Last January, we couldn't get a flight into Reno or Sacramento. Actually, it was the Sunday after Christmas, so no surprises there, really.
We decided to drive from Vegas to Minden, NV. AAA/Triptik estimate: 6.5 hours. Right. Well, OK, we should arive by 9pm, right?
First problem: AAA triptik agents have no idea of which roads are closed in winter.
Rental truck is a Toyota Highlander. Plenty of room inside and nicely comfy appointments. We didn't see the downside at that point.
We drive out of Vegas fine and wind up re-routing the AAA route to go up I-95 to Tonopah (past Death Valley. Anyone wants to know a good candy shop, LMK) , over west a bit to Hawthorne. Hint for desert driving: Fill up at half a tank! 3 closed stations later we cruise into Hawthorne on fumes to find an open Exxon at 9:30 pm. Well, OK.
Lots of wind. Martian landscape past Walker Lake gets even more bizzarely alien as we drive over a spine of White Mountain to Yerington, NV.
At this point we have seen signs for:
We pay no mind.
From Yerington the road (208) is a bit rural, except then it enters a really twisty slot canyon through Mt. Wilson:
Now, that is a really fun bit of road to drive. In the summer, in the dry, with no wind.
Did I mention the wind? Did I mention that a Toyota Highlander is rather shaped like a giant sail? With a tentative hold on the highway to boot?
Ooof. We're fighting the car up through, it gets even worse going across the valley to Wellington. I slow down even more, as we're not gonna get there before midnight anyway.
The bit between Wellington and Topaz Lake was meh, boring.
You know you're in Nevada proper when the casinos pop up everywhere. We'd arrived, just the other side of Kingsbury grade from Heavenly.
Minden has natural hot springs, btw.
I highly recommend them.
I also highly recommend driving to Homewood by the southern route on a clear day, see a bit of the lake'n'all.
I also highly recommend staying on groomers if Tahoe hasn't had any snow for the season as everything off marked runs was 3-inch thick ice crust.
Oh well, not to worry, there's a storm due in on Wednesday night, should give us lotsa pow action Thu and Fri. Right? Right?
So we ski Sierra at Tahoe, Donner, Diamond Peak. All good fun.
Storm hasn't arrived quite yet.
THIS storm: http://www.city-data.com/forum/reno-sparks-area/224664-preparing-storm-century-sierra-nevada.html
Thus. am we're to Alpine Meadows.
You know it's bad when you fight the wind to get across the parking lot.
The sun is still overhead, but the ridge at AM looks like a volcano of snow, for all the stuff being blown off the top. Top of the mountain is on wind hold.
O-K. Worth skiing? Other half sez: no, only the kiddie lift is open.
For some reason we decide to drive around the north of the lake, past Kings' Beach. Oh, now I remember me, we stopped for some XC skiing, for a half day.
At this point, it really is starting to look like the Storm of the Century, big ginormous black anvilheads. It is NO FUN driving the Highlander over the pass at Mt. Rose down towards Reno. Mt. Rose is shut for skiing, of course.
We pop out of the car for some eats at a generic mall at Mt. Rose Hwy and South Virginia st. The movie theater cannot keep its doors closed for the wind, gusting up to 50-60 in the parking lot.
We go into this place that looks like a DiMaggios from outside and proceed to have the best Italian food I have ever had outside of the NY metro area or Italy. http://www.cortinareno.com/
Wind still gusting. Blows the knit hat off OHrex's head and across the parking lot as we exit Cortina.
so on the way back we drive into a raging blizzard,
- it takes 6 hours to drive 40 miles,
- can't see the signs because they have 4 inches of snow cement stuck on them so navigating by blind luck and guess work
- (Sacramento and Reno airports shut, Vegas only one open)
- the Highlander gets sideswiped by a gust of wind coming through Jack Wright canyon and we spin into the guardrail
- 3 inches from the rim of the 5000' canyon
- Ok, the truck still drives, we have 15 hours left to make the flight out.
- The road is closed at Yerington, we have to overnight
- 8 hours later (7 hours left to flight) we're driving at 95 mph even though the Highlander is yawing left and right, 40-50mph crosswinds.
- Tire blows out.
- 30 mins later we're at 95mph again on the spare tire, Highlander yawing -worse-, bits of the front airdam sparking on the pavement.
- Vegas - woohooo, fortunately the rental car cops don't notice that the front fascia is held on by duct tape
I don't care about all that. Lunch at Cortina -made- the trip.