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  1. Default Vegas to S. Lake Tahoe and back - early February

    Hi, I'm planning to drive from Vegas to South Lake Tahoe next week (in early February) and have scoped out some routes as well as some prior feedback in this forum that was offered to other trippers.

    The two routes I'm considering are Rt. 95 all the way up to Yerington and then 339-208-395. This seems like a fairly conservative route and, being that I'll be in a low-end rental from Dollar Rental in Vegas, I am leaning conservative. HOWEVER, I would LOVE to skirt across Death Valley and run the Sierra ridge up 395. The problem is that I don't know the tendencies of those roads and don't want to get stranded if 395 is perilous at that time of year.

    What I'd like to know from an experienced traveler of either route is whether or not I am I being realistic with those concerns? Also, it seems like a distinct possibility that once I approach the S. Lake Tahoe area that I will need snow chains. Are there spots along both routes to pick some up prior to the check points?

    Many thanks for any input!!

    Chris

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,271

    Default

    Disclaimer - I have only driven in that area once, in the middle of May 2007. I drove up to Tahoe from the Bay area, I took CA-88 over Carson Pass, where it was snowing lightly and the road was just wet. I went into town on CA-89 and US-50. I left town on US-50 into NV, then down the Kingsbury Grade (NV-207) to 395, then down to Death Valley. However, here are my observations.

    There is no predicting the weather. However, they got slammed up there last week with one of the biggest snowstorms in years, and there is more coming this week. Who knows what it will be like when you make this trip.

    A low end rental car will not be all wheel drive, and it's going to have highway tires. They may be considered "all season" radials, but they won't fit the definition of "snow tires". Accordingly, you will be subject to California chain laws under any of the 3 situations. You will encounter the same restrictions in Nevada.

    At the present time, there are no chain controls in effect in Nevada or on any of the California routes you would have to take. Just 2 days ago, there were controls on several stretches of 395.

    To get to SLT from 395, you are either going to have to go up the Kingsbury Grade or take US-50. CA-89 (Monitor Pass) is closed for the winter. With this in mind, the conservative route would be 95 all the way to 50. I don't remember any part of 395 that was all that bad, it's a wide and well maintained highway and you should be fine taking it as long as you check conditions before leaving.

  3. Default

    GLC, Thanks for the help!

    The route I have tentatively decided on would send me up the Kingsbury Grade. I assume, based on its appearance in the map, that I would encounter a chain restriction there if there had been some snowfall. Do you know if there is a spot prior to that where I could pick up some chains if the weather required such?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

    Default sooner

    If you can get chains now, I would strongly recommend it. I would suspect a good auto parts store in vegas would have them in stock, or at the very least could order them and have them within a day or two.

    Getting them now will give you a chance to practice putting them on your car in the comfort of your own driveway, rather than trying to do it on the side of the road while its snowing. Its also a bit of karma insurance - if you have them and know how to use them, your less likely to need them!

  5. Default

    Unfortunately Michael, I'm renting the car upon flying into Vegas and, at the moment, have very little idea as to what car or tire sizes I'll be dealing with, but I very well may take your advice and try to track some down before leaving Vegas.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

    Default in that case

    sorry, I missed that in your first post.

    In that case, you really should check with your rental contract to make sure you're even allowed to put chains on the rental car. In many instances, driving with chains falls under the "off road" restrictions where the car is not allowed to be driven.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
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    If you find that you need chains for the Kingsbury, see if you can take 50 without them. If 50 is also requiring them, head on in to Carson City and see what you can find. There's a good chance you can get a set of cables at Walmart, I saw both them and link chains in the Walmart in El Cajon CA a couple winters ago. If not, the next best shot would be a large chain auto parts store such as Pep Boys. Failing that, try large tire stores such as Discount Tire. Worst case, it's only another 30 miles to Reno.

    Personally, if there's any snow or ice around, I think I'd take a pass on the Kingsbury anyway. It's very twisty, narrow, and steep, and 50 would be a lot safer.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,060

    Default If Kingsbury Grade is open....

    But it's a lot shorter and avoids the traffic jams at the state line! It's not that tough a drive -- It's a little more scary going downhill in ice though!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
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    Default

    I was over at the Walmart in Santee CA the other day, and cables in passenger car sizes are $27.99. I highly doubt you will find anything else even close to that price anywhere else.

  10. Default

    Many thanks for the input, folks! Turns out I didn't need to grab any chains, but I just want to put out there what a fantastic ride I thought it to be. Between the stunning scenery, the bits of Americana and the extremely light patrol, I was either hitting triple digits, captivated by the beauty or stopping to investigate the charm of the small mining towns.

    For those interested in taking a similar trip, I ran 95 all the way from Vegas to Yerington, then took 208 to 395 to Gardnerville where I took Centerline road to 206 up the the Kingsbury Grade. I made the entire trip in under 7 1/2 hours (in a pretty unspectacular rental) and found the route to be fairly easy yet diverse enough to maintain interest.

    Happy trails!

    Chris

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