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  1. Default New Hampshire to California

    We are in the middle, more or less, of our latest cross-country trip from Southern New Hampshire to the California coast near Monterey. As usual, we are in a hurry to get to see the grandchildren so the trip out there is as fast as practical. Typically, we get there on the fourth evening.

    This trip had the added challenge of getting out of the northeast before a major storm hit. Fortunately, there are a couple of invaluable tools available. First is weather radar. Second is reasonably new. has something called "Interstate Forecast" where you can get a forecast for select cities along an interstate.

    The weather radar on Thursday evening showed the storm covering a large part of the southern plains states expecting to move into New England by Saturday afternoon. My guess was that if we left on Friday morning and stayed in northern Ohio Friday night, we would skirt the northern edge of the storm on Saturday driving through Iowa and into Nebraska. That is just what happened. We had a clear and bright drive to just east of Toledo on Friday and mostly cloudy with some light snow showers on Saturday. Indeed, it was not until we hit sunny California that we had any real weather.

    Friday, 750 miles along I90 to I80 to Milan, Ohio. It was an easy drive; I kept the spedometer at 75 mph most of the way.

    Saturday, 800 miles to Lincoln, Nebraska. Although we had some snow showers, the driving was easy; 80 mph most of the way. We did see, however, the leftovers from the previous week's massive ice storm. We counted over 50 cars that were still left off the sides and in the median awaiting the tow trucks.

    Sunday, 850 miles to Park City, Utah. Again, 80 mph all the way - a clear and boring drive.

    Monday, 800 miles to the coast. Drive was OK until we started to go over the passes around Truckee. Caltrans had I-80 shut down to all but those with chains; 4 wheel drives with snow tires carrying chains were OK. I have
    an Acura MDX (aWD) with "suv" tires, not "snow" tires and a set of cable chains I bought for this trip. The Caltrans officer let me pass when I said it was 4 wheel drive. She did not even ask if I had chains; perhaps she guessed someone from NH would know how to drive in snow. At first, we did not understand why the "chains and 30 mph max" restrictions. The road had been treated with some sort of sand and salt solution leaving a slushy mix, but no ice; we noted that folks in NH would maybe slow down to 50 mph in that sort of stuff. It took only a few minutes to understand the precautions. Pickups and SUVs (with California plates) were passing us, merrily fishtailing along the way. We even saw cars with chains on their front wheels that had run off the road. These folks are clueless as to how to drive in light snow and are a danger to others. I can only guess how interesting it must be when there is ice or a few inches of snow there. If there had been no restrictions, I80 would have been littered with skid-offs.

    In summary, 12 hours / 800 miles a day is about all we can handle and still maintain civility. Along I80 and I90, if you run less than 10 mph over the speed limit you get ignored by the local police unless you are driving aggressively. Trucks pretty much floated along at 70-75, and we drove at 75-80.

    Weather patterns will dictate our return route. Most likely, the southern route (down to Oceanside for a couple of days, San Antonio a couple of days and Houston (NASA) for a day or so.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default sounds brutal

    That's an intense pace, and its exceptionally impressive that you can keep it up day after day without killing each other. One day like that usually isn't a problem, but multiple days is another story. By the time day 4 rolls around, wanting to kill other people would start to enter the mind - especially when dealing with drivers who become paralysed by a little bit of snow.

    Thanks for the report and enjoy your trip back east.

  3. Default And now the return trip

    This is the return part of our trip.

    We usually take a side trip or two (or more) to break up the drive, however a last minute problem (I got assigned to a Grand Jury) popped up so we had to take the shorter drive home.

    Driving Day 1 - Marina, California to Oceanside, California to visit friends a couple of days.
    Driving Day 2 - Oceanside, California to El Paso, Texas
    Driving Day 3 - El Paso Texas to Houston, Texas
    Driving Day 4 - Houston, Texas to Birmingham, Alabama
    Driving Day 5 - Birmingham, Alabama to Winchester, Virginia
    Driving Day 6 - Home to Amherst, New Hampshire.

