Avon, Colorado – April 15, 2013
It was a real crummy travel day. We left Fruita, Colorado at 08:30. It was raining when we got on the road. By the time we got to Debeque Canyon, it was snowing. It seemed the flakes were the size of small cars.
I had not checked the weather before we left. I thought it would be a storm like the many we have traveled through in the past. Boy was I wrong.
When we emerged from Debeque Canyon, it turned from snow to rain. That continued until we got to West Glenwood Springs. It started snowing again. It was coming down very hard, the first time in the trip that the road became covered with snow. We continued.
We entered Glenwood Canyon with some extreme snow. Probably three or four miles into the canyon we came to a complete stop. That was at about 10:15. The snow was coming down so hard it quickly covered our rear-view mirrors.
After sitting there for 20 or 30-minutes, we saw a man walk by us heading toward the cause of the jam. He soon walked out of our sight. Another 15 or 20-minutes passed, and we saw a State truck in the left lane reversing toward us. There was an illuminated sign on the truck. The sign alternated between an arrow pointing to the right and the notice “Left Lane Closed.” The vehicle stopped a hundred feet or so ahead of our position. All the while, it was snowing, and we were not moving.
Move to the right…when traffic starts moving again…
While we were sitting there, Leslie tried to use her cell phone. There was no signal. We turned on the radio to see if we could find out what was going on up ahead. We settled on a Vail, Colorado station, but all we heard about was the closure of Glenwood Canyon due to a wreck. A little later we heard Vail Pass was closed eastbound because of multiple accidents. We decided to press on when we could. I decided we would turn off of Interstate 70 onto Highway 24. That exit is maybe a mile west of West Vail, Colorado. Highway 24 would take us over Tennessee Pass into Leadville, Colorado. From there it would be clear sailing to Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Time continued to tick away. We finally saw the man that had walked past us was returning to his car. As he came by, I rolled down the window to ask him what he had seen. He said a tractor-trailer had jack-knifed about a mile ahead of us. He also said traffic was starting to squeeze through slowly.
Finally, at about 11:30, we moved forward four car lengths and stopped. It was 11:50 when we moved forward a tenth of a mile and stopped once again. We started genuinely moving at 12:15, almost two hours from when we first stopped.
The weather was still bad. We decided to continue with our Highway 24 plan. As we approached Edwards, Colorado, I decided we should fill up the truck with gas. The tank was at 1/2, but I wanted to make sure we were full for our trip over Tennessee Pass. After hitting the head at the gas station, we were eastbound on Interstate 70 again.
By this time, only the right lane was passable; snow completely packed the left lane. We drove slowly past the next exit; for Avon, Colorado. We continued. At the second exit for Avon, the road rises and curves. That, in combination with the snow, meant I could not see very far. Before I knew it, we were stuck in traffic again. We both assumed it was the backup due to the Vail Pass closure. We were three or four miles short of our desired Highway 24 turn-off.
I thought about getting into the barley passable left lane and reversing to the last Avon exit. That did not seem feasible. It was snowing extremely hard. There were about six to eight inches of snow on the ground. Every few minutes we would inch forward. The Avon on-ramp was beside us. I saw a couple of cars come up the ramp and try to get on the Interstate.
Leslie and I debated whether or not we should go the wrong way on the on-ramp and head back west. About then, an SUV in front of us did just that. About a minute later, I made the same move, after shifting the truck into four-wheel drive low. Luckily we did not meet any oncoming traffic or cops. That was nearly 14:00. We decided to drive back to Fruita and try our trip the following day.
We were back on the road the following morning at 06:11, but this time on the southern route through Gunnison, Colorado on Highway 50. The good news is that it was clear all the way, no snow. We arrived at our destination at about 12:15. We should have done that the day before!