Today I decided the best way to tell the story of our trip home from Christmas in Montana was through a few excerpts from my travel journal.
Monday, December 28, 1992 — “When we left [heading home] on Sunday we drove through Missoula and took 90 East to avoid the Lost Trail Pass on 93, thinking the snow conditions might be bad in the Bitterroots. The way we went was longer but the roads were wider and less likely to require chains. There was snow on the ground, but it wasn’t too bad until we got to Monida Pass, on the state line, in the Continental Divide — then we had such bad blowing and drifting snow that at times we could see only ten feet or less in front of the car. It was a complete white-out. But we made it through all right.”
“We’ve heard there’s a storm in the Sierra Nevadas, but the weather so far is beautiful, bright, and sunny. The Nevada landscape is pretty boring, but it’s better with snow than without.”
Tuesday, December 29 at 4 PM: Interstate 80, Reno, Nevada — “Well, we got past Reno, almost to the California state line, and then we were turned back because the wind and snow were so bad they can’t keep the road clear. We stopped to put our chains on before reaching this point, and the traffic crept for what seemed like hours, all for nothing. It’s snowing here, and we’re trying to decide what to do, hoping we’ll make it home some time tonight.”
[What we decided to do was to abandon I-80 and head for South Lake Tahoe, to reach home via westbound Highway 50.]
Tuesday, 6:40 PM, South Lake Tahoe — “It’s still snowing and blowing, but we made it here, and it looks like we’ll make it home — hopefully. We stopped at a deli and got something to eat. We heard on the radio that Interstate 80 is open again… oh well.”
Tuesday, 9:55 PM, South Lake Tahoe — “We’re spending the night at the Silver Dollar Motel. They closed 50 until 2 AM because of an avalanche. This place is tiny and chintzy, but the guy knows when he’s got it good — he’s charging $60.00 a room: one full-size bed and not much room to walk around it — sort of claustrophobic.”
[Well, at that point I had stopped taking pictures — I think I ran out of film. I wasn’t in much of a photographic mood; the highway remained blocked, and we were stuck in our cramped motel rooms from late Tuesday night until Thursday morning. At that point the weather seemed to be clearing and we thought we might have a chance at getting through.]
Thursday, December 31, South Lake Tahoe — “We ate a quick breakfast and drove out to get into [the line of cars waiting for the road to open]. After waiting over an hour, a California Highway Patrol came by and made everyone turn around and go back. It was 11:30 AM and he said the road would open in an hour, but everyone in the front of the line had to go to the back. The line behind us stretched for miles!
“After that, it was just a matter of being patient. We must have played 500 hands of poker — all four of us, but that’s the only way we survived. Finally, about 5:30 PM or so, when it was nearly dark, we reached the inspection station at Myers. It was still slow going for a ways after that, but we made it down the hill and got home about 8 PM. Home never looked so good — even though it was a muddy, grubby, doggy-smelling MESS.”