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  1. Default road trip in January

    I am planning on driving from Pleasanton CA, to Milford CT in January. I have a bit of a time concern (5 days max) and am driving with a friend so we can switch on and off.
    The route all the maps are taking us is I-80 E, but I am concerned with going this far north in January.
    Does anyone have any other routes that would be better? We were thinking of lowering the route to Texas area. Any advice would be great.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default There Are Only So Many Ways to Skin a Cat

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Generally, the best winter route is the shortest one. Any trans-continental highway is going to be subject to snow and sleet during January, and making your trip longer just means you're giving the weather more time to turn against you. I-80 is clearly the shortest route, but even at that you have barely left enough time to drive the 3000 miles you have ahead of you. Heading down through Texas adds nearly 500 more miles and another full day of driving, a day you don't have. You would be trading the chance of hitting bad weather for the absolute certainty of hitting a wall of sleep deprivation somewhere on your trip. When you say that you only have 5 days for this trip you have to realize that making it in that time frame may simply be impossible, especially if the weather turns against you. What is your plan then?

    Last edited by AZBuck; 11-22-2008 at 09:48 PM.

  3. Default

    thanks so much for the advice. so you think i should still take the shortest route even though it will be in the middle of winter and its the more northern route?
    I will consider this. thanks again

  4. #4

    Default That's correct, the shortest route

    Hello ro,

    Road Tripping history is rife with stories of everything from ice storms to blizzards along I-40 in AZ, NM, and TX. Shoot, throw OK and AR and every state I-40 traverses in there for good measure. Simply stated, going that way is no guarantee of better winter weather. There is a lot of territory with fairly high elevations along I-40, and a couple or three thousand feet gets you weather similar to that found at sea level around 1,000 miles farther north.

    There's really no other way to say it politely: You're allowing barely enough time for the trip to begin with. If you do encounter bad weather, you'll be delayed by either the weather itself or resulting traffic snafus. Your only real option is the shortest route, and it's just as possible to find bad weather in January in TX as it is in WY or NE.


  5. Default

    Odds are, if you hit weather one place, you'll hit it elsewhere.

    I-80 may be the shortest route, but just be prepared.

    Donners Pass (Sacramento to the state line) is unbelievably beautiful, and they do enforce a chain law regularly in the winter if there's snow.

    Northern Nevada has many small mountain passes and many stretches of sheer nothingness from Reno to Winnemucca, to Battle Mountain, to Wells, to Elko, to Wendover. Be prepared. Food, blankets, water, etc. If the weather gets bad, fill up every 100 miles (if you insist on going on). That way, if you do have to stop and can't get a hotel or are nowhere near one, you can let your car run and not fearing running out of gas.

    The Great Salt Lake Desert is from the state line to Tooele (near Salt Lake City). If there's high winds, whether there's snow or not, you may want to take a break in Wendover at a casino or hotel. There's blinding snow or salt storms year round. It's a 60-mile stretch or so with nothing but a straight road.

    Next is Parleys east of Salt Lake City. It's a 10+ mile mountain to climb up to Park City. It's windy, but not too bad. If it's icy or snowy, an easy alternate is to take I-15 north to Ogden and get on I-84 east. That bypasses Parleys. No matter which way you go, I-84 or I-80, you'll go through a tight canyon with very sharp hairpin curves. They're inevitable. If it's slick. Drive slow.

    The drive up to Evanston from there is relatively easy. Some hills, some curves, but not too bad.

    If you've never been through Wyoming, the overriding issue is wind. Anywhere from Evanston to Pine Bluffs can be windy and cause the road to close. So, again, be prepared.

    East of Evanston you have 'the sisters'. Two long hills and one that has the feel of a 6-mile long roller coaster (straight down and straight up). Watch out if it's cold, evena slight bit of moisture can make this dangerous. Even if you keep traction, other cars, or trucks, may not so keep your head on swivel and try not to hog the fast lane if there's a vehicle who loses traction and simply 'lets it fly' down the straight-away.

    After that, there's Lyman and then Little America (exit 69). All it is is a truck stop, gas station, convenience store, restaurant, hotel, and post office in the middle of nowhere.

    It's relatively non-descript until Green River (around mm89). There's a small tunnel, and the hill can get icy climbing up it. After that is Rock Springs around mm90 or so until you reach Point of Rocks at mm130.

    After here, the next stop is Wamsutter mm173. Relatively flat, no curves, nothing. Then Rawlins is between 200-215. A Sinclair refinery is at mm221, and if Elk Mountain closes due to weather, this is where you'll be sleeping at.

    From Rawlins (215) to Laramie (309) there is nothing, really, except a rest area at 267 (Wagonhound Road). You go right past Elk Mountain (11000+ feet), and do a lot of climbing and dropping, with lots of curves. This is where most of the major or fatal accidents in Wyoming take place. If the weather looks bad, make sure you drive this in the middle of the day and keep your distance from cars infront of you. Last thing you want is to have to hit your breaks and realize you have no traction but the car infront of you does.

    East of Laramie is Sherman Hill/Happy Jack Summit. The biggest issue here is wind. Going east, you climb. It's the westbound side that usually gets closed due to ice.

    Once atop Sherman, it's a stead downhill through Cheyenne (259~), and Pine Bluffs. Not much stops the wind out here, so it can get a little dicey if there's really strong gusts. Even Nebraska all the way to Big Springs (I-80/I-76 interchange) at mm102 is downhill.

    Once you hit Big Springs, you're back is relative 'urban' areas of the midwest. Towns every ten-fifteen miles or so.

    Iowa is notorious for ice storms. The weather gets warm enough to melt the snow in the day, but it then freezes at night. Sometimes, it'll freeze midday.

    Southside of Chicago through the first bit of Indiana may have lake-effect snow. As well as from Toledo all the way to Cleveland. If you're watching the weather, keep an eye on the jet stream. If it comes straight south over the lakes, you're going to get dumped on with snow.

    Pennsylvania has some hills, and does get snow in the Poconos. Nothing like out west, but still.

    If you hit New York City middle of the day or at night, go straight through the city. It's an $8 toll to cross the George Washington, but worth it. If you wind up near rush hour, take the loop around the north.

    I know that was long winded, but I've driven it many times.

    Wyoming is a bear in the winter. They close the highway regularly due to accidents (caused by weather), and Elk Mountain is especially dangerous. They've recently installed new speed limits for that stretch, it's now 65 for everyone there, rather than 75 to try and curb the idiots from chancing an accident.

    Big thing, also, if you don't have a CB, is just keep an eye on big trucks. In bad weather, they know what's going on up ahead because they relay info back and forth. If you suddenly stop seeing the regular flow of traffic in the opposite direction, assume an accident or really bad roads that can very easily affect your side. if you have the internet or a smart phone, go to and search for the Southeast and Southwest Districts and keep an eye on the road conditions and road closures. If the road's closed, don't drive all the way up to the exit with the gates down. There will be no parking and will be a madhouse.

    Or, call 511 while you're driving. But remember, there's many stretches in Wyoming where cell service is terrible, and places where it's extremely interrmittent.

    Big thing is, know where you're going, keep an eye on the road conditions and weather in front of you, and don't rush it through the mountain states. You'll make it through fine.


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