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  1. Default Chicago to Portland in January

    My husband and I are moving to Portland, OR in January, from Chicago. We are not sure yet if we are hiring movers or driving a rental truck with our car hitched, but either way would like to make it a fun trip with some sights along the way. We are not sure if I-80 would be too wintery and snowy even in our little Honda Civic, but especially if we end up renting a truck. My husband is an inexperienced driver, which complicates things. I've never driven cross-country before. Is I-70 a better option? Is either option even feasible with a 15-foot truck, especially with an inexperienced driver? We'd like to end the trip by driving up the California coast, but that's really our only idea so far. Thanks!!!!

    ETA: We'd like to make it in maybe...4/5 days but could take longer, and we can camp along the way if it's not too cold, but honestly, we'll probably stay in cheap motels when possible. Also...I have always wanted to see Yellowstone. Is it just too cold/snowy that time of year???
    Last edited by kkelly; 09-04-2006 at 07:52 PM. Reason: adding

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Some Things to Think About

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America forums.

    A 15 foot truck doesn't drive all that differently from a large SUV or full-sized van. Towing a car will add a significant complication, but even so, this shouldn't be too bad. Take some time to drive it around before you load it all up to get used to it, and take it easy on the road and you should be fine.

    I-80 to Salt Lake City, and then I-86/I-84 to Portland is the most direct route. Choosing a different set of roads will not really change your chances of seeing inclement weather. Your best bet is to just keep an eye on the weather and plan to sit it out for a couple days if you need to in order to avoid snow, sleet, or anything else that makes you nervous. That means you'll have to accept the fact that this trip may take more than 4-5 days, which can only be made if everything goes right.

    The California coast really is not anywhere near where you want to go, and I wouldn't be going on long detours while driving a heavily loaded, gas-guzzling truck. I-80/I86/I-84 is a fairly scenic route, but moving is work and doesn't lend itself to leaving the road for sight-seeing. Unfortunately, Yellowstone will be essentially snowed in with only a few roads open to allow snowmobile access. I don't think any through roads are open that deep in winter.

    AZBuck

  3. Default

    Those are some good points, thank you! If we do end up renting the truck, we'll most likely try to take the most direct (safe) route possible. I hadn't really thought of the gas, which is a huge deal with gas prices so high. If 80 is not likely to be difficult, that's what we'll do and just scrap the plan to make it more scenic. If, however, we use movers and just drive my Civic, we are fine with it taking longer if it makes it a nicer drive and we get to see more things. We wouldn't mind going a little out of the way either. We wouldn't want to do the whole CA coast, maybe just San Francisco up or something?
    Last edited by kkelly; 09-05-2006 at 07:50 AM. Reason: delete parts

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula
    Posts
    3,318

    Default But I-80 IS scenic!

    I would recommend not bothering with San Francisco and the Pacific Coast now. Why? Because if you're going to be living here, you will have ample opportunity to visit the coast in the future. San Francisco is only a long day's drive from Portland. The beautiful Oregon coast is only just over an hour away. Again, you will have plenty of time on regular weekends, long weekends, and potential vacations in the future to fully explore these areas. I really think you should save them for later.

    However, you may not ever get another chance to explore I-80. Why would you think it's not scenic? Yes, you will be traveling through miles of prairie and farmland. I find this beautiful. And you will never see bigger skies.

    When I did my first trip through the southwest desert areas, I was with a group of people. Some of them said how boring it was. I pointed out how every few miles the rock changes. From red and round, to brown and sharp, to red and sharp, to something else. And the plant life was ever-changing as well. While they were bored, I was endlessly fascinated. A few of them realized, after I pointed it out to them, that the scenery was indeed changing and started noticing these changes themselves. And they enjoyed the scenery much more after realizing this.

    You will see similar changes on I-80.

    And, after leaving the Plains States, you will be climbing into the beautiful Rockies. Wyoming has a grandeur all its own. Utah is a contrast of stark, wind-scrubbed land against green mountains with lots of red rock. And so on.

    Each area has its unique beauty. I haven't travelled this route enough to be able to give you a lot of quick ideas for things to see/do along the way, but I can tell you that it will not be an UN-scenic drive.

