The section of Interstate 80 that runs through Wyoming has been closed 56 times since Oct. 1 due to inclement weather. Winter driving in our state is treacherous to say the least.

“What is the worst thing that has happened to you on Wyoming roads during the winter months?” That’s the question I asked several folks who have lived a lot of years here. It seems like everyone has a story to tell.

Terry Roice had to travel over Togwotee Pass a number of times during blizzards. The snowflakes seemed as big as 50 cent pieces. The headlights reflected off those buggers and made visibility tough. The only reason he wasn’t in a head-on collision was that most folks had better sense than to be storm tripping that pass.

Once, heading home on very slick roads just past Bondurant, Terry stopped to glass some elk on a ridge. When he got out of the car and shut the door the force made the vehicle slide off the road.

Worst of all was driving on Highway 30 (now I-80) going to and from the University of Wyoming in Laramie. The big 18-wheelers stirred up so much snow and wind power that staying on the road was mostly luck.

The most miserable night Terry ever had was due to slick road conditions on the Rim. The basketball bus slid off the road on the first curve going down. Th team spent the night on that bus in 30-below weather, and buses in those days had poor heaters. Terry remembers being in a bus caught between two snow avalanches as well. After living in Jackson all of his life he and his wife, Judi, have moved to a warmer climate. Can’t really blame them.

Happy Chambers Weston, a lifelong resident of the valley, remembers a time in the spring of 1969 when a friend had to go to Star Valley and asked her to go along in a fast-back Mustang. As they drove down the Snake River canyon in a mild rainstorm, they could see rocks tumble off the mountains onto the road. They dodged many good-size ones. Suddenly they could see a hail of rocks coming down as if thrown, and one about the size of a medium mixing bowl crashed through the windshield, landing on the gear shift between them. She managed to pull off the side of the road, and the truck right behind them stopped. Thank goodness they were not hurt, just scared and covered in glass. The truck driver took them to Alpine, where they called for help.

When Keith Gingery served in the Wyoming Legislature, he came home every weekend. He drove to Jackson from Cheyenne on Friday nights and returned to Cheyenne on Sunday nights. One of the worst drives involved a complete whiteout near Rawlins. He traveled 20 miles with zero visibility and did it by driving on the rumble strips and listening to the noise they made.

On another occasion Keith got to Rock Springs and realized he had his wife’s car keys in his pocket, so he had to drive all the way back to Jackson and then turn around and head to Cheyenne. He made it to Cheyenne just in time to chair the Judiciary Committee at 8 a.m.

John Ryan remembers going snowmobiling at Goosewing Ranch, up in the Gros Ventre, with his parents, John and Marge Ryan, Barbara and Bob Shervin and their kids and Charlie and Dotty Hodges. They left the ranch one night in a blizzard. When they reached their vehicles at Kelly Hot Springs, it was midnight and their vehicles were buried under the snow.

The snowmobilers continued on. When they arrived at the main highway, a highway patrolman picked up Barbara and the kids and drove them home. The others tried to snowmobile home using the side of the highway as their track. Some of the machines ran out of gas, so the riders left them and doubled up with their companions. It was a night to remember.

Earth Day early days

In March 1970 students in Environmental Action for Survival organized a four-day Teach-In on the environment at the University of Michigan. That was the precursor of the national Earth Day demonstration that drew 20 million participants on April 22, 1970.

Elizabeth Kingwill, a Jackson Hole resident since 1980, has been invited to attend the 50th anniversary celebration this week of the ENACT Teach-In in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Elizabeth was on the steering committee that put it all together. She was the only woman on the committee. It was the first and largest Earth Day event, with over 50,000 attending. It is often noted as the birth of the modern environmental movement.

In addition, Elizabeth helped establish the Ecology Center and did a yearlong practicum developing an environmental education program for girls and leaders for the Girl Scouts of Metropolitan Detroit in 1971. Thousands of women and girls were involved.

Elizabeth has been in private practice as a counselor in Jackson for 30 years. She said creating the Ecology Center as a nonprofit inspired a lifetime of working for and running nonprofits in Colorado and Wyoming.

Connie Owen wholeheartedly believes your stories are the heart of this column, and would love to hear yours. Call or email her at 734-9512 or connie_owen@msn.com.

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