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  1. Default Winter Road Trip Dillema, advice needed


    Serious Roadtrip Dilemma

    I am a major roadtrip enthusiast and possibly have a chance to fulfill somewhat of a lifetime dream, to complete all 48 continental states that I have not yet been to. (19 states, most out west and a few in the south) But the option to do this would be sometime during this upcoming February and March

    My route would take me from NJ through the Smokies (TN) to Alabama, and Texas and then of course to the area where the 4 states meet ( CO, NM, UT and AZ) Then head for Yosemite and up CA to Seattle, and return back to NJ Via Montana and Wyoming the Dakotas and Minnesota Wisconsin and I-80 (I can be more specific if anyone is interested).

    The dilemma is this, I have the time and opportunity and just enough money to do it now (bare bones style). If I don't do it now I won't have another chance for at least 3 years if that works out (It would be in May and June)

    I have driven in Northeast snow, but I never even knew there were places such as in CA and above that require snow chains. I really want to do this trip but is it worth it, will it be a huge pain getting out all the time and putting on snow chains or would that not be so likely, will I be so freezing in the Parks that it will spoil the fun? is it Dangerous will I get stuck all the time?

    I keep reading about being prepared for a road trip that you may get stuck for 8 hours but if my trip is a month - two months and such a long distance is it simply too much of an undertaking? Will it ruin my fun, will a billion roads be closed or require me changing to snow chains in the freezing cold every few days? Is it dangerous?

    Any advice and thoughts would be much appreciated!


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Go for it.

    Follow your dream !

    Welcome to the R.T.A forums.

    The weather being predictably unpredictable makes it impossible to forecast that far ahead, but just about anywhere can be subject to a winter storm. However all the places you are visiting have people living there who have to travel daily in there everyday lives.
    The main Interstates are top priority to keep the country "moving" and are less likely to see disruption as a mountain pass for instance.
    If your main goal is to visit each State you have mentioned [mainly Interstate travel] then you should be fine but you could come across localised problems if you want to go off the beaten path. This is where you would be more likely to need snow chains, and some places may even be inaccessible [like the Tioga pass [HWY120]in Yosemite. Under normal circumstances you certainly won't be using your chains and with a watchful eye on the weather forecasts you should be able to minimise the risk of any disruption at all. Chains are there for an emergency only and you shouldn't be put into a situation where you will need them with planning.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Pick up a set of cable chains and throw them in the trunk. You probably will not need them, but you may have to have them in your possession in chain control areas.

    If you can tell me the 19 states you need, I'd be happy to suggest a routing. I completed my 48 last spring.

  4. Default

    (btw I notice my post fell under all the stickies is it, I'm new here as you can tell, is it possible to make this a sticky?)

    Hi, thank for your advice guys, I would like to clarify a few things, and see what you say, I'm kinda hoping to get a whole bunch of replies also.

    Anyway heres the deal, part of what I love to do in addition to covering all those states is to often get off the Interstate and take the slower scenic routes, and one of the places I hoped to do this is from Las Vegas to Yosemite via 120, which I now see is impossible and will have to go around, still I then plan to trek up all the way to Northen California using US or State HWY's through more scenic areas. and possibly doing the slower roads through Oregon and Washington.

    I could Just take I-5 all the way to Tacoma but like I said I enjoy the scenic roads.

    Is there a way to cut and pate and post a google or other map here?

    I will try to give you my plan, lets hear what you think.

    NJ -> Past Allentown PA via I-78 and I-81 to the smokies. (Is the Blue Ridge Parkway even an option this time of year?)

    I-75, I-59 To Birmingham Al,

    Continue down 59 to I-20 to Dallas
    (May possibly pass I-20 take detour to New Orleans and then continue to Dallas via I-10and I-45).

    To Amarillo via US HWY 287

    The following is clearly potentially subject to change but I do want to do some driving in all 4 states (NM,CO,AZ,UT)

    Head From Amarillo to Trinidad CO, via US 287, 87/64

    Continue to US 160 Past Mesa Versa NP (probably worth a 1/2 day there?)
    to the 4 corners

    Continue on 160 Through AZ, then SR89 to Page

    From Page to US89 through UT to Zion NP.

