– OR – “How Donner Pass Ruined Our Lives”
-OR – “How We Almost Became Cannibals”
This is how I feel about Donner Pass:
The only reason I might look even a little happy is because I was clearly having a great hair day. But the overarching theme of this blog post is anger and frustration.
Because Donner Pass is a beast. A BEAST. I’m thinking of other words right now, but my mom reads this blog, and I don’t want her to be aware that I know those words. We decided, after the trip to San Francisco was over, that we probably should have flown and not bothered with a car, but most trips are made cheaper by driving, and we thought this would be the same. A word to the unwise: San Francisco is not made cheaper by driving. But we didn’t know that, and so we forged on ahead.
We’d been forewarned about Donner Pass, so we armed ourselves with chains and felt that was going to be good enough. We had water, we had food, and we had enough coats to not die of hypothermia in the event we got stranded on the side of the road, but we also had an intense hope that would not occur. And, while it was just raining and looking a lot like this,
men in large yellow outfits forced us off the road and told us to put on our chains — there was bad weather up ahead.
Well. This was clearly untrue. The roads weren’t bad, the chains weren’t necessary (ignore the above picture, which clearly shows bad roads and a necessity for chains), and they were bullying perfectly nice people into getting out of their cars and chain up. But we acquiesced, and when we parked the car, Husband turned to me and said, “Okay go ahead!” Because Husband travels in athletic shorts, even in the dead of winter, and heaven forbid he have to step outside in the frigid frigidity. I was in a jacket and a scarf. I clearly was the appropriate person to put chains on our Versa.
Low point number one, folks, would be Husband forcing me to put chains on our car instead of manning up. I still love him, most of the time.
As it turns out, our chains were for 14″ tires, which would have been really perfect if we were driving a car that had 14″ tires, but alas, the sporty exterior of my car meant 17″ tires. Because … sporty. So there we were, on the side of the road, in a patch of snow, surrounded by people whose chains did fit their car tires, Husband in his shorts and I in my jacket, wondering what in the hell we were going to do.
But then — luck! The men in yellow outfits disappeared, cars started zipping by, and we thought to ourselves, “If they can all drive without chains, well, then so can we!” This proved to be only partially true because we hit a point when a man in a kiosk stopped us, asking if our small, hatchback car was all-wheel drive, and Husband turned to me and then turned back to him and said yes. Fact: our car is not, nor will it ever be, all-wheel drive. It is not equipped with snow tires; we didn’t have chains that fit. But we were on a mission to get ourselves into the city of San Francisco because our hotel reservation, made through Hotwire, was non-refundable, and I was not paying for a hotel room I wasn’t going to spend a night in.
Things started out fine, but then they turned less fine.
At this point, I decided closing my eyes (I was the passenger, lest you’re worried about our well-being what with me driving with my eyes closed) was my best course of action. I did not need to see things get worse.
And, in fact, they did get worse. So bad that when I woke up, Husband was trailing behind a snow plow, his knuckles white, leaning over the steering wheel with a look of utter dismay on his face.
Don’t tell my mother this part of the story. It will make her worry.
We did get out. We survived Donner Pass without spending several months there, without eating each others’ flesh, without requiring search party after search party to come look for us. But we almost didn’t. And it required lies and deceit and 5 mph travel. It probably could have been worse.