Saying goodbye to Inyo canyon area is hard. One, it is a long drive back and heading back early is a must. Two, it is very hard to pluck oneself away and just leave. After innumerable selfies that could have been taken in our backyard, we started off towards home. (The bulbous noses obstruct the grand mountain at the back. )
As we started driving, it was a clear day with blue skies, a few cumulus clouds specked the skies lazily. The winds were gusty as flashed to us by the rustic freeway signs. The slight shudder of the car as it navigated the bends in the mountainous roads was indicative of the conditions outside. (As shown in the ripples in the lake below)
All in all, it seemed like a marvelous end to wonderful trip with ghost towns, ancient forests and star gazing. We were pleased with ourselves too for another reason. There was a storm warning for 4 p.m. that evening in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and we were slated to cross by 2 p.m. – ha! Looking at the bright blue skies, one wondered whether the geological department had gotten things wrong. Could a snow storm really be on its way? Maybe in a day or two, not today.
You needn’t doubt the geol. fellows ever again. It was as we were driving through one of the mountain passes that it started to snow mildly. Now, I am sure people who live in the snowy reaches of the earth will pooh and bah at us, but the mood in the car turned to euphoria. Watching the snow flakes drift past is a heady experience, and nothing really prepares you for the magic of it. They say every snowflake is shaped differently, but how they managed to detect and study that, I would never know. Our instinct was to stick our hands out the window and whoop with every brush of snow.
Here is the rummy thing though: If you were to take the quarter of an hour sliver in which the situation changed, you would find the first 5 minutes completely different from the second five and the third five minutes radically different from the first five.
One minute we were ooh-la-la-ing through the mountain pass wondering about the shapes of snowflakes and singing songs, the husband slightly nodding off and taking a well deserved doze in the sunny passenger seat, while I drove like a heroine in the old Indian movies singing and whooping with an inherent happiness that made the singing bearable.
The next 5-minute slot found the blue skies being masked behind fast moving clouds and the winds whipped up a flurry of snowflakes, visibility was definitely waning, and I was telling the children about the Fury of Nature, while clutching the steering wheel and leaning ahead as if clutching the steering w. in a firmer grip would somehow ground the vehicle on the slippery roads.
The last 5 minutes slot found me unstrung: the visibility had dropped significantly, and I was prodding the husband awake. Just keep driving he said in his taking-command-of-the-situ voice. Maybe my worked up face indicated that I was planning to get out the tea kettle and find some bricks to get a fire going in the snowy lands, I don’t know. So, I nodded, ever the obedient wife, and kept going. I was a bit unnerved too that no matter how hard I clutched the steering wheel, the vehicle was behaving like reindeer after a couple of magic mushrooms: slipping, sliding, and even trying to jump every once in a while.
Image source: http://stylingstitches.com/jolly_christmas.htm
When the car tried to jump over a piece of ice, I jammed the brakes and found that the car went sliding beautifully onward, but refused to stop. Gulp. Hit brake. Stop. All my years of driving I had been doing that, but it did not work. Positively alarmed now, I was at a loss. What were we to do? I spotted a car ahead of me pull up in the slight ascent, and I gingerly did the same. I managed to let the thing in easily and let out a loud whistle – I now understand the pressure cooker psyche. PHHHHHEEEWWWEEE helps.
I stopped my hands from shaking and looked up to find a large vehicle stop on the opposite side of the road. A bunch of folks dressed in yellow tights and matching snow boots, jumped off. Half expecting to see Curious George, I saw them manually flip a sign on the side of highway to ‘Snow Chains Required’. I had not realized up until that point that that was how the rustic highway signs worked. Illuminating, but also, how do we get the snow chains on now? We had them, and I supposed they worked.
We headed out into the harsh world with the snowflakes doing a pretty dance around us and within seconds, our coats were full of snow, our toes seemed to be missing in action, the nose turned blue, and our hands were doing something when the brain was telling it to do something else. If this was not a pickle or a jam, I don’t know what is.
Continued in Part 2