    From Zion to I-15 to Las vegas

    From Vegas I will appparently haveto go the long way around to Yosemite via I guess SR58 to Bakersfield, to SR 99 and SR 41 to Yosemite

    Yosemite to Portland/Tacoma/Seattle is ver much in the open as I mentioned above I prefer here to take slower roads through what appear to be scenic areas, and various parks and forests, but they may very well be treachourous mountan roads? If I have to I could take 5, is it scenic?

    The ideas was to take 89 past lake tahoe all the way up to about Redding CA and then take I-5 to at least Portland Oregon, Of course this probably makes no sense now that I realize 120 through Yosemite is closed and I have to exit Yosemite at the West anyway. (I could also do CA49 to CA 20 to CA 99 to Redding most of which also show up as scenic roads, though it would probably take forever anyway.)

    From Portland again I thought about taking through I-84 -> US 97 -> US 12 all the way to Missoula,

    but again in the winter I'm pretty sure you will all say
    No, so the other option is up to Tacoma/Seattle, via I-5 pass Missoula on I-90 to Yellowstone. (I could get in Mt Rainier or Olympick NP)

    Wyoming to Minnesota is trickier because there are no good Interstate options that would let me do this normally.

    My idea is to exit yellowstone on US 20 past Cody, to I-90 (and then US 16 if possible) to Custer and Mt Rushmore.

    From there it's down us 18/385 to get down to the welcome to nebraska sign, take US 20 To Merriman or some other point and find my way back to I-90 and then up I-29 to Sioux Falls,

    From there I could take I-94 to I-80 via Chicago and all the way back to Jersey.

    If It wasn't clear the states that I must do are.

    Al, LA, TX, NM, CO, AZ, UT, NV, CA, OR, WA, ID, MT, WY, NB, SD, ND, MN, WY

    From there getting back is all Interstate. (I-80 via Chicago)

    What I'm hoping in terms of weighing whether to do this now (Feb/Mar) or wait for a few years when it hopefully would work out again in the spring (though there are no guarentees it could happen at all).

    Specifically the issues are

    A) Highways and Driving safety and how much incovinience/frustration (getting stuck by closed roads all the time, changing to chains, engine not starting? or I don't know what else?).

    Also would I have to stick to all Interstates - see above)

    B)My ideas is to get a National Parks Pass, I love nature walks (I'm not into skiing and winter sports much) Would I enjoy the parks or would I always be wishing to be indoors?

    Hope to hear more from SWDave and GLC and all of you out there!!

    Congrats GLC on the 48 States!!! I guess I'm not the only crazy one with this dream!

  5. #5


    Well you're not crazy, at least for wanting to see all 48. I am 8 short of all 50 and may finish all of them this year. I spent a couple in Reno a few years ago and went up to Tahoe several times and never had a problem with snow. It is best to be flexible and simply avoid bad storms in the Sierra's or upper west if possible( easier said then done, of course, at times).

    That is great time to visit the southwest so you will likely enjoy being outdoors. Oregon and Washington is hard to guess. Could be pouring rain and 35 or sunny and 55. The other northern areas are likely to have a lot of snow and could be cold. At that time year Yellowstone is almost all winter sports, although i guess there are some places you could walk.

    I'd say life is short and uncertain. Who knows where you will be in 3 years. But you know you can do it now. With a trip of this sort over so many miles there is no way to hit the perfect time in all places. You will miss the heat in the south and southwest which is good.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    To give you an idea, I was 58 years old before I fulfilled that dream. I actually have all 50 states - albeit AK and HI were in rental cars. I have a slight technical issue - I have not set a wheel in UT, just a foot. The truck was parked in the lot at 4 Corners, so it was maybe 200 feet from UT. Just the highway to get there nails the other 3 states, the access road and the lot are both only in NM.

    In the winter, it's best to stick to the Interstates wherever possible. However, bring a laptop with you and hit up wifi hotspots when you can, and get weather and road condition updates. Being spontaneous can be a lot of fun!

    Can I assume that you meant NE instead of NB, and the second WY should be WI?

    I just mapped out the most direct route for you to hit all 19 of those states with a minimum of backtracking and a maximum of Interstate travel. I'll post it below, check it out and modify it for your side trips as desired. It's about 8000 miles.

