts from my family to my mother, so in my opinion, this trip was crucial.
I had also made arrangements to pick up my oldest son (Kris) on my way through Logan. We were planning on spending the weekend with my family since we were spending Christmas with my husband's family this year. We were also looking forward to the pre-Christmas celebration with my side of the family tree and were hoping we could make it down to participate.
I loaded everything into my car, making sure I had emergency items like kitty litter (useful if one buries one's car in a snowbank), a small shovel, extra warm clothing, etc. and left Bennington around 8:30 a.m. In this area, the snow plows are usually out and about by 8:00 a.m. so I thought that was my best shot at making it through the canyon. (Incidentally, my husband had to work over the weekend, so he wasn't able to go with me.)
The first thing I noticed as I pulled out onto the highway was how much snow this storm had already managed to plaster all over the roads. A layer of ice existed beneath the snow, so things were rather slick. But I slowed down accordingly and did just fine. Then I reached an area known in our valley as Sharon. During stormy times, we always dread hitting this section before reaching Emigration Canyon. This is where some of the nastiest white-out adventures take place.
This area lived up to its reputation that day. It was one of those much-feared white-out moments. Everything was white. The sky, the road, the snow alongside the road, not to mention what was swirling through the air. If I could have turned around right then, I would've retreated back home. But there was no where to go but straight ahead. I aimed for what I assumed was the middle of the road (the only things visible at this point were the mile marker extensions located on each side of the road.) and prayed that nothing was coming the other way.
I knew if I could reach the canyon, it would be easier to see, since the mountains would help break up the wind. I eventually found this to be true. But it was still snowing in an impressive fashion, so the canyon wasn't a piece of cake, either. A snowplow was coming down out of the canyon as I headed up, but unfortunately, the road on my side was covered with 4-5 new inches of snow. So when conditions permitted, I kept one side of the car on the recently plowed and sanded side, and the other in the snow that had fallen since the plow had come through that direction. I shifted down into the lower gears and got through the canyon just fine.
Normally I can drive from my home to Preston, Idaho in about an hour when conditions are good. It took me closer to two hours that day. But I made it, and called my husband to let him know that I had made it safely through the canyon. In Preston, it wasn't snowing or blowing. I grew excited thinking the worst of the storm was behind me. Au contraire.
About the time I reached an area known as Lewiston, Utah (located just below Preston) I learned the error of my ways. We were back to blizzard mode. It was so bad, everyone silly enough to be out on the roads at that time traveled at a snail's pace. Except for one Utie driver. A small black sports car sped on past us all about the time we reached the town of Richmond. Evidently, he\she was in a hurry. Can I just state that people who drive in this fashion under such conditions aren't usually the sharpest knives in the drawer? ;) I fully expected to see that same car off in the barrow pit alongside the road. I never did see that car again, but there were others who slid off as we traveled.
I reached Logan around noon, still making fairly good time all things considered. Now my problem was that my son didn't get off work that day until 2:00 p.m. So I needed to kill some time in a fairly safe, warm place, since it was still storming like crazy. I weighed my options, and headed for a huge store loacted on the outskirts of town: Wal-mart. Not only did this store contain some last minute items I needed to purchase, but it also contained a SubWay sandwich deli located in one corner of the store.
I spent an enjoyable time shopping, eating, and people watching. Before I knew it, it was time to brave the elements again and head to my son's apartment. The good news was that by 1:45 p.m. the storm had blown itself out. So I re-zipped my coat, grabbed the plastic bags that held my recent purchases, and walked out to my snow-covered car. It took a few minutes to scrape things off, but by 2:00 p.m. I made it to my son's abode.
He didn't think that I had made it down. While he was at work, he had heard all kinds of reports about accidents, road closures, etc. so when he finally pulled into his driveway around 2:30 p.m. Kris was surprised and excited when he saw his mommy sitting in her car waiting for him in a patient fashion. =)
He hurriedly changed clothes and grabbed his small suitcase and we headed off before the weather fairies changed their minds again. We had both heard bad stories about Sardine Canyon, so we took the back way from Logan to Brigham City, driving on 200 North out of Logan. The road was slick and snow-covered in places, but when we turned off to head toward Brigham, the roads were surprisingly good. They hadn't been hit with the worst of the storm in that area. I drove on the best roads of the day from there until we reached our destination in Clinton, Utah.
We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly during the time we spent in Utah. Some of our relatives thought we were crazy to brave the storm that day, but in retrospect, I'm glad we did. We were never in any danger (aside from the white-out moment in Sharon) because we followed important rules for winter driving:
1. Drive speeds that are conducive to staying on the roads, as opposed to silly people from Utah who drive flashy black sports cars.
2. Keep something for traction in your trunk (I prefer kitty litter). Then if you do slide off the road, you can sprinkle this around the tires and get back on track.
3. Check your fluid levels before leaving home. I must confess I failed to do this. It wasn't until a massive semi-truck threw dirty icy snow all over my windshield as we headed to Brigham that I realized two things: a) the windshield wiper fluid level was pretty much non-existent in my car & b) the tiny spickets that spray this important fluid onto the windshield were frozen. Most uncool. We had to keep pulling into gas stations to clean my windshield.
4. Pray . . . a lot.
5. Take your time and remain calm. Panicking causes driving boo-boos.
6. Be considerate of other drivers who are enduring the same road conditions.
On the way home Sunday afternoon, the roads were much easier to travel. This was good. =) I even stopped at a couple of turnouts through the canyon to take some pictures of the resulting winter wonderland. =) I'm including them in this blog for your enjoyment.
Ah, yes, it is indeed winter. Travel accordingly, and take along your sense of humor. It just might help you keep your sanity as you hit those stormy surprises along the way. ;)
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