    Day 1 was about 450 miles; after that each day was about 700-750 miles.

    As we did on the way out, we checked the weather radar and forecasts for the next few days to help in selecting our routes. We were considering just coming straight back along I-80. It would be the shortest route, however, the day before we were to leave the forecast was for 11' (as in eleven feet) of new snow in the Sierras. Chains or not, that is more than I wanted to drive through. :-)

    So, we headed south to visit friends and relatives in Oceanside, just north of San Diego. Somewhere east of Paso Robles on the way to I-5 we ran into a dust storm. Visibility was about 20'. Fortunately, it did not last long. A few hours later on I-5 we ran into a serious sandstorm; zero visibility. Traffic was creeping along; everybody seemed to be following the taillights of the vehicle just in front of them. This went on for about a mile. After that it was clear running - 85mph+ all the way to the Grapevine. As we crested the hills, we hit driving rain on the LA side. Characteristically, all cars with California plates continued along at 85mph+. Us nervous nellies dropped down to the low 60's. A couple of minutes later we came upon a dozen or so vehicles at a car/truck crash scene. Some folks still had not gotten out of their vehicles. Nobody hurt but the insurance companies.

    From previous encounters with the LA basin traffic, we knew that as you get over the hills, take I405 south through LA and on towards San Diego. It seems counter-intuitive to take the road through the city, but I-5 in the afternoon is stand-still gridlock. Get on I405 and into the HOV lanes and it is a reasonably fast drive south.

    Day 4. After a couple of days with good friends, nice food in Old Town San Diego and we were off again heading East on I-8 and I-10 to El Paso. We spent most of the day driving at 85mph with little traffic.

    Day 5. Clear running at 80mph+ most of the way to Houston. Wish I had known about the construction around Houston along I10. A detour would have been worth it during crush hour.

    Day 6 . Bright and balmy weather all the way along I10/I12/I59/I20 to Birmingham, Alabama. Average speed was down to around 75. That night, thunder storms and tornado warnings.

    Day 7. Another good driving day up I50/I75/I81 to Winchester, VA. I81 used to be a great road. Unfortunately, there are just too many trucks. I don't grumble too much because their rigs are not particularly nimble, but I wish they would NOT pull into the left lane half way up a hill unless they really can pass the truck in front of them. And Virginia must be looking to supplement its income taxes because I saw a lot of people get nabbed when it seemed they were only doing a tad over 70 in a 65 mph zone; Pennsylvania is just as bad. FWIW, I follow the guideline of going just a wee bit faster than the trucks. Never got more than a "flash of the headlights" warning from a tropper on the side with radar.

    Day 8 and last day. Now it is back to driving with the crazies. The interstates in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts are just not made for 70mph gridlock. Too many cars, too close, too fast - too many NASCAR wannabies.

    Some observations.
    Cruise control is better than Radar Detectors, and a lot cheaper.

    For the most part, we did not encounter any "loonies" on this trip. I only got cut off once by some jerk in an apparently modified Honda Prelude who was begging to be a road rage victim. Three rigs eventually boxxed him in. :-)

    Hampton Inns remain our first choice for best value, Drury (when you can find them) is a very close second.

    Definately need to find some way of getting a CB setup in the MDX. If someone has found a way to route the antenna cable without drilling holes, I would appreciate a note. There were a couple of accident and constructions tieups I might have been able to avoid if I had warning.

    Four lane highways (2 per side) are simply not wide enough.

    Whatever happened to "pass on the left, drive on the right"? Some states actually have to put up signs to remind drivers of what should be common courtesy.

    We continue to be amazed at how much open space there really is in the US once you get inland 100 miles or so from either coast. And yet, even on a Wyoming hillside in the middle of absolutely nowhere, people still put up 4 houses per acre. I don't get it.

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