Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Wind? What Wind?

   Today started at Sarah's house on the Poudre River in Fort Collins.  Cups of coffee and then out with Napo the dog for a walk along the river.  The few inches of snow that had fallen the day before was still crunchy beneath our feet.  Eli spotted the first bald eagle in flight, soon followed by a juvenile.  They landed atop a tree followed by what we thought were magpies that were not happy with their visitors.  But the eagles did not budge.
   We went into town to the Little Bird cafe to drink the best coffee so far on the trip and check the weather online.  It turns out that where we are headed is getting a winter storm with feet of snow predicted in some places.  Also on the menu were those 60 mph winds across Wyoming starting Tuesday night.
   Back to Sarah's and bid adieu with hugs and got back on board the yellow cannon ball. 
   Down the road from Sarah's house was the cheapest gas of the trip so far, $2.82/gal.  Thinking we'd beat that insane wind, we headed up to 287 towards Laramie.  The drive was beautiful, winding towards the front range and then it started to climb.  Climb we did and the wind picked up.  We continued to climb and eventually the wind was howling across the road.  The truck crawled against the steep grade and strong winds.  All the while we listened on to KCSU 90.5 Colorado State University independent radio.
   What seemed like a long drive was probably just over an hour before we drove into Laramie.  Under the Interstate 80 freeway and into town, I pulled the truck over on a side street near some restaurants I'd spotted.  We took time to walk around the block and then to a taqueria for burritos.  By this time I'm anxious about time, knowing we'll go through the worst of the snow through mountain passes if we don't make Pocatello by the end of the day. 
   Back on the road the wind continued to howl across the road.  We creeped along with the hammer down, struggling to stay in the lane.  There were plenty of semis on the road which was comforting.  It wasn't bad enough to keep the truckers parked at the Flying J, it couldn't be all that bad.
Hi Planes photo by Eli

   Out the window we watched the landscape go by; snow drift fences, herds of antelope, wild horses, hillsides covered with huge spinning wind turbines, the softly rounded and jagged mountains, long trains moving along.  I couldn't remember the last time I'd made that drive, I 80 between Cheyenne and Salt Lake City.  
   At 4pm we crossed the Continental Divide for the first time.  The driving got a little better until the road grade increased again and we were back to climbing and fighting the wind.  Then we crossed the Continental Divide again.  Then we were rewarded with some declination.  
   At 5:30 we pulled into Little America.  Little America is a ridiculous truck stop.  It's huge with multiple gas islands, motel accommodations, gift shop, restaurant and bar.  Big enough to get a spot on the map.  Eli and I went to the restaurant to eat more salty road grub and make a final route and weather check before deciding which way to go.  Who knew tomato soup could hide chunks of ham?  The grilled cheese and fries were alright.  And when the waiter saw we didn't touch the soup, he took it off the bill.  Nice.

   According to the storm map we would be in the zone of heavy snow if we were still over here in 24 hours.  It appeared that whether we headed for Pocatello or crossed into Utah and then up to Idaho, we were going to find ourselves in the storm.  I decided on Pocatello for at least it was far enough to get through the worst of it but still close enough to get there at a decent hour.  Back on the road we exited onto Hwy 30 a mile later.  Suddenly we were leaving the 4 lane ribbon of I 80, heading into the dark following a two lane over hill and dale.  I got up behind a semi holding between 50 and 60 mph.  Without being able to see more than 1/2 mile ahead along the road, I resisted my urge to pass and we just tucked in for the drive.
   Eventually we were passing over the State Line into Idaho.  Now we were officially in the Northwest.  Rte 30 meandered along rolling around and up and down.  Town after town went by out the window as we made our way.  There must have been 50 "Historical Site"s along the route.
   Finally we were rolling down the off ramp at exit 67 into Pocatello.  The Thunderbird Motel was easy to find.  The room is great.  It looks as if it was decorated in 1974 but everything still looks new.  Super comfortable with character.
   The weather channel on the TV doesn't seem to agree about the quantity of snow accumulation in store for tomorrow.  So it's likely we'll get on the road for I 84 with the goal of making it to Burns, OR.  Pictures of Portland show plenty of snow.  If the snow does look bad, maybe we'll stick it out here.  Who knows?  Stay tuned to find out...
   BIRD of the DAY:  Bald Eagle
   CROP of the DAY:  Wind Mills
   HERD of the DAY:  Antelope

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