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  1. Default Driving cross country week of Jan 11 from Brooklyn NY to Portland OR w/2 cats. Help

    Hello. I've been reading threads from this site and 6 others for over 8 hours over the last couple of days. I will be driving a 2008 Kia Spectra from Brooklyn, NY to Portland, OR during the week of Jan 11 with my 2 cats. Even though I have sifted thru a voluminous amount of relevant data, I still feel completely unsure about my route. I keep hearing about using I-90 and I-94, but that advise is accompanied with suggestions of getting chains for my tires. I know nothing about chains, and the prospect of handling snowy areas that require drastic measures is a turn-off. I've also been reading that I-94 and I-90 thru the Plains have seen lots of snow closures and accidents lately, and the wind is killer. I-80 has the same problems, but the portion thru WY seems treacherous. 70 does as well. I've been hearing bad things about i-40 b/c of Ice, but it seems like that might be my best choice. After reading everything I could find, I figure the best route is Via I-78 to I-76/I-70, pick up i-44 in St. Louis, MO. I-40 in Oklahoma City. US-84 in NM to I-25 to I 80 in Windy WY, to I-84. I'm trying to find a compromise between being safe and being time-efficient. I don't want to end up in stranded and forced to eat my cats b/c I took a dangerous path, nor do I want my cats to have to suffer thru the trip longer than necessary. I apologize for the wordiness. Thanks for your help

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default the standard

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I'm really surprised that after reading this site you'd come to the conclusion that I-40 would be your best bet - because we frequently remind people that adding hundreds of miles to "go south" actually increases your odds of problems.

    The reality is that all of the routes you mentioned can and do see winter weather, and trying to pick the one that you think will have the best weather (without the aid of a weather forecast, which isn't available until just before your departure) is really rather pointless.

    In your specific case, I-40 adds 750 miles to your trip vs. I-80 or I-90 - that means you will have to be on the road for 2 extra days! That's 2 more days where you could see a storm. And in addition to the chance of ice storms, you're still going up to 7,000+ feet of elevation in New Mexico/Arizona which see plenty of snow, and on top of that, you'd have several more mountain passes on I-5 (and chain restrictions are certainly common on I-5 in NoCal/Oregon)! In my book, that's hands down the worst choice.

    There are 3 much more logical options I-80, I-90, or I-94. All 3 of those options are about 2900 miles, and would all be 6 day trips (you could probably get it down to 5, if you see perfect weather). I-90 (or I-94) is often a little better bet, because it in general is at a far lower elevation than I-80, but with all of these roads, even the worse storms rarely close down the highway for more than a day. In the worst case, you have to sit in a hotel for a day or even two - but even if you did that, you'd still be getting there faster than if you took I-40!

    Keep an eye on the forecast, and when you get to about Chicago, take a look at the forecast, and see which routes look clearest. If all 3 look good, I'd probably take I-80 west for one more day, to about Omaha, where you could still easily go north to I-90, yet would have the option of sticking to I-80 if weather looks probematic in Montana and the Dakotas.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Wait and see.

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    Interstates are a priority to keep open and traffic moving smoothly and if you are on Interstate at a time chains are required you are better off just pulling off the road and let the road crews do their job while the storm passes. If you have up to a week to complete the trip you have time to do so and it's not worth continuing at 20 mph in a storm and exhausting yourself.

    I wouldn't consider putting hundreds of miles on your trip in the hope that you will avoid winter weather, nowhere is immune from it. Keep up to date with weather forecasts and road conditions prior to leaving and make an informed decision then. I 80 to 84 looks to be the most efficient route and unless the forecast tells you otherwise would head that way or consider I 90.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    I figure the best route is Via I-78 to I-76/I-70, pick up i-44 in St. Louis, MO. I-40 in Oklahoma City. US-84 in NM to I-25 to I 80 in Windy WY, to I-84. I'm trying to find a compromise between being safe and being time-efficient
    I read I-44 to I-40, and just assumed you were taking that all the way to California. I hadn't considered that you'd look at basically driving straight north along the front range in Colorado.

    Really, the only thing this route will do is add about a full day of driving vs. taking I-80 the whole way, and instead of possibly seeing some snow in Nebraska or Iowa, states that know how to deal with winter weather, for ice in places like Oklahoma and Texas, areas that are not nearly as good at removing what does fall.

  5. Default thanks

    Thank you for your advice. I'm going to start on 80 and keep an eye on the weather. If things don't look to good in the north, I can switch around Chicago, as suggested.

    Are there any bad neighborhoods, cities, towns I should avoid on the way over? I know it's a HUGE stretch, but I was wondering if there are any places I should avoid staying or stopping on I-80 that stands out in anyone's mind. I'm planning on getting to or near Toledo, OH on day 1, Des Moines on day 2. Cheyenne on day 3. SLC on day 4. I highly doubt this itinerary will be followed, but I feel that if I stay on I-80 the entire trip, these are very rough approximations.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    You will be fine in any of those cities if you stay in a hotel on the outskirts at an Interstate exit. I've stayed in the Super 8 at the I-280 exit on I-80 outside of Toledo - this is pretty much out in the middle of nowhere. A tip - if you are heading west it's best to stay on the west side of town so you don't have to fight incoming traffic in the morning. At Toledo, this doesn't make a difference because I-80 doesn't go anywhere near downtown.

