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  1. Default Xmas week Los Angeles to Baltimore, I-40 and I-81?

    My wife and I are planning to drive our (6 cylinder) passenger sedan towing 5'X8' Uhaul trailer from Los Angeles to Baltimore.
    There is not much time pressure as we only need to arrive by end of December. Wife will mostly be a passenger, but could pitch in if needed.
    This will be a first time driving cross country for both of us, added to which is the winter conditions, quite alien to us Californians!
    We are planning to start from LA on Dec 23 afternoon. I was figuring on taking the I 40 to Flagstaff, and detour to spend a few hours at the Grand Canyon weather permitting. Then continue on I-40 stopping to spend the night along the route, through to Knoxville TN. From there I-81 North through Virginia should be a good bet.
    Appreciate tips suggestions from experienced winter trippers regarding safety and possible points of interest enroute. Thanks

  2. #2

    Default Driven pretty much every inch of that route............ one time or another.

    Hello Gill,

    I imagine what you're thinking is doing a South Rim drive-by at the GCNP, from Williams, AZ to the main entrance, thence east on AZ 64 within the park to Cameron, AZ, thence south back to I-40 at Flagstaff. That's a fine idea as long as the weather permits it. The South Rim is at around 7,000', as is Flagstaff, for that matter, so snow can and does fly there on a regular basis.

    As slow as the traveling is with a towed trailer, you really don't have much time for touring, in my opinion. The half-day it'll take to do the GCNP drive through, reserving another day or so for weather contingencies, and you're pretty much going to have to make hay while the sun shines.

    And you should most certainly keep a full day for weather contingencies. Literally anywhere from Kingman, AZ to Baltimore can see ice and snow. Several stretches of I-40 in NM are > 7,000', Amarillo, TX is at 4,500', you've got "ice storm alley" through OK, AR, and west TN, then the Cumberland Plateau, the Valley and Ridge from Knoxville to Front Royal and just beyond, and the Blue Ridge to cross just west of Balto, so winter weather is a distinct possibility. Your best bet is to save time to pull over for a few hours to a day in the event you drive into a system.

    Since you're towing for days on end, make sure your vehicle's cooling system is in tip-top shape. I'd also very strongly recommend a transmission fluid change (if it's an automatic) before you embark on such a long tow. Heat buildup is the primary enemy of an automatic transmission, and nothing triggers heat buildup like long intervals of sustained Interstate driving or like towing. Put together, your transmission will need the freshest fluid possible, unless it happens to be very close to brand-new.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Is your car certified for towing that kind of weight? You can look up the empty weight of the trailer on the U-Haul site, and you will need to make a good guesstimate of how much your load will weigh. There aren't too many standard passenger cars these days that will tow more than about 2000 pounds. I think the 5x8's are around 900 pounds just by themselves. If it's good to go, you will definitely need a proper hitch. Have your brakes thoroughly inspected before you leave too.

  4. Default

    FOY & GLC
    Thank you for your prompt & detailed replies. Good Advice indeed.
    On reconsidering, I think it will be better to ship off the car (along with the car # 2 already being readied for shipping overland).
    Instead of the hitch + trailer plan, I can rent a Uhaul 14' and take some more stuff along which would otherwise have to be stored here.
    Only issue then is the handling of the 14 footer on the 2700 mile trip and the weather conditions.
    Safety is of course paramount, I will be satisfied with around 500-600 miles per day of driving or just a bit more to arrive in 4 days with 3 nights on the road. Is that reasonable?
    Still planning to start on Dec 23 mid day.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default the math doesn't work

    500-600 miles a day is a very reasonable goal.

    The problem is that at that pace, you simply can't cover the 2700 miles between LA and Balitmore in 4 days 3 nights. You'd need to be averaging nearly 700 miles, and that's simply too much for multi-day travel.

    You really need to plan on this trip taking 5 full days, and have a 6th day available in case of possible weather delays. I will note, that also assumes driving only point to point, and not adding in detours to places like the Grand Canyon.

  6. Default

    Thanks Michael
    Just finalized my reservation, Budget had a great deal on a 16 foot truck.
    Since I have the rental for 10 days (returning truck on Jan 02), there is no time pressure. Starting on Dec 23/24 plenty of time.
    Keeping my fingers crossed hoping for clear roads though, because I have never before had to drive in snow or icy conditions. Ah well, moving to live in Maryland, so gotta get used to the white stuff!

    Sight seeing not a priority, I probably do not want to negotiate busy roads around tourist attractions in a lumbering moving truck in wintry conditions, keeping the possibility open though if there is something to see real close.
    Next I need to plan the night stops and find deals in safe clean inexpensive motels. I-40 between Flagstaff AZ and Knoxville TN, then between up North to Baltimore.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Well, if all goes well with the weather, and you don't make any other detours, some of the logical stops could include Winslow AZ, Amarillo TX, Little Rock AR, and Knoxville.

    Any of those places should have a wide variety of motels to pick from based on your tastes and budget.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    I can personally recommend the Motel 6 in Holbrook AZ. It's large (over 100 rooms), quite new, and very well maintained. It's also cheap! I stayed there 2 years ago in January, and AARP rate was 40 bucks including tax. The room key gets you a 10% discount next door at Denny's. It's right off I-40 at the east end of town, you can see it from the highway. It's a franchise, not company operated, so their wifi is free.

  9. Default

    Thanks for the tip :)
    First day Dec 24th, I will drive only about 480 miles to Flagstaff AZ, prepaid $ 31 total at Ramada (free in room Internet, free parking, free continental breakfast !) close to I-40.
    Day # 2 will get rolling by 5:30 am, ~ just working out where to break for the night on Dec 25th.
    Also possible stops for the rest of the trip.
    Suggestions accepted with gratitude :)

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


    Stopping in Flagstaff kind of boxes you into having a fairly short drive to Tucumcari NM at 500 miles or a rather long drive to Amarillo at a little over 600 miles. There's really not much for options in the middle. 600 miles shouldn't be a problem is you see good weather, but this stretch will take you over the highest elevations of your trip, so your odds of seeing bad weather that would delay you a bit are a little higher than normal here.

    Just in general as you plan out the rest of your stops it really is as simple as pulling out a map - or your favorite online program - and looking for cities 500-600 miles apart. (Using the drag and drop on Google makes this very easy) Pretty much every city of any size along an interstate will have a good choice of hotels - and often towns with 5k-50k people will be your best bet for variety and value. But even smaller town will usually have a couple choices. Vega, Texas, for example, which would be an option 30 miles short of Amarillo has less than 1000 people, but has 3 motels.

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