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Long Ride to Salt Lake City

Updated on June 13, 2012

I-80 Eastbound Trucker Video of Truck Off-road.

Truck on Interstate 80 near Three Sisters Mtns.

I. 80 on a clear day near Three Sisters Mtns.
I. 80 on a clear day near Three Sisters Mtns. | Source
Clouds circling Elk Mountain.
Clouds circling Elk Mountain. | Source

She might not be friendly!

As we pull off Interstate 80 to hit the Flying J truckstop in Cheyenne Wyoming, we both noticed a cute and shapely young lady at the entrance to the westbound lanes of the interstate. I turned towards the truckstop to fuel up and my younger brother Daniel nearly has a fit.

"Why didn't you pick her up? She's going our way, and would probably be much more interesting than you are to listen to," Daniel demanded to know.

"We need to get fuel and some supplies," I said looking at the sky to the West, just as heavy flakes of snow start to fall. "If she's still there when we leave, we'll consider picking her up. Can you watch the fuel pumps and wash all the windows and mirrors," I asked as I jump out get the pumps started?

I quickly make a list of necessities for what could be a difficult trip to Salt Lake. As I head around the truck with my list and comcheks in hand, Daniels exclaimed, "What in hell are they doing?"

I looked in the same direction as Daniel has been staring, to see three police cars slidding to a stop all around the female hitchhiker. Eight cops jump out of the cars only to aim their pistols at the girl, several yelling, "Get down on the ground now!" Two cops run up while still aiming their guns at her and throw the girl forcefully to the ground.

Before we can say a word, they frisk her and pull a three foot sword from inside her jeans leg. At that point, they roughly cuff and stuff her in a police car, and Daniel turns towards me to say, "I guess, it's a good thing that they got there before we did. How do you suppose they knew about that sword? She must've already used it, what dya think?"

"That's why I'm not real quick to pick up hitchhikers, although I will. I like to say a quick word of prayer first and see how I feel about it then." I reply as I head to the fuel desk, leaving Daniel shaking his head in astonishment.

Could be a long and dangerous trip to Salt Lake!

Inside I pay for my fuel, along with additives to keep the diesel from freezing, windshield washer fluid to help my visibility, and take them out to my trusted helper. I head back in to get some hot food, coffee, water, munchies, batteries, wool socks, and hunter's gloves just in case we end up in the ditch or stranded along the road somewhere.

Daniel is quite contemplative when I get back into the truck with several bags of supplies and pull away from the pumps.

"Hey Daniel, pick what you want to eat. I got pizza slices, burritos, some chicken tenders, and other stuff. If you would, hand me a burrito, a couple tenders and some of that sweet n' sour sauce. As much as I wanted to sit in the restaurant and relax with supper, from the looks of that gloomy sky, we better keep going. This could turn into a hell of a storm, so we gotta keep going!"

Dan replies with, "You can't be serious about a bad snow storm, it's almost May!"

"Yeah, I know, but this far North and in higher elevations, you can get heavy snow storms into June easy. After you eat pick out a pair of those gloves and socks for yourself. Put on the socks and your heavy boots, put the gloves in your coat pockets, and keep it on or at least over your seat. I love this ride through this country, but it has some serious inclines and we could end up off the road in the weather gets worse. We have to be dressed properly to exit the truck just in case that happens." I state as solemnly as I can without causing undue alarm.

"Well, why didn't we just layover back there at the Flying J then? It seemed as good a place as any to me."

"Well, we have to be in Salt Lake City early tomorrow to deliver that small shipment. That way we can be in Reno the next day for delivery, and San Francisco the day after. There we finish unloading, and start reloading for Seattle and Spokane. There is no time for fooling around in our schedule. Hopefully this storm won't get too bad," I say as I watc´╗┐h the snow kick up a notch or two, with heavy, wet flakes blowing hard. I drop first one gear, then a second one, as we start our first steep climb east of Buford.

Since we might not be able to see Elk Mtn. or the Three Sisters, with the snow falling harder all the time, I start to tell Dan of how beautiful this ride is usually. You can see the 11,000 ft peak of Elk Mtn just south of the Interstate. How the Three Sisters all at over 10,000 ft. were named back in probably 1840 by the Methodist Mission as Mts. Faith, Hope, and Charity.

