December 8, 2013

Sun is up, waiting for the highway to clear...

FAIRFIELD INN, Tehachapi, California - One of the benefits of being stuck here in Tehachapi has been that I finally can spell the name of this small burg.
Tehachapi in summer, much nicer

Others are that the highway is still closed which means we are sitting in a cozy hotel, breakfast is just being served and we didn't sit alongside the road all night in a snowdrift.

Or worse.

Adm. Fox and I will head out when Highway 58 opens and make our way down the mountain, then north to San Francisco and Sacramento where it has been cold, but the likelihood of 100 mph wind gusts and black ice is considerably less.


December 7, 2013

Black ice, tractor-trailers and a guardian angel helps out

FAIRFIELD INN, Tehachapi, California - Admiral Sylvia Fox and I were breezing along in our Prius on California Highway 58, crossing through the Tehachapi Mountains on our way from Flagstaff to San Francisco, when we ran into a weather phenomenon I haven't seen in years.

A snow whiteout.

10 minutes before the whiteout
We were driving about 15 miles per hour and within a few miles of the summit in blowing snow when suddenly the tractor trailer 100 feet in front of us disappeared in the snowstorm.


And when I glanced in my rear-view mirror, the tractor trailer who was tailgating us disappeared also.

We will get back to that tailgating in a minute.

In maybe 15-20 seconds, the visibility cleared slightly, then lifted more, revealing a freeway littered with cars that had probably slammed on their brakes when the visibility went to zero.

And they were on black ice.

I am sure about that black ice because as soon as I saw the cars in the ditch, cars off the side of the road, cars in the median and lots of people with totally stunned looks on their faces, I gently tapped my brakes to avoid colliding with the semi in front which was shuddering to a stop.

We did a really neat skid, but stayed straight. And I thanked all those years of skidding and sliding in upstate New York growing up.

Then I looked in the rear view mirror and saw that the semi behind me - the one tailgating, remember? - had gone into a locked-wheel skid and his trailer was starting to pass him, very slowly, but definitely swinging around.

I don't think I would have been more terrified to see a platoon of zombies from World War Z closing in.

I didn't mention this little problem to Adm. Fox who was marveling at all the people in their cars and commenting on how fast some people were still driving.

But the guardian angel who travels with me most days decided to goose the semi in front of us just enough forward  so I could give our Prius gas to keep the semi behind from turning us into a Prius pancake.

It was close, but we proceeded on the black ice, making between 5-10 mph between skids.

We got off at the Tehachapi exit just as the California Highway Patrol was closing the highway's west bound land, a sure sign that things were unraveling. Within a half-hour they closed highway completely.

And as I write this, we are ensconced in a comfortable suite at the Fairfield Inn with quite a few other pilgrims who decided that with the sun going down and snow blowing hard a warm bed and cold wine was good alternative to black ice and cars in the ditch.
Pool at the Fairfield Inn

Oh! And this Fairfield Inn has a nice Jacuzzi and swimming pool which we have already tested out.

And the wine is chilling in the ice bucket.

December 5, 2013

Snowstorm slows progress towards California...

SANTA FE, New Mexico - Admiral Fox and I spent a great afternoon and evening in Santa Fe, New Mexico capped by an excellent dinner at a restaurant called The Shed with amigos Randy and Karin, California transplants who own a fabulous casa near a Santa Fe college.

We are getting to know their casa well as we wait out a raging snowstorm that has snarled traffic on the interstate highways.

Just like upstate New York

Today we expected to arrive in Flagstaff, Arizona this afternoon.

But given that it is snowing horizontally and the snow is supposed to continue into the night, Randy and Karin have put out the welcome mat.

Santa Fe is a very interesting town with museums, artists, and restaurants of all shapes and sizes. You could drop a lot of money here - pretty fast - on some beautiful handmade items.

Seeing the city covered in a mantle of snow is apparently a rare thing. We hope that mantle lifts by morning

December 3, 2013

From Whole Foods to Whole Foods across the USA

TULSA, Oklahoma - Admiral Fox and I seem to be traveling on this trip from Whole Foods to Whole Foods, Trader Joes to Trader Joes.

It's pretty healthy, except for the wine.

But we continue our quest west in a few moments, landing tonight in Amarillo, Texas before soldiering on Wednesday to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

There is a hellacious snowstorm ahead of us, which we think we will use age and treachery to outwit.

If not, well, we will try to get stuck in a hotel near a Whole Foods and across the street from a Trader Joes.

More from Amarillo tonight, depending on what time cocktail hour starts.

December 2, 2013

Heading for Sullivan, Missouri; gasoline costs $2.98 a gallon

ON I44 West of St. Louis - Adm. Fox and are are 974 miles from Santa Fe, New Mexico, our first stop (well, stop with friends) on our sojourn from Watkins Glen to California.

We rolled out early this morning, discovered that the complimentary breakfast at our Best Western was unlikely to be complementary to our digestive systems and so left immediately to cross Ohio, Illinois and now Missouri.

The sun is out here at 5:30 p.m., temperature a balmy 60 degrees.

Yup, northeast amigos, that was not a typo - 60 degrees.

For mileage afficionados, the Prius is getting more than 50 mpg and seems to like going 75 mph, particularly if there are no state troopers nearby.

We are looking forward to touching down somewhere east of Springfield, Missouri in an hour or two. We bought a few bottles of wine at Trader Joe's today so we can save  all the NY wines we brought to share with California amigos.

December 1, 2013

Somewhere north of Columbus, Ohio...

NEAR COLUMBUS, OHIO - Admiral Sylvia Fox and I sat in a barely moving traffic jam - on and off - for about two hours tonight before packing it in and grabbing a room at a Best Western Inn.

It was not what we thought our first night on the road to California would bring. But then we didn't leave until noon and even ran into some snow near Jamestown (of course, it's Jamestown).

But we are all fed, wined and ready to get up early to pile on some miles on our quest to get to Santa Fe, New Mexico by late Wednesday, Flagstaff, Arizona Thursday and then on to Sacramento, Sunday.

At least that is the plan. Right now.

The Prius has been getting about 50 mpg so far - and gas prices in Ohio are $3 per gallon. Yup, $3 per gallon.

Wine's cheap, too, but that's another story.

On the road to California - and Mexico

ERIE, Penn. - Admiral Sylvia Fox and I are tooling along at 70 mph outside Erie on our way west and south.

We left Watkins Glen at about noon after several stops and starts.

The biggest stop-and-turn-around was when we crested a hill and could see a beautiful lake. I remembered I had left my camera on my desk.

But a quick run back home solved that.

More later as we move down into Ohio and I can do this on my laptop, not this iPad...