Fasten your seatbelts! This is going to get rough!
Dad and I drove from Missoula to Wendover, Utah via Salt Lake City on Day 3 of the journey. After that, we thought the worst was over, but it wasn’t.
I don’t recommend driving in that area when the first snows of the winter happen. Read on to find out why!
I will talk about Day 4 before the accident happened. Don’t worry, I already did my posts about the accident and being stranded, so I won’t repeat it.
As Mum said, the irony was if we were going to have an accident, we were at the highest risk on Day 3. This day has gone down in family history as The Day We Should Have Had The Accident.
However, Mum said it’s a testament to my Dad and me being safe, responsible drivers if we got through that day without a scratch! Although, we were in the right place at the right time.
Up until today, we had called Mum a few times per day. Some calls were necessary and some were just to chat.
Because of what was happening en route, we didn’t call her until the end of the day. We had to prioritize what was critical that day and deal with the rest at our destination.
When we called her that morning, she said we should try to switch driving more often because driving through a desert can make people sleepy. Little did she know her advice was applicable, but for a different reason!
Heads up: the date was October 22. I hope that helps someone else with planning trips through this region at that time of year.
We Thought of Rerouting:
Dad was worried about the mileage UHaul gave us. He thought we should drive through Washington and stay the night in Bend, Oregon.
I looked into changing our motel bookings, but it wasn’t possible without getting charged. Even using Hotels.com didn’t help.
Dad admitted he should have brought it up the day before so I could have changed our booking. Here’s the irony though:
I was trying to save money on the trip by using Hotels.com and discount codes. I planned the route to avoid any major expenses and prioritized comprehensive insurance as the biggest expense.
When I booked our accommodation, I deliberately booked a hotel in Wendover, UT. We wanted to avoid the Nevada Tourist Tax (see my post about that). Fate had other ideas.
It was still raining and cold from the day before. Boo.
We gobbled down a warm, hearty breakfast at Ruby’s Cafe before we left. I was hoping the heat in the truck and my jacket would hold out.
I started us out at about 6 am in the dark and the rain. When I took a wrong turn and missed the freeway, I was glad to have a moment to figure out the right wiper speed.
It’s eerie missing the freeway entrance in a small city surrounded by country. Add in a dark winter morning and rain and you never forget it!
Dad was right about the awful acceleration on the van. I was literally flooring it for almost an hour at 65 mph. At least the rest of the traffic was slow too, which was something that doesn’t happen in the Bay Area.
The rain cleared as we got further south. The van was warm by then, so I was able to pick up the pace.
Throwing Shade At UHaul:
Another reason our van was a piece of shit: we stopped for gas every 2 hours! We had a 40-gallon tank and if it was full, to begin with, it would be half-full after 2 hours.
If you want to do that math on that for a 12-hour drive at freeway speeds and take the price of gas into account, have fun!
Seriously though, there was NO WAY we were getting caught out without gas in the boonies in that truck, especially with the weather we had!
I want to give an extra special shoutout to Allan from Picture This! His comment about UHauls will always stick with me:
They have two types of rental vehicles… So-So and Piece of Crap. In fairness, some of the PoC models get that way from hard use.Allan from Picture This
You are so correct Allan! Our first UHaul was definitely So-So and we almost missed it on Day 3.
I wonder if UHaul deliberately gives people the PoC models in the hopes they get totalled at some point. Following the accident, UHaul was being so nice to us that they gave us a newer truck! I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about that.
3.5 hours, and 1 stop for gas later, and we were almost at the Montana/Idaho border. I had to switch off driving with Dad because my right knee was hurting from pressing the pedals.
Dad taught me a Montana driving hack. He directed me to take the next freeway exit, and pull over onto the shoulder of the on-ramp at the corresponding entrance.
He said, “if no one comes up behind you, it works beautifully!” Fortunately, it did. Teehee.
I felt a certain TCK exhilaration! That made up for the fact that Dad and I accidentally got caught out in Trump Supporter Nirvana at the gas station. I mention that in my previous post.
My Stellar Radar:
I have a stellar radar for knowing when to switch driving with my Dad. More than once I have switched with him and then we suddenly come up on a situation that makes me glad I wasn’t in the driver’s seat.
Plus, I can learn a lot just by watching, and I enjoy watching how Dad handles it. And yes, the accident was one of those times.
What happened? We got hit with a snow front a few minutes after we switched places!
Here we were thinking we were making good time and possibly beating the first snow. October 22 is a little too late!
The visibility was so low I didn’t see the sign welcoming us to Idaho. Dad decelerated noticably because we were also going over the mountains.
The wipers were going full tilt and Dad didn’t pass any vehicles. I think we were going at 50 mph.
You know you’re in the boonies when the snowplow goes in one direction, but not the other. Yep, the snowplow was going north on I-15, but we never saw one in our direction.
You haven’t driven in the Rockies until you get hit by a snow front. Although, I was relieved to watch and learn for the first time since qualifying as a driver.
I have lived in Colorado so we got caught out driving through a snow front through the Rockies before. We had to chain up too, but that’s another story. Thank goodness for my Dad being a Montana boy!
