AutoMatters & More: My harrowing drive to and from the 2023 Consumer Electronics Show

Consumer Electronics Show (CES) logo
(Jan Wagner)

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas has never disappointed me, presenting an incredible variety of the newest, state-of-the-art products and technology. This year’s show was no exception — even including some auto racing: a follow-up round of the Indy Autonomous Challenge at Las Vegas Motor Speedway!

I returned home a little past midnight last night, with suitcases full of material to share with you in the weeks and months ahead but, since today’s column is due shortly after noon, in today’s column I’ll share with you a story from the road — about my harrowing drive to and from Las Vegas.

I always drive to Las Vegas. It is very helpful to have a car there, to drive back and forth to the various CES venues. I have stayed at the Excalibur Resort for several years. It is comfortable, convenient and even has free EV charging for my RAV4 Prime! I did all of my driving in Las Vegas on that free electricity.

Las Vegas gift shop sign
(Jan Wagner)

I left for Las Vegas a week ago yesterday (Monday). I’d planned to leave early in the day but, as is usually the case, I was busy working on my column and ended up leaving very late — about 7 p.m. That was very unfortunate.

By the time that I left San Diego it had begun to rain, which fell intermittently throughout my drive to where I stopped to take a short nap at a rest stop on the California side of the I-15 highway, a few miles from the Nevada border. It turned out that my having done so was very fortunate.

When I returned to the highway, to complete my drive to Las Vegas, almost immediately I encountered a terrifying, white-out blizzard. It was very late at night, and the rain that I had been driving through earlier had turned to a very wet, very heavy snowfall. It quickly turned into whiteout conditions, falling so heavily that the highway markings (the reflective Bots dots included) were completely covered-over with fresh-fallen, deep snow, and visibility ahead was almost non-existent.

Excalibur Resort
(Jan Wagner)

Decades ago, I grew up in Alberta, Canada, so I was no stranger to driving in snow — albeit of the much colder, drier variety. Little did I know when I left balmy San Diego on Monday evening that I would need to draw upon that experience on my drive to Las Vegas, but that I did. My life, and the lives of the drivers around me, depended upon that.

First, I slowed way down to about 30 mph. Like the other drivers, I turned on my vehicle’s four-way flashers, so that I could be seen — in case someone was foolish enough to come barreling along too fast and not see that I was there.

Since I could not see the road, I decided to follow another vehicle’s taillights. I slotted in behind a tall vehicle (a motorhome, I think), with lots of rear lights. As I followed him, I began to feel vibrations, as if I were driving on a progressively rougher road. Fearful that the motorhome may have been heading off of the road, I pulled in behind a Target semitrailer truck. He (or she) had even brighter taillights, and seemed to know where he was going. Eventually we emerged safely from the snow.

Indy Autonomous Challenge at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Indy Autonomous Challenge at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
(Jan Wagner)

Unfortunately, my return trip a week and a day later was not much better. I had checked out of my hotel at 1 p.m., but I chose to use the afternoon and early evening to shop and take photos on the Las Vegas Strip. By the time I’d had something to eat and was ready to drive home to San Diego, it was again after 7 p.m. Once again it was raining. Unfortunately it progressed from a light rain to one so heavy that again I could barely see. At least in the rain I was still sort of able to see the lane markings in the road. Once again I, like most of the other drivers, turned on the four-way flashers and managed to make it safely through the deluge, returning home after midnight last night.

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Copyright © 2023 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters & More #774