Surviving Winter Storm Bruce

So it’s been three weeks since we got back from our Thanksgiving trip to California to visit my side of our crazy family. What I’ve learned about traveling and routine is that travel interrupts routine and it takes you awhile when you get back, to get back into the routine you once had. Travel changes things because not only are you spending a few weeks preparing for a big trip, you spend the weeks after settling back in. And when it happens around the holidays especially a time that flies by so quickly it can really become overwhelming. Yesterday I finally brought in our Fall decorations while every other person in our neighborhood has Christmas lights up. And this morning I just discovered I still have this out on my front porch:


While we tend to decorate early inside the house, we usually decorate outside the house the weekend of Thanksgiving. Since we were traveling that weekend, and then we needed the following weekend to recover it hasn’t been done yet, nor do I think it will at this point. Oh well. We still have Christmas spirit whether it looks like it or not.

So on to writing about winter storm Bruce:

Yes, it happened three weeks ago but it’s still blog worthy. We had to leave California bright and early on Black Friday. Bad weather started pretty much right away climbing up Donner pass in California. Many vehicles were forced to pull over and chain up going up those tall mountain passes. We were in a rental car from Enterprise that had bald tires and the vehicle wouldn’t stay in all-wheel drive. Every time we had the vehicle in park and hit the all-wheel-drive button in the Nissan Rogue they gave us, it would stay in all-wheel drive for about a mile, then the light would switch off and we’d start to slide all over the place. I looked up directions in the manual in the car to help Scott figure out what was going on with it but we never could figure it out even after calling Enterprise’s customer service line for help, to which they said, call roadside assistance who then told us to call the police. Really? The police are going to help us figure out how to keep our vehicle in all-wheel-drive going up mountain passes? Roadside Assistance wouldn’t help us unless we were in an accident. So we were kind of on our own getting all the way back home to Colorado from California. When we drove to CA we had the drive broken up into two days of travel. We stayed in Nevada the first night, woke up and headed down into CA the second day. You can read about our wonderful time here, but on the way back things got stressful really fast.

We got up Donner Pass when the snow was light and fluffy. Heading down into Nevada the snow turned into heavy rain. We never ended up switching off driving every two hours as we did on the way to California. Scott, being the protector, didn’t want to put that on me. He drove through a downpour of hours of rain straight to our hotel in Salt Lake City Utah. By the time we got to Salt Lake the rain was turning into snow again. We didn’t get into the city until after 9 pm because of the sheets of rain that nearly drove us off the road several times. We had left California at 8 in the morning so we just brought essentials into the hotel and hit the hay.

Winter Storm Bruce
JJ, who never sleeps in, slept in the next morning in the hotel room, while we were watching the news about the storm.

The next morning we woke up to a wintry scene. We tuned into the news to see what the weather was going to be like. It said that things would start clearing up in the Salt Lake area about mid-morning. I thought we were going to leave about 10 am because that’s what the weather guy said would be the best for travel. However, the weather guy didn’t say anything about a system that would hit us once we got into Wyoming that came in from the north of us. So while one system moved out of the area ahead of us, that system combined with the system coming down from the north of us, right in the area we were traveling in creating Winter Storm Bruce! We left the hotel room thinking we were behind the system the whole way and we’d have mostly clear skies. Nope…not at all!

Not the worst of it. Just some Utah fog.
Eventually, fog turned to snowy whiteout conditions and icy roads.
Eventually all we started to see vehicles spun out on the roads and jackknifed semis.
Since we could barely keep our vehicle on the road. We knew we’d need to seek some shelter soon.

It took us all day to drive just 290 miles in the snow on icy foggy roads and mountain passes. During normal travel conditions that distance would have taken 4 hours. That day it took about 8 and it got really really bad the last 80 miles. Vehicles that had passed us delivering unfavorable signs to us in their windows (because we were being cautious) were spun out on the sides of the roads. We passed about 4 jack-knifed semis going way too fast for those conditions. We can’t stress enough that when roads are this ice and sludge-covered it isn’t wise to drive that fast. Driving like that was just an accident waiting to happen and might end up a devastating ending. Or with someone needing to call someone like these Virginia Car Accident Attorneys or a closer law firm to talk about their case. When we realized we weren’t going to make it home, our mission was to find gas in the nearest city. At that point, it was about 80 miles from us. So far away, especially when we were creeping down the interstate at a lovely 20 to 30 mph. It took us two hours to drive 80 miles to Rawlins Wyoming which was basically a truck stop with some fast food places, a gas station, and a few hotels. We got gas, found a City Market close to the hotel in near white-out conditions. We made it to the hotel where we stayed for the night in just enough time to read on twitter than I-80 had been closed. Temps had dipped down to the teens. So we were grateful that we decided to stop because it was very likely we would have been spending the night in a vehicle with temps in the teens if we hadn’t been sensible and gotten off the roads.

