Bill Sniffin: Get Out Of My Way! My RV Is Bigger Than You! I May Just Crush Your Little Car! Confessions Of A Motorhome Driver
Yup, our motorhome is a heck of a lot bigger than your pathetic little car. At 34,000 pounds and almost 60 feet long (towing a car), we are the biggest thing on the road --- except (gulp) those darned 72-foot long, 80,000-pound semi-trucks. But I digress.
Thank God and Don Day for the break in the weather that allowed us to drive our motorhome from Las Vegas to Lander during the waning days of April.
That north-south stretch from St. George to Salt Lake City features some of the more consistent and horrific side winds imaginable. Even a rig as heavy as ours gets blown around to where it feels dangerous driving.
Thus, I always check with Mr. Reliable, Don Day of Day Weather, and he finally said that this particular weekend would work. It certainly did. Nary a wisp of wind along Interstate 15 and Wyoming’s Interstate 80 featured a quiet westerly tail wind.
Our Last 40 Miles
The last 40 miles of our 700-mile trip is always the most treacherous – getting over South Pass. On one spot near Red Canyon featured 115-mph winds this winter and destroyed a heavy trailer full of windshields towed by my friend Bill Dick of Lander. I did not want to endure a similar fate.
South Pass was closed for a record 42 days this winter. But not on this trip.
Perhaps for the first time in history, the wind socks along that route were limp as we slowly worked our way down the mountain to Lander Valley. What a relief.
Perhaps the highlights (or lowlights) of the Wyoming portion of the trip were the vast numbers of antelope and deer carcasses along the road. It was beyond sad. What a horrible winter.
I believe this was the worst winter in the half century we have lived in the Cowboy State. Officially, the weather service said it was in the top ten. Riverton officially had its worst ever winter.
We endured horrible snowfalls back in 1972-73 and unbelievable cold in 1978-79. But this winter featured heavy snow and bitter cold and horrific winds over such a long period of time. My personal worsts were minus 39 temperatures and 20 inches of snow on the ground around Christmas.
On our trip home from Vegas, we first encountered heavy snows still surrounding one of my favorite towns, Evanston. The huge windmills around there were barely moving, which was a good sign. Interstate 80 east of Evanston features two huge valleys called The Sisters, who can be very mean and spiteful. It is a genuine thrill to sail downhill to the bottom of these never-ending valleys and then chug your way back up to the summit of the next one. Some photos of these valleys are called “highway to heaven” for the way the highway looks soaring into the clouds.
As we left the La Barge area and headed toward Farson we were dazzled by gigantic bright white monolithic mountains off in the distance. We needed to cross over these mighty Wind River Mountains, which are, by far, the tallest in Wyoming. Early pioneers who saw this same sight called them The Shining Mountains because of how the snow looked reflecting sunlight.
On this trip those mountains meant we were headed home but they also meant that we were getting closer to scary South Pass.
In our old age, we just do not have to be somewhere by a certain time. I feel sorry for folks who did not have luxury. Most of my life I was on deadlines where I had to be someplace by a certain time. That lifestyle sure made for some horrible drives in dangerous Wyoming places. It is nice to not have to do that very often any more.
Some Stories About Our Trips
I love to listen to audio books – there is an amazing tool on my iPhone called Carplay which puts all my phone stuff on my car system. It also makes taking text messages very safe. .
Some trucker friends told me there seems to be twice as many trucks on the road today and most of new drivers are immigrants who cannot speak English and have no idea what snow and mountain passes are like. No wonder there are crashes -- Please be vigilant.
We drove by a semi west of Evanston where a truck driver appeared to have both feet up on the dash and was watching a movie on his laptop while going down the road at 80 mph. Scary. You can bet some even more crazy things are going on inside those tall cabs barreling down the road.
Most car drivers cannot see these folks but I could in a 13-foot high rig. It is scary what I can see.
A Few Additional Thoughts
We were in the Cheyenne area the end of January when just about all roads in Wyoming were closed. The annual Governors Tourism Conference saw about half of its huge crew of participants unable to attend because of road closures.
There was a huge backlog of semis parked in Cheyenne when I 80 was closed. We were surprised by the number of female truck drivers. It would seem to make sense to have husband-wife teams driving these highways. They can work together and they can alternate shifts. Might be a great way to see the country and be together.
But despite all the worry about other cars and trucks, we are home and our rig is parked safely in its barn.
We are safe until the next adventure. Stay tuned.
Bill Sniffin can be reached at: Bill@CowboyStateDaily.com