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  1. Default Best route from Seattle, WA to Miami, FL in mid December?

    I will be driving a 17' U-haul with a car dolly pulling a mazda Proteje. I have never done such a long roadtrip and never driven through snow or ice. I am wondering what would be the best route to take to avoid the worst weather and mountains. I know I could drive down south and then go east on I-40 or I-10. Can anyone let me know what would be better between I-40 or I-10? Going this way is about 600 miles more of driving but I could avoid the mountains. Can anyone tell me how the drive might be if I drive through the middle of the country instead of going straight down south and then crossing to the east? Can the weather be really bad in mid December? What would be the best route to drive if I go across the middle? How is the best way to check on the weather as I drive through all the states? Does each state have a phone # to call or is there one phone # that I can call to check on the weather? I would normally be excited about a road trip like this but I am worried about driving through winter weather and around mountains. Any help with info would be Greatly appreciated. Thanks, Ramie

  2. #2

    Default Can't be done, but that's OK

    Hello Rotary (Wankel?) Ramie,

    The bad news is there's no way to cross the Continental Divide without mountains, and the good news is The Cavalry (in the form of the various state's DOT plow crews) precedes you. Here's the skinny:

    Traveling hundreds of extra miles to avoid weather is folly: each mile you drive, particularly laden as you will be, has risk. I submit adding hundreds of extra miles to avoid the mere possibility of snow is pure folly, as you've added risk and cannot avoid mountains and the possibility of snow no matter what route you may choose. For example, I-40 crosses the Divide near Gallup, NM, at some 7,700'.

    A quick glance at Mapquest shows a recommendation of I-90 all the way from SEA across WA, ID, and MT (although I most certainly do NOT agree with the US 212 spur from Crow Agency to Belle Fourche to Rapid City my search pulled up--I'd just stay on I-90 all the way). From the eastern end of SD, follow the recommendations for I-29 to I-70 and so forth.

    Yes, you'll encounter some elevation (mountains w/ passes) in WA, ID and MT: the Snoqualmie Pass immediately east of SEA, Lookout Pass on the ID/MT border, Homestake Pass east of Butte, an unnamed high point west of Bozeman, and Bozeman Pass itself. And that's it for the so-called high-mountain portions of your 3,300 mile RoadTrip. The great majority of I-90 in MT is at or below 4,000' elevation.

    Surely you'll look at local forecasts prior to departure and you won't drive into the teeth of an early winter blizzard, and just as surely all you need to figure on is waiting out a sudden storm in the passes for a few hours at most, until The Cavalry has the road cleared. It's simple and easy. The same generalization holds true for the high plains of SD and for the Midwest: If the going gets bad, find a comfortable place to pull over and chill out for a few hours.

    Most states have "511" road condition recordings, and MT and ID have a network of webcams showing real-time images, updated every few minutes, of road conditions in the passes and along commonly-traveled portions of the Interstate and US highway systems. If you're smartphone or laptop/wireless enabled, it's a cinch to literally look ahead a couple of hundred miles for what's up and what it looks like. I'd just look to the various state's DOT websites for their recorded traffic info and would keep it on a note sheet or load them into my cellphone/laptop before departing.

    So, take the shortest all-Interstate route and don't let the weather worry you. Be smart and mindful of conditions and just pull off at a truck stop for coffee and pie to wait out a localized situation, and you'll be just fine.

    Wow, that's a long trip. I suppose you're figuring on 6 or 7 days, right?


  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default factually inaccurate

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I completely agree with Foy's response but there was one line from the original post that really bares some attention.

    Quote Originally Posted by ROTARY Ramie View Post
    Going this way is about 600 miles more of driving but I could avoid the mountains.
    I'm sorry to tell you that your statement simply isn't accurate. First of all, using I-5 down the coast involves a significant number of mountains. You'll be dealing with them both in Oregon/Northern California, and then again as you reach the Grapevine between Bakersfield and LA. Both of those areas can and do see winter weather - with the passes in Oregon seeing winter conditions quite frequently. The Grapevine only sees one or two bad storms a year, but it still sees time from time to time.