    Whatever you need to do from NJ to get to I-81.
    I-81 to Knoxville, I-75 to Chattanooga, I-59 to Birmingham.
    I-20 to Dallas, US-287 to Amarillo (stop at the Big Texan for a steak dinner), US-287/US-87/US-64 to I-25.
    I-25 to Cheyenne, I-80 to Salt Lake City, I-15 to Las Vegas and Barstow.
    CA-58 to Bakersfield, CA-99 or I-5 to Sacramento, I-5 to Portland.
    I-84 to I-82 to US-395 to I-90 to Spokane.
    I-90 to Spearfish, SD, US-85 to I-94 to Fargo.
    I-29 to Sioux City, hop across the river to NE.
    US-75/IA-60/MN-60/US-59 to I-90.
    I-90 to Chicago, back to NJ however you want.

  7. Default

    rtusa613, I did almost the very trip you talked about two years ago in January. And yes, it was cold in places. And yes, I needed to put snow chains on.

    And yes, it was worth every cent and every minute.

    You can find my route and recap on my site.

    I did it barebones, too, until I picked up the wife and she insisted on hotels and a slower pace.

    As for weather and road conditions, 511 is your friend. I would actually suggest staying through Montana and nipping the corner of Wyoming like I did (that way you can hit ND at Bowman). Wyoming can be a brutal road to drive in the winter with numerous closures and with such a high general elevation and driving wind, not fun (402 miles, border to border).

    Hope to hear more of your trip plan. And feel free to bounce ideas off me, and the rest of the forum.


  8. Default

    This is really a great site! I was here a few years back and well lets just say you guys have come a long long way, though even then I emailed someone (before there was a forum I believe) and they were very helpful.
    Anyway I now have a lot of thoughts in my head and I think I will save a longer reply for when I can work out more of these ideas, but I did want to say a few things.

    First of all you guys have been really helpful and encouraging, from the first post from Southwest Dave that said "follow your dreams" (and yet also gave a lot of practical advice). Pretty much all of you have been encouraging and helpful,

    GLC I mapped you route into google, it's pretty good,
    It would add a few cities I woulden't mind being in (though for the most part I avoid big cities) It would add Rocky Mountains SP and a few others, and give me a lot of driving in Montana and Wyoming which are two states I really want to see.
    The only things I may change are. Access to grand Canyon, (I believe the Northern Entrance closes in winter). or maybe I should just skip that.
    I also think it might be better just to do the Nebraska detour earlier South from Rapid City (depending on road conditions) and then back up south Dakota to Fargo ND (any decent way) so that I can spend a bit more time cutting across MN and WS (two other states that I would like to see more of).

    If you have any ideas that won't add much mileage for those two things, that would be cool, I will prob explore too now.

    You are correct I meant Nebraska, and Wisconsin. sorry. Yea I would bring my laptop if it still works, Are there a lot of wifi spots on the open road? (near motels?)

    Greg in AK thanks for the weather estimates, that must be warm for you in AK, lol. Alaska is another dream of mine, but that will have to wait.
    um what are the best websites, for weather when I'm on the road? and maybe veen more importantly what are the best web sites for accurate weather predictions or at least past averages in the different months.
    I Wish there was one where you could look at a map with highways and click on the route areas!

    Psychotic with an S - Great Site, I just started looking at a few pages so far. The wife factor is interesting more on that and how it relates to me later. Is 511 available all over? Is it free? Is it eay to use or you have to sit listening to messages?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Panera Bread stores have free wifi. You can often "borrow" wifi in hotel parking lots, but quite a few require a login. Your best bet might be Super 8's in rural areas - the smaller ones are more likely to have a low cost system using a consumer grade router on a DSL connection with no security. Some states have wifi in rest areas. I'd assume most truck stops have it, but I don't know if it's complimentary.

    I use, they have quite a map collection. Most states have reasonably up to date road conditions on their DOT websites.

    If you have a halfway decent laptop, and it has Windows XP or newer on it, consider buying a copy of Microsoft Streets & Trips with the GPS module. It should be around 100 bucks and it's excellent planning software. The GPS puck plugs into a USB port and you set it on top of the dash. DVD drive is required for installation.

  10. #10


    A lot of state DOT's have there own phone and web sites just for road info. I would check each state to see what they have, some will have just the info you are looking for. I use It has great localized weather maps and info. If you keep a daily eye on the weather you will be able to handle most issues, since it is big storms that are the major concern.

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