You'd think by now, living in the land of elk and hunters of elk and winters that can move elk, we would notice and take heed when the elk are headed down and out of the mountain we are headed up. But no. We just kept on rolling through the rain, with food on the brain. At least, I had food on the brain and I did NOT want to go to bed hungry.
According to the detail map we "only" had 40 miles to go before we hit Cedar City. Several miles past the elk, the rain turned to a slushy mix and I had to turn the nob to 4x4 status. I kept cruising, a little slower, and the sky kept getting a little darker. We wound our way up and up and sooner than I liked, the slush turned to snow. Under that snow was a slick mess so I shifted down to 2nd gear and began to creep along. It was full on dark now and my tracks seemed to be the only activity on the road. Husbeast was looking for landmarks ahead of us and on the map because I wanted to know how long we would be in this mess.
It quickly became apparent that our original plan for dinner was out the window.
At 10MPH and hunched closer to my steering wheel (like that helps), Husbeast asked "do you want me to drive?"
"No. I just want to keep going. I just want to know how much farther we have."
We passed a resort that was closed down for the season? Just the night? But there was no sign on the map that related. A few miles beyond that, a sign for Bryan's Head, the ski resort, popped up. There were feet of snow outside the window and new inches on the road, no sign of a snowplow and more coming down. We started to make the descent and the rear end of my truck tried to come around and swap places with the front end. I slowed to a crawl without hitting the breaks too hard and hugged the high side of the mountain. I couldn't see where I may have been able to end up and I'm really grateful for that. I just know that when they give you a 6-8% downgrade sign and your truck wants to crab walk off the mountain, it's not good.
We met another vehicle and the driver flagged us down. She had come upon a wreck and was letting us know that she had already stopped to check on people so there was no need for us to do the same thing. They were fine and we could keep going. I asked her how much farther I would have to drive in the snow and she said I had about 7 more miles. Maybe she lied, I don't know, but it gave me hope that we'd soon be out of the mess we were in.
We continued on at a high speed of 10MPH, hugging hills and trying not to meet the guardrail. Other vehicles came up toward us and still no snow plow. We saw two or three other vehicles that had slid into the guardrails, a tow truck pulling one out and black, black, black. My eyes strained to see city lights or the flashing lights of a snow truck. Nothing.
I told Husbeast at one point "I am trying really hard to see this as the adventure it is and know that we will laugh about it later, but this really sucks." He laughed and offered to drive again.
After what seemed like an eternity, the snow line shifted again and turned to slush under my tires. The temperature indicator said it had warmed up to 36F and we were on the decline. Slush turned to rain and 40+ degrees and I knew we had made it. I picked up speed a bit, because I knew I could and I was hungry. It was after 9, but it wasn't as late as I was afraid it would be when we made it off the mountain.
Another tow truck passed us headed up the mountain, we passed the gates that should have been shut to close the road and a restaurant just past that with a closed sign in the window. I rounded a corner and Husbeast yelled "LOOK OUT!" Rain had caused a rock slide and there were several boulders scattered in my path. I had time to slow down and dodge around them, but our hearts thumped a little harder after that.
I was still thinking about food and beginning to think we'd be eating at a convenience store when another building appeared on the right. I slowed down and Husbeast read the sign..."Rusty's....Ranch House...Steak and Seafood....Open....OPEN!!! They're OPEN!"
I slowed down enough to flip a U in the highway and we pulled up to the door. The place was awfully quiet but we walked in anyway. The hostess was doing dishes but looked up and I asked if they were still serving dinner. Her eyebrows came up, I held my breath and she said "yes! Come on in!"
If you're ever in Cedar City, make the detour and head east at least far enough to eat there. It wasn't just because we were starving and running on adrenaline...that place is GOOD!
After dinner, and dessert! we rolled in to Cedar City to empty streets and closed businesses. I spotted the Best Western and headed in to ask about a room. She asked about a reservation and I told her I was hoping for availability and that we had just come down from Hwy 14. Her eyes got as big as saucers and she said "You came over that TONIGHT?! Yikes...." Yes. Well.....
Anyway, we made it. We got a really good dinner out of the deal and we had a place to stay. I still have no idea what the view off of that highway looked like and judging by the reactions of anyone we mentioned it to, I don't think I ever want to know! That was the only time on the trip when we felt like our lack of planning could have been really bad. We were fortunate though and it's nothing but a dark, snowy, slippery, tiny bit funny memory we can add to the trip!