This is the second week in a row where I have driven across the country twice until I exhausted my maximum allowable driving time. The first week, I went from Chicago to Salt Lake City which was across I-80, and then I went back to North Carolina, then down to Georgia, and now to Reno, NV. Since the heater in my truck is not working right, I decided to take the southern route this time which involved traveling I-40 into Arizona then going up through Nevada.
For the most part, my plan worked. It was very warm through Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. New Mexico and Arizona was a different story. I have never been through Arizona or New Mexico in the winter time, but in the summer they are unbelievably hot. But I’d never been through those states on I-40. I was in for a surprise. New Mexico and Arizona have mountains, lots of them.
I woke up Saturday and got started while it was still very dark. It was raining at the truck stop, but I didn’t get a mile down the road until I found myself in one of the worst snow storms I’ve ever been in, and I’ve been in plenty. I don’t think people realize when you find yourself in such a situation, you can’t just pull over in an 18 wheeler. The side of the road would be deadly. If you take a ramp, you will get stuck. I wish everyone could see a truck stop in the middle of snow storm. It is a mess that takes hours to get in and out of. So I drove through. Up and down hills. I was a nervous wreck.
As I got west of Albuquerque, the snow went away, the sun came out and everything cleared up for the rest of the day. I’m not sure my nerves ever recovered. I love mountains. They are so beautiful, but I am not that big of a fan of driving through them.
Anyway, I ran out of hours west of Flagstaff, AZ, in the middle of nowhere. I ended up parking on a ramp to the interstate because I couldn’t make it to where I planned to stop thanks to DOT regulations. I thought I was on flat ground, nothing to worry about. In reality, my elevation was over 6000 feet, and I woke up to drive at 2:00 am in blowing sleet. I figured I better head out before it gets bad. Well, it got bad. VERY BAD. I think it took me a couple hours to travel about 50 miles. All this on very little sleep.
If you go through the mountains at night in snow, as your going down, it feels like you are floating. It was the strangest feeling and it scared me. The engine got quiet, and it just felt like I was flying through the air. Flying in a semi isn’t necessarily a good thing though. Then after a massive decline, the snow went away like it never happened.
It was still dark when I hit Los Vegas. I was traveling through the mountains seeing this glow to the north of me. It was like a sunrise. It wasn’t a sunrise though, it was Las Vegas lit up like a big Christmas tree.
After Las Vegas was about 400 miles of desert and mountains. Beautiful, but so desolate. I was scared I would be caught out in the snow again. One of the prettier areas was around this big lake called Walker Lake.
This was incredible scenery, but a bit scary too. The highway is a little two land road in the side of a huge mountain looking over this lake. I know my wife would have been freaking out, as would anybody scared of heights. My biggest fear was hitting snow again. There are all sorts of spots in Nevada that require chains on the tires if it snows and I didn’t have chains. I had checked the weather, but it seems to change so quickly so I didn’t know what to expect.
I had to go over my driving hours to get up to a truck spot by Reno, but I wasn’t going to be stuck out in some desolate spot since I would not be able to drive for the next 34 hours.
My sleeping problem has really been hard to deal with this week especially since it is so noisy and cold in the truck. My nerves are shot, but I am so relieved that I didn’t wreck.
Driving a truck is by far the most stressful job I have ever had. It is so dangerous and I never know what is going to happen from one minute to the next. Dying in an accident is always possible, but that is not what scares me the most. I mean if I die in an accident, I will leave behind a whole lot more money from life insurance than I will be able to earn if I go on living a long time.
No, what I worry about is hurting or killing somebody else. My own death would be a lot more preferable than that. The other thing I worry about is being out of work with an accident on my record. Driving a semi is incredibly scary at times, but not nearly as scary as not being able to find work that can support me.