Escape from Denver!
April 17, 2015
If you're just joining us...
Per our previous blog post, we are, at this point well and truly trapped in Denver by a freak spring snowstorm that managed to shut down both I-70 and I-80. We need to get back to the PNW, but it seems all avenues of travel have been closed to us and we might be stuck here for days.
A way out?
Thursday evening, 4/16, we spoke with our brother, who said the reports he was seeing indicated roads to the north of us were in pretty good shape. If we could just make it up I-25 to I-90, road conditions indicated that we had a clear shot at getting west. It might be rainy and windy, but north of Cheyenne, it was clear. Who goes north to avoid a snowstorm? We had not thought of this, but it looked like a workable plan. Sure enough, road conditions for Wyoming and Montana indicated that if we could just make it past Cheyenne, things would get better.
Escape from Denver!
So, Friday morning, we cancelled our plans to stay in Golden and started driving north. We figured we'd stop whenever the weather dictated, otherwise aiming for the KOA in Douglas, WY, which had good reviews.
As we got on I-225 and headed for I-25N, we saw signs indicating that I-70 East had been closed well before Golden, so we were pleased to have dropped that plan. The weather was intimidating, with lines of very low clouds rolling off into the distance. Each line of clouds seemed to have its own squalls, but by late morning on Friday they were just rain. So we headed north. Our first assessment point was to be Fort Collins where there was a Fort Collins North / Wellington KOA just off the Interstate. Reviews for this location were far less complimentary, but you know what they say about ports and storms.
En-route, we found our first Costco gas station in quite some time. Wow, a reminder of home, with cheap gas! We were set.
When we reached Fort Collins, the weather was still pretty bad. Plenty of rain, and wind, but nothing impassable yet. Still, we thought about stopping, possibly erring on the side of caution.
However, the entrance to the Fort Collins KOA was so bad - full of potholes and poorly maintained - that we decided to push on. After all, if they can't be bothered to take care of their campground entrance, what else could we expect?
We shuddered, turned Rocinante around, and headed north to see what we would find.
The Snowman Cometh
As we drove toward Cheyenne and crossed into Wyoming, we began to see snow on the surrounding countryside. Not too deep, just sort of left over from before. Then, we started to seeing very dramatic lightning and hearing the resulting thunder.
Thundersnow! How weird is that? Still, we pressed on.
By the time we reached the Wyoming welcome center, there was a definitely interesting quantity of snow all around the roads, though the roads remained largely clear - just a little slush here and there on the sides. So, we stopped there to change drivers. In the few minutes while we stepped inside, checked out the facilities and grabbed a free WY map from the host, things had definitely changed for the worse. The walkway that had formerly been clear had 1/4 inch of fresh slush on it. Wow. Scary.
Given the roads were still looking good, we decided to make the best of it. We skipped the lunch stop we had been considering and pressed on, more determined than ever to get past Cheyenne and back into rain. It was a bit nerve-wracking at times, but we made it through. By the time we reached Wheatland, WY, it was raining again and things were looking much better.
Jackalopes and Pizza
Our arrival in Douglas, the home of the Jackalope, was anticlimactic. When we arrived they just had rain, but a campground never looked better or more welcoming. It even had a full size jackalope in the middle of the miniature golf course.
The host at the KOA, who knew we were en-route and had been following our progress, applauded as we walked up to her window. Nice to be welcomed after such a stressful day. We pulled through into a lovely, comfortable site and ordered pizza for dinner from a local shop, Friendz Pizza. If you're ever in Douglas and looking for a pizza, this is where you should get it.
The morning after
Saturday morning we once again checked current weather and road conditions for Wyoming and Montana, which confirmed we had made the right call. It had snowed again overnight in Denver and Cheyenne, and I-80 was still closed. (I-80 Eastbound would remain closed for another two days due to a 40-vehicle pileup on the road from Laramie to Cheyenne.) In Douglas it continued to rain, but things were clearly looking up for our journey west via the northern route (e.g. I-90).