We woke up on our third day of travel with I-80 still being closed. But thankfully by just following Twitter, we learned exactly when I-80 opened again so we knew when we could get home. Starting out again on the third day was much like day 2. The roads, even though open were still icy and dangerous. The only difference was clearer skies. The interstate was still an ice rink for the first hour on the road and we still had problems keeping the Nissan Rogue with bald tires in all-wheel drive, so we couldn’t get up to speed of other vehicles on the road, not to mention the sludge from semis going by, building up on the windshield with wipers that were less than ideal. I kept calling customer service who insisted the only place that could help us was the local office we got the vehicle from. I called that office and no one would answer! And yes, I checked their office hours! They were open until 1 pm! It really pissed me off and I was ready to let them hear about it when we returned the vehicle.

We got home about noon on Sunday. Quickly unloaded the vehicle and returned it to Enterprise and even though there was someone in the office they refused to talk to Scott when he tried to turn in the keys. It really made the experience just terrible and we were already irritable from the horrible drive and seeing so many accidents. We wondered if we got into an accident, would we be able to get in touch with someone like this Smyrna personal injury attorney when we got home or would we even be able to survive a crash out there?

Not only were we dealing with terrible travel conditions we were also processing and dealing with personal family news we heard about during this trip and some work issues that came up while we were there. All this just put everyone on edge the last three days. We unpack Sunday evening, but its a work and school night, so we barely have time to rest.

Monday morning, after dropping my kids off at school, Scott asked if I could stop by Enterprise to tell them how the vehicle was handling in the snow and to see if we could get the last day taken off our bill because we could never get the vehicle up to speed to get home in time.

I saunter into Enterprise dialing their phone number as I’m walking in. The front desk assistant answers the phone and I say, “Oh your phones do work!” We make eye contact and I walk up to the desk still talking to that guy on the phone thinking I’m a badass about to get some money back from our trip while I describe the whole ordeal with their terrible vehicle and their terrible roadside assistance. The guy was super nice while I was a bit of dickhead.

I leave with a few hundred dollars taken off our bill. I get into my car and it won’t start!

It won’t start!

At first, I’m thinking okay okay I got this!

I tell Scott over messenger on my phone what is going on and he tells me to call Roadside assistance with USAA. So I do that. An hour goes by while I’m loitering in their parking lot trying not to make eye contact with the assistant who helped me. He keeps staring at me and finally asks if I need any help so I reluctantly explain that my car is dead and won’t start. What does he do? The very vehicle that we turned in, he pops the hood on. He asks me to pop my hood and he tries to give it a jump. It doesn’t start. But Roadside is finally there with a power box so he takes over and this guy gets it to start. He told me to let it idle for ten minutes then take it to a mechanic. I said no problem. I’m sitting in my vehicle letting it idle as instructed. I’m on a call with the dealership we used in June to fix our AC. The roadside guy pulls away and not shortly after that, the car dies again!

I am in tears!!!

I am done!

My emotions are somewhere between anger and deep deep frustration that just amounts to uncontrollable sobbing while I hit the steering wheel screaming.

I wanted to be out of that parking lot! I wanted to be home out of the cold! I text Mel and ask her if she can just talk me through my tears. While I’m waiting for her to respond. I attempt to call Roadside back several times but I can’t see that I’m dialing the wrong number each time through the tears that keep streaming down my face and I’m getting more and more frustrated. I finally get them back on the phone to tow my vehicle to the closest mechanic.

Mel calls me back and tells me about an ordeal she had which helps me put the situation back into perspective.

Then I walk back into Enterprise, with my tail between my legs and ask for another vehicle. The smirk on this guy’s face that he was trying so hard to hide from me (but couldn’t), was a mile long. He gets me in a Chrysler fresh off the assembly line. It still had the new car smell and only 2,000 miles on it. Of course, it’s about a hundred bucks a day, which was his cheapest deal at the moment even with my USAA discount. (eye roll)

I’m not one to really turn to alcohol to mend sour attitudes, pain or moods, but after these three days of travel, right after I checked on our car at the mechanic, I went right to the liquor store, asked Scott what he wanted, bought my favorite bottle of wine and we learned to laugh away the events of the last three days, glass in hand.

We also discovered the next day that a new battery and alternator would be $1230 bucks. So now we have to be frugal jerks to people we love because well life is expensive and unexpected things happen! So it didn’t get much better from there the next day. We also learned that day that my sister-in-law has bone cancer. It felt like so much piling up and unraveling at one time. The only thing we could do was nurse the emotions with a bottle of wine while we tried to recover from the trip and process the terrible news and our ever thinning bank account.

But anyway, that was winter storm Bruce and our experience driving through that A-hole of a storm.

But we are three weeks past that, and we are determined to not let too much of that ruin our Christmas spirit.

Have you ever had a road trip disaster like this one?

About Heather Jones

I'm just a wife and mom of two boys trying to find her place in this world. I enjoy walks around the lake, bible journaling, and RV camping with my family.

Heartfully Heather


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Heather Jones

I'm just a wife and mom of two boys trying to find her place in this world. I enjoy walks around the lake, bible journaling, and RV camping with my family.

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