Tuesday, November 7, 2017

High Plains Drifters

After our stop at Terry Bison Ranch, we hopped back on I-80 and headed west. Normally, we avoid interstates, preferring 2-lane and 4-lane highways where there's some real America to enjoy. But on this trip, we used I-80 to get through about 2/3 of Southern Wyoming. The plan was to hop on US 191 and head north into the Tetons. Well that was the plan anyway...

If you recall, there was a nationwide heatwave in mid-June. That heatwave was coming from the South, and it was coming with a vengeance. The day we left Cheyenne, it started to get really windy. The other factor about the weather was that the heat-wave was causing overly rapid snow melt on the mountains, which in turn caused the melt-water to surge down into passes and valleys. Low-laying areas were being flooded and some roads were under water or washed out along the Green River, the Wind River, the Snake River, Big Sandy River, and the New Fork  River. These rivers, and their associated valleys, were right in our route! We had no choice but to stay on I-80.

The High Plains

Now, understand that the High Plains are a windy place already, but this was something else entirely.  Stretches of I-80 have permanent informational signs that tell drivers what kinds of winds to expect. The signs indicated winds of 40 MPH with gusts up to 60 MPH! The winds were alternating between hitting us broadside and diagonally at the drivers front corner. We had brought only what we really needed on this trip so our 30-foot sail (the trailer), was pretty light, and easy for the wind to move. 

Sometimes a pass provided a wind shield. Sometimes not...

In spite of having an anti-sway hitch, we white-knuckled our way as best we could. Once, we went through a pass like the one shown above, and the wind was blocked for a while. Coming out we got hit with the wind again, so as usual, I steered towards the left to compensate. As we came to a curve, a mini-van in the left lane began to pass us. When it got next to me, the wind suddenly stopped dead. That caused us to veer left, right at the van. The driver had to steer onto the left shoulder to keep us from ramming him! I headed back to the right lane, but just then we got hit broadside with a gust that was harder than anything I had ever experienced. We got pushed off the road and onto the right shoulder, and it was all I could do to keep from hitting the guardrail. Thank God the shoulder was paved and very wide as there was a pretty severe drop at the edge of the shoulder. Can you say "Pucker Factor"?

It wasn't until we stopped down the road a bit that we found out that the gust was so violent it cause the trailer's stairs to unfold. We stopped for the night pretty early that day.

The weather forecast predicted no end to the wind, so the next day we resumed our drive. Since we couldn't use the route we planned to drive, we were forced to go 250 miles out of our way. We ended up staying on I-80, into Utah, until another interstate allowed us to head north. Of course the cursed wind stayed with us right into and through Idaho. Then it began to rain which added a whole new element of driving excitement.

Raining in Idaho

We decided to end that day early as well....

The next day we headed out again and thankfully the rain has eased up almost entirely. Once we got down the road a bit we saw this sign.

C'mon  admit it  you gotta pull over for something called Devil's Slide

And here it is... Devil's Slide
I have no idea what this thing is. It looks man-made. Who built it; what is it for? There wasn't a plaque or any information for that matter.

After we ooo'd and aaa'd we got back on the interstate and after a few hours we saw blue sky on the horizon.

Nothin' but blue skies, for now on...

We eventually got to our home base, two days late, where we breathed a sigh of relief... and then collapsed!

Hey! Is that snow???