Road Trip, Day 1: Palo Alto, CA to Elko, NV

Road Trip Day 1: Palo Alto, CA to Elko, NV

Wow.  So that’s what weather looks like.  I left sunny Palo Alto, California this morning thinking I might hit a little rain leaving the Bay Area, but otherwise I was not too worried about the weather.  I guess I should have done a little more research last night.  Despite the early morning departure, the temperature was in the low 60’s when I left home.  The huge rainbow stretching West to East seemed a good omen, but it turned out to just be a warning that bad weather lay ahead.  A little sprinkling gave way to full on downpour as I hit Stockton on I-80.

Climbing into the Sierras, I kept an eye on the outside temperature readout.  The rain came at me in horizontal sheets and the temperature began dropping quickly.  Sure enough, a sharp beeping from the dash announced a temp below 37 degrees — the point at which icy roads become a possibility.

As the elevation climbed above 5,000 feet, rain turned to snow.  Nothing to worry about, just some light fluffy flakes melting on contact.  The higher I climbed, the harder it came down.  The side of the road transitioned from green to patchy to all white.  Electronic signs warned of blowing snow at the summit and the need for chains.  Chains?  It’s October.

I passed a jack-knifed big rig that managed to block the entire Westbound divided highway — all 3 lanes including the shoulder.  I’ve heard that description a million times on the radio, but I’d never seen it firsthand.  Of all the professions I’ve coveted, truck driver was never one of them.  Westbound traffic was backed up for miles and the Highway Patrol had just started diverting them to an exit.  Thankfully, there was not much Eastbound traffic, but the weather continued to deteriorate.  The closed down all but one lane but traffic continued to move.  Here’s a shot just after the Donner Pass summit:

Donner Pass

That is a three-wheeled motorcycle in front of me.  He did not look happy at all.  Things improved markedly as the elevation dropped.  I left the rain behind a couple hours later and Eastern Nevada, although a bit desolate, is a beautiful landscape.

Eastern Nevada

I’ll be checking the weather tonight as I make the climb into Salt Lake City, Utah tomorrow morning.


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