Thursday, August 8, 2013

An Adventure

I'm home from my vacation/family reunion in Estes Park, Colorado.  It was two days getting there, three days reunion, two days getting home.  The trip home was pretty uneventful.  The trip there was . . . an adventure.

But first some stats:
States traveled: Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Colorado
Miles traveled: getting there: 1,279; getting back: 1,204 for a total of 2,483 (The distance back is shorter because we took a more direct route and didn't have to turn around and go back).

Highest speed limit: 75 (most of Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado interstate).  Lowest speed limit: 55: (Idaho on Lookout Pass just before the Montana border).

We left Thursday, August 1st, bright and early heading east on I-90. My mother was convoying with us and my youngest son rode with her. Lunch and fill the gas tank in Missoula, Montana and then back on the road, cruise control set at 80 (speed limit 75). After Butte, we started climbing over a pass (Homestake Pass, which is 6,329 feet) and it started raining . . .hard.   Despite brand new tires on the car it hydroplaned a bit due to the amount of water on the road. We crossed the continental divide at the top of that pass and descended into a wide valley.

Ahead we could see black clouds and as we got closer, lightning weaving through the clouds.   We got separated from my mother and son in Butte (they took the wrong turnoff) so they were about 10 miles behind us. We drove on into the storm and up another pass (Bozeman Pass at 5,702 feet). I wasn't too worried, what could it do other than rain hard like we'd just come through.  Soon, lightning and thunder were constant as was heavy rain. One lightning bolt was very bright and the thunder followed almost immediately. Then we came to road construction and were limited to one slow-moving lane. I suddenly noticed there was some hail mixed with the rain. Then came more hail. The cars slowed to a stop just as it began hailing very hard. Soon the road was white with hail and I was afraid my car might be dented or a window crack. We sat and sat, listening to the hail pummel the car. I took a video during this:

 Eventually the hail slowed down and was only raining. The line of vehicles started to move slowly. The road was completely covered with a hail/water slushy mixture and on-coming cars would splash that over our windshield blinding us until the wipers could take care of it.

As soon as we had cell service (it was spotty in many parts of Montana) we called the other car and told them to wait. We got to Bozeman (sunny, warm, but the smell of recent rain) and waited for them to catch up.  I looked over the car and there didn't seem to be any sheet metal damage. 

When my mother and son did arrive in Bozeman, they said they had no hail but rain. Dinner in Bozeman then on to Billings where I’d made motel reservations. This was about 650 miles into the trip. The next morning after the mandatory Starbucks stop, we headed out again. Just after I-90 split with I-94 (which continues east into North Dakota) and goes I-90 heads south, I tried to speed up to the 80mph I wanted to go but the car would not speed up and the RPMs would not go above 3000 no matter that I had the gas floored (the engine red lines at bout 5,400 RPM).  So I pulled over and stopped and we could smell the hot transmission. When we drove to Starbucks I saw a Chrysler dealer so we turned around and limped back to Billings (it seemed to be working fine after sitting 10 minutes but didn’t want to be in the middle of nowhere Montana and have it go poof on us. The service department said they could look at it “after lunch” (this was about 9:00 in the morning). So they took us to a mall and we walked around then went back to the dealer, walked across the street for lunch. Then we decided my mom and the kids should go ahead and my wife and I would come when we could. The car’s “transmission communication wire” was not communicating so they replaced that and we left. We finally left Billings about 5:00 and caught up with mom and the kids in Casper, Wyoming (they stopped a long time for dinner) we got to Boulder around 1:00 A.M.  We slept late and the next day headed to Estes Park for the family reunion.

The drive home was almost completely uneventful.

And that's our adventure.

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