Driving on the Flats:
The snow front cleared when we reached the flats. At first, Dad and I breathed a sigh of relief, but then the wind picked up.
Dad had some problems trying to control the UHaul since it was hitting us on the side. Darn high centre of gravity! We had been chatting before, but now we barely spoke.
Since my Mum has done Body and Fender, and she has a Physics BA, she knows how wind can blow a vehicle with a high centre of gravity over. She finds car commercials of a pickup truck parked on top of a cliff a load of BS since the wind can blow it off the cliff.
My Dad’s also a physicist, so he knows about forces on a vehicle too. It was interesting hearing his analysis of the accident too because that’s his way of processing the situation. Mum said she knew we were okay when he started talking about the physics of it.
Anyway, after Dad drove 2 hours, we were almost at the Idaho/Utah border. I decided to take over driving after we stopped for gas (again) since Dad had to deal with a lot.
Basically, it takes 2 hours to drive through Idaho on I-15, even in adverse weather conditions. That’s a bit of a laugh.
I missed the welcome sign into Utah, even though I was looking for it. The sky was still grey, but I thought the weather would improve because Utah is a desert.
Boy, was I wrong! It rained on and off. It was coming down in SHEETS!
Dad and I normally like to get a little shut-eye as passengers when we’re in for a long day of driving. Since we’re the drivers of the family, it’s critical we get enough rest before we take the wheel.
We knew because of these weather front, napping wasn’t possible. We are each other’s co-pilots and keep an extra eye on road conditions in that role. Therefore, it was highly critical we stay awake.
I passed a lot of trucks safely, even though visibility was low and the wipers were going full tilt. The trucks had slowed down to a crawl, but a UHaul can go a bit faster.
Dad was impressed with my driving. I reminded him I wouldn’t have done it if it wasn’t safe because my driving instructor instilled in me to always ask myself, “Is it safe?”.
I had to drive slower since Utah doesn’t get much rain and the roads get slick during rain. Dad and I had an interesting talk about hydroplaning. We recalled the different ways we learned about it when we were new drivers.
A Relief to be in Salt Lake City… Or, was it?:
I drove for 2.5 hours until we were almost in Salt Lake City. We estimated we would be in Wendover by 6 pm.
I checked the radar map, after I switched off with Dad. There was a big weather front going on, but it was due to end at about 4 pm Mountain Time.
Dad said to a local at a gas station before Salt Lake City, “Some weather!” The local said, “We need it!” Yet another warning to be vigilant on super slick roads.
Traffic was slow when we got onto I-80, and then we saw why.
There were not one…
but THREE accidents between the exits going into the city.
One car in the accident was lying on its bumper. HOW IN THE ACTUAL FUCK were the people in the car supposed to exit that? This goes back to what I said about cars rolling.
I had never seen that before! I didn’t take a photo because I didn’t think it would be respectful.
Our moods changed after seeing that. Clearly, we missed out on the accidents this time. If it had only been one accident, we wouldn’t have minded so much, but three in a row?
However, the question “Are we next?” popped into my mind. There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that Dad and I are careful, defensive, responsible drivers, but we can still be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
This is why I don’t like driving through cities on the Interstates. As soon as you add more lanes, people drive more recklessly. The accident proved my point on this too!
The Great Salt Lake:
We finally cleared Salt Lake City, but it took a while. I had fun taking pics of the Great Salt Lake while Dad drove.
Enjoy the pics!
We visited Utah when I was a kid, but only the Four Corners Area. So, yes. I went crazy with the camera.
By now, Dad and I were laser focused on arriving at our destination for the night. I had picked a town that straddles the Utah/Nevada border: Wendover, UT/West Wendover, NV.
Dad stayed the night there before. He was going back to the Bay Area after being turned away from Canada last summer. He said it’s obvious which side is the Utah side and which side is the Nevada side.
Wendover, UT/West Wendover, NV:
I did a guest post about Wendover, UT/West Wendover, NV. You can read it here, but here’s my (and Dad’s) quote about how you can tell the difference between the towns.
Wendover looks like a regular town but West Wendover is wall-to-wall with casinos!https://delusionalbubble.com/divided-cities-in-the-us/
I have a moral issue with gambling, but I find the history of it in Nevada fascinating. I read When the Mob Ran Vegas after being stranded in Reno and it’s more informative than a history class!
Dad and I arrived about 6:30 pm after almost 13 hours on the road. It would have been a lot sooner if we hadn’t had such a rough drive.
I saw a cafe that served breakfast, lunch and dinner as we drove in. So, we checked into our hotel, got gas and went to dinner.
We were in quite a mood after seeing three accidents in Salt Lake City. We barely spoke as we waited for our food.
Normally, we wouldn’t have complained about slow service. After all, I have worked in hospitality and I don’t complain unless it’s necessary.
This time, Dad and I wanted to eat ASAP so we could get back to our room and decompress, so we asked as politely as we could when our food was coming. To our credit, there were things I noticed that are not acceptable in the restaurant biz.
To quote Schitt’s Creek, “There was a pharmacy of drugs wearing off on both of us right now.”
YESSS!!! I got to use that line while doing an international move!!
