10/6 from Portland, Or to Lawton,Ok I'm ascared!
Furthest I've ever driven before is 600 miles...this is a daunting undertaking for me. Just me and my dog. I'm driving a Scion XA and am very nervous about taking on the Cascades and the Rockies in my little manual transmission car. What gear do I use for up and what gear do I use for down? I imagine me putt-ing along at 15 mph over both ranges with 500 enraged drivers behind me or my car exploding. lol. Also nervous that I might hit ice or snow in early oct. I'm not in a great hurry; I've considered taking I-5 to Riverside,Ca and making a left to avoid mountains but of course...there's no avoiding mtns. I just need to hear from people who've made the crossings who can tell me whether or not my car will make it OR to share a wonderful alternate route. Thank you so much for your time.
take a breath
Welcome to the RTA forum!
You really have nothing to worry about. Even the smallest car can easily handle crossing mountains on the interstate system, and having a manual transmission will actually help make the trip easier.
Your car will tell you what gear you need going up the hills. If you have your foot to the floor and you are loosing speed, then shift down a gear. Coming down the hills, stay in a lower gear so your engine can help with the breaking. You will probably have to use your brakes somewhat, but If you feel like you are riding your brakes down the mountain, then shift to a lower gear.
Going all the way down I-5 won't help you avoid mountains, in fact, it would probably be even worse than a more direct route. If I were you, and I really wanted to avoid mountains, then I would head down to Salt Lake City, pick up I-80 and take that to I-25 into Denver. From there you could take I-70 and I-35 into Oklahoma, or you could keep heading south, eventually cutting over to I-40 via some 2 lane roads.
thank you Michael
It is totally counter-intuitive to think that driving into Denver would help avoid mountains!
What about driving to Salt Lake City, to Albuquerque to Lawton,Ok? How does that compare to the route you suggested? I'm a woman traveling with a dog, albeit a big dog, none the less he can't change a tire.
Breathing in I relax; the universe is my friend
Breathing out I panic; the universe is a blood sucking zombie
Once I know what to expect I will be fine. lol
Just a tad longer
It might seem odd, but despite its elevation, you don't cross any major passes if you use I-80 and I-25 to get to Denver.
Taking I-25 down to New Mexico is very similar in terms of miles, if you cut down US-89 at Las Vegas, NM, as a shortcut to I-40. going all the way to Albq would add a whole lot of miles.
There are also a couple of other possible shortcuts that would take you on more of a diagonal from I-25 to I-40 through Northeast NM towards Amarillo, but US-89 spends the least time on 2 lane roads.
Of course, getting to Lawton from I-40 will also require you to spend some miles off the interstate. So it really will depend upon your comfort level. If you want to stick totally to the Interstates, then I would go through Kansas, if you feel comfortable enough to take some US highways, then I would take I-25 farther south.
Michael's right, as always
He's given you some great suggestions.
If you're worried about driving too slow and angering drivers behind you, you might consider staying on interstates because they will generally have at least 2-lanes. So you can stay in the slower right lane and people will be able to pass you just fine.
BTW, there is no pass over the Cascades that you need to worry about from Portland. If you do I-84, it's a very gradual incline with no steep passes until you get past Salt Lake City. I can only recall one spot along that drive where it's kinda windy and the elevation goes up rather steeply....I think this is right before the border into Idaho, IIRC...but it's really not bad and there's a rest stop at the top of the hill so if you're feeling a bit panicky after doing it, you can get out and stretch and relax for awhile (and enjoy the tremendous view from there).
But there's really never a need to panic. Your car might very well lose some oomph in the higher elevations due to thin air but just stay in the right lane for slow traffic and don't feel pressured to try to go any faster than you and your car are comfortable going. You won't be the only slower driver on these roads. Just hang with the slower herd and you'll be fine. And just be aware that it might loose its oomph so you don't depend on it being quick for sudden maneuvers. This isn't anything dangerous but it is something you should be aware of.
Oh, and if you're worried about your car breaking down and flat tires, etc., then there's really nothing better than joining some kind of road assistance club. I love AAA but there are other ones you might check out as well. Verizon even has one you can add for a few bucks/month on your phone service. But I don't know if it's as good as AAA. Get your car checked out by a mechanic you trust before you go. Get fluids and filters changed. Learn how to check your own oil, how to fill it if low, and what kind of oil you need. Have your tires checked and learn how to check them and fill them properly. And get your brakes checked before you go. If needed, get new brake pads. If your car passes muster for driving in Portland, I see no reason why it can't make this trip safely.
Last edited by PNW Judy; 09-03-2007 at 11:05 AM.
Reason: Added info about AAA/car maintenance
Thank you both so much!
You have addressed my concerns succinctly and I am very grateful.
I'll take the route you suggested Michael; I'm fine on hwy 40 for the last leg.
Judy: I do have a road service but I was concerned about being out in the middle of nowhere for hours waiting for them to get somebody to me.
You have no idea how much tension your posts have eliminated for me. Thank you!
Be prepared to wait
I'm glad we've helped make you feel more comfortable about your trip.
Originally Posted by veeg
The reality is that most road services do try to respond timely. However, how long it takes depends on numerous factors. And you might very well find yourself waiting for awhile depending on how far you are away and how busy the tow-truck drivers are. My daughter had to wait almost 3 hours once due to it being a busy weekend with a lot of tourist events going on bringing extra traffic to the other. And she was also about 70 miles from town. These long waits are rare but they can happen.
This is one good reason to always have some kind of basic supplies with you in your car. At the very least, I would suggest always carrying a working flashlight with extra batteries, water, snacks, reading material, and a blanket. An emergency reflective triangle is also a good idea just in case your car isn't fully off the road or on a hairpin turn or something. If it's dark, you will want drivers to be aware of where you are for safety reasons unless you're pulled fairly far off the road.
You might also check your emergency road service contract. I have AAA-plus because the towing is covered up to 100 miles, instead of the basic 5 miles.
However, I wouldn't worry about feeling like you're "out in the middle of nowhere". While you might be some distance from the closest town, the roads you are traveling on are fairly well-traveled.
To further sooth your nerves, remember that everywhere is somebody's hometown. Just use the same precautions on the road as you would at home and you'll be fine. Driving across country really isn't much different than driving down the Oregon Coast, up to Mt. Hood, through The Gorge, or up-and-down I-5.