Taking the Weekend By Storm
This past weekend, while my CV Weekly colleagues were dog paddling down Honolulu Avenue during the Montrose Christmas parade, my wife and I were having our own weathery adventures out of town. We drove north on Highway 14 late Friday afternoon, stopping in Mojave to fuel up and getting our first clue of the wild weather ahead. Getting out of my truck at the gas station, I had to hang onto the door handle with both hands to keep the wind from blowing the thing out of my hands and off its hinges.
The gusts grew progressively stronger the further north we drove. Not surprisingly, we passed scores of tractor-trailer rigs pulled over and parked in sheltered areas of towns like Independence and Bishop – their drivers wisely waiting for the worst of the winds to blow over.
Arriving well after dark in the town of Mammoth Lakes, we followed slushy tire tracks up Main Street as the falling snow thickened the higher we climbed above town. After some slipping and sliding and many thanks sent aloft in appreciation for our truck’s four-wheel-drive capabilities, we pulled up to our family’s log home to find a thigh-high blanket of wet, dense snow covering the 50-or-so feet of driveway from the street to our front porch. Apparently, unlike the gentleman who had been plowing our driveway for the past many years and who automatically cleared clients’ driveways of snow after six or more inches had fallen, the new guy our family is using requires that you call and leave him a message 24 hours in advance of your arrival. Who knew?
But no matter, the richest adventures often happen when you least expect them. Like in the darkness and biting cold of an early High Sierra winter snowstorm when you suddenly find yourself shoveling a path to the house. As much hard work as it was, we wouldn’t have traded the effort expended to get into the house last Friday night for any other experience.
Another weather-related adventure last weekend was even more memorable, if not nearly as enjoyable. Driving back home early Sunday afternoon, we were caught in a windstorm the likes of which I have never seen, much less driven through. Several miles south of the town of Lone Pine we were caught between two massive columns of tornado-like wind carrying huge amounts of debris – uprooted sagebrush, whole branches and whirling walls of sand and dirt. As these angry funnels of fury pummeled our truck and blacked out the daylight, we couldn’t see our own hood or even the road directly beneath us. Let me tell you – at 70 mph, that gets your undivided attention.
We hurtled through the seemingly solid brown cloud until a particularly violent fist of air punched our truck up onto its two left-side wheels. As my wife did her best Steven Tyler impersonation and I fought to keep us from rolling, another vicious blast of wind, this time from the opposite side the highway, slapped our truck back onto all four wheels. Over the next 30 seconds or so – it seemed much longer – we emerged from the worst of the windstorm and could once again see the lines on the highway and brightening daylight through the remnants of the cloud.
As we slowly continued south on 395, caught our breath, and nervously laughed about the experience (my wife said she felt like Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz”), I realized that our windshield was now pitted from one side to the other, top to bottom. But it could have been worse. We passed a couple in a Volkswagen camper van who had made it safely to the side of the road, the entire roof of their vehicle torn off and hanging to one side.
Yep, it certainly could have been much worse. Next year, I have a feeling we’ll be staying in town for the Montrose Christmas parade. Whether (weather?) it’s dumping rain or not.
I’ll see you ’round town.