January 15, 2011

215 Miles in About 5 Minutes

because I think that's about how long it will take you to read this, unless you take the time to examine pictures closely. Then it might take a little longer. It certainly took us longer to drive that far!
Considering that nearly everyone I know is enjoying...or maybe suffering through...there own personal winter wonderland, you might not be interested in hearing about another one somewhere else in the country. But that's what I'm posting about anyway. So if your sick of snow, then just move on to the next thing on your "to do" list and come back to visit me later.

To make a long explanation short and set the story up, we were supposed to load in Moses Lake, WA on Tuesday afternoon, and skedaddle back to Minnesota. The guy in Spokane, where we delivered Tuesday morning, had informed us there was a snow storm in the forecast for Tuesday night, with 12-14 inches predicted locally. Meaning the two mountain passes we had to cross in Idaho would get more. We were in a little more of a rush after that, but alas, our reload was delayed till Wednesday morning. So we resigned ourselves to driving in the snow, provided the road was still open.

Wednesday morning we woke up to 3-4 inches of fresh snow. I never tire of looking at it, though I've heard my time will come. Driving in it, though, can get tiresome and as for the girls...well they are just plain sick of it. They never liked snow to begin with, except maybe Ella. She likes to run on packed snow, or fluffy snow as long as its only a couple inches deep. They reluctantly went out as necessity demanded, and then went back to bed.  
After loading up, we headed east, hoping for the best. With only a few inches of new snow, the roads weren't too terrible.
By the time we got back to Spokane, things were a little whiter...
...and it had started to sleet.  We always keep an eye on our mirrors. They say if your mirrors start to ice up, then the road is getting icy too. Obviously it was already slick, but the sleet wasn't helping.

Oh! Check this out. Actually it probably isn't of great interest to you, but Malcolm and I check the progress on it every time we come through Spokane.
This is the brand new, larger weigh station they are building on the west bound side of I-90. Right now they are crammed into a little area off of an entrance ramp. We're just so thrilled to see them getting an improved facility complete with large inspection bays in the garage out back (thrilled...you do know I'm being sarcastic, right?) We're hoping we don't get to help pay for it.

Back to the east bound side of I-90 and into Idaho:
By now the girls had finished their nap and had resumed normal daily activity.

Post Falls, ID is just across the state line. Traffic was really clogging up now, people just puttering along and still being rather careless, driving right on top of each other. If roads are bad, please give each other lots of room. It makes no sense to drive bumper to bumper on ice!

We figured we just had to get through Post Falls and then Coeur d'Alene and then traffic would clear out. We were right.

Normally there are dozens of trucks out here and a number of cars. We felt like we were crossing over the passes in the middle of the night. There were just a handful of us out there.

One of these days I'll have to get pictures of this part of Idaho when the sky is clear. Lake Coeur d'Alene is gorgeous. Its  somewhere out there...
Ooh! There's a peak! You'll just have to take my word for it that the view of the lake and mountains is lovely.

Nothing like stating the obvious!

At this point we had reached the base of Fourth of July pass, the first of two passes that have to be crossed on the Idaho stretch of I-90.

The roads were snow packed, but  nothing extreme.
and we sailed over with no problems.
I had checked the Idaho road reports earlier in the day, and kept checking the updates. They had labeled most of I-90 as having "fair conditions" with Fourth of July pass being the only "difficult conditions" present. Quite frankly, I was surprised they hadn't declared the entire stretch all the way from the state line as "difficult" because it was all snow packed and slick. We were hoping maybe things got better east of the summit,
but it pretty much looked the same going down the other side.

This is Old Mission State Park. The mission was built between 1850 and 1853 and is Idaho's oldest standing building.

The Coeur d'Alene river as it winds through the mountains.

The road crews were out working hard. Can't even begin to estimate the number of snow plows we passed.

And they seemed to actually be making some progress, though the blue flashing lights on the west bound side may lead you to think differently.

I don't know if the USPS sticks to the old adage down south, but out here they are serious about it. "Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail..."

It wasn't long before we were passing through Wallace, ID. This is a little historic town tucked into the mountains and the old mining area. Its hard to photograph from the roadway because things are so closed in...
...but certain things I can see from the highway...

...lead me to believe....
....that I'd love to explore this town! One day...

