No matter what map program you consult if you’re driving from Tacoma Washington to Broomfield Colorado, they will default to driving I 80 across southern Wyoming, not an entirely bad choice since it cuts nearly two hours off the trip.
After driving that route on my recent trip, though, I began to question whether the time saved was worth it or not. I’m not sure if it’s the worst drive I’ve ever taken, but it was definitely high on the list. Wind gusts of up to 50 mph were forecast on I 80 nearly the whole way. Before we left our motel the second morning we were warned that a fatal accident had taken place 35 miles to the east. As it turned out, temperatures had dropped to 22° and fog was at ground level. Speed limits had dropped from 80 mph to 45 mph and motorists were warned not to use Cruise Control (because of black ice). Apparently that didn’t deter truck drivers who obviously hoped to get home before Thanksgiving. I got passed by a lot more trucks than I passed,
as they seemed oblivious to the truck that had rolled over hours earlier.
Whatever scenery there was was obscured by the clouds and snow.
Even with the delays, though, we had made very good time, having spent nearly the amount of time on the road that Google had predicted.
However, after five hours of driving through fog-shrouded, icy roads without using cruise control, I had to pry my fingers off the steering wheel and could barely hobble to the restrooms my right leg was so stiff. It was certainly the furthest I’ve driven without cruise control in the last 20 years.
So, after checking that the passes near Vail didn’t require chains, I decided to return instead via I 70, which turned out to be a great choice. There was occasional snow and ice on the road, but there were no high winds and, more importantly, the scenery provided a delightful break from the monotony of driving.
Unfortunately the most beautiful parts of the pass were so narrow that there weren’t any pullouts where I could stop and get pictures, and I wasn’t willing to make an “emergency” stop to shoot scenics. The only place I managed to stop and get some shots was a rest stop near the end of the pass.
In the end I’m sure this route took several hours longer than the Wyoming route, particularly since we encountered a rush-hour accident in Salt Lake, but I didn’t regret the choice for a minute. Sometimes it is wisest to take the long way home.