Those of you who drove to Renovation last year from the Bay Area and central California via I-80 will recall that there was about a ten miles stretch of eastbound freeway where, instead of one two-lane road, there were two one-lane roads, as they split the lanes, putting big rigs and other larger slow-moving vehicles in the right lane and ordinary cars in the left, normally uphill lane. Well, in the past few weeks they've reversed this, as the westbound (downhill) traffic splits into two single lanes below Kingvale, rejoining around Yuba Gap. I didn't expect this to be as bad as the uphill slog.
This afternoon, I got away from Fernley around 12:30 or thereabouts, and was expecting a relatively easy trip. I was therefore completely surprised when, leaving Truckee and nearing the vista point, all three lanes of traffic came to a halt. And the traffic proceeded at a walking pace all the way to the top and down again, getting even worse as three lanes merged to two. This was the backup caused by the split-lane configuration. It amounts to something like twenty or thirty miles of stop-and-go traffic.
I decided to take a chance and bailed off at Kingvale to try my luck with old US-40. Although many other people had the same idea, the traffic moved along at a pace of around 45 MPH until just before the point where you can go no farther because old 40 disappears into a hillside and you must re-enter I-80.
After the two separated lanes became one again, things were not so awful, but it was still pretty crowded. When I stopped at Colfax for a break, I was unsteady on my feet and hated the thought of getting back out there and fighting traffic. The 120 miles between Fernley and Colfax had taken me more than four hours.
I finally got back to San Jose around 9:30 PM, taking more than 90 minutes longer than I usually do for the 300 miles between Fernley and my apartment near San Jose Airport. Had I known it was going to be that bad, I would have tried going through South Lake Tahoe and US-50. I don't know what conditions were like that way, but my nerves were shot by that 40 miles of slog over Donner as much as a trip in the snow usually does.
I report this as a service to my friends who will be going to Burning Man. You may want to consider alternative routes when you return westward after the Burn. Oh, and BTW, we'd invite you by for a visit, but we'll be on trains to and from Chicago at the time and skipping the road traffic.
Incidentally, Lisa and I went to Reno yesterday for a small amount of grocery shopping — not much needed since Lisa's heading down to San Jose in a few days before we take off for Worldcon next weekend — and had dinner at the Nugget and attended the Lightning Loot drawings. I didn't win, although I did know I was in the draw because I saw my name flash by at one point as they spun through the couple thousand people who were qualified for this month's prize draw.