Usually, you see small herds of twenty to thirty antelopes until you've seen 2-3 hundred for the average trip. Occassionally, you might even see an elk or several mule-deer in the distance.

By the time that we pass the Laramie exit, it's starting to blow real hard with drifts piling up on the snow barricades. We stop to clear the windshield wipers and headlights of all the frozen snow and ice that's collected, it's just getting dark with visibility of 10-15 feet while standing. The headlights only had a hole the size of a dime to shine through, being covered two to three inches deep in ice, making it hard to see the road.

After clearing all the ice off, we step around the truck to relieve ourselves right at the edge of the road. As soon as I zip up, Daniel says, "Shine your flashlight over here, I thought I heard something!"

I walk over and not being able to see past Daniel, I step right up against him and shine my light in the direction he's pointing. Something grunts loudly just as my light lands on a huge furry animal not five feet away. We both jump back, getting tangled up and falling over one another with Daniel spraying both of us with his unfinished nature's call.

"Damn Daniel, did you have to do that!" I say, not knowing whether to cuss or laugh.

"Damn man, I wouldn't have, if you weren't in my way. What in the hell is that thing?" he says as we scramble to our feet. We move forward slowly peering into the darkness with the swirling snow making it seem like some surreal dream. Looking again, we see that it's a full grown, shaggy buffalo and thank God, there's a barb-wire fence in between us and him.

"Thank God for that fence. That thing scared the sh*t out of me!" I say.

"You and me both, common let's get outta here, before he realizes that fence can't hold him." Daniel says with a chuckle.

There really was no traffic from there on, other than one idiot that came flying by us in a semi going down hill. We were doing maybe 40-45 down that hill, he must have been going seventy when passing us and disappeared less than fifty feet ahead.

"That guy's crazy flying like that in this weather, we're liable to see him in the ditch up ahead. Well, if we could see the ditch, that is. I'm having trouble seeing the lines on either side of the road." I state with more concern in my voice than I intended. I slow it back down to thirty-five miles an hour.

Daniel looks at me with hope and says, "Didn't you say if we can't go no more than thirty-five, that we may as well pull it on over at a truck stop and layover?"

"Yeah, but we have to be able to see a sign, a road, or something first. If we're just on the side of the road here, we're liable to get rear-ended,"

We must've been somewhere near Elk Mountain or the Three Sisters Mtns. when things got real bad. I could no longer see anything three or four feet past the windshield, and slowed down to twenty or twenty-five miles per hour. At this speed, I could not see anything other than swirling snow coming from deep darkness, with glimpses of the white line. I could no longer tell if we were going up or down hill at all, which was terrifying to say the least. By now, I was holding the wheel so tightly, I had to let go each hand and shake feeling back into my fingers.

I tried to conceal my concern as I told my brother, "Dan, at this point, let's keep our jackets on and everything we want with us in our pockets, just in case we jack-knife and go off the road. Have your wallet, flashlight, everything, in case we have to get away fast. We might not have time to look for anything."

Daniel usually likes to argue with me, being his older brother, although there was no argument as he quietly gathered things he thought he might need. I never would have expected things to have gotten this bad, or I would have pulled it over for the night. Things didn't let up until we pulled into the Flying J at Evanston about one o'clock in the morning only to find that it had burnt to the ground several days before.

They were still allowing trucks to park in their huge parking lot, so I pulled into a spot, popped the air-brake and said "Com'on Dan, it looks like the bar across the street is open. Let's go get a stiff drink or two. Damn that was the hardest thirteen hours of driving to only make some 350 miles, that I never want to do again! Are you coming?"

"Hell yeah, I'm coming! Although about now, I don't know why I came out here with you in the first place," Dan says with a grin. "What time does this place close?"

"I don't know, besides I can't stay long, I'll hit a DOT scale-house about the time we get started in the morning. I just need a drink to knock the stress back and put me to sleep," I said wearily.

