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  1. Default Chicago to Portland: New Traveler in Need of Some Advice

    Hello all!

    I've been searching these forums for cross-country moving advice for a bit, and found several bits of information very helpful. I wanted to chime in my specific move and see if I can gather any specific advice.

    My wife and I are planning a move in mid-March from Chicago to Portland, OR. She's a great driver, but I'm a little shaky (mostly because of heights - so bridges, overpasses, mountains, etc.). We were looking at a 16" Budget truck with our small car towed to the back, but she (again, the better driver) was apprehensive about the mountain passes along that drive. Neither of us have ever driven anything that large, let alone while towing a car.

    Our next, small truck option is a 10" truck, which would be better to drive, and I think we can get most stuff in there if we but stuff in the car as well. The 10" just cannot tow the car, so I'd have to drive behind her for that whole time.

    We're looking at I-90 to Seattle to avoid mountains. We would rather take our time than drive in anything to scary (again, me with the heights).

    Here are the three options I can see in terms of truck/car/route combinations. I haven't driven across country since I was 19, so I would appreciate all/any suggestions and advice, or any other scenarios you think would make sense:

    1) 10" Truck with the car following behind, I-90 to Seattle, then down to Portland.

    2) 10" Truck with the car shipped separately (trying to find a cost-effective carrier right now), I-90 to Seattle, then down to Portland.

    3) 16" Truck with the car towed behind, I-80 to San Francisco, then up to Portland. I'm from SF so I wouldn't mind stopping for a day even if it adds a day to our trip. Plus, as I recall, while Wyoming gets pretty high in elevation, you never really go through any mountains during I-80.

    So what do you think? Am I missing anything? Is there another option for routes that would accomodate two people unexperienced driving a 16" truck?

    Any and all suggestions are very welcome.

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

    Default needless detours

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    First of all, if you decide to tow the car, I would strongly recommend that you get a full size trailer where all 4 wheels are off the ground, rather than a two wheel tow dolly. That should be easier for you to drive, plus you can't back up at all with the tow dolly.

    Even if you don't tow, I'd think about going with the 16' truck. I'm not real familiar with the budget fleet, but a lot of time the 10' trucks can be quite underpowered. If you can get any truck in a diesel, I think you'll find that to be a plus too.

    Now as far as your route, I think both of the options you've listed are pretty seriously flawed. But we'll start by mentioning that all interstate highways are designed for long-haul truckers who are carrying a much bigger load that even a moving van towing a car. They don't have sharp turns or big drop offs anywhere, even over mountains.

    First, Taking I-90 isn't bad. It's got a couple of passes, but it does spend most of the trip at a relatively low elevation. However, if you go that route, you wouldn't want to go to Seattle, as that would add more miles and force you to go over another mountain range. You'd want to cut down to I-84 and reach Portland from the east.

    If you decide to go the I-80 route, You would not want to go all the way to California. That's going to add 500 miles, putting you on the road for another full day, plus it's going to add more mountains - first Entering California going over the Sierras, and then again as you go up I-5 through Northern California and Southern Oregon.

    The route I would probably take as a first choice would be I-80 to Utah, and then I-82 and I-84 to Portland. I believe that's going to be your mildest route with regard to mountains, and it's also the shortest. The caveat is that in Mid-March you still can see a winter storm pretty easily, especially since much of the drive across Wyoming is well above 6,000 feet. I'd be checking the forecast, and consider I-90 (which is only a few miles longer) as a very reasonable alternative route.

  3. Default Awesome!


    Thank you for the AMAZING advice!

    One follow up question: When would you cut down from 90 (which I'm thinking is the best route) to 84? Maybe 15?

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


    No, you wouldn't go south all the way back at I-15, that would add 200 miles to your trip.

    I believe your best bet would be to take US-395 through Kennewick, WA. While not an interstate, it is still 4 lanes and a high quality road.

  5. #5

    Default A few additional tidbits.......

