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Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Roads We've Traveled

In our travels, we've driven on many different roads. There was Interstate 70 traveling east to Green River, UT - some parts actually looked like they could have been in a sci-fi movie:

U.S. Route 16 in WY between Buffalo and Worland - beautiful but it was so steep the front wheels of the motor home screamed in protest when braking:

There’s alternate route 89 in AZ at Jerome where the buildings jut right next to the street - you can reach out and give them a love pat as you drive by. There are parts of Interstate 10 that might jar your fillings loose but if you really want to shake things up, try the section of US Route 191 just before the Canyon de Chelly National Monument turn-off. Decorative studs popped off like corn popping and the TV was almost in my husband’s lap before we noticed and shoved it back in the cabinet.

Interstate 40 is a pretty nice drive until it gets wet and road pebbles, courtesy of passing vehicles, become airborne. By the time we reached our destination, the windshield looked like it had been attacked by a glass spider - nothing but a web of cracks.

Another beautiful piece of highway with mountains and trees and the Colorado River running near it, again on Interstate 70 headed east towards Denver. Then just before the Frisco turn off, there’s an uphill section we could only crawl over.

Then there’s the “back way,” aka state highway 38, to Big Bear, CA. We were coming in from Las Vegas and this looked shorter on the map - yipes, my husband had to make a 3-pointer to get us around some of those curves.

If you’re not claustrophobic, drive the Needles Highway in South Dakota, but not in an RV. The scenery is fantastic, Mount Rushmore framed by some of the tunnels, but in some spots it felt tight even in our little tow car.

But nothing prepared us for a section of road we encountered on our last trip. When we left the area around Yosemite and headed toward Lake Tahoe, we started out on state route 49 and headed northwest. The 49 is a little steep and can be crowded because of the logging trucks but it is doable.

We wanted to get to Tahoe before dark because the roads are steep going there, too, but the kids had their hearts set on doing the zipline at Moaning Cave. My son-in-law said it was right on our way, so he took the lead as we headed out.

We had our fun and ate lunch before we headed out and made the fateful decision to turn left on the 4 instead of right to head back to the 49. The scenery was beautiful but suddenly a sign seemed to pop up out of the ground screaming, “not recommended for vehicles over 25 feet.” The hair on the back of my neck stood up because I knew we were well over that and that the state doesn’t put up signs just to amuse itself.

“Mike,” I said, “we better turn around.” He looked around and I noticed his fingers were already digging into the steering wheel. “Where would you suggest I do that?” It had been raining and as soon as the blacktop stopped, there was mud on both sides of it. “If I get off the road we will sink.” Suddenly, I realized we didn’t really have two lanes - it was more like 1½ lanes for use by traffic going in both directions.

As we continued on, we started seeing signs warning of a 25% grade - it should have included, “This road is so steep you will feel like you are on a roller coaster and so narrow you may get scraped by the rocks jutting out of the side of the mountains, for sure by the low tree branches.”

Then, as if trying to change the subject, Mike asked, “Aren’t you going to take some pictures?” I answered, “Why? So people can see what we were looking at before we died?” It had been snowing and there was slush everywhere. All standing water was iced up right to the side of the road. Trees were everywhere - coming out of rocks, hillsides and every place else, including places where they took up part of the paved road.

We encountered a sheriff deputy who pretty much just wished us “good luck” and probably radioed in for a clean-up crew to start preparing itself for action. So up and down we went, pulling over as far as possible when we met oncoming traffic. Thank the Lord, we only came across one other vehicle towing - a horse trailer. It was a little hairy but the timing was perfect because we happened to be in a wide spot in the road; most places there was no margin for error.

Our highest point was 8,731ft at Ebbett’s Pass. We drove past Calaveras Big Trees State Park, Bear Valley, Lake Alpine, went through the Stanislaus Nat’l Forest, and came out at Markleeville. It was one terrifying ride and definitely one none of us ever wants to take again.
You would have thought we were taking a winter vacation by this picture.
It was a pretty good snow flurry.

And some pretty good snow cover.

Here is one of the lakes.

You can kind of get a feel for the road but you really had to be there.
Archie says, "I can't see out the windows - maybe it's a good thing!"


  1. I made a comment earlier, I don't know where it went. But all I want to see is, EEEEK! Great photos though.


  2. The last part made me nervous all over again! It was just too much for me. We have had some great adventure though, haven't we?
    Funny neither one of us took pictures. I think we really thought it was going to be the end. So happy we have such amazing drivers and trust in the Lord, who was probably cracking up at us :-)