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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Ft. Collins, CO.
    Posts
    304

    Default Ft. Collins CO to Seattle WA report some lessons learned

    All,
    Just drove from Ft. Collins to Seattle and back for Christmas with my wife in her 2001 Jeep Cherokee.

    I have some things to share you might find useful.

    Route was I-25N to I-80 to I-84 to I-82 to I-90 to I-405 in the Seattle area. (I chose NOT to take US287 between Ft. Collins and Laramie as the westbound was at night an the eastbound was in windblown snow probably across the road conditions)

    Roads going west were quite ugly. Wyoming was about half ice-covered with 45 mph speed limits.

    Utah and Idaho had middling to hard rain (better than ice or snow). Overnighted at Boise (Comfort Suites at the airport is recommended :-) and the wet roads froze to ice overnight.

    Boise, ID thru Oregon to the Washington border was 90% ice covered roads turning to heavy fog around Pendleton OR. Drove across Oregon mostly in 4WD Hi at 50 mph max. There are some really long, steep (scary when icy) hills on the interstate thru Oregon. Truckers were chaining for the hills and leaving the chains on if the roads remained ice covered. This created a very noisy, choppy ice surface to drive on. (like a washboarded dirt road)

    Snoqualmie pass and the west side was dry going out.

    Return trip was dry and fast because we left a day earlier than hoped to run in a clear weather window. Had a few icy spots in Wyoming where the snow from the day before was being wind-driven onto the roadway creating surprise icy spots. Wind in Wyoming was 20-30 mph quartering tailwind. (It's ALWAYS windy in Wyoming)

    Some in-car techniques that worked well for me-

    I wore Underarmour synthetic underwear that goes down the leg so wasn't sitting on seams as I would if I'd been wearing briefs.

    I wore BDU pants. I kept nothing in rear pockets to sit on. Kept a baggie with : eyedrops, hand sanitizer, ibuprofen and chapstick in a thigh pocket. Used eyedrops at each meal stop. Wallet rode in other thigh pocket.

    Wore a cotton longsleeve shirt with two front pockets. Kept pen, other hand sanitizer and notecards in those pockets. Heavy coat was right behind the front seat where I could get it but I didn't drive all bundled up.

    Wore insulated, gore-tex winter boots to drive in. They were too hot! I wasn't out of the car much but they would have been great if I'd been chaining up or digging out.

    Wore padded elbow pads bought in a sporting goods store. This let me rest my left arm comfortably on the door sill and my right arm a bit better on the center console. I didn't get to drive like this on the way west due to the icy conditions but did so on the way east. While the pads are designed for impact and could be softer for this application they worked well enough to use again.

    I carried chains but didn't need them. 4WD Hi was needed much of the way though. A 2WD pickup might have needed to be chained. There were several 18 wheelers jacknifed into the medians on the downhills in Oregon and others not making progress uphill. One semi was unable to leave his parking place in the rest stop because he'd settled into depressions in the ice and couldn't get out.
    (no chains)

    I used a digital scanner pre-programmed for all the states, counties and cities along the way. This was to keep track of snowplow reports and crash reports. This worked very, very well as I could learn that the roads near Boise were icing up while we were still an hour away. Also heard the Wyoming snowplows doing their jobs and reporting conditions where they were.
    (My screen name was chosen during a discussion about whether CBs are useful or not. I posted a long writeup about that. I had CB channels programmed into my scanner but didn't get useful info from what I heard. Trucks I was following were asking oncoming what conditions were like. They were getting reports that were 8-12 hours old and that far away from us. Not likely to be valid. And the usual f-word laced discussions weren't something my wife wanted to listen to so CB19 was locked out much of the time.)

    I've made the drive each way several times but never in winter. It was an adventure!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default Good decision.

    Thanks for the report and tips !

    Sounds like quite an adventure and a good job you took that window of opportunity to get home, I keep seeing reports that things are turning pretty ugly in places. [180 in particular]

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Ft. Collins, CO.
    Posts
    304

    Default

    A consideration for trip planning during winter is that westbound trips WILL encounter at least 1 storm front. This is because you are charging into the wind and the periodicity of the fronts is quicker than one can scoot across the country.

    It seems that frontal storms from the northwest last 2 or more days and seem to come in 2 to 4 day intervals so a westbound trip is generally doomed to deal with weather.

    Eastbound one is travelling about the speed of the fronts so surfing a bubble of clear weather is achievable.

    Hope someone planning a winter road trip in future will find this useful.

  4. #4

    Default Agreed......

    nofan,

    Yes, the CB is pretty much worthless in terms of long distance reporting of conditions, but I found the immediate local info helpful: "18-wheeler on the side at the 255 westbound" and "all-stop westbound at the 298", each moments before encountering what would have been a sudden apparition out of the whited-out gloom. I use the squelch and the gain adjustment to filter out much of the junk, too. I like the scanner idea a great deal and will have to dust off the old unit for the next trip.

    I like your term "surfing the bubble" eastbound and that's exactly what we did on the return, although it required a pre-dawn departure. We did manage to avoid the weather for the most part by surfing, and that was the plan. I'd never run in 4WD on the Interstate as far as I did on the outbound leg, and I don't care to do it again, if I can avoid it.

    If you regularly run Ft Collins to SEA, I-90 seems worth a close look. Given the sharp westward turn of I-25 N of Cheyenne, then the NW from N of Douglas to Billings, perhaps it's not too much additional distance. Plenty of towns and small cities in MT, too, and the highest pass in MT is at the AVERAGE elevation for I-80 all the way across WY. I-90 remains low across ID and eastern WA, too.

    Happy Trails!

    Foy

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    Foy, I just looked it up. Staying on I-25 to I-90 only adds 50 miles to the trip. The wyoroad.info site is one of the better ones out there for showing state road conditions, I like the high bandwidth map.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Ft. Collins, CO.
    Posts
    304

    Default

    It's definitely worth a look. I don't know when I'll make the trip again but I'll have it planned out so I can do it.

    BTW- your old scanner won't do the job anymore. Without digital trunking you won't be hearing Colorado, Wyoming, Utah or the Seattle area. Idaho is moving to digital. I don't yet know about Montana. website RadioReference is an excellent source of info.

  7. #7

    Default Yep, yep

    Quote Originally Posted by noFanofCB View Post
    It's definitely worth a look. I don't know when I'll make the trip again but I'll have it planned out so I can do it.

    BTW- your old scanner won't do the job anymore. Without digital trunking you won't be hearing Colorado, Wyoming, Utah or the Seattle area. Idaho is moving to digital. I don't yet know about Montana. website RadioReference is an excellent source of info.
    Oh yeah, I just about wore wyoroad.com out in the days preceding the trip, George. Very helpful site.

    I had forgotten about the wholesale switch to digital--as is often the case, I think I purchased one of the last analog scanners as the tidal wave switch to digital began.

    With only 50 miles difference, I'd run I-90 in a New York Minute, if only for the vastly improved scenery along I-90.

    Foy

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