After Wallace, we weren't too far from the second and final pass. Its called Lookout pass.

If you hadn't noticed in the picture of Wallace, maybe you can see now that the sleet had changed over to big fat snow flakes. They were so pretty. Of course, I wasn't driving, so it was easy for me to sit there and ooo and ahh over the scenery and snow flakes.
The road report had said Lookout pass had some "icy patches." That might be the understatement of the year! I think they had forgotten to update the report! The chain law wasn't being enforced, but there were a few guys at the bottom of the hill throwing their chains on. And a little way up, a truck had slid off the road a bit...

...which inspired others to stop and put on chains.

But generally, if your still moving, its best to keep moving while you can. And so that's what we did. No sudden movements, no fast acceleration, and you should be fine...and we were.

And when we got to the top of Lookout pass, I was blowing kisses in greeting.

I missed the elevation sign. It was partially covered in snow anyway, but Lookout pass is at 4,680 feet.

One of the interesting things about Lookout pass is that Idaho consistently does a better job of maintaining their side of the mountain than Montana does. I have no idea why. And true to form, Montana's side looked like they'd barely touched it with the plows. You can't tell much in the picture, but there were several inches of snow piled up on the left side of the road.

For some reason, our windshield started having trouble icing over. I don't know why it waited till this point to give us problems, but at least it was short lived, and thankfully it was mainly the passenger side that was misbehaving.

We made it to the bottom just fine. And as expected, the port of entry was open. I don't think they ever close this one!
...And that is where your tour ends. Over all it was an easy trip on typical winter roads. We were out of the snow by the time we got east of Missoula and by the time we were in Butte the temperature was up over freezing, though it didn't stay there long. In the end, the biggest upset of the day was breaking my thumbnail while trying to clean ice off the windshield wiper.

And if that's the worst that happened, then it was a pretty good day in a winter wonderland!


A Joyful Chaos said...

Beautiful pictures! I have a deep respect for all truckers. Without them the whole world would grind to a halt!

My brother also drives a big rig and got stranded overnight when the road where he was supposed to make a drop had 15 inches of snow plus drifts. We lived nearby and went to rescue him and he got to stay at our house for the night. I was thrilled since we hardly ever get to see each other being we live half across the country from each other.

Stay safe out there and watch out for the nuts.


Shirley said...

You guys did well driving through that mess. I live about an hour and a half north of Coeur D'Alene and you're right- it's a lovely place. That snow storm hit here too, gave us about 8 inches of snow, them rained the next day; it's almost gone now. Your dogs look cute all cuddled up in their blanket, but I bet they get pretty bored.
If you ever have a lay over in Sandpoint or CDA let me know, I'll come visit if I can!

Jim Fisher said...

I'm happy it don't snow down here in South Texas. It has been raining for 36 hours straight (light rain) Pastures are getting flooded and I have been stuck inside cabin fever. The baby calves have been stuck in thier barn. We all are getting ready of it to stop. Weatherman says only 16 more hours.

Cindi said...

I love how you take us with you on your job...glad you all were save...I bet there were a lot of "phew", wiping the brow moments...Wishing you continued safe travels!!!

small farm girl said...

No way, no way, no way would I be driving in that stuff!!!! lol. You are braver than I am!

Sharon Tachenko said...

Make me weak just reading such adventures! I'm thankful you take it all with such confidence! I talked with Malcolm somewhere along this route . . . He shared the biggest challenge in winter driving is keeping the ice/snow knocked off the bottom of the truck so you can make the weight requirements at check-points!

Meanwhile, be safe and we keep sending prayers your direction!


Farmgirl_dk: said...

I would be *so* stressed driving a huge rig like yours over ice and snow like you guys do - you are amazing! Nerves of steel!
I absolutely adore that picture of your girls, both in their jammies, cuddled up close, with one biting the other's face. A true sibling relationship, lol.
Drive safely, you two!!

gtyyup said...

Girl...I just don't know how you two do it...or how John did it for so many years. It's got to be age; you're still young and fearless! I'm old 'n white knuckled the whole time I'm lookin' at your photos! LOL...not really. But, John says he would NEVER want to long haul again. I do envy the places you get to see though...even though some are just from the highway. I've been in that neck of Idaho only once, and it truly is beautiful.

Stay safe~