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  1. Default Virginia to Seattle....flattest route?

    We are a military family doing our own move from Norfolk Virginia to Seattle Washington. We are leaving on August 7th with a projected arrival date of August 15th. We will be driving a 24' loaded Penske truck and hauling a car....yup, crazy, I know! Sounded good, when we thought the money was gonna be really good.....come to find out, the money is not so good and it's too late to change our plan. So, I'm looking for the flattest route across the country to avoid too much stress on my husband, who will be the only one driving the truck. Ideally, I would like to stop in Yellowstone for the night. I would hate to make this trip without saying I saw something that I've always wanted to see...although I'm sure when it comes down to it, I'd rather see us all make it alive before I see any sights!! Help??

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

    Default Interstate.

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    I can't recommend a specific 'flattest route' [I'm sure someone will be along that can] but Interstates are built to a standard with gradual curves and gradients so when sticking to them you shouldn't have a problem. In the Map centre [in the tool bar above] you can create different routes and click on the 'Elevation' tool below the map and check out what's in store. It would be worth considering leaving your truck and trailer at a Motel and driving into Yellowstone if that's what you decide to do. With such a load I would think that you would be looking in the region of 6x 9/10 hour days to make the journey with time for short and regular rest breaks etc.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
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    4,546

    Default

    Having done a military move here and there, you have my ultimate sympathies. DITY moves are much harder on the family than one realizes.

    There are many different routes that I could suggest. Flattest route - - well, you've got to cross the Appalachians, the Rockies and then part of the Cascades, no matter which route you go (unless you go roundabout which would take longer than you've got for PCS).

    My husband is both retired military (20 years) and a former commercial long-distance trucker who used to criss-cross the country 3 or 4 times in the space of 20 days. Among his favorite routes were 80 and 90 - as long as they weren't Turnpike routes (truckers get charged an arm and a leg to use those). He would use (from VA to WA state): I-64 to I-81 to I-70/76 (a short distance on the TP), I-70 across to I-65 where he'd pick up I-80 (another short bit on the IN Turnpike) west. He used to use I-29 to shoot north to pick up I-90, but you may need to use a different route because I-29 has flooding issues and is closed in places. (Perhaps I-25 in WY? Then you can route yourself over to Yellowstone. BTW, if you have time, spend a day tooling around Yellowstone.) I-90 will take you into Seattle.

    Interstates usually don't have heavy grades - 6% is the maximum. Is there a reason you're not helping him drive? I used to haul our 5th wheeler all over, and a Penske truck isn't much different (unless it's manual transmission and you've never driven that - - and do I have a story about that!).

    And no, you're not crazy. Back in 1970, my family moved from IL to AZ in two vehicles: one was a station wagon towing the travel trailer we already owned, and the other was a Dodge van. Both station wagon and van were filled with our personal possessions - we sold everything else. About 8 years later, hubby and I moved ourselves from MO to AZ. I drove a car and hubby drove the rental truck (UHaul). He'd never before in his life driven a stick shift - he literally learned "on the fly". His dad was absolutely amazed that he didn't strip the gears and destroy the truck! So....you're not crazy!


    Donna

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
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    Default

    The shortest (fastest) and flattest route involves a lot of toll roads - that would be I-64 to I-295 around Richmond, I-95 to DC, west beltway to I-270 to I-70 to the PA Turnpike - to the Ohio Turnpike to the Indiana Toll Road - then I-80 south of Chicago to I-355 to I-290 to I-90 into Wisconsin. You can take either I-90 or I-94, there isn't much difference but I-94 is a bit flatter. It will rejoin I-90 in Montana.

    Get a hotel in Bozeman where you can park the truck and car trailer and take the car to Yellowstone. Take I-90 the rest of the way to Seattle.

    I believe all rental trucks in that size class these days have automatic transmissions, and if you have a choice, get a diesel. Your fuel costs will be lower and it will pull the mountain grades a lot better than a gas engine. Yes, diesel costs more than gas, but a gas truck will probably get about 6 mpg and the diesel should get about 10 mpg.

    Avoiding a majority of the toll roads will add about 120 miles to the trip. At Hancock MD take I-68 to I-79 to I-70, and take that to Indianapolis. Then take I-74 to I-39 to I-90.

  5. #5

    Default On the flats

    Hello jsbandb36,

    Please allow me to thank your whole family unit for your service. I have a son in the Seabees (CAN DO!) and two nephews who are Army Ranger captains, so our family also knows a little bit about service in the 21st century.

    Here's my suggestion: Some mapping software options have you going up through the traffic cesspool of Northern Virginia and DC to I-270 and on up across western PA on the PA Turnpike, a route which then rewards you with a drive right through Chicagoland and Minneapolis-St Paul in reaching I-94 or remaining on I-90. I want no part of most of that in a Penske hauling a trailer. It's seriously hilly from DC clear into Ohio, and I'd prefer a ball-peen hammer to my knuckles over driving up I-95 into and through DC.