    Hello dannyprose,

    I can add the following to MM's excellent tips:

    Fear not I-90 in Montana. It runs, on average, thousands of feet of elevation lower than I-80 in Wyoming. The scenery from Billings to the ID border is spectacular, the passes gentle and short, and Livingston, Bozeman, Butte, and Missoula are all fun towns for an overnight.

    For the above reason, avoid I-80 in Wyoming if there is a likelihood of a storm front anywhere from western Nebraska to Ogden, UT. From immediately west of Cheyenne, I-80 cuts through a mountain range summiting at 8,640' before Laramie, and from Laramie to Rawlins in well into the foothills of the Medicine Bow Range. Perhaps not mountains, but they behave as such.

    If you do go that way, I think the route is I-80 to I-84 east of Ogden to I-82 in Oregon, not 80/82/84.

    By all means avoid towing via a dolly. It's a large pain in the neck, much because it is impossible to back a dolly. By impossible I mean physically impossible-not just difficult or challenging to the inexperienced. A dolly with a car loaded on it cannot be backed, period.

    Get a truck larger than you anticipate needing. Your belongings will expand infinitely to fill available space (Murphy's Law #48).

    Do not add miles to any material degree in an attempt to avoid weather, mountains, etc. At 10 mpg or less, adding miles gets expensive quickly, and each and every mile of travel has an element of inherent risk, making adding them willy-nilly an unwise move.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    The following 3 routes are all within 25 miles or so of each other, I'd pick the best one from the weather and road condition reports:

    I-80 to I-84 to Portland

    I-90 to US-395 to I-82 to I-84 to Portland

    I-90 to I-94 to I-90 to US-395 to I-82 to I-84 to Portland.

    US-395 is a 70 mph freeway most of the way from I-90 to Pasco.

    The only downside to the I-94 option is you have to go through the MSP metro area. Getting through Kennewick on US-395 is generally not too bad except at rush hour - you do have to take about 6 miles of multilane city street unless you go almost 20 miles out of the way on 182.

  7. Default

    Foy and GLC,

    Thank you very much for this advice - I cannot tell you how helpful it is.

    @Foy I'm glad you commented. MM told me to be in touch with you and read your articles about 90. I think we're going to make the 80/90 determination based off the weather forecast (as everyone has said). But I'd love to try 90. I've always wanted to see Montana.

    Thanks again EVERYONE for the advice. Hopefully it'll also help future (slightly more nervous) travelers who will be hauling all of their possessions Westward.

  8. #8

    Default I say go for it, danny

    Quote Originally Posted by dannyprose View Post

    @Foy I'm glad you commented. MM told me to be in touch with you and read your articles about 90. I think we're going to make the 80/90 determination based off the weather forecast (as everyone has said). But I'd love to try 90. I've always wanted to see Montana.
    Don't end up like the Russian submariner in "Hunt for Red October", failing to see Montana before you cash in your chips. Traversing the state on I-90 will give you a great look at a great state. It's considered bad form here in the RTA Forums to say one area's scenery is superior to another's, and I won't, but I-90 in MT is simply beautiful.

    The I-90 route has much more in the way of small cities and towns than does I-80 across Wyoming, too. In the unlikely event of mechanical or weather problems, help is much closer by in MT than WY.


  9. #9


    If I could suggest a couple of driving tips for you, When you are going down hill in the mountains, take the truck out of OD, and put it in 3rd.

    Let the engine do some of the braking. Do not ride the brakes apply them, hard if you have to then let off.
    you dont want them to over heat, although there is little chance of that, but being new at driving a larger truck and driving in the mountains, I thought I would mention it.

    Stay in the right lane when going though big cities, such as the Minneapolis, St. Paul area.

    No matter what route you take watch for ice on the bridge decks in the early morning and the early evening.

    As a person who has made many trips out to the west coast, I would take 94 to Billings, MT where it turns into I 90.

    When you come in to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area watch the signs for a by pass which is 694.

    694 will turn into I94 with out you having to exit

    Once very nice thing about going this way, you can stop and see some of the bad lands in North Dakota on the far western edge of the state. They have a very nice vista view right on the freeway.

    I like that Pasco, WA route the best for going to Portland from my home here in Minneapolis.


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