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Eastern Sierra Trip Winter 2010

Day 5 of 5

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Sunday, February 21st
Drive back to Bay Area

The wind made it hard to sleep Saturday night and into Sunday morning, as something outside our rental house kept making banging noises. Amazingly, the skies were still clear and there was no indication that it had rained or snowed during the night. But still, I knew the storm was coming.

We packed up and left around 9:45am. We headed north on 395, still under clear skies. As we went further north, however, we started to see more clouds. We took the Kingsbury Grade over to South Lake Tahoe, where we stopped for lunch. It still wasn't snowing in South Lake Tahoe, yet.

After lunch, we started to take Highway 50 through the city. However, it soon got backed up. I was thinking there might be an accident or something ahead, so I made the mistake of cutting over to the Pioneer Trail. This is usually a good bet when coming into South Lake Tahoe from the Bay Area. But I think I forgot one important fact -- the intersection of Highway 50 and Pioneer Trail has a stoplight, and the left turn light from Pioneer Trail to Highway 50 is much shorter than the straightaway light for Highway 50. As a result, if there are any backups further up Highway 50 past the intersection, the Pioneer Trail will be much slower. And it was -- painfully so. After nearly an hour we got past the intersection.

I was sure there must be some sort of accident ahead, but I never did see any. As best I can tell, the slowdown was caused mainly by the chain control. Chains were now required, as best as I can tell since right around the time we had lunch. Even though I couldn't see any accidents, and the weather was not *that* bad, progress slowed to a snail's pace. We endured a total of about 2 1/2 hours of delays from South Lake Tahoe to Placerville.

I had originally considered that we might stop at the Echo Lakes Sno-Park for some sledding on the way back, but because of the delays, we didn't have time. Now I was beginning to worry about more traffic at the 50/80 intersection. I used the GPS to find a way to bypass it, taking some roads only a GPS or a local would know, to reach Highway 99 south.

We endured another 15 minutes of delay on Highway 99 due to an accident, but it was mostly clear sailing after that. Still, we ended up arriving back home at 7:40pm, nearly 10 hours after starting, and after about 9 hours 15 minutes of driving. That airplane flight from the Bay Area to Mammoth Lakes was starting to look like a better option. I'll have to consider it next time, but as I mentioned, there's a cost associated with it.

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