By Robyn N. Paulekas, WyoFile reader

In the days before Christmas, my husband and I packed up our car and began the drive from our house in Laramie to my in-laws in Powell. The roads were reasonably good, but we knew they would change as we approach the well-known and much-feared section of I-80 near Elk Mountain.

It was a typical windy winter day with snow, ice and semis making the otherwise manageable roads into the classic driving challenge that many Wyoming residents and many visitors are all too familiar with.  As we slowly weaved in an out of the semis pulled off on either side, we noticed an SUV with Colorado plates in front of us cruising along steadily with that surprising amount of confidence that you often only find on snow-tire-equipped SUVs.  The black rocket-box mounted on top of their car, however, did not have the same confidence. With every gust of wind, it wobbled and swayed, looking as if the plastic construction was not up to the Wyoming challenge.

Suddenly, one horrific gust pushed all the cars and several semis around, but they quickly regained traction. The black plastic box flung open, tearing the top off and revealing an entire family’s well-wrapped Christmas presents.  The presents sat there, neatly decorated with bows and tags attached, looking like a lovely bounty perched atop the vehicle for approximately 2 seconds. But a second gust of wind picked up every single present and flung them across the highway, most ending up plastered to a 12-foot high elk fence that lined the north side of the highway. In their short distance from road to fence, many lost their wrappings.

I envisioned that for the next few days, every child who rode by would wonder wide-eyed if Santa had tried to fly around Elk Mountain, and was that their Tickle Me Elmo strewn across the fence? The vehicle drove on, oblivious to the loss as they continued their white-knuckled journey to safer ground.

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  1. That section of road introduces forces to driving that many people have never seen. Even when the sun is shining I-80 is basically an ice sheet getting bombarded by a hurricane. Not surprising that rocket boxes can’t handle it. Many safe travels to you, my friend!

  2. Robin, what a beautifully written perfect anecdote. I can easily picture the gift festooned elk fence. I hope this will encourage others to share their stories about our amazing central artery…and our most dangerous passage.