Friday, April 30, 2010

I feel like a pioneer woman, hauling her wagon across the mountains of Montana in crappy weather

A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water. ~Carl Reiner

On Thursday, we woke up to a cold and snowy morning so we quickly packed up to get on the road. I’ve heard from a lot of you that you think our lifestyle is fun. It is. Most of the time. But it’s not ALWAYS fun and games, kids. Like here, when Jim is dumping the tanks in the freezing cold and snow. Not fun.

You may wonder why I am standing outside taking a picture of him doing this. Well, I just finished MY job. We always check lights before taking off. Jim sits in the truck hitting turn signals, brakes, etc., and I stand behind the trailer giving him thumbs up. So I get my chance to freeze, too. I also help guide him when he is backing up the truck to hook on the trailer.

This is typically how I sit in the truck on a cold morning. Blanket around my legs? Check.

Notebook at hand to write down notes? Check.

Camera on lap? Check.

Driver? Ch…..Uh, where the heck is he?

Ah, that’s better.

So we’re off into this snowy day. We haven’t even left the campground when Jim thinks that there’s something going on with the brakes on the trailer. He feels like the wheels are locked or something. The only way he’ll know for sure is if I, MOI, drive the truck/trailer, while he watches.

Uh, HELLO, I have NEVER driven the truck while pulling the trailer. Nevah! I know I should learn, but okay I haven’t yet.

But, really, I only have to drive straight, and I don’t have to go very far.

Jim hopped out of the truck, and I ran around and hopped in.

Okay, baby, don’t fail me now! I moved the seat up a little, released the emergency brake, and put that bad boy in drive. I pulled the trailer! Albeit only a few feet, but still! It’s a start! I saw Jim in the side mirror frantically waving his hands.

I put Big Blue in Park. Jim came up to the truck.

“What? Is everything alright?” I asked him, seeing how he looked like he REALLY wanted me to stop.

“Yeah, everything is fine.”

“Oh.” I think he was a little scared that I’d drive off without him.

Another crappy weather day in Montana.

The weather got progressively worse as we drove East.

What I absolutely DON'T like seeing in my side view mirror - SNOW!

Almost a white out!

It was pretty scary driving over the Continental Divide. We came upon an accident that had just happened in the two lanes going west. A piece of one car had flown into our lanes going east. A car on our side had pulled over and a man had gotten out, picked up the piece and handed it over to the couple standing next to their smashed car. The roads were quite slippery at this point. We had a 6% down grade and I was a nervous wreck!

The truck did slip once and I had visions of the trailer jackknifing. But Jim took it steady and slow, 20-25 mph, in 3rd gear, and we made it down safely. I prayed the whole time. Like I said - it’s not ALWAYS fun and games.

I wondered about this sign. Does this mean it’s your opportunity to SEE an anaconda? To WRESTLE an anaconda? To EAT an anaconda? WHAT exactly?

Funny. The last time I looked at a map, these two places didn't look anywhere NEAR each other!

This sounds like a personal question to me!

This morning I was hoping to wake up to sunny and 70 degree weather, but obviously I was dreaming. It was still wicked cold, windy, and yes, there were snow showers. We did not unhook the trailer from last night, so it was an easy pack up. Miserable in the wet and cold, but fast, anyway.

Our goal today was to drive to Buffalo, Wyoming, which is just south of Sheridan, and spend three days exploring the area. In fact, we already had reservations at a campground there. Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans. Yeah.

We drove through all kinds of weather - wind, rain, sleet, snow. We might as well have been mail carriers for God's sake! The farther east/south we drove (on Interstate 90), the worse the weather became. The snow fell down harder. There were hardly any other drivers on the road. What did they know that we didn't? Then Jim saw one of those emergency signs lit up on the side of the road right before 90/94 split. It said something about 90 being closed at the border of Wyoming. Say what? If you look at the map here, that is EXACTLY where we were headed.

We didn't have time to think of what to do before the 90/94 split happened, so Jim just continued on 90 while we discussed what to do. We were about 25 miles outside of Billings. We saw a rest stop up ahead and pulled into there. That's when I saw this delightful sign.

Can't read it? I know. I just wanted you to get the whole "essence" of the crappy weather, with the pine tree blowing, the snow flurries, etc. Now I'll zoom in on the sign.

It says, "Rattlesnakes have been observed. Please stay on sidewalks."
Although in this weather, I doubt that there's any rattlesnakes out and about! Not if they were smart anyway!

Jim asked a trucker if he had heard anything about 90 being closed, but he had not. We got out our atlas and found out that there are phone numbers you can call for each state to find out about travel conditions. Jim punched in the number for Wyoming, listened for awhile, then hung up. In a nutshell - roads were too hazardous to drive, yes 90 was closed. On to Plan B. Whatever that was. First we called and canceled our reservations at the campground. They understood since they were in the midst of bad weather. Then I called the Montana State phone number for road conditions on highway 94. That road was okay. Our only choice was to backtrack to Billings and hop on 94 and go east. We are now stopped in a small town off of 94 for a couple of days just to regroup, figure out our plans for the rest of the trip, and do laundry. Hopefully this current weather system that's been following us will pass before we hit the road again.

I didn't realize that gambling was legal in Montana. We stopped at a lot of gas stations that had this sign.

So every time Jim was busy filling up the tank, I wanted to empty my wallet in a slot machine. But I didn't. I controlled myself. It was hard. But I did it.

One other thing. I spied this smiley face on top of an oil refinery. At least someone's happy that the gas prices are going up.


SquirrelQueen said...

Oh my, Montana looks really lovely right now. I don't mind snow but it's not my favorite vacation destination.

Watch out for the rattlesnakes (LOL) and drive carefully.

Anonymous said...

snow.............ewwwwwww, gawd i hate snow! your pics almost make it look

happy travels my friend

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

Always interesting - AND I can see how being a nomad can be taxing - especially those slippery downgrades!

misslynda said...

I got anxious for you on the snowy downgrade just reading about your unplanned adventure. Isn't it amazing that our weather here has been so warm that some people have cut their lawns twice already - - - and you are driving in a snowstorm just a couple of days away from us! I am sure thankful you arrived somewhere safely.

Bossy Betty said...

Good thing that driver got back! Good luck on your continuing travels!

becky said...

You're funny. Hope you get better driving conditions tomorrow~
I love the snow, BUT not driving in it!!

Lindy MacDuff said...

Geeze, Louise! You'd better stay in AZ longer next time! Reminds me of our trip to Grand Teton NP at the end of September.

Great road signs! LOL!

Stay safe and TRY to stay warm!

Brian Miller said...

lol. at least the road signs kept you laughing...and quite a few snakes in that part of the country...anacondas and rattlers...oh my. crazy about the snow too. glad nothing was wring with the vehicle!

Betty said...

Montana looks and sounds great!
Lovely photos, as usual, Pat!
Hope you have a great weekend!
B xx
p.s. Safe travels.

Wendy said...

Or maybe they're just happy that they haven't *burned* up.


Not tryin' to be disrespectful.

Just tryin' to be funny.
(Nobody at my house laughs at me either!)

Donna said...

GAH!!! I think I would have been white-knuckling it through that snowstorm!