Steeled with a sense of destiny for great things — or at least survival — my friends and I piled into my white Chevrolet Beretta and left Laramie for San Diego.
Just west of Rock Springs, the weather got ugly. Snowflakes entertained at first, slowly sweeping down one at a time. Then they fell quicker and without distinction, until it was like driving in a ball of beer foam (Hey, it was college).
Semi-trucks didn’t seem to mind the narrowing vision, happily stirring more snow around us. The traffic slowed, and eventually came to a creep. We patiently took an hour or so to exit and find a truck stop for four hours of coffee, Twinkies and jerky while the interstate was officially closed.
When the Wyoming Department of Transportation opened the gates, everyone piled back onto the road, though conditions weren’t ideal.
For reasons I won’t go into, my girlfriend was at the wheel, and we soon found we were back in the same white-knuckle, white-out game of chicken that had shut down the interstate four hours earlier.
The road wasn’t packed with snow. Visibility was the issue. When a semi-truck passes, it twists a nasty tornado of snow around you, erasing every possible marker available. You have to trust your instincts. But I wasn’t driving. I was panicked, as were all the passengers. We were in a mess of swirling, blinding snow — to the point that it no longer made sense to move forward at all, according to my girlfriend at the wheel.
Turns out she was in a state of panic way beyond ours. Without the benefit of knowing where the shoulder of the road was, my girlfriend simply stopped the car, right there in the road, triggering a loud protest in the car.
Go right! go right!
But I’ll go off the road!
Good! Go off the road! Go right! Go right!
We were sure one of those brave 18-wheelers would kiss our rear-end at any moment.
Somehow, it didn’t happen.
There, on what must have been the north side of west-bound I-80, we found the shoulder and got out for a smoke. The cloud of snow cleared for a moment and, after listing some four-letter words, my girlfriend took this shot of me and my friend Marc, in front of a Wonder Bread truck. It’s one of my favorites.
We made it to San Diego, then to Ensenada, Mexico, by mistake, and back again. That’s another story.