Our relocation from New York City to Jackson, WY came smack dab in the middle of a phenomenon called the “Polar Vortex,” a low pressure system from the Artcic that brought extremely low temperatures in the Northern U.S. It was snowing and 19 °F (-7°C) when we packed our final bag into the trailer and drove across the Brooklyn Bridge for the last time.
The burning smell of brake pads that came wafted our vent a few hours later in reminded us that the 2,000 lbs (~900kg) of trailer contents we were towing required a more conservative approach to braking. The bounding hills of Western Pennsylvania presented a larger challenge as fog reduced our visibility to a short distance in front. We arrived in Cleveland late that night. The following morning, with temps around 0 °F (-18°C), I broke the key trying to turn it inside of the trailer’s frozen lock. I talked to the locksmith in Spanish only to discover that he was a Colombian from Cali! He had just moved to Cleveland 6 months ago and was not happy with the onset of winter.
The sub-zero temperatures continued through Indiana, Illinois and Iowa but keeping large thermos filled with hot water allowed us to periodically melt the ice that formed on our windshield and fuel door. After sleeping in Iowa city, we had a scenic drive through Western Iowa and Nebraska including one of the most amazing sunsets punctuated by thousands of birds flying in murmurations.
We thought it would be an easy drive from Cheyenne to Jackson, WY but the retreating polar vortex created wind gusts of up to 65 MPH (105 KPH), causing highway 80 to be shut down from Laramie to Rock Springs. Our detour took us through Casper where upon emerging from a Canyon, we saw 4 semitrucks that had been recently felled by the high winds:
I should also mention that we had two cats in a carrier sitting behind us who at Day 4, had decided they had enough of being in the car. Yowling and scratching were only soothed by a dose of kitty Xanax that kept them subdued for most of the day. A snowstorm was hovering over Jackson hole that assailed us upon climbing and descending Togwotee Pass, causing us to get stuck and freed 3 times:
-Turning into a road that had recently closed and had not been plowed. We freed by a neighbor with a snowplow
– Not being able to make it up a hill with the trailer. Freed by using the tire jack to remove the trailer and take the car.
-Only make it halfway down our own driveway, which although had been plowed that day, had accumulated a foot of snow drift.
After the third immobilization, we took the cats and trudged through the rest of the driveway to the cabin where we cooked up a steak and collapsed.