Friday, March 16, 2012

3/16/12 March Ski Trip: Stormy Drive

Thanks to a "Staff Learning Day," the 3rd weekend in March means a 3-day non-peak-time weekend in the winter. This will be the 3rd year in a row we've gone skiing this weekend. In fact, the first ski weekend we ever did was this same long weekend in 2010 (2010 March Ski trip).

This season has broken records for lack of precipitation, but it had rained a lot this week, presumably turning to snow in the mountains. I was glad for the snow, since in theory that will give us something to ski on this long weekend, but snow on the mountain passes means traffic, accidents, chain controls, and delays.

Normally I know better than to try to take smaller roads to bypass the highways, but when we got stuck in 10mph stop-n-go traffic on I-80, and my iPhone told Gabriel it'd be over an hour to the next exit -- let alone our destination. So at Cisco Grove, I decided to try the quasi-parallel Donner Pass Road.

This worked fine to bypass two exits, turning what would have been a 2-hour trip into a 20-minute one, but my plan to get back on the creeping highway for the actual summit crossing was foiled by a naming mistake on whatever map the iPhone uses (and possible interpretation error by a 10-year-0ld).

And so, we found ourselves on the same twisty Donner Pass Road that's provided such lovely vistas in the past -- only this time, all we could see was fog, rain and a little snow. The kids kept entertained by taking photos. It's actually interesting to me to see what they see of me for so many hours -- the back of my head, the startling green of my fleece jacket, and my hands tense on the steering wheel.

And that was about all there was to see, because visibility was quite poor!

But for once, the alternate route paid off, and we were in Truckee in under an hour, instead of almost 3 hours if we'd stuck to the main Interstate. The road we took had been plowed within the hour -- which can mean nothing in the Sierras if the snowfall is heavy enough -- but though the road had essentially been reduced to a one-lane road, the snow wasn't deep at all, and I never felt any serious danger from the road, only from other cars.

My snow-driving experience is very old and applies only to a light FWD car (my few formative years in Rochester NY in my beloved 1983 Honda Accord), but still I seemed to have far less trouble than many other drivers in the same conditions. Maybe the snow isn't as slippery here or maybe my AWD car makes it easier or maybe my many years of motorcycling in traction-challenged situations affects my outlook....I don't have near Dave's driving skill, but I could handle this no problem, despite the added responsibilty and distraction of travelling with 3 kids. Incredibly, they were far better-behaved under duress than they are when we're clipping along smoothly!

We made it without incident (and with a stop to pick up pizza) to our "Truckee Treasure" house, where we stayed during Ski Week. It was like coming home again!

I just hope we have as little trouble getting to Sugarbowl tomorrow morning by 8am -- but then, if we're snowed in all day, I won't be totally heartbroken either. Horrible weather and all, I'm just so happy to be back in the mountains.


p.s. eeps! Power outage! Funny how my affection for mountain living plummets when the luxuries of modern life disappear!

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