A recap of my previous article, the first leg of our trip from the northwest to Arizona.
We left home and headed south, our first night was spent in Pendleton Or. Next morning’s travel was great, traffic was light, we made great progress until we turned south from Twin Falls, Idaho. onto highway 93.
We traveled through Jackpot NV and onto Wells NV for a fuel stop. Light rain fell in Wells, as we continued south the rain changed to snow. The snow became heavier and heavier, the wind increased and soon we were in the middle of a blinding blizzard.
A lonesome scary feeling came over me. I tried not to show my concern to Lynda. After our last trip south, loosing a wheel and a blowout was about all the stress she could handle.
Another disaster would finish her for traveling, maybe forever, or maybe forever with yours truly.
I slowed our speed as the tracks of previous vehicles became more difficult to follow, the edges of the road had disappeared. We were in the worst blizzard I had ever seen.
Living my life in the northwest mountains I have seen many blizzards but nothing as blinding as this one. It must be the mountains and trees of the northwest that breaks the wind?
When I checked the forecast, I didn’t consider the wind, a grave error I was beginning to realize.
A small convoy of cars followed a semi-trailer slowly approached. It appeared the semi was traveling the middle of the road. I edged as far as I dare to the edge of the road.
The semi kept it’s course, if it didn’t make an adjustment it looked to me that we would collide. I eased off the throttle and prepared for evasive action, a swerve off the road.
Dropping into the ditch would be my last resort, we would be trapped for sure, stuck in the snow filled ditch. The thought of spending the night in subfreezing temperature was horrifying. Besides who knows how long this storm would last, maybe days.
I prepared myself and lowered our speed to a crawl. At the last second the semi swerved slightly away from the center of the road. The swerve was enough to prevent crashing head on into our truck.
The swerve, however, even though slight caused the huge truck to slide towards the ditch. The driver tried desperately to regain control without success. I watched in the side mirror as the semi slid helplessly into the opposite ditch coming to rest on its side.
Brake lights of the following vehicles brightened. That was all I saw as the blowing snow blocked my vision. I returned my focus to the road ahead. There was nothing I could do for the group behind me without putting myself and my family in danger.
A u-turn was impossible without getting stuck, going off the road or being hit by a blinded vehicle. We continued blindly through the blizzard, I strain to see something, anything.
I increased our speed as much as I dare, my thought was to catch up to a another vehicle or convoy before I was completely blinded by the increasing intensity of the storm.
The snowfall increased deepening, probably four or five inches, it was hard to tell. The windshield wipers were gathering snow and ice, limiting their travel and effectiveness. I knew it was too dangerous to stop and clean them, the visibility was almost zero and we could be hit. I was beginning to worry how much longer they would be able to clean the windshield.
Tracks from the small convoy lead by the semi were fading quickly, I was beginning to weigh my options as what to do if no tracks were visible. I reconsided the thought of pulling over and waiting out the storm crossed my mind briefly. I discounted this thought after a couple of minutes. If I pulled over I would have to drop into the deep ditch, it was unlikely we would make it out, and I had no idea how long the storm would last. It could be days.
Vehicle tracks had totally disappeared, it was becoming impossible to tell where the road was. I slowed to a crawl, the speedometer barely registering. I must have unknowingly edged to the center of the road and hit the rumble strip. Instantly I realized why the semi truck was traveling in the middle of the road. He was using the rumble strip to guide him along the snowy road.
The rumble strip provided a bit of relief from the tense situation. My plan was to travel as fast as safely possible and hopefully catch up to a slow moving convoy. The fastest I dared to go was 25 to 30 mph.
Finally after an hour faint tracks in the snow appeared and soon a slight glow of taillights from a lone SUV slowly making it’s way through the blinding snow.
I stayed behind this brave soul even though he was barely moving. Soon lights appeared in my mirror, we were now a convoy of three. The slow speed gathered more followers. I took some solace in the idea of traveling with other vehicles.
The blizzard intensified and the tail lights of the SUV ahead of me were becoming snow covered, harder to see. As they began to disappear I eased off the throttle creating more distance in case the vehicle ahead made a sudden maneuver.
This worsened the situation, soon I couldn’t see the SUV. I had no idea where he was or even if he had left the road and ended in the ditch.
I was now the reluctant leader of the convoy, I moved to the center again to find the rumble strip. This helped although it was like driving by feel. I swerved back and forth letting my left front tire hit the rumble strip.
If I straddled the strip I was not sure if I would be able to determine which wheel was hitting the strip and possibly steering the wrong direction and into the ditch.
Our convoy had grown although I could not determine how many vehicles were following.
We traveled for an hour or more which seemed much longer, we had not seen an approaching vehicle for a long time. I was beginning to think the road may be impassable ahead.
When finally a glimmer of hope, a highway sign with reduced speed. This could only mean we were approaching civilization. I had traveled this stretch of highway in Dec. heading home from our fall trip.
McGill NV. should be the small desert town coming up, after several minutes the speed sign read 2, I could not make out the other number, probably 5. We must be close, I strained to see something, a building was my hope.
Then there they were dark shapes to our right, I signaled and I edged toward the shapes hoping to find a curb, if one was there under the snow.
I was exhausted, I needed a break. I felt my right tire bump the curb, I stopped the truck. I checked my mirror, my followers surprisingly did the same, I guess no one was confident continuing without their leader.
We sat for a couple of minutes contemplating what to do. My first thought was to stay put, I could see faint snow covered houses across the road. If necessary we could walk to one for help if need be.
I did not remember a motel or hotel in this small town. I preferred to continue to Ely, NV. It was less than 20 miles ahead and I knew there were many places to stay. Should I take the chance?
Just then a semi rumbled by heading in our direction, an opportunity to continue behind the semi.
I shifted my truck into gear and pressed the accelerator. Nothing, no movement, we were stuck. I hit the 4X4 button and pulled away from the curb with the semi fading quickly.
I increased speed to keep the semi in sight. I checked the mirror, the lights for my followers faded quickly. Maybe they were stuck?
We followed the large truck into Ely. We made it, we were safe!
The first Hotel/Casino was the Prospector on the right. I pulled off the road and under the canopy next to the entrance. The next concern was vacancy, maybe the storm had brought an onslaught of guests and the Inn may be full.
Lynda jumped out and hurried through the snow and into the lobby. I waited in the truck with Buddy, saying a silent prayer for a room.
A truck camper pulled in beside me, out hopped a man and women in shorts and T-shirts? I opened my window asking what they were doing dressed for summer in this blizzard. The man made a crazy sign to his temple, saying, ” I should have checked the weather, we just drove from southern California. We should have stayed an extra day.”
Lynda met the new arrivals at the door and signaled to me, two thumbs up.
As I packed our suitcases to the lobby before parking the truck I told Lynda, “I don’t care how long we need to stay here we are not moving until the storm is over and the roads are clear.”
The next morning was a wonderful contrast to the previous day’s ordeal. The storm had subsided and the roads were clear. We continued our journey to Surprise, AZ. We did, however, meet some light snow in the first hour after leaving Ely. thankfully it was short lived.
I hoped you enjoyed this story, it is 100% true.
The moral of the story is ALWAYS CHECK THE WEATHER ALONG YOUR ROUTE.
I have written 3 books on RVing.
Two are RV Guides, one is an entertaining account of our travels.
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