Saturday, November 05, 2022

Tire chains? On the trailer?

Parked on the California coast listening to the surf,watching the pelicans, and enjoying the sun was nice, for almost a week.


Our second spot was just as good as the first spot we stopped for three nights.

IMG_9888IMG_9889But the weather was changing and a storm front was coming through – and got to us early one morning – had the rig rocking pretty good.  It calmed down before we headed down into Fort Bragg.



From Fort Bragg, we headed inland on highway 20, and took it almost over to the I-5.  We stopped early for the night at a nice little BLM camp spot – Cowboy Camp.  It is set up as a horse staging area.  Lots of gopher holes in the area, so Hailey had a good time watching for them to poke their heads out, and I spotted a couple of elk napping high on a grassy slope above the camp.


For a change of route and scenery, we took highway 16 down towards Woodland.


There was a long road construction delay, but who’s in a hurry anyway, with the morning coffee in hand.  At least we were at the front of a long line so we could see what was going on.


After a short run down I-5, and scooting non-stop through Sacramento, highway 50 took us straight for the high country of the Sierras.  That’s when things started to get interesting!  We had been feeling smug about getting out of Alberta before seeing a single snowflake …


Then, the snow started to fall, and build up on the road shoulders, and the ‘chain-up’ signs were flashing.  Signs said that 4WD vehicles with snow tires were OK, so there was no worry, right?  WRONG!


Soon, we encountered lines of vehicles stopped on the shoulder of the road installing tire chains.  We cruised on by – till we got to the Cal-Trans guys at the head of the line.  Much to my surprise, they said we could not continue without chains – on the trailer!!  Well that’s a first for me!.

But, as the fellow explained; if you are on a downgrade on ice and your trailer brakes come on – the trailer could easily try to pass you, without some enhanced traction of it’s own?

We had to pull a U-turn and head back down the road a ways to consider this development.  There were teams of free-lancers on the road offering to install chains for $40, or remove them for $20.  Looked like they were making good money!  And a small business where we stopped actually had a drive-through chain sales and installation shop.  They were overwhelmed, and doing a brisk business!

(Too bad I didn’t bring the unused chains I had at home for some long-gone vehicle.  I could have sold them for a good profit?)IMG_9925

It was too far back to realistically consider another route, and I didn’t really want to pay $150 or so for a set of chains I was guaranteed to never use again, so I wondered about just ‘camping’ in a pull-off somewhere till things improved – though the Cal-Trans guys said it was just going to get worse.  Yay.  After a half hour or so of contemplation (procrastination) I thought I’d try and run the road block again, hoping for a different result!  Well, it was not to be, and they turned me around again. Winking smile  Dang it!  But this time, I just parked up against a snowbank, determined to wait them out, or even stay the night.  I got to work, researching the Cal Trans policies on chains, and loading their radio frequencies in my scanner, so I could stay up to date on what they were doing.  I learned the short-hand lingo they use, and almost immediately heard that the road was upgraded to R-2, meaning that chains were no longer required!  Sure enough the Cal Trans guys were closing up shop as I made a quick U-turn and headed up the 7400’ Echo summit!


There was some packed snow and ice on the road – just enough to give my formerly clean truck and trailer a nice coating of road dirt.

But before long I was down to for a nice view of Lake Tahoe.


Eventually we made it down the huge 2300’ drop on the Kingsbury grade, taking us down into Nevada, and some thankfully cheaper fuel.  Filled up at $4.88 for diesel, and then started our run down 395, and back into California.  In Bridgeport, where prices are always extreme …


We stopped at our usual spot at Travertine hot springs for the night, and had one relaxing soak in the morning, but with a skiff of fresh snow, and temperatures that didn’t even get above freezing during the day, we didn’t stay.


Back on 395 in the morning, we were scared to see another chain-up sign for the 8300’ passes ahead.  But this time, there was only a snowplow truck parked on the shoulder and the road was only wet.  Diesel was going for $7.79 at one station in Lee Vining!


Elevation keeps dropping the further south you go, so the snow was gone before reaching Bishop, and there was none in the Alabama Hills above Lone Pine.  We stopped here at least for the night, but with a stiff breeze blowing, we may not stay long.


Where to next?  We don’t know either, so stay tuned to find out!




  1. What an interesting start to your winter adventure. I hope you find some warmer places soon. Safe travels.


  2. I had never heard of change on a trailer either but I guess it does make sense if you think about the downgrade and trailer brakes. Great job stalking the chain crew and hitting the road as soon as they pulled out!

  3. Trailer chains have been required in California and Oregon for some time. You're doing a good job finding the BLM camp sites.

  4. I live in southwest Ohio. I paid $3 a gallon in Lee Vining after coming down the Tioga Pass in 2002. I remember I walked into the station and gave them $100. with no change coming back to me. It was the highest price per gallon I had ever paid for gas. A bargain today!

    1. I had a similar experience, about the same time at Shosone, just outside of Death Valley. Gas was selling for $2.25 I think, and I remember thinking what a rip-off that price was!

    2. In 1970, a F111 from Edwards AFB went down outside of Shosone . I was stationed there as Security Police. We were dispatched to Shosone by helicopter to secure the crash site. (There was nothing left of the plane and both pilots were killed when the cockpit failed to eject properly.) We spent the night in sleeping bags on a hillside under a rock eating our box lunches. Gosh, I haven't thought of that place in decades. There wasn't much of a town then, but we altered off and on staying at a old hotel over a couple of days.

    3. A google Streetview image from 2012 shows the diesel price in Shosone at $5.44 Glad I got to remind you of that area.

  5. Anonymous12:10 pm

    Always enjoy reading about your adventures, travel safe.
    ps:- it’s snowing pretty good in southern Alberta right now.

  6. I had never heard about chains on trailers either but then again I'm a flat lander living in southern Ontario where we don't got no real mountains or even steep grades. When you mentioned the Alabama Hills that sure tugged at my heart strings. It's not easy sitting here reading about all you fine folks out there traveling and especially seeing the great pictures you all take. Seeing pictures of the Saguaros makes me just want to whip up a sack full of peanut butter sandwiches, jump into Scooter, and head on down there with the rest of all you lucky buzzards.. .

    1. It's all still here, just waiting for you to show up and enjoy!

  7. Some day I'd like to visit Alabama Hills. With the cooler weather it looked as if you didn't have to deal with crowds.
    Have Fun!

    1. BLM has of necessity closed off quite a few areas along Movie road to reduce the impacts and waste problems. Unfortunately, that has made it more difficult for larger rigs to find a spot. I avoid that area now, though it's very stunning, because of the washboard, dust, and lack of areas to turn around. Instead, I find more isolated spots to enjoy nearby.