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  1. Default First time roadtripper... advice about weather later this week, please?

    Hi everyone! I've been a lurker for a long time. After admiring Steinback's Travels with Charley, I decided my dog and I should hit the road to California and visit my mom. I'll be coming from Chicago in a tiny rental car. I'd get a SUV but I plan to keep it too long in CA for it to be anything but insanely expensive. I plan to get there in three days, with stops in Sidney, NE and Salt Lake City, UT. I-80 all the way which drops me off in my hometown of Sacramento.

    I'm leaving this Thursday.

    I'm a little worried about the snowfall through Salt Lake City and the Rockies, and Lake Tahoe. It looks like 6 inches around Salt Lake City, and I hear there's more that from friends in Tahoe. Is this something to worry about? I'm a native Californian so I'm not used to driving in snow or ice (despite living in Chicago now!).

    Should I carry chains or will it not be necessary? I'm just concerned about driving such a tiny car through snowy conditions.

    Thank you for any advice.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,067

    Default more than weather

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    Before you worry about weather, you need to rework your plan. You are simply trying to do far too much driving in too little time to be safe - even in perfect conditions.

    Chicago to Sidney is more than 850 miles. That's going to take you at least 15 hours and is far too far to do in one day. It's a good 250 miles more than what professional drivers are allowed, and by the end of the drive, you would be every bit as dangerous as someone driving drunk. Even if you manage to make it that far in one piece, you'll certainly be in no condition to get in the car for another long day the next day.

    You really need to plan for 3.5 to 4 days for this trip, bare minimum. At a speed run pace, with good weather, you should look at making stops in Grand Island NE, Rock Springs WY, and Winnemucca NV. Those drives are already pushing you slightly above 600 miles, which is really the maximum you should try to do in one day.

    The forecasts I'm looking at don't call for any snow on the route this weekend, as pretty much everywhere is scheduled to be above freezing, although it is possible that some higher elevation areas could see snow. If you do see snow or ice, and you don't have experience driving in those conditions, chains will be of very limited value. If conditions are so bad that chains are required, you will be better off waiting a few hours for road crews to do their thing and get the roads into a safe passable condition. That may mean adding yet another day to your travels, but that would be the safest course of action.

  3. Default

    Hi Michael, thanks for the response. This is what I was looking at which seems to indicate snowfall, though I'd be happier if you're right: http://www.weather.com/maps/maptype/...ast_large.html

    I'm surprised, too, that you think that's too much driving per day. I guess I was thinking in a matter of hours. I'm confident I can drive about 12 or 13 hours a day because I used to regularly drive that far to get from college back home. I will admit 15 hours sounds tough so you've given me something to think about.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,749

    Default

    As Michael touched upon, doing a 12/13 hour stint in one day is one thing, trying to do 15 hours and then going and doing it all again the next day is something else. Fifteen hours of driving is going to leave anyone well below par on response times and alertness and even if you get away with it, it doesn't make it safe. With just an hour in the morning to get breakfast and showered and a couple of hours in the evening for a meal and to wind down will leave you with just 6 hours of rest before continuing to do it all again.

    Take your time, keep it safe and enjoy the ride.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,067

    Default

    This is what I was looking at which seems to indicate snowfall, though I'd be happier if you're right:
    That map is indicating a forecast for the next 48 hours, but anything that falls between now and Thursday should well be cleared up by the time you are out west. I was looking at forecasts for Saturday and Sunday, though, even today is really too far out to have any real good forecast information for very accurate information. Despite what I'm seeing, snow certainly isn't out of the range of possibilities.
    I'm surprised, too, that you think that's too much driving per day. I guess I was thinking in a matter of hours. I'm confident I can drive about 12 or 13 hours a day because I used to regularly drive that far to get from college back home. I will admit 15 hours sounds tough so you've given me something to think about.
    How can you be confident when you say this is your first cross country trip? It's great to have confidence, it is something else completely to have experience.

    You need to remember that online mapping programs don't reflect any time for slowing down for traffic, stopping for gas, food, and rest breaks, or even little things like finding your hotel at the end of the day. Also traveling with a dog will also mean more time on the road, because you'll need to stop even more often. When all is said and done, 600 miles is already going to be close to 12 hours a day on the road.

    The reality is that when you start pushing to that 12 hour mark, your body simply can't maintain the focus needed to safely operate a vehicle. Many studies show that even after 10 hours on the road, your driving skills start to go downhill fast and start being similar to someone who has been drinking. That's exactly why professional truck drivers have strict limits for how many hours a day they can be on the road, and why they can only plan to go about 600 miles a day. That's also why trying to drive the 870 miles on your first day is extremely dangerous.

    And also in your confidence as a rookie, it is quite likely you aren't respecting the effects of being on the road all day for multiple days will have. It's one thing to be able to drive 12-13 hours in one sitting for one day. It's quite another to try to do it the day after that, and again the day after that. The harder you push on day one, the less energy you'll have on days 2, 3, and 4. That's why you really should not try to do this trip with any fewer than 3 full nights of sleep.

