Sunday, February 15, 2009

Road Trip - Boise

Once we decided to stay in SD for a few months the next step was to get a car so we could get around. When we left Anacortes in the Spring we gave our Jeep to Linda's daughter, Susie,  in Boise with the idea that her son, Josh, would use the car when he got a license and could afford insurance. Well that hadn't happened yet and the Jeep was just sitting in Susie's driveway so we asked if could reclaim the Jeep if we came up and got it. On December 12th we flew to Boise just as a major winter storm was  crossing the area bringing snow and ice to much of the northern US. The plan was to stay 2 days in Boise, actually Susie lives in Nampa just outside of Boise, and leave before the storm got too bad and take I 84 West to Portland and hop on I-5 south and hopefully avoid most of the storm. Nice plan, too bad it didn't work out that way. 
We left Monday morning in light snow but the roads got progressively worse with heavier snow and ice as we went west into the mountains. When we got to Le Grande the roads had snow over ice and we decided to get off the highway at a truck stop along with maybe a hundred semi-trucks. We ate lunch and bought the last pair of chains at the local tire store. 

Heading back out on I-84 the road stayed icy and we put the chains on and off 3 times before getting to better conditions near Portland around 6 PM 
where we stopped for the day at a Comfort Inn (excellent bed at a reasonable cost!). The next day it was up early and down I-5 in light snow but we made good time most of the day. There was heavier snow in the Sisku's but we made it to Red Bluff in northern California by early evening. 

The next day we figured we would have a clear shot down I-5 to San Diego and should be back on the boat that night. After all we were in California and the storm was well behind us up north. The trip started well making good time through Chico, Sacramento, Stockton, and then the farm lands of central California. As we approached the mountains north of LA there were signs to listen to a road advisory on the radio but our radio was not working so we couldn't hear what was coming up. Oregon has a toll free phone number, 511,  you can call to get road conditions which we used  but CA does not so we blindly continued on. Then the traffic came to a stop, I 5 was closed in Grapevine at the foot of the hills, the CA Highway Patrol had closed the freeway due to heavy snow in the mountains and was turning everyone around in Grapevine. What a mess, traffic was backed up for miles and the CHP had barricaded the freeway and routed everyone onto an off ramp and into Grapevine. There was no sign of the CHP so everyone was on their own to find their way through town and back onto I 5 north.  Once through that mess we thought we would take a small highway east and try to connect to highway 58 and get around the east side of the mountains. Once on 84 we started to climb into the hills and it started to snow again and the further we went the heavier it snowed. The area seemed very beautiful but we were focused on the deteriorating road conditions. As we approached the junction of highways 58 & 395 traffic came to a crawl and then a stop. We pulled into a truck stop and learned that both highways were closed ahead and everyone, there must have been a hundred cars and semi-trucks, was just waiting for the roads to open. It was now around 6 PM so we went into the Roadhouse Restaurant, found a booth and ordered some food.  We were not alone, the place was full of stranded people including a couple of dozen young people off of a bus who had occupied a banquet room in the back. The restaurant was ok with us staying the night so we switched to a large booth when some people left and settled in for the duration. It's hard to sleep in a booth when all the lights are on and people are talking and coming and going all around you but we tried. At 3 AM trucks and cars started to leave and the word was passed around that highway 395 was opened to Victorville so off we went following the caravan south into the night. It was good going until we got near Victorville and everything came to a halt. What had happened was some trucks had got hopelessly stuck up ahead and it was going to take a tow truck to move them out of the way. After waiting for 3 hours we decided to put on the chains and to turn around and try to make our way back up the line of cars and trucks and try a different route. Once we worked our way back up the line we got onto a side road and made our way into Victorville and stopped at the first hotel we could find,  a LaQuinta. They didn't have any clean rooms, it was only 8 AM, but if we wanted to wait they would clean us a room. Highway 15 was closed going East to Las Vegas and West to LA so we waited, grateful to find any available warm room. We showered and then slept most of the day and then went out to get a pizza which we ate in the room before turning in early.

The next day highway 15 was opened so we stopped at Starbucks and headed home. Three hours later we were at the boat, glad to be home and out of the snow.

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