I used that line the day after when we got back from the hospital. Dad and I were pumped full of adrenaline etc. That counts as a pharmacy of drugs.
We Finally Called Mum:
Which was peaceful and comforting. Mum had seen the radar map and noticed where the weather front was.
She was worried about us all day. She didn’t call us because she figured we had a lot on our plates. I thanked her for that.
Dad had said earlier that it was good that Mum wasn’t there or she would be backseat driving. I said we would have taped her mouth shut, and Mum had a good laugh about it.
Mum knows what she’s good at and what she’s bad at. She knows she would have been a nervous wreck that day and at the accident scene. She was elated my chilled out, heroic Dad was with me when I was hurt.
I fell into bed early because I figured we were in for another 12-hour drive the next day. We planned to arrive in the Bay Area on Sunday night. Traffic is typically crawling then, so I wanted a lot of rest!
Mum said that if anyone ever doubts my or Dad’s driving ability, they should hear this story. And so concludes The Day We Should Have Had The Accident.
Dad and I woke up at 7 am MST and had the same idea: Let’s hit the road and gain some time!
We decided to stop for breakfast after driving for an hour. We didn’t want to go back to the restaurant we went to the night before. . It was a brisk morning, which made me feel like replacing my jacket was a great idea!
I started us out and drove slowly up the main road so I would see the Nevada state line. It’s quite the feeling seeing casinos start right there!
I also saw the Time Zone Line further down I-80, which weirded me out. See my guest post about that.
Wells is about an hour from Wendover. I once heard that there was nothing at Wells but a restaurant and a gas station. Nothing could be further from the truth.
We realized it’s a good place to stop for food when we saw a lot of long-haul truckers there. Want to find out the amenities along an Interstate? Follow the long-haul truckers.
There were a couple of weird things though. Eateries in Wells often keep odd hours. I noticed that a lot in Nevada, and I think the casinos have a lot to do with it.
Dad and I had breakfast at a restaurant inside a casino, after we spent a while trying to find it. That casino needed to put down arrows on the floor directing people to the restaurant.
The only reason we still ate at the casino restaurant was another nearby breakfast place was closed. Seriously, it’s bad marketing if restaurant doesn’t have signs inside a casino directing people to the restaurant. Dad had to ask where it was.
When Dad and I were at the “Casino Royale” hotel, there were floor signs directing us everywhere! If they didn’t have that, I would have been so pissed off, and Dad would have likely had to help direct me.
When you’re in terrible pain and feeling uncoordinated from a newly cracked rib, things like floor signs make a major difference! It didn’t matter in Wells because it was just a minor annoyance. But when it comes down to the wire, that’s the difference between 1 star and 5 star service!
Still, that restaurant has likely lost 10-15% of potential customers because of not having signs in the casino. Those numbers are based on studies highlighting bad marketing practice.
Unbeknownst to all, Winnemucca is where the UHaul truck I was currently driving would meet its final resting place. Click here and do Ctrl + F for Winnemucca in case you missed the post-accident fiasco.
I didn’t see the wrecking yard as I was driving through Winnemucca. It looks like the type of place to have a wrecking yard and/or a landfill site.
We are gathered here today… Never mind.
I don’t need to eulogize the truck. I’m just grateful that it was bigger than a Bro Truck.
Dad Took Over:
We were 138 miles from the State Line between Nevada and California. There was a Highway Patrol sign saying there was an accident 38 miles away.
Suddenly, that weird mood Dad and I were in yesterday returned. Dad said, “Let’s stop for gas and give them some time to clear the accident!”
It struck me as odd that there would be an accident on the Interstate when it was two lanes in each direction. Something unusual must have happened to cause it.
By now, it was about 1 pm. I had been driving for six hours and I needed a rest.
I was just about to pull into the gas station when I realized I had enough. My cue to switch with Dad is when I drift a bit and hear that distinctive grinding sound the road makes when you’re too far over.
My driving instructor in London was SUPER strict about me not drifting! Therefore, it’s now a warning sign to me if I drift and feel sluggish about correcting it.
This was the longest I had ever driven in one stretch! I figured I had pushed my limits and I would let Dad drive the rest of the way.
So, I had some road trip food for lunch, had a little snooze and just chilled out for a while. Dad said I looked tired when we were at the hospital.
And Then We Stopped For Gas at Sparks…:
We figured a full tank of gas would get us to Sacramento. It was 2:30 by then, so I called Mum and told her we would be arriving about 6:30 and she took our dinner and beverage requests.
I told Mum I would call her when we stopped for gas again and let her know we were four hours away. Little did we know the next phone call would be 30 minutes later and it would be the most difficult call I have ever had to make.
Dad and I now wish we had tried to find a gas station in Reno. I guess we felt sorry for Sparks though.
Dad joked with me as we were approaching Sparks, NV. He said nobody notices Sparks, since it’s outside Reno.My Post About the Accident
You know what happened after that. That’s what we get for being nice.
Up Next: Continuing the Calgary Parks Challenge series until February since I have a lot to do for my site right now!
To those of you who are on my email list, watch out for the first email around January 15th!