    Then you'll still have mountains to cross the continental divide - and if you go across I-40 through Arizona and New Mexico you'll be crossing at a higher elevation than the I-90 route described by Foy. I-10 is a bit lower in elevation, but it is still high enough to see snow, and West Texas has been known to see some fierce ice storms.

    Keep an eye on the forecasts certainly, but don't buy into the myth that going south will be a catch-all to avoid winter weather.

  4. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Foy View Post
    Hello Rotary (Wankel?) Ramie,
    Yes, by saying rotary I also mean Wankel. I love all 3 generations of rx-7's. Thanks for the input, it really makes sense. Do you think it's possible to do the drive in 4 to 5 days? I will be driving with a friend taking turns. Again thanks for all the tips.


  5. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    I'm sorry to tell you that your statement simply isn't accurate.
    After reading your reply and Foy's reply I would have to agree with my inaccurate statement that you pointed out. Thanks for everything.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default certainly not 4, 5 not recommended either.

    You certainly can't make this trip in 4 days. That would require you to be on the road more than 800 miles a day (which works out to a minimum of 15 hours a day on the road in ideal conditions.) and that's far far too much to do day after day, even with multiple drivers.

    5 days would not be recommended either. That's still going to require more than 650 miles per day, which really is too much to be doing day after day after day. If you were experienced long haul drivers, dealing with ideal conditions, it might be on the very upper end of what you could safely.

    However, you are not at all dealing with idea conditions at all. A moving truck with a trailer means you're going to be traveling at significantly slower speeds and your stops are going to take significantly more time, and your driving is going to be more stressful because there are simply more things you need to be watching when dealing with a truck/trailer combination. There's also a distinct possibility that you will see weather conditions that will force you to slow down or even stop for a while. Best case, you should be looking at 6 long days, and you really should make sure you have a 7th or even 8th day available to deal with potential setbacks.

  7. #7

    Default 2 drivers = < 2 x daily drive time for 1 driver


    The reality is that having 2 drivers does not double your daily hours of safe driving, and it's not even close. The off-shift driver cannot possibly get much quality rest, and the on-shift driver should really have a second pair of eyes employed in order to navigate, calculate, look about, and most importantly, keep him alert.

    I've driven rental trucks with dollys before. They're generally underpowered, slow, handle like an RX-7 with 4 flat tires, and you can't back up with a dolly (period--not even a few feet). I can't imagine making this trip in under five very long and tiresome days. Six is much more like it, and if you do encounter weather or even minor mechanical issues, you're talking seven days. If you were to average > 48-50 mph on a beginning to end of day basis, it would be a minor miracle. Over-the-road tractor-trailers can barely average 45 mph on that basis, and on the downhills and open plains, they'll be blowing by you like you're chained to a post.


  8. Default Things have changed

    I will be driving on November 18th now and not towing a car. How much different would the weather be at this time compared to mid December and would I get a lot better gas mileage without towing my car?

  9. #9

    Default A crystal ball and a SWAG


    My crystal ball says a decreased likelihood of weather delays, and a SWAG says not towing the dolly and car will boost your mileage by 15% from 11 mpg to 12.65.

    I imagine your comfortable cruising speed will be some 5-7 mph faster, but still fairly slow compared to autos and over-the-road tractor-trailers. We just don't see a lot of U-Hauls in the hammer lane overtaking us, and there's a reason for that--they're generally underpowered and slow.


  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Your odds for seeing good weather are improved somewhat by leaving in November, but you certainly are still traveling during a time of year where winter storms are possible and you still need to be prepared for that possibility.

    Traveling without a trailer will improve your gas mileage a little bit - we're talking at most a few miles per gallon. You're still talking about a big boxy moving van, and as such an mpg in the low to mid-teens is about as good as your are going to get.

    I will also say that while the driving will be easier without a trailer, you're still likely going to be driving at a somewhat slower speed than the rest of traffic, and I still would strongly recommend planning to spend a minimum of 6 days on the road.

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