    So, my advice, is to spend whatever extra time you have on your main route across the country, enjoy the changing scenery, the differing architecture and lay-out of towns from one place to another, the way the sky and clouds change around you, the cultural differences to be observed in the way people dress, the vehicles they drive, the food that seems the most popular, etc. and more. If you travel this route with an mind open to all the wonders it holds, you will not find it boring or UN-scenic. I promise you. Most of us here have never been bored in new areas and on new roads.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default One Scenic Partial Alternative

    Even if you have the pros do your moving and you drive cross country in your Civic, 4 or 5 days is still pretty close to the minimum required to make the trip from Chicago to Portland. It is over 2000 miles after all. I agree with Judy that I-80 is scenic, pretty much all the Interstates through the Rockies are. I will offer one slight detour that might help break up the Plains section, however, Start out by heading northwest on I-90 through WI, MN, and SD. Enjoy the forests and rivers as you traverse the upper Mississippi valley and take the time to drive through and explore Badlands National Park. Then strike out from Rapid City using US-16, US-85 and US-18 to I-25 which will put you back on I-80 at Cheyenne, WY. Judy is also right that this trip is probably not the best time to be trying to do the coast highway. That would add a couple of days to your journey, and do it at the end when you're more apt to be tired of driving. Save it for a relaxing weekend jaunt from your new home.

    AZBuck

  6. Default Even more good points!

    Thanks both of you for the advice. I'm not sure why I have some perhaps weird misperceptions of I-80, I just remember hearing that it's "boring". But, I will take your word for it over whatever source I heard that from before, especially since I can't even remember what the source was. I think your advice is excellent. We sort of latched on to it, because I've always wanted to see the Redwoods. But, that's actually part of why we are moving, because we just like the geography of that area more, and I totally expect to be travelling down there as soon as it's practical. Whereas, God willing, I'll never drive from Portland to Chicago so this may be my last chance to have a long Prairie drive. I'm not actually a fan of prairie, I just enjoy mountains more, that may be from growing up in the mountains. But it might be a nice way to say a fond farewell to the Midwest. As well as remind me why I'm leaving! Going north still makes me nervous because of snow etc, but much less so if we do it in my car not the truck. I've had lots of snow driving experience here in Chicago. I would really like to do the Badlands portion though, that's one of the places I'd really like to see. I'll definitely take your advice into consideration. Now if we could just figure out how to find some non-sketchy movers!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula
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    3,318

    Default Then see the Badlands!

    Really! I-90 would make a perfectly good route. It's only about 60 miles farther than going on I-80. I think you will be pressed for time and only be able to do a quick look-see at the Badlands but I see no reason why you couldn't squeeze it in. You will be in a rush no matter which way you go so you might as well see the things you want to see. Both routes could be clear and free without snow or ice the whole way. Or both routes could cause you delays if a sudden storm arises during your trip. Interstates get cleared fairly quickly most of the time so, in my opinion, having road problems are a wash and could happen either way.....or not.

    During that time of year, it would be a good idea to keep a watch on the weather news and to visit the DOT websites for each state you're driving through for their road conditions information numbers. Many states use 511, but not all do, so you might want to have that information handy.

    I-90 is a beautiful drive. You will still some some plains but you will probably see a bit more variety of landscapes. And Montana is awesome. You will miss the impressive views of the Rockies from the plains like you would see on I-80, however. Everything is a trade-off but both routes should be a great experience. So go on the route that takes you past the things you really want to see the most. That's what I'd do anyway.

  8. Default Update!

    Hi, I am back! You guys were so great with the advice before, but my plans have changed! So, I got offered a job and they needed me to start ASAP, so I bumped my roadtrip up, I am leaving this Saturday, 10/14. I decided to do 90, with the loop through the Badlands, then Yellowstone, then 84. I was feeling pretty comfortable with the whole trip, really excited in fact, and now there is this cold front and snow coming in. Should I be concerned with any of the mountain passes along the way? I really, really don't want to deal with chains, I've never used them before and I'll be alone, so I just would like to avoid them. Would it be better to just not leave 90 and skip Yellowstone? My plan was to stay in Cody, but I guess I could push it back to Sheridan and stay there, and see how the weather is the next day, it just gives me less time in Yellowstone if I do get to go. I know it's hard to know a week in advance, I'm just an obsessive planner so I like to have everything pretty well thought out in advance. Anyway, thanks!!!!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default Yellowstone is partly closed

    Quote Originally Posted by kkelly View Post
    Hi, I am back! You guys were so great with the advice before, but my plans have changed!
    The weather has changed too! One our our members is holed up in Cody now waiting for the weather to lift so they can go see part of Yellowstone. That last storm dropped two feet of snow and closed several of the park roads.
    Should I be concerned with any of the mountain passes along the way? I really, really don't want to deal with chains, I've never used them before and I'll be alone, so I just would like to avoid them. Would it be better to just not leave 90 and skip Yellowstone?
    Given this week's storms and the outlook for more and your reluctance to deal with snowy roads, I would say... Maybe. Here is the 10-day outlook It looks like a good chance for rain and snow showers over the next 10 days (but not very heavy snowfall)

    The other member's (Julia) posts about Yellowstone is here.

    Mark

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