Early Thursday morning the timing worked out perfectly such that Mom was able to drop Aaron off and pick Dad up at the Oakland Airport in one simple trip. It was about 4:30 AM when Mom and Dad returned to the hotel, at which point we welcomed Dad to California and we all went back to bed to gain a little more sleep in preparation for an intense cross-country trip. Taking a slow start getting ready, it wasn’t until about 1 PM before we finally got on the road.
As we rolled out of the hotel and gained our bearings, our GPS (iPhones) told us that our trip from Pleasant Hill, CA to Rochester, NY would be 2,706 miles taking approximately 1 day and 19 hours not including stops. In contrast to the slow gradual topographical change we saw on the previous “leg” of the trip, I was excited to see a horizontal slice of America all within a couple of days. As soon as we left the hotel, we started the trip off with lunch at Taco Bell. We couldn’t help but laugh, with some miscommunication at the drive thru and driving the trailer up the curbs narrowly missing the building, it seemed we may be off to a rough start? Or, maybe we just needed some tacos to fill our empty stomachs.
Soon after merging onto I-80, the highway that we would be on almost the entire trip, we learned that the mountain pass from California to Nevada was closed due to zero visibility. Looks like we were indeed off to a bad start! This was the same mountain range Shannon and I struggled with on our trip to Lake Tahoe, so we were already familiar with a few alternate routes and driving conditions so we immediately started investigating Route 50. After checking the internet and making some phone calls, we learned that I-80 would be closed until at least the next morning but Route 50 was still open at the moment, except tire chains were required. Shannon and I were both insistent that we immediately take advantage of the open window, while Mom & Dad wanted to wait the storm out; they reluctantly followed our recommendation. At the tire chain checkpoint, there was no way I could install the chains, so it was fortunate that there were guys installing them for a fee of $60…in these conditions that’s a deal!
I had a hard time imagining what zero visibility looked like; how could it snow that hard? It actually wasn’t just heavy snow, but the combination of snow and fog that made it difficult to see beyond the hood of the car. At the same time, you had to keep momentum so you could make up the climbs in the deep snow. Conditions were also such that the snow that landed on the windshield seemed to immediately clump up on the wipers making them useless. Dad, along with every other driver on the road, would stop every few minutes to knock the ice off. He did an amazing job of slowly manipulating the way through the snow-covered mountains. Then at the final stretch, just as we were about to exit the national forest, traffic was stopped. We learned that they were still clearing a section of highway immediately ahead that was covered from avalanche control. We waited for two hours before the road was cleared and they let us continue.
By the time we rolled into Lake Tahoe at about 10:30 PM, Dad as the driver had had enough. I was anxious to put the snow behind us and continue on through the night, or at least get 40 miles further to the lower elevated and likely warmer Carson City, NV, but Mom and Dad were ready to get out of the storm. We navigated them to the Marriott Lodge that we stayed in several weeks earlier. However, now unable to stand for very long, this expansive hotel seemed intimidating in my condition so I decided to sleep in the car. I urged Shannon to sleep in the warm hotel, but she insisted on camping out with me; we’re inseparable.