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Friday, February 15, 2008

Road Trip To Utah - Day 5

Day 5 - February 8th, 2008

Starting point: Evanston, Wyoming
Finishing point: North Platte, Nebraska
Starting time: 1.30 p.m.
Finishing time: 1.30 a.m.
Miles travelled: 719

Having known the road we were wanting to use had been closed the night before, we were anxious to hear if it had been reopened when we woke up. And of course, it wasn't. We ate breakfast and hoped there would be some word coming soon.

The breakfast buffet at the Holiday Inn Express.

We checked out of our motel and when I did, I met up with two other groups wanting to go in the same direction as us - due east on Interstate 80. We heard that in a storm such as this, I-80 could be opened just after noon or it could be closed for 2 or 3 days. One guy I met in the lobby said it was usually cleared by early afternoon. He was born and raised in a town along the closed stretch of interstate ahead. But, Phillip and Sarah both thought it could be closed for days and wanted to get home. Not that I didn't want to get home, because I did. Well, we waited in the motel parking lot until after 1 p.m. to see if the road would be cleared. The laptop that Phillip had brought was still able to connect to the hotel's wireless connection from the parking lot, so we used it to get continual weather updates from the Wyoming Department of Transportation. Every one we got was unchanged - the road was still closed. After a 2 to 1 voite, with me being in the minority, it was decided that if we were moving it would be better than sitting still, so we devised a plan that would take us around the closed part of the interstate and come out just at the point where it was passable the rest of the way. We used the hotel's bathrooms one final time and with directions for getting out of Evanston I got from the desk clerk, the minivan was pointed due north.

Phillip coming out of our hotel.

Our Holiday Inn Express.

A Wyoming police truck.

The first thing we encountered after we left Evanston, Wyoming, was another semi truck off the side of the road. That halted our forward progress for about 10 minutes. We also learned that Wyoming uses pickup trucks for police cars. Very strange.

Mountains on the Wyoming/Utah border.

Part of our journey north to get around the blocked section of interstate actually took us back into Utah for a few miles - go figure. But, the road curved back to the east and eventually, we were going through small towns on the path we most wanted to be on: Woodruff, Kemmerer, Fontenelle, Farson, and finally Lander. Don't let those sedate town names fool you. This was some of the worst driving conditions on our trip. Between seeing the very first store that J. C. Penney built, back on April 14th, 1902 in Kemmerer, and getting lost on an oil lease road in the middle of nowhere, it was quite some journey!

The very first J. C. Penney store.

Our view for half of Wyoming. That's a snow plow in front of us.

From an oil lease road, this is what the middle of Wyoming really looks like.

Another snow-related accident.

There were still vehicles stuck off the side of the road, we were almost one of them once. There were plenty of natural wonders to see, in between periods of total white out.

Far off bluffs in the heart of Wyoming.

This cloud sat above a high mountain peak all afternoon.

Some of the rock formations of central Wyoming.

We had several deer encounters.

Phillip was driving through this part of the trip and he managed to get us safely and in one piece to Rawlins, Wyoming - the town located on I-80, which was where it was opened and passable again. We arrived there about 8 p.m. and stopped to check on conditions. We hoped they hadn't gotten worse and actually closed the road by the time we had gotten there, because we had taken over 7 hours to get around to where, if we had been able to use the interstate, it was only a 3 hour journey. There was a Kentucky Fried Chicken that looked good, so we stopped to get some food and it was there we learned that Interstate 80 had been opened about a half-hour after we left Evanston, and that a huge pile-up on the same road had caused a four-hour delay. So, either way you figured it, we would have either been at Rawlins at 8 p.m. like we found ourselves by going around all that extra way or could have saved us all those extra miles by waiting that extra 30 minutes in the motel parking lot before we left and arrived at the same place, at approximately the same time. If we had encountered the wreck that halted traffic, we could have possibly been delayed and not reached Rawlins until 8 p.m., but if we had somehow gotten through before the wreck, we could have saved about 4 hours. Well, it just goes to show that the majority isn't always right. They both had said that their reasoning for taking the long way around was that they thought they would be right and at least we were moving. The reason I wanted to wait and see if the interstate would be opened was because I thought I was right. Neither faction thought the other was right, but as it turned out, somebody had to be right. From Rawlins on east, it turned out that all we had to deal with weatherwise that night was gusts of wind up to 70 miles per hour. I took over the driving chores there and since there wasn't any blowing snow in the equation, I felt good about travelling onward. Let the four winds blow!

Another night, another hotel - a Ramada this time.

With the threat of the storm following us, I felt that the more space between it and ourselves we could put that night, the better it would be for the next day. I ended up driving till after 1 a.m. and we had reached a town along the interstate that was past the panhandle of Nebraska. In North Platte, there were plenty of hotels to choose from, so we pulled off the interstate and chose a Ramada. I think the main reason we did choose it was because it had a Chinese restaurant adjacent to it. We booked two rooms and settled down for the night. Nora the Hamster was easy to smuggle in at this place because where our rooms were located, there was an entrance all to itself - and it was a long way from the front desk. Through all of it, we hoped we had gotten far enough ahead of the storm so as not to have to worry about it the next day. If we had, we were certain that we could make it all the way home on Day 6 of our journey. As it turned out, it was the best weather of the whole trip and we made it safely. But, stay tuned for the final chapter of our road trip.

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