    So, I-64 west through Richmond, Charlottesville, and Staunton to Lexington. Very gently rolling from Williamsburg to west of Charlottesville. Exactly two long grades to Staunton, gently rolling down the Valley to Lexington. From Lexington, VA to Charleston, WV, you've just got to take one for the team, but that's the shortest distance through the Allegheneys and Cumberland Plateau. From Charleston to Huntington you're on the Kanawah River valley and flat. Little rolly Huntington WV to Louisville, KY, thence north to Indy. From a few miles north of Louisville, you're pretty much on a pancake until you reach western South Dakota, which you'll reach via I-74 to Davenport, IA, thence I-80/I-680/I-29 to the southeast corner of South Dakota, where you pick up I-90 the rest of the way to SEATAC. You'll want to double check with the Iowa DOT but I believe the portions of I-29 north of I-680 are north and upstream of the flooded and closed segments south of Council Bluffs.

    You've got the Black Hills providing some up and down in western SD, where the Badlands NP can be experienced on a drive-through loop. From the Black Hills to Billings, MT, there are some long grades in the Powder River country, but nothing terrible. From Billings, MT into Idaho, I-90 is beautiful and flat, running along the Yellowstone River, the upper Missouri tributaries, and downstream along the Clark Fork River, a Columbia River tributary on the west side of the Continental Divide. There are passes at Bozeman, Whitehall, Butte, and the MT-ID border west of Missoula. In each case, the grades on each side are but a few miles in length (say 7-8 miles on average) and their summits among the lowest anywhere in the Rockies. You do then have to cross Snoqualmie Pass in the Cascades just east of SEATAC, but you're on the homeward leg by then and you must get through the Cascades somewhere, anyway.

    A notable issue with your timing is the 71st Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. It draws +100,000 participants from all over the world and you'd think I-90 across South Dakota was the only route there. Having done a RoadTrip coinciding with the arrival and departure weekends at Sturgis, I'd avoid it during the days preceding the August 8 start right through and after the August 15 end. Rest stops, fuel stops, restaurants, motels, and campgrounds will be packed for a large radius. To avoid Sturgis, just stay on I-80 through Omaha and across Nebraska (dead flat along the Platte River) to Cheyenne, WY, and take I-25 up to I-90 west of Sturgis there.

    For a look at Yellowstone, park your truck west of Billings--Red Lodge, MT is very nice, and take US 212, the Beartooth Highway, into Yellowstone's Northeast Entrance. It'd be a long day, but overnighting near Red Lodge would allow an early start for the Beartooth and about 2/3rds of a day for the big loop around Yellowstone, then back to Red Lodge for a second overnight.

    Thanks again for your family's service. We all appreciate it.

    Foy

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
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    Joplin MO
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    Default

    I would have recommended a version of Foy's route, but I didn't because of the I-29 issues.

    From a few miles north of Louisville, you're pretty much on a pancake until you reach western South Dakota, which you'll reach via I-74 to Davenport, IA, thence I-80/I-680/I-29 to the southeast corner of South Dakota, where you pick up I-90 the rest of the way to SEATAC.
    At Bloomington/Normal, take I-39 north to join I-90.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2011
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    Southern California
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    Before taking on a diesel truck, I'd sure check gasprices.com about the price of diesel these days! Here, and on the east coast, it's far more expensive per mile. Once the price is checked, I'd compare the miles-per-gallon of trucks that run on unleaded vs. Diesel, and do the math. The gas truck may be a better deal in the long run.

    Then again - this is a military move. There may not be a choice!



    Donna

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
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    Default

    You'll want to double check with the Iowa DOT but I believe the portions of I-29 north of I-680 are north and upstream of the flooded and closed segments south of Council Bluffs.
    There actually has been one section of I-29 closed North of I-680/Missouri. The problems there haven't been as bad as farther south, and it shouldn't be closed for months like sections of I-29 between Omaha and St. Joe Missouri. It should be reopened by August, but it is certainly something to keep an eye on.

    I'd say GLC's suggestion of going up I-39 through Rockford is likely the best bet if flooding problems persist, and it may makes sense anyway just to avoid the lingering effects.
    I'd compare the miles-per-gallon of trucks that run on unleaded vs. Diesel, and do the math. The gas truck may be a better deal in the long run.
    Having moved across country multiple times, in both gas and diesel moving trucks, if you have the option of taking a diesel, take it. Even if diesel costs a bit more, a diesel is going to give you more power and a easier ride, especially when you are talking about a large sized truck and towing a car.

    If you are sticking to the Interstates, the drive shouldn't be difficult even if you end up with a gas engine, but a diesel will make it a bit easier.

    But ultimately, the 2-3 mpg improvement should make Diesel quite a bit cheaper overall. Right now, the average price of gas is $3.57, and the average price of diesel is 3.89, but the actual cost per mile is significantly less with a more fuel efficent diesel.

    A 3000 mile trip in an 8 mpg gas engine would cost $1340, the same trip in a 10 mpg diesel would cost $1170.

  9. #9
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    The last 24 foot gas truck I used got 4 miles per gallon driving it up against the 65 mph governor - and that was with a manual transmission in top gear. That was 35 years ago, so I'd bet today's engines get better, but loaded and pulling a car trailer I think 8 mpg is wishful thinking. I do know for a fact that a 24 foot Penske diesel packed as tight as it can get but not pulling a trailer gets 10+ mpg driving 65 to 75 mph.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2003
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    I think 8 mpg is in the range of plausable - I remember getting around 10 in a slightly smaller gas powered uhaul while pulling a full trailer, compared to 12 in a diesel with a similar setup in a different move.

    However, the larger point I was making is that even if the difference if only 2 mpg, a diesel would still save a couple hundred bucks despite diesel having a higher per gallon cost. If the gas engine gets even less mpg, the difference would be even greater.

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