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Clearing the Tejon Pass

Tehachapi Mountains
Jan. 2, 2011

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We spotted the first snow flurries just past Castaic, at the beginning of the climb up the Grapevine. It would have been easy to turn around at Templin Highway and take 126 out to Ventura, have a longer but uneventful ride up 101. But Ellie talked us into it: "It'll be an adventure!" And so it was, as we climbed another 2000 feet and more up to the chilly Tejon Pass, where the snow was falling heavily and building up fast on the road.

If it can hold off just a few more minutes, I kept thinking. I can get over the pass and then we'll be descending.

But it was mild mayhem at the summit, with LA drivers sliding around in their BMWs and Mercedes -- cars that were made to be driven in snows worse than this, but not in the hands of these drivers. I crawled along in 2nd gear in the tire tracks of a 4-wheel drive truck a few yards ahead of me, thinking I think I can make it through this, so long as none of these other fools slide into me.

And luckily, none did. They must have closed the pass just a few minutes after we crested it, because there was no one behind or passing us on our long, slow, cautious descent down Grapevine to the San Joauquin Valley floor -- where a backup of cars several miles long confirmed the closure and spoke of a misery that we had just barely avoided.