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  1. Default I-40 Cross-country in December/January

    I am contemplating a cross-country trip from Wilmington, NC to Seattle, WA in mid-December, returning early January. I would like to find the quickest route, but given the time of year, I also want to avoid snow/ice as much as possible. I will be driving a cross-over w/4wd, but I will be driving alone - just me and my dog - so I want to be cautious and choose the safest route. I am considering two routes:

    a) I-40 to I-5

    b) I-40/I-30/I-20/I-10/I-5

    Any thoughts on how safe I-40 would be this time of year? Am I better off going w/option (b)? Or is there a better option?

    Please advise.

    Thanks!
    - Kath

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
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    Green County, Wisconsin
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    Default a 6 month weather forecast

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I'm sorry, but the only way to answer this question is to have an accurate weather forecast for dates that are 6 months away - and since even a 6 day weather forecast is sketchy at best - I don't think you'll find it.

    The point being, of course, that any and all cross country routes can and do see snowy weather at times during the year. I-40 is at elevation through AZ and NM, and ice storms across the southern planes are not uncommon. However, going farther south doesn't necessarily solve your problems either. I-10 can see bad storms in West Texas, and Dallas sees snow and or ice fairly regularly. Last year, storms even forced road closures along I-10 from Houston all the way to Florida, so anything is pretty much possible.

    Of course, on the filp side, more often than not both of these routes are perfectly clear and passable (which again, is also true for more northern routes like I-70, I-80, and I-90 too).

    The only way to know which route will work best for your trip is to know the forecast when you'll actually be on the road, so really you shouldn't make a final decision about your route until just before you leave - and even be open to making changes on the road based on the actual conditions at the time.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
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    13,067

    Default

    I'm sorry, I missed the point where you said you are going all the way north to Seattle, I was thinking you were only going to Southern California.

    In that case, I'd say your best bet actually would not be to use any of the routes you've listed.

    You'll be far better off going a more northerly route using I-80 or I-90, because they are the most direct route.

    Going all the way south via I-40 or even worse I-10 adds more than 500 miles to your trip, which means you'll need to add at least one more day of travel to your trip - and that means there is one more day where you can see bad weather. Not to mention, you're forgetting that by going up I-5, you'll several more mountain passes that frequently see winter weather (Even just north of LA on the Grapevine, I-5 closes due to snow from time to time, but the passes in Northern California/Oregon frequently see winter conditions).

    You'll be much better off picking between I-90 or I-80/I-84/I-82 based on the specific weather conditions as they are of similar distance. Even if you have to sit for a day to wait out a storm, you'll still be better off than if you drive all the way to Southern California, which means you'll certainly need an extra day and could still see bad weather.

  4. Default

    Thanks, Michael!

    How do you feel about going up the coast on 101 in Dec/Jan vs. taking on I-5?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
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    Default

    Do you have unlimited time for this trip?

    Going up the Coast would typically help you avoid weather, and it is a great scenic trip, but its a slow going route with lots of curves that will take about twice as long as I-5. Also, its not something that would keep me from driving it by any means, but on a pure statistical basis, interstate highways are actually far safer than 2 lane roads, because of the lack of cross traffic, limited curves, etc.

    Combined with the longer trip going all the way over to SoCal, you're looking at a trip that would take at least 10 days to go I-40 to CA-58 to US-101, if you don't hit bad weather making your way west. Considering that going direct via I-80 or I-90 can be done quite easily in 5-6 days, even if you hit a major blizzard, you could easily sit out the storm for 4 days (which is far more time than it takes for roadclear out after nearly any storm) and still make it to your destination more quickly.

  6. Default

    Thanks, Michael!

    I'm just really wary of taking a more northern route when I don't have a lot of experience driving in the snow & ice - hence my leanings towards a more southern route.

    W.r.t. 101, it was just a thought - I had heard that it's pretty slow going...

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
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    Default

    I understand your concern about driving and snow and ice, I'm afraid however, you've fallen into the fallacy that going south will cause you to avoid winter conditions. Its an idea that sounds logical, but it simply isn't based on fact.

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