2012 Jeep Wrangler to Moab: Crossing the Sierra
April 01, 2012
The trip up and over the Sierra Nevada was a painless one in our 2012 Jeep Wrangler. Its new Penstar V6 makes good power, but our combination of 33-inch tires and 3.21 axle gearing does suck the life out of 6th gear. Cruising in 5th is a better option when the terrain tilts up very much or if the prevailing speed falls below 70 mph.
But interstate 80 isn't the only way to make it over Donner pass. The old road is still there. I doubled back for a look.
The old road is a tight and twisty two-lane good for no more than 35 mph. Today it's the primary access to two ski resorts. It's also a good route to take if you want to stop for great views of Donner Lake and stop at historical points that commemerate the unpleasantness suffered by the early settlers that gave this pass its name.
The notch in the upper left is Donner Pass as far as the old road is concerned. After a dozen breathtaking miles the old road rejoins the Interstate, where this happened ...
I was startled by the sharp sickening crack of a stone striking the windshield. It came from a passing Lexus CT200h, which isn't really fair because it came from the road itself. Tire chains are used extensively up here (for good reason) when it snows and the road surface gets chewed up. Also, the California road department is fond of spreading sand and pumice instead of salt.
That said, nobody needed chains on this day and the road surface looked clean and devoid of gravel. It's just one of those things.
Soon I was over the Sierra Nevada and crossing into Nevada proper, where there was a little turnout for dweebs like me that want to stop and take a commemorative picture.
Strangely, the leg from wine country through Sacramento and up and over a 7,200-foot pass yielded the best fuel economy so far: this tank was 19.0 mpg. The two tanks that got me from Orange County to wine country a couple days ago had been only 17.8 and 16.4 mpg. I'm guessing that was because my average speed was about 5 mph higher.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 12,263 miles