Switchback Mountains, Well, What Now?

The drive to Wyoming was BEAUTIFUL! The grass, blue. The mountains, bluer. I could see snow atop them! I could see snow! In July! I was excited to get to the top and walk in snow with sandals and shorts knowing it was 98 degrees below. I think I said a lower temperature in the video, but later learned it was 98 degrees. …you’re the sunshine after the rain, you’re the cure against my fear and my pain, ’cause I’m losing my mind when you’re not around, it’s all, it’s all, it’s all because of you… ahem, flash back to the 90s, 98 Degrees song…whatever happened to them anyway?


We got off hwy 90 and onto 14 to get to Bighorn National Forest – where I was to spend the night. I didn’t know I was going to have to climb any mountains to get there; everything I read about Bighorn said it was at the foothills of the mountains. I guess they meant on the other side? According to the gauge (which is broken, by the way) I had a half tank of gas. We slowly ascended into the Switchback Mountains, winding, climbing, at 35mph in a two lane road with barely a shoulder. It was hot, there was no shade, and Thelma was feeling it. Passed one overlook, passed another, must climb more, but she’s losing power, then, nothing. I coasted as far over to a shoulder as I could before she stopped dead. Turned the key, she struggled to start, but started nonetheless, a few feet more, aaaaaaaand…..nothing. Dead. Thelma wouldn’t start again. Mid-mountain, steep hill, two lane road, coming up to a curve where cars couldn’t see oncoming cars. I didn’t know what to do! I was in a dangerous spot, it was so hot I could have cooked an egg on the van…actually, I had eggs, I should have, Izzy was looking lethargic, and I couldn’t get Thelma to budge. I just wanted her to start up enough so I could pull her around and coast back down the mountain. I didn’t understand what happened to cause her to do that. She didn’t overheat, I had gas, oil, she was doing fine.

I called AAA and asked for a tow. For a second time Thelma was to be towed to safety. While on the phone a Subaru pulled over and out popped a man and woman asking if I needed help. So many people had passed me, but they opted to stop and help. The man said he could go home, get his truck, and pull me off the mountain. I thought that was amazing! We were ten or more miles away from the nearest town and he was willing to delay wherever he was going to help me. In the end we decided I would just wait for the tow truck. It would take the same amount of time to get here, AAA was paying for it, and this guy didn’t have to delay his trip any further. He helped me get Thelma down to one of the overlooks and out of harms way and was off. He wouldn’t give me his name, but he was my greatest hero that day. He said, “That’s what we do in Wyoming!” and talked about all the vehicles he had pulled off the mountains.

An hour later a man named Adam from Ted’s Towing camp up with his flat bed. THAT even struggled up the mountain, but it at least made it. He was also very kind and I did whatever I could to help make lifting Thelma easier.

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He was nice about letting Izzy ride with and gave me peace of mind by giving me the name of these mountains, the Switchbacks, and explaining they were the third steepest, at a 10 grade, in the Rockies. Should have just stayed on I-90 and went to Billings instead. The mountain there is at a grade 6.

Now, keep in mind, it’s Sunday, which means there’s no auto shops open. It was nearing evening too. We stopped at Firestone, the only place open, and the man said, while he could have it worked on tomorrow, he didn’t feel comfortable doing it. In the end, after Adam had driven Izzy, Thelma, and I all over, in his truck with no A/C, we agreed to drop me off at the local RV park – Peter D’s – for the night. Adam said he would pick me up in the morning and bring me to a repair shop.



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