When the interstate closes down

What do you do when the interstate closes down? Two options: sit and wait or find an alternate route. If there is one.

We had the opportunity, for lack of a better term, to do both on this week’s run. And all the “thanks” goes to Wyoming’s wild, insane spring-winter weather. And when I say spring-winter, I mean… blizzard. (A little on the terrifying pileups that occurred due to this blizzard in a minute.)

First we were heading west. The westbound lanes of I-80 shut down due to winter conditions, but the eastbound lanes remained open. Why it stays open one direction and not the other, I don’t know.

We were stopped in Cheyenne, and we had no alternate routes available, unless we turned around and drove a full day’s worth of miles back where we came from. So we sat and waited. For ten hours. If I were a solo driver, this might’ve been perfect, because I could just be off duty, taking my required 10-hour break for the day. (One of these times I’m going to write about hours of service rules, but it’s confusing, so I’m not going to get into it just yet.) Well, since we’re a team, our loads are designed and planned to keep us rolling pretty constantly. So sitting for ten hours can really throw us off. We were now facing the potential of late deliveries.

As soon as I saw that the road had opened that morning, I took off running. It was about 9 am central time. I booked it. Our truck is governed at 65 mph, which means that’s the fastest I can make this puppy go (unless we’re coasting downhill). So I drove 65 when it was safe to do so, after getting through the sketchy, newly-opened section of highway between Cheyenne and Laramie. We normally drive 60 mph for better fuel mileage and less stress. Anyway, with a cruising straight-shot from Cheyenne, WY to our first delivery in Fremont, CA, we made it… with about a half-hour to spare.

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Photo cred - Wyoming Highway Patrol

So, oh my gosh, the pileups… It wasn’t long after we head out from Cheyenne when I received a text update saying that the same stretch of road that just opened to let us through was closed again. Another round of storm was coming through. A full-on blizzard. Then the texts started mentioning crashes. I later learned that there were three pileups involving 40-50 commercial vehicles and 20 passenger vehicles. As far as I know there were no fatalities, but there were several injuries. I saw a couple of video clips that made me nearly throw up. It showed trucks driving into the pileup and you could hear the metal crunching as they did. Visibility was so low, that by the time they could see what was happening, it was too late. Some drivers were driving obviously way too fast. A few were able to stop in time, just to be rear-ended and pushed into the pile by someone behind them. Scary as hell.

We missed that pileup by two hours.

If you’re okay watching crashes, you can see one of the videos I’m referring to here.

After all of that unneeded excitement was well behind us, we had a Friday full of near-miracle on-time deliveries and an unusual early pick-up before heading out on our way back towards Wisconsin. Everything was going well. Then guess what? We drove into Wyoming again. We already had an alternate route planned north out of Rawlins to avoid yet another round of winter-crap weather coming through. But…

As soon as I entered the state I received an update that roads were closed east of Rawlins. Four miles from Rock Springs (about 100 miles from Rawlins) I got another update: “I-80 Eastbound closed at Rock Springs due to winter weather emergency.” That’s where I was!

I had to act fast. There was a truck stop in four miles. I pulled in, but I wasn’t the first to have that idea. It was a cluster… mess. There were trucks waiting on the road to turn into the small truck stop from every direction, and once I got into the parking lot, it was like a tight maze of tractor-trailers to navigate around. It. Was. Nuts.

I do need to mention, that besides the one A-hole CRST driver that was yelling at the poor lady trying to direct traffic, all the truckers were working together and it made me feel all fuzzy inside. Trucks were waiting for others to come through, and where there were just a few spots left for parking, there were a bunch of guys helping spot others backing in. It was crazy, and the space was tight for so many big trucks going in all different directions, but it was cool to see everyone working together. I love group camaraderie. Like I said – fuzzies. :)

So anyway, Adam got up, we were able to back into one of the precious parking spots, we studied maps, road conditions and weather before settling on what we thought was a pretty good route. And then our weekend dispatcher called us before we even had a chance to call them and let them know what was up! That was pretty darn cool!

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Alternate routes sometimes provide the best scenery!

Our new route was scenic, and we crossed the Continental Divide Trail somewhere. We even stopped at a pullout about where it would’ve crossed. I ran down the road hoping to see a trail marker, but didn’t. It was hiding around there somewhere. I could feel it!

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The CDT is near by. Somewhere.

So that’s what happens when the interstate shuts down. Even though I was super-anxious and stressed while we waited for ten hours, this is probably the best scenerio. First, the decision whether or not to continue in dangerous conditions is made for you. There’s no, “should I/shouldn’t I.” Second, you don’t have to worry if your alternate route is going to be any better. Or worse. And third, it’s usually closed for good reason. Like major pileups. I hope to forever avoid those. Forever.


Tonight I love not winter.

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Another super-pretty Wyoming alternate route photo.

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And this one. So hard to believe we are avoiding winter weather just south of us when it looks like this!

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The CDT ends up on that road at some point. Maybe I should've started walking! That's one way to avoid driving in the winter!

Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey!

With love,
Toots Magoots
(Robin Grapa)

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4 thoughts on “When the interstate closes down

  1. Your dispatcher was watching the same news pics the rest of us were. My heart sank when the trucks started crashing. I was so glad that you guys got off the road. I hope you hug your dispatcher when you see him next. Hugs to you both.

  2. Thank God you are safe and that you and Adam opted for caution over valor. Keeping you in my prayers for beautiful scenery and clear roads!

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