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  1. Default drive from Chicago to Portland in Februrary


    Thank you for reading my thread. I appreciate your help in advance.

    I am planning to drive from Chicago to Portland in the middle of February. I feel nervous of the trip since it is my first time to drive across the country. Which route will be the best one in winter? I read a lot of posts and it seems to me I-80 then I-84 is a good choice. But am I capable to drive through those mountain area with my little Honda Civic? The car is in good shape, but I don't have experience with snow condition. Also I will carry my bike with a trunk rack, is that safe in this long trip?

    Thanks again!

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

    Default It'll be fine.

    Hi Lucy, Welcome to R.T.A.

    As you know the weather is unpredictable and our standard response is to make sure you keep up to date with the weather forecasts prior to leaving and check them while on your journey. Easily done on your Motel television or on radio stations.

    The Interstates are a priority to keep clear and to keep the traffic moving with thousands of people using them daily. They are also built to keep any gradients or curves as user friendly as possible so your car will have no problems under normal conditions. If you are not used to driving in snow and a storm appears then just pull off the road and park up in a safe area and wait for the road crews to clear it.

    The best way to stay safe is to relax and allow yourself time to make the journey without feeling rushed and enjoy the ride. I would allow 4-5 days minimum, if you have time for a little sight seeing along the way all the better, enjoy the ride !

  3. Default Thank you Dave!

    Thanks a lot for your comments. It's definitely a confidence-booster!!

    I also read extensive on the experiences of driving on I-80 during winter season, as posted by other travelers. It appears to me that the most difficult stretch is in Wyoming, where wind-tunnel effect kicks in and snow-blowing may be hazardous. I wonder if it is better to drive along I-70 in Colorado and get back to I-84 near Salt Lake City. This way, Wyoming can be avoided altogether.

    I am aware that along I-70 I will need to go through Rockie Mountains. I have no experience driving in the mountains during winter. So I truly need suggestions. Please kindly give me advice. Thank you.

    Best Regards,

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Shortest is usually the best in winter

    Quote Originally Posted by chervil View Post
    So I truly need suggestions.
    Here are some winter driving tips, but the best one is that the shortest distance (on Interstate highways) is usually the best when traveling in February. For that reason, I would travel I-80 to I-84 and stay current with the weather predictions and stop whenever the weather looks too threatening at a motel and relax. I-70 is a beautiful highway, and I love traveling it in the winter, but it just doesn't make sense for you to drop that far south. Professional drivers, prefer I-80 to I-70 -- don't worry too much about ground blizzards -- if the roads are hazardous -- the Wyoming DOT will close the road.


  5. Default Would I-90 work?

    Hi all,

    Thank you for reading and answering my questions. I appreciate it.

    As suggested, I have been closely monitoring the weather along I-80. Unfortunately, it does not appear that the weather will be nice during the weekend. Forecast shows snow from Iowa to Utah...

    I have, however, found out that I-90 as an alternative route just adds 50 miles to the 2200 miles trip. The weather along the plains seems OK as well. Should I be concerned about driving that far north in the winter? I heard very few towns are along I-90. Therefore, residence and gas could be an issue.

    Any suggestion is appreciated. Thank you.

    Best Regards,

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Gas and civilization is not an issue, just get gas when you drop below 1/2 tank if you are concerned. Check the weather carefully, if necessary you could even go as far north as I-94. The best way to get from I-90 to Portland, weather permitting, is get off at Ritzville, go south on US-395 through Pasco and Kennewick to I-82 to I-84.

  7. #7

    Default I-90 in Montana

    Hello Lucy,

    While it runs farther north than I-80 in WY, I-90 in MT is, on average, at a much lower elevation as it crosses MT, remaining in or close to the valleys of the Yellowstone or the Missouri all the way to Butte (Homestake Pass). There are two principal passes in MT, Bozeman, between Livingston and Bozeman, and Homestake, just east of Butte. The passes top out at roughly 5,300' and 6,400', respectively, but the high ground is relatively short in distance traveled. Much of the remaining route between the passes is in the 3,000' to 4,500' range. Along the MT-ID border is Lookout Pass, at some 4,600'. The passes will get snow first and most often, but they also get the highest level of attention from the MT-DOT plow and salt-sand. Most often, the worst case scenario is a delay of a few hours duration, and then only in the peak of an event.

    You can monitor the MT passes in real-time by googling Montana DOT webcams. I took a glance at the cams just now. All are clear and dry except Lookout. There, it's snowing pretty hard, there's snow on the road (and sand), and the tractor-trailers are moving. WHOOPS- I just noticed: The MT DOT webcam pics are mostly from YESTERDAY, the 10th. Dunno why that is, but it's fairly rare.

    Lastly, the more remote sections of MT are in southeastern MT, and even they're not anywhere near as remote as, say, segments of I-80 in WY. I-90 passes through most of Montana's largest cities/towns: Billings, Livingston, Bozeman, Butte, and Missoula (in order, east to west). Accordingly, you're never far from people or services.

    Have a safe trip!

    Last edited by Foy; 02-11-2009 at 11:38 AM. Reason: Correction on current MT DOT webcam images

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default Certainly

    You could certainly use I-90 and/or I-94 as a way to make this trip, is certainly not a significant difference in distance when you are talking about a trip of this length. If the weather looks better this way, then I'd go for it, however, i would say that even now is fairly early to guess weather. A lot can change in 3-4 days forecast wise, especially when it will be even a couple more days before you get into the west.

    There aren't any larger gaps between towns along I-90 than any other interstate. If you look at a map, you'll see towns at least every 50 miles or so, even in the longest stretches of rural area.

  9. Default Arrived!

    Dear All,

    This is to let you know that I have safely arrived in Oregon. I took I-90, instead of I-80 as I originally planned. The road condition was fine except for the lookout pass at the Montana / Idaho border. Even there, snowchain was not necessary. I am grateful to all the suggestions that were given to me, and would like to take this opportunity to say Thank you.

    Best Regards,

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Good, Good !

    Hi Lucy,

    Thanks for dropping in and updating us. Pleased that it all went well for you.


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