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  1. Default Driving from Kansas City, MO to San San Francisco, CA

    Hi everyone, thanks for coming into my thread and reading this.

    I plan to drive one-way from Kansas City, MO to SF during Christmas. I plan to see my girlfriend there and spend time with her as much as possible. So, I think I do not really care what I will see along the way as long as I'll get there safe. Even though, I like to see her as soon as possible, I want to be safe as well.

    The route that I plan to use is I-70W go all the way to Denver. After that, I plan to switch to I-80 then get to SF.

    I am aware that it can be snowy road along the way. My car is normal Sedan Car, not 4WD. Since my first priority is safety for me and for others, I feel reluctant to use I-70W.

    So, I am thinking about maybe I use a detour like go down with I-35 to I-40W and get to Los Angeles, first. Then go to SF later in order to avoid dangerous condition on I-70W. I am not really sure whether this is worthwhile.

    About my experiences, I have a couple road trips before. However, all of them were summer road trip. So, this will be my first winter road trip. I have about a week for this trip and I think it should be just fine.

    Any suggestions on plan and route would be appreciated. I am thinking about 2 overnight stops, but still not sure where. Again, my first priority is safety. Nice scene along the way is just only a plus.
    Last edited by f_kung; 11-22-2010 at 09:40 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default short = safe

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    In general, the best bet for winter travel is to stick to the shortest Interstate route, which means you'll get there the fastest on a road that gets top priority in the event of a storm.

    In your case, that actually doesn't mean I-70, but rather starting by going North up I-29 to I-80 (NE-2 is a good shortcut to avoid Omaha). That will actually save you 50 miles vs. going to Denver.

    Of course, there is nothing wrong with I-70 itself, and if you've got a specific weather forecast indicating that a storm will hit Nebraska, then sticking with I-70 could make sense. In your case, you don't even start dealing with serious mountains until west of Denver anyway.

    An I-40 route adds 200 miles to the trip, but it also can and does frequently see bad weather, both in terms of ice storms in the plains and snow through NM and Arizona where elevations exceed 7000 feet. I'd only recommend this if you actually have a specific storm you are trying to avoid that's hitting Kansas, Nebraska, and Wyoming, and if you go this way, you'll want to continue west on CA-58 to Bakersfield at the end of I-40, rather than going south to LA.

    Another downside of I-40, at 2000 miles, its a trip that needs 4 days. The other two options, at about 1800 miles are on the very upper end of what we'd recommend for a 3 day trip - and even there it is enough where if you see any sort of weather delay, you'll need to push that to a 4th day too. If all goes well On the I-80 route, logical stopping points would be Cheyenne WY and West Wendover NV. If you take I-70, then your first night would need to be in the Denver/Ft. Collins area.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Go North!!!

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Going south to try to avoid bad weather is a recurring idea here among relatively inexperienced RoadTrippers. but the fact is that using I-40 is absolutely no guarantee of finding good conditions. You still have to cross the Continental Divide and much of I-40 across northern New Mexico and Arizona is at elevations of 7.000 feet or more. There will be ski areas to the south of you on this route. And if you do hit bad weather, those 'southwest desert' states are simply less equipped to handle it than jurisdictions that routinely see snow. Your best bet to avoid bad weather is to simply take the shortest route and, if needed, use the time you save to just sit out any storm and let the experienced road crews do their jobs. Even going by way of Denver adds unnecessary miles to your drive. The shortest route is actually north on I-29 to Nebraska City, then use NE-2 over to I-80 at Lincoln and follow that the rest of the way to San Francisco through Cheyenne, Salt Lake City and Reno. That saves nearly 200 miles compared to the I-40 route and even 70 miles off the Denver route. Take a look at all three routes and, giving a preference to the shorter northern route, be ready to take the one that offers the best weather.

    AZBuck

  4. Default

    Thanks so much for both of you guys! They are pretty useful suggestions. It was my first time in RTA and what more could I ask for.

    I totally admit that I am very inexperienced in RoadTripping, especially with Winter condition. I usually go with the shortest route when I did in summertime. Seems that also applies regardless of season. I just read some posts about difficulties of driving with snow, so I was persuaded to go south to avoid it. :)

    So, I will stick with going North, I-29N and all the way through I-80W. Base on your suggestions, I might play safe here and I am not in rush whatsoever. I might split route into 3 overnight stops.

    Another question, any suggestions for my car, I got it inspected regularly. I heard that there might be some certain areas on I-70 or I-80 where driving without chain is prohibited. So, is chain a must?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Chains

    There are certain mountain roads in the west where, under certain conditions, you are required to have chains in order to drive. However. chains will not automatically turn you into a good winter driver. On the other hand, I lived in New Hampshire, Maine and central New York for a combined 20 years and never once put chains on my car. Today's front wheel drive cars, all weather tires, electronic stability control, and antilock breaks - and slowing down to safe and reasonable speeds - will get you through 95+% of all inclement weather situations. For the other cases, you're far better off just sitting the storm out in a nice warm motel than trying to press on regardless, whatever your equipment. For that reason, I wouldn't pre-book any motels. Keep an eye on the weather and have four days set aside for the trip. Then put some miles down on days when the weather cooperates and just stay put if it gets beyond your capabilities.

    AZBuck

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    California can be very picky with their chain requirements on I-80 over the Sierras - it would not hurt to have a set just in case. No need to buy clunky link chains, a set of lightweight cables is very easy to carry and install. You may have to buy them enroute, you would have to order them from an auto parts store in KC. Walmarts in mountain areas generally carry them at about 1/3 the price of a special order.

  7. Default

    AZ and glc, thanks so much. I will keep in mind that chains are not magical accessories that turn you into a excellent driver just to put them on. I agree that if weather was too bad, it is far better to just sit and wait until time is right.

    Oh okay. So, what would you recommend in my case then. I feel afraid to buy chains on the way, since I might not find Walmart right in time when chains requirement applies.

    Usually, is there any place I can look out to check whether the route that I am gonna take required them or not. If so, I will go buy it soon. It not, I don't have to buy them just for one trip.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    Each state's DOT has a website that has the current road conditions and chain restrictions. If you go to wyoroad.info and choose the high bandwidth map, there are links for all the surrounding states. Here is Nevada's site and here is California's site.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Pick One (or Both)

    You have two options. 1) Buy the chains at home and practice putting them on in your driveway so that you're comfortable with them should the need for them arise. 2) Forego chains altogether and just resign yourself to the fact that should they be required, conditions are already going to be bad enough that you would rather be in a nice warm motel room anyway. And there's nothing to preclude you from doing (1) in preparation for your trip and opting for (2) when you see what needing them actually means.

    Most states have road condition reports online. Here. for example is Wyoming's. Many of them also offer webcams so you can see for yourself what's going on. As for weather reports, I personally like to go direct to the source, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration who are responsible for issuing forecasts and alerts. Everybody else's forecast is based on theirs. But if you want something a bit more 'interpreted', then try The Weather Channel.

    AZBuck

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    To give you an idea, I ordered a set of cable chains for my F-150 here in Joplin from O'Reilly, they were $88. I could have bought them off the shelf in Walmart in California for $35.

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