Well it may not have been as eventful as what happens in movies like Little Miss Sunshine or National Lampoon’s Vacation – no dead bodies anyway – but I will never forget the holiday road trip my family took from Albuquerque to Portland one Christmas in the 1990’s. The twins, my youngest sister and brother, had flown ahead to our grandparent’s, so they were not gracing us with their presence for the close to 1500 miles we traveled to celebrate the holiday with extended family. That made the good-sized minivan seem larger, but I am not sure it kept it warmer.
From our home in Albuquerque to our first night’s stopover in Tonopah, Nevada, we enjoyed cool, but clear weather. That was not our original planned route; Dad had changed it from going through Utah because of predicted snow. There was also storm heading toward northern California, but we hoped to miss it. No such luck!
On the second morning, we arrived in Reno about 9 AM. The snow was starting to hit hard. My parents made the decision to hang out there for the day and overnight, with hopes that the storm would blow through. This would put us a day behind, but it seemed to be the safest idea and we could still arrive in Portland by December 23rd. Since I was keeping occupied listening to my CD player and reading it did not make much difference where I was, and it was sort of fun exploring Reno a bit.
Next morning, Reno was covered in snow as we made plans to head out anyway. Fortunately, Dad had bought chains before we left. Unfortunately, a few miles out of town, when we decided we needed them as we watched many cars slipping and sliding, we discovered the chains were the wrong size. The rest of the day is somewhat blurry, or should I say a whiteout! We somehow made it through northern California and up through southern Oregon in a major snow storm, without chains. At times, all I could see was white outside the windows. It was almost as white outside as my mom’s knuckles were holding on to her seat. The minivan was not keeping warm enough and I thought for sure I would suffer frostbite.
We had to stop at the top of the Willamette Pass in Oregon because chains were required to descend the pass. The snow was knee deep, but we managed to procure a room in the only motel and we were relieved to have made it all. The next morning, Dad found the only hardware store around, bought the right sized chains, and we came down the mountain to good old Pacific Northwest rain. How delighted we were to be out of the snow, and we made it to our destination on the morning of December 24th, just in time for Christmas.
Top 5 things to have for sure on a possibly snowy holiday road trip:
- A fearless driver (Thanks Dad)
- Chains that fit
- A vehicle with sufficient heat
- Good music
- Great snacks
Have you ever been snowbound on a road trip? What are your suggestions?
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