  6. #6

    Default Not to "pile on", but.........

    ..........we often find it useful to discuss travel distances per day in terms of average speed, in mph, from the beginning of a day's travel to its end, thus encompassing all stops, delays, traffic situations, etc. A very good day's average is 62 mph in the western states, where I-80 posted speeds are 75 mph and much traffic moves along at 80+ mph. I've found running right at or slightly above the posted speeds and economizing on stops ends up within a mph or two of 62 in a 10 hour day. This is under optimal conditions with no sightseeing, no urban traffic, no lengthy construction slowdowns, etc.

    By further example, I participated in a pure speed run from NC to CA a few years back. My adult son and I averaged 67 mph across I-40 and that was possible only by bending the limit while running and by having zero weather, traffic, or urban congestion issues.

    You mention a "tiny rental car" so it's likely not the optimal machine for running all day right at or slightly above the posted limits out west.

    The 10 hours a day limit for professional drivers is there for a reason. I've been driving for nearly 40 years and have many cross-country RoadTrips under my belt (and hopefully many more to come). After a full day in the saddle, you're not much good in terms of attentiveness and reaction time, two factors which need to be spot-on for your safety and that of others.

    Foy

  7. Default

    Thanks for the replies, everyone, you've given me a lot to think about. I sucked it up and upgraded to a small SUV... put in a request for a Forrester but I'm not sure I'll get it.

    I hope that stopping when I get tired and starting up when I feel well rested is a good enough way to gauge it. I'm not committed to 3 days but I thought that was actually a conservative estimate since I know many people who can make it in 2! I can imagine the lecture you guys would give them. :)

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,060

    Default Speed Run Tips

    I'm also a veteran of many, many cross country speed runs -- I've done it solo and I've done it with other pro and semi-pro drivers and the fun-aspect wears off pretty much after you pass your first 18 hours in the saddle... But here are some time-tested tips that you might find helpful.

    I've also traveled with my dog.., Have a great trip. This is spring driving at it's best, if you can stretch the trip about a bit -- it will be one of your greatest adventures....

    Mark

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,067

    Default probably not worth it

    I'll tell you that considering how much more SUV's typically cost to rent, that is not an expense I would consider worthwhile. Like Chains, 4 wheel drive is of very limited value when you don't have experience in driving in snow and ice, and that's even more true when you are going to be talking about freeway driving (4wd helps you get going in deep snow, it does nothing to help you slow down in slippery conditions.) I would look at getting a mid-sized to larger sedan, as they will likely be more comfortable without costing much more than a subcompact.

    I hope that stopping when I get tired and starting up when I feel well rested is a good enough way to gauge it. I'm not committed to 3 days but I thought that was actually a conservative estimate since I know many people who can make it in 2! I can imagine the lecture you guys would give them. :)
    Your friends have played russian roulette and won. Driving 2,000 miles in 2 days is a homicide waiting to happen. But just like a drunk driver might be on the road 100 times before they get arrested or get into a crash, they got lucky. It doesn't mean your friends did anything other than make a decision to gravely endanger thousands of other people, and it certainly doesn't mean that even doing this trip in 3 days would be a smart or safe trip for you. And telling yourself that you'll know when you are too tired to continue itself is a contradiction, because when you are too tired to continue, your brain by definition will be too tired to think clearly.

    I'd really sum things up with this: You chose a username focused on safety, which is why we're so focused on this and why I would think you would want to do this trip as safely as possible. So ask yourself this, why you think you can safely do something that profession drivers are forbidden by law from doing because it is so unsafe?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,272

    Default

    I also hate to pile on, but I do want to give you some advice as someone who travels solo cross country frequently. Driving 12+ hours a day is okay - for ONE day. Doing it for multiple days, even if you complete it safely, will have you pretty useless for a day afterward! You might as well take the extra day during the trip.

    When I'm traveling, I get up early in the morning, approximating a normal work day, and spend a little time getting ready. I'm on the road no later than 8am, and I take at least 45 minutes for lunch. I get off the road before dark, in time for finding a hotel and having a decent dinner. After dinner, I spend a couple hours in the room on the computer and watching TV, and get to sleep at a normal time. This is a pace that you can generally keep up day after day without wearing you out.

    Following these guidelines, you can make it from Chicago to Sacto in 3.5 days, getting you "home" in the early afternoon. Set yourself a goal each day, but don't feel like you MUST make that goal and don't try to get too far ahead of yourself. For this trip, your first goal should be York NE. If this is where you wind up, next would be Rawlins WY, then Elko NV.

    Play it by ear, don't drive after dark, and stop any time you don't feel completely comfortable.

    FYI, Motel 6 and La Quinta are dog-friendly hotel chains. Some hotels will require a deposit and/or surcharge for a dog in the room and others will not allow them at all.

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