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  1. #1

    Default best routes for driving cross country

    I am just wondering if anyone has any input for the best route from Memphis to Big Sky, MT around Thanksgiving? I've driven several different ways in the past, but never in winter conditions. Thinking about heading 1-40 all the way west and then up through Salt Lake....any other suggestions? Any tips on roads/areas to avoid? Thanks !!!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    10,805

    Default not one size

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    There is never a one sized fits all "best" route, and that's certainly true in winter travel.

    However, the best bet is usually to take the most direct route because of a few basic rules - there is no cross country route that is immune to bad weather, and the best way to avoid bad weather is to avoid being on the road which means taking the shortest route, also note that Interstate highways are your best bet to have roads cleared quickly in bad weather.

    So having said that, I'd say the best bet would most likely be to actually work your way to Kansas City, then go up I-29 to Sioux Falls and then head west on I-90. However, if you have a specific weather forecast showing bad weather across the Dakotas, you might look at taking I-80 across Nebraska or maybe even I-70 or I-40 across to I-25, however those southern routes add about 300 miles - so that's an extra half day on the road. If you do take I-40, I wouldn't go all the way over to SLC, as that adds even more miles and requires more miles on 2 lane roads.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Posts
    1,549

    Default What I'd do

    Hello ksmith1234,

    There are at least a couple of less-than-ideal ways to work your way from MEM to KC, and detesting large city traffic, I'd try to avoid them. That said, I surely would not head off on the route below with an all-too-typical AR/OK ice storm taking place or in the immediate forecast.

    With good weather forecast, what I'd do is head out I-40 across AR to just inside OK, where the Muskogee Turnpike takes you to Tulsa and the Cimarron Turnpike then takes you to I-35 north of OK City. The turnpikes are toll roads but they cut off a pretty big corner. I'd then take I-35 to Salinas, KS and pick up I-70 west. At Oakley, KS, near the CO border, I'd be sorely tempted to take US 83 north to I-80 at North Platte, NE. There, a short jog west on I-80 brings you to Ogalalla, NE, where US 26 slants northwest through Scottsbluff, NE into WY, joining I-25 north of Cheyenne. The Oakley, KS to I-25 north of Cheyenne route is largely on 2-lane roads, but they're largely straight, wide, well-maintained, and free of long grades/big hills/buttes. The benefit there is a fairly direct route AND avoiding heavily urbanized Denver/Fort Collins and Cheyenne. If there has been heavy snowfall within a couple or three days prior, I'd probably just keep I-70 to the eastern bypass loop around DEN and connect with I-25 there.

    Once on I-25, I'd just keep it until it ends at I-90 north of Casper, WY and I-90 to Bozeman, MT.

    I'd take some time now to explore the real-time webcam images along your route, particularly those in KS, NE, CO, WT, and MT. Using them, you can identify key views to have a look at during the days preceding your departure and can determine the feasibility of your route and that of alternatives if heavy snowfall has been uncharacteristically slow being cleared. If so equipped, a laptop with a wireless card can provide entirely mobile connections to the Net for updates throughout the day. My Verizon connections (wireless card) were good all over western NE, northeast WY, and all of MT during my latest trip in July 2010.

    Have fun planning and taking your winter RoadTrip.

    Foy

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    7,272

    Default

    I'd then take I-35 to Salinas, KS and pick up I-70 west.
    That would be I-35 to Wichita, then I-135 to Salina.

    However, my mapping program suggests the fastest route would be I-55 to I-70 to I-29 to I-90, taking appropriate bypasses around STL and KC. This also avoids all toll roads and 2 lane roads, except from Bozeman to Big Sky. With agreeable weather, this is a long 3 day drive with overnights around St. Joseph MO and Rapid City SD.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Posts
    1,549

    Default Thanks glc

    Quote Originally Posted by glc View Post
    That would be I-35 to Wichita, then I-135 to Salina.

    However, my mapping program suggests the fastest route would be I-55 to I-70 to I-29 to I-90, taking appropriate bypasses around STL and KC. This also avoids all toll roads and 2 lane roads, except from Bozeman to Big Sky. With agreeable weather, this is a long 3 day drive with overnights around St. Joseph MO and Rapid City SD.
    I was relying on memory of a 1980 return trip from Colorado to Mississippi, one where he hadn't enough cash to use the toll roads in Oklahoma, and thought I-35 had taken us from Salina on south.

    With the 2 experiences I had in St Louis and KC back in July, going and coming back, I thought Little Rock and Tulsa might be good trades.

    Foy

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    7,272

    Default

    The I-64 project in STL is done, so it shouldn't cause problems, especially in the middle of the day. Take I-55 to I-270 to I-64 to I-70. KC isn't all that bad if you take I-435 around the northeast side, I take that frequently around rush hour.

    Tulsa is a problem - you have to go downtown to get from the Muskogee to the Cimarron. It gets pretty congested down there because I-44 is all torn up throwing extra traffic downtown.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Posts
    1,549

    Default Good stuff

    I hit the I-55/I-270 jct at 6:30pm and from just south of there all the way to I-64's crossing of the Missouri River it was terribly congested on a Wednesday evening. The southern 10 miles of I-435 at KC the next morning were lousy, too, as were the last 10 miles of I-70 approaching I-435 at 6:30am. Nearly as congested passing back through each on a Saturday afternoon on the return trip.

    I had no idea about losing the freeway in Tulsa. A quick glance early this morning had me thinking the toll road went straight through. Great catch!

    Foy

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