Let me say that this experience was TOP OF THE LINE as far as “adventures” go. However, it was not the type of adventure I was seeking. (Scary)
I was heading home with my friend David from Seattle to Bigfork, Mt to get back to the Ranch. We met in Portland to look at Airstreams since he is interested in getting one and wanted advice about what to get. So I drove from Seattle to Portland to meet him there, then we drove back to Seattle to pick up my Rv.
We knew we had to cross famous Snoqualmie Pass and David wanted to try the pass without snow chains, AGAINST the advice of the road advisory signs. I do not have four-wheel drive, and it was required that you must have four wheel drive or snow chains to cross. Initially, I went with David’s suggestion of “Let’s go, and if it’s bad, we will turn around”.
So we drove from Seattle towards Snoqualmie with conflicting ideas of what to do. By the time we got to the last exit before hitting Snoqualmie, I finally made an executive decision to stop and stay the night so we could get snow chains the next day. It was a Sunday and every place where one could purchase chains was already closed.
I 100% made the right choice to get chains.
We got chains from an auto parts store the next morning and then hit the road.
To add to the drama, it began to snow. (Great) It wasn’t long before we started to see semi-trucks pulled over to install chains. David asked ‘Do you have front wheel drive or rear wheel drive?’ to which I responded ‘Front’. We eased over and began the installation.
Thank god for internet instructional videos. These chains (The ‘easiest’ type to install, according to the auto parts salesman) were worthless to us without watching that video. Snow, cold and giant semis passing within a few feet of my butt all added to the excellent adventure of my first timer snow chain installation. (And there were serious lessons to be learned.)
A truck driver asked if we had chains for the Rv, and we told him that we did not. He thought we were going to be in for it. Great. Still, I wasn’t worried.
Chains installed on the truck, we started back on the road, which quickly turned to snow and ice and visibility was reduced to about 100 feet. I was driving. The sound and feel of the chains was different but it felt good and very sturdy. We carried on and it wasn’t long before we came upon a vehicle checkpoint.
Had we attempted to cross sans chains, thankfully, the checkpoint workers would not have allowed us to cross. Turns out, there is absolutely no way we would have made it without chains. The road was total snow/ice, and shortly after we crossed, the pass closed for about 8 hours! That’s how bad it was. Thank goodness we didn’t leave a little later that day and have to wait. Uuuugh.
The posted speed limit was slow- 35. We were probably averaging 15 mph. There were no lanes. Cars passed at random.
Here and there, we passed a vehicle that had slid off the road. Reassuringly, there was plenty of official help with police and other rescue vehicles around to assist travelers in need. The truck was pulling the Rv without a problem UNTIL the incline became significant. At that
At that point, we started slipping and spinning wheels. (Oh shit.) Gradually, it worsened until we slowed to a crawl and I was forced to stop, for fear we might slide BACKWARDS. At this point, David asked, “Are you sure you have front wheel drive?” We realized I must have been wrong due to how the rear of the truck was turning when it slid. David got out to watch as I gunned it. Sure enough, the rear tires spun. I have REAR wheel drive! (Rrrrrrrrrr!) Duh!
We realized I must have been wrong due to how the rear of the truck was turning when it slid. David got out to watch as I gunned it. Sure enough, the rear tires spun. I have REAR wheel drive! (Rrrrrrrrrr!) Duh!
So, in the middle of I-90 which was completely covered in snow with cars passing us on both sides, we proceeded to move the chains to the REAR tires.
An assistance truck pulled up behind us and I let him know we were ok, and he stayed behind us until we were back in business. (Nice) Cold, wet and pre-finger frostbite, we got back in, and WHAT A DIFFERENCE! Now, I had NO problems with traction whatsoever.
Still, the rest of the drive on that day was extremely tense. You cannot use snow chains on the road unless it is covered in ice/snow, so we had to remove them after the pass. The roads were icy and slushy for the rest of the drive.
I did not have snow tires. I was pulling an Rv. It was scary, tense, fingers digging into the steering wheel driving for the next 8 hours. Cars AND semis that had slid off the road dotted our view as we passed.
It was a constant reminder to play it extremely safe in those conditions. It snowed most of the way. I never slid, but we had to use the chains when we got off of the interstate for stops about 3 more times. On, off, on, off. 4WD would have been so much easier…
I would never recommend pulling an Rv in these conditions. It’s dangerous even even if you ARE using extreme caution.
Besides that, what did I learn?
Rv’ing lesson #6,598: I have rear wheel drive on my truck!