As the engine of the semi truck rumbled from western Nebraska into Wyoming that November day of 1970, the sky turned from haze to grey to dark. Soon a few flakes of snow turned to a storm and began to border on a blizzard. The driver began to fret over getting through before they closed Interstate 80.
There was yet a half a day left as we approached a long upgrade, the steepest pull we had encountered since leaving the Chicago area the day before. It turned out to be the longest and steepest grade we would encounter on the surprisingly flat land this particular road uses to cross the Continental Divide. The wind was whipping on the trailer of the truck but the driver kept it straight and true as he started to talk about the six semi trucks we saw on the side of the road before us.
The hill began to rise under our wheels and it got more steep as we advanced. We passed one stranded truck and its driver struggling in the snow and wind to attach chains. Still our tires held to the road and I was sure glad of that.
About this time the driver said he’d be glad to stop and help these guys but both he and those drivers stumbling in the snow knew if he did we’d be just as stuck as they were. “They are not blaming us at all for keeping up our momentum in hopes of cresting the hill.”
Slowly we passed a second stranded truck and then a third. Each one made me think of how cold my wool coat and thin leather boots would be if we were to be out of the warm cab of that truck.
Fortunately I had been picked up by a driver who knew what he was doing. One by one we kept our slow pace past those trucks. And so did the truck some five lengths ahead, so we didn’t have to stop to avoid his sliding in front of us. The hill got less steep. And we were on our way.
It was dark when we got to the junction of I-80, heading west to California and I-84, heading north to Idaho. The driver was continuing on to the Bay Area and I was headed to Boise but he turned up I-84 to a nearby rest area. He said I should be able to get a ride pretty easy but at least I’d have a warm building to be in while I asked around. He had that right.
The idea of spending a night in an odiferous roadside men’s room was not high on my list of ways to pass the time. But it sure beat the wind and snow outside.
Within ten minutes a couple of college guys said sure, they’d drop me off in Boise.
I felt kind of bad, laying down in their back seat and sleeping all the way. But I was exhausted and they seemed happy with their own company. As I remember they even took me to my parent’s place once we got to town.