    If you pick up a hotel coupon book at the first Ohio rest area, you should be able to find a coupon for that Super 8 for 39 bucks.

  7. Default

    Sweet. Thanks for the advice. Very helpful

  8. #8

    Default Just did it: I-80 in Wyoming

    Hello GibsonsNY,

    See my post in Field Reports, to be posted later this evening.


  9. Default

    Hello. I apologize for not responding sooner with details of my Trip.
    Anyways...The weather was unprecedented. It was one winter storm system after another. I managed to get to Ohio unscathed via I-80 on the first nite. Had to haul a$$ the next morning to beat a storm which didn't work out to well. Had to drive under 25mph for 2 to 3 hours thru Ohio to Indiana. Saw a lot of stupid drivers spin out and flip over b/c they drove Way Too fast for the road conditions. Visibilitiy was poor, roads quickly became covered with snow (and ice in some places). Survived that by driving very carefully and tailing a huge truck that plowed out some snow with its immense tires.

    Everything peachy thru Iowa. Had to stay an extra day in Iowa City to wait out a storm. Not sure why Iowa City is referred to as a "city." Not even quite a "big town."

    Anyway. I had read on a few threads here that i-90 is kept clear in the winter and that ice is less likely to form relative to move southerly routes. Well, that's BS. Scariest 13 hours of my life. I should have continued on I-80 thru Iowa, nebraska, souther Wyoming, etc, but instead I went north to SD and picked up i-90. While it was kept "clear," i realized one nite, while i was stuck between 2 towns that the roads are covered w/black ice, the locals drive like stupid hillbillies on crack, and the truckers don't seem to care about forcing you into a ditch. I had to leave the road earlier than I planned in SD because the road was WAY too dangerous at nite w/black ice. SD is the most inhostpitable place weather wise. The door on my hotel room was frozen shut, it was -8 degrees outside and dry as the Sonoran desert. I could actually feel my body shutting down as I was unloading my cats and cargo and trying to force the door open. Anyways, the people in the area were friendly. It was Sioux city or something like that. Again, "city" here is misleading. The front desk clerk at the hotel informed me that the BLack Ice is ALWAYS on i-90 which is why i should drive during the day when it is more visible.

    Black ICE is ALWAYS on i-90 during the winter months. So i implore anyone who's reading this to take that into consideration and not listen to others that promote i-90 as a safe passage with little chance of ice.

    I-90 thru SD was dangerous and scary the whole way. I was on edge the entire time and was often seriously contemplating survival strategies if my car broke down due to the severity of the winds and the dangerously low temps. I also considered the likelihood of spinning out and going over the side or winding up on the on median. Luckily, the 2 times I spun out was on an empty highway and I was able to regain control. Others weren't so lucky. At some point, I began to notice loads of abandoned semi's and cars flipped over on the sides of the highway. It became common the rest of the way thru SD. At another point, a sort of snow squall came out of nowhere and forced me to slow way down. The locals would whiz by in their pickups, and I just assumed that they knew how to handle these roads and were rigged in preparation. I was totally wrong: they were just idiots. Many, many of the locals speeding on the ice and snow covered left lane during this squall and in other places wound up flipping over. I saw a minvan flip, luckily emergency vehicles were all over. I remember feeling relieved when I got to Wyoming and as I entered the state a Bald Eagle flew overheard, a good omen I thought.
    Things got really scary there on i-90. The highway meandered precariously through a montain pass as it dropped steeply and was covered with ice in most places. I didn't know what to do in some situations b/c truckers would be up my ass, and i'd try to move over, but I could feel my car starting to skid.
    It was pretty scary all through Wyoming. It got a little better in Montana, and I became a little more adept at handling the winding, hilly, partially ice-covered roads. Though there was one area in Wyoming that was extremely windy. My car was shaking the entire time i travelled through this windy valley. Unlike Wyoming which didn't have any sorts of warning signs, Montana had signs on the highway informing drivers of adverse conditions, such as these extraordinarily powerful winds After I got thru the mountain pass in Idaho it was smooth sailing. No more ice but extremely steep, serpentine mountain passes. Washington was beautiful, as was eastern oregon. The columbia river was pristine, but it was terribly boring driving through the area: just a constant moving up and down and winding for 5 or 6 hours. I was dizzy by the time I got to Portland.
    My cats were great. I was really impressed with them. It definitely wasn't easy on them and I did everything I could to ameliorate their anxiety. I totally underestimated their resilience. Amazing animals. It was about 7 days all in all. Would have been shorter if not for storms and black ice preventing night travel in the plains

    Mod note] Please do not use insulting or threatening terms to the people that give up their valuable time to try and help others or your membership will be terminated.
    Last edited by Southwest Dave; 07-15-2011 at 03:58 AM. Reason: Good neighbour rules !!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Amazing!

    Thank you for coming back and giving us this comprehensive report. I am so glad you made it safely to your destination. You used your common sense to slow down and pull off when necessary.

    But I would like to look at the positives of this trip. True, you were a little disappointed with some of the recommendations you read. But look at how much you learned, how much you experienced. This has made you a much more experienced driver, which I am sure is going stand you in good stead in the future.

    And I have no doubts others will heed your warnings if they read this report, before setting out on a similar trip.

    Thanks again.


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