The next morning, I splash water in my face, brush my teeth with bottled water, and hit the road with Dan still in the sleeper. Within thirty minutes we hit the DOT weigh station at Emory, Utah, and they red-light me to come in with all my paperwork. After parking, I was finishing up my logbook entries, with a lady officer constantly knocking on the door saying, "Driver, you need to give me those logbooks right now!"

I would hold my one-finger up in the "just a minute sign" repeatedly, and go back to recording my hours of service, to make them legal. After several minutes, I opened the door, handed her my logs, and grabbed all my paperwork and jumped down.

She had quickly scanned my logs and said, "You're either damn good or damn lucky, these don't look too bad! Your buddy needs to com'on in too. Let me forewarn you, my boss is not in a good mood, so com'on, now!"

I said, "Com'on Daniel, they want you inside too." then trotted to catch up to the lady and plead, "Since your boss is already in a bad mood, I don't suppose you will care to mention me adjusting my logs. Will ya?"

"I'll cut you that break, you better hope he doesn't find anything else," she says ominously.

Things weren't going too bad, as he found all my paperwork in order. I stood directly in front of the Chief DOT Officer listening to him politely. When Daniel came up and stood next to me, the Chief looked up and said, "Is that alcohol I smell on you fellas? You better hope it's not! Someone get me a breathalyzer. When did you have your last drink driver?"

I have to admit, that I outright lie and tell him that it was midnight, rather than after two this morning. DOT just could not locate any alcohol testers, although I'm sure that I would pass anyway. This didn't appease the Chief, and he wants my authorization to carry Daniel as a rider. I explain that it is my truck, that I don't need anyone's authorization for a rider.

The Chief assures me that I was indeed lucky, even as he was forces me to leave my younger brother at a place a thousand miles from his home or anyone we knew. As I walk out the door another driver walks by me and says, "Meet me at the next exit, I'll bring your brother. You better get outa here now before that @$$4o#& changes his mind."

So I crank the truck up, head to the next exit to wait for the JBHunt driver to bring Dan. I sure hope that things start going better on this trip real soon. I wonder about the several truckers that we had heard died after going off cliffs in the storm, if one of them was that fella that went flying by us. Then the other truck pulls up, I thank the driver profusely, and Daniel and I are again heading West dropping into Salt Lake City to deliver, then heading to other unknown adventures.







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    • slcockerham profile image
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      slcockerham 5 years ago from Tallahassee, Florida

      wwolfs, So you know of the difficulties of driving that road in the winter, they can be deadly. I still occassionally pick up hitchhikers, although with caution and prayer.

    • slcockerham profile image
      Author

      slcockerham 5 years ago from Tallahassee, Florida

      Hey Becky, thanks for your comments. That is a very dangerous stretch of road between Vegas and Reno.

    • profile image

      wwolfs 5 years ago

      This reminds me of my trips out west. I learned fast that because the weather is good on the east coast doesn't mean it will be the same out west. I hit a bad storm in Cheyenne, Wyoming once that was quite frightening. I felt like I was going to blow over. Trucks were everywhere, jack-knifed and in ditches.

      They definitely have bad storms out there, and I have avoided them ever since. Especially needing snow chains through the mountains. They are another place I avoid in the winter. I have seen the results of many trucks that have gone over. Always sad accidents and I hate to hear of the loss of life. It is beautiful country but I was always glad to go back east. Too many miles and miles of desolated roads out there.

      As for the female hitchhiker that is never a good idea. You really can not trust anyone male or female. That is risking your life. Interesting hub. Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 5 years ago from San Francisco

      wow what a "trip". thanks.. shew... for sharing

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 5 years ago from Hereford, AZ

      Interesting tales you tell of being on the road. The buffalo was funny. I was on the road with my husband when I was 8 months pregnant, going to Reno for my sister's wedding (we were raised there).

      There were three vehicles on the road that January day during an ice storm, our van and two 18 wheelers. They were going opposite directions on the road up from Vegas,about halfway between the two, when they sideswiped.

      The mirrors on both of them flipped around as they were what hit and crashed through the driver's side window. The guy going south wasn't in too bad of shape, got warmer quickly on that stretch towards Vegas. The one going north had a long cold drive before he got to Reno, where they could replace his window.