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  1. Default I am planning to drive from Chicago to Portland this coming December 25th

    I am planning to drive from Chicago to Portland this coming December 25, 2011. I feel nervous of the trip since it is my first time to drive across the country. Which route will be the best one in winter? I read a lot of posts and it seems to me I-80 then I-84 is a good choice. But am I capable to drive through those mountain area with my toyota rav4 ? The suv is in good shape, but I don't have experience with snow condition. please give me some tips and advice thanks.

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


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    First of all, certainly you can make this drive, no matter what car you have. The Interstates are used year round by thousands of people every day, they all have limited grades and curves designed for fully loaded semi's to get up and down with ease, even in winter. In the event of a winter storm, they get first priority for plowing and will only close if a storm is so severe that plows simply can't keep up.

    For a route, you'd have a couple of choices, either I-80/84 as you mentioned, or I-90 (and/or I-94) to US-395 to I-84. I-90 does cross the rockies at a lower elevation, but your best bet will be to look at the weather forecast as you leave and decide which of those options gives you the best likelyhood of good weather.

  3. Default Thanks Michael,

    can I take it for a 2 days trip?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Four or Five

    There is simply no way that you can drive the 2100+ miles between Chicago and Portland (OR) in two days. that would take 4 days minimum and you should keep a fifth day in hand in the event that you run into a storm that exceeds your driving abilities


  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default not on your life

    Realistically, you're looking at a drive that's going to take about 40 hours of on the road time. No you can't do that in 2 days, and you can't even safely do it in 3, even with multiple drivers. As Buck said, its a 4 day drive and you should be ready for this to take 5 if you see any bad weather at all.

  6. #6

    Default In favor of I-90 across Montana

    While I have not (yet) traversed I-90 across Montana in winter, I have much familiarity with the route and the elevations it holds from much summertime travel up that way. I do have an out-and-back trip across Wyoming along I-80 in January 2011 under my belt.

    Let me assure you, there's no comparison. The scenery along the Yellowstone River from Billings to Livingston is outstanding and the scenery from Livingston on into Idaho is spectacular. The passes at Bozeman and Butte are relatively low in elevation and short in duration (distance), and the frequency of larger towns and cities is very comforting. Excepting the passes, I-90 generally runs river valleys at elevations between 3,000 and 4,500', with some sub-3,000' areas, across Montana. By comparison, I-80 in WY reaches 8,640' between Cheyenne and Laramie, and much of the segment from Laramie to Rawlins is + 7,000'. You're then looking at 6,000 to 6,800' most of the way to Rock Springs, with long segments between small towns/services. Out west, elevation contributes much more to weather worries than does latitude.

    Unless a HIGHLY localized snow event is forecast to affect MT only, and not WY, something rare in my years of watching the winter weather developments out that way regularly, I'd run I-90 without hesitation, and would enjoy the views, the towns of Livingston, Bozeman, Butte, and especially Missoula, and would be happy not to be slugging it out in high elevations and high winds across WY.


  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    My husband, a former commercial driver, has done both I-80 and I-90/94 in the winter months. One winter, they closed I-80 one time for about 12 hours, so he and his driving partner had to hole-up in a truck stop until it opened. He'd had a similar experience on I-90/94, but it was only closed for 8 hours.

    The interstates are kept open as much as possible, to keep the trucking industry going. Without them, we wouldn't have items in our stores to buy/sell, and much more!


  8. #8

    Default I-80 closings are routine in Wyoming

    As we're fortunate to spend a week in the Park City, UT area each January, we regularly see the flashing signs for segments of I-80 being closed in nearby Wyoming. It's normally only for a few hours, but it's fairly regular. The section from Cheyenne to Laramie is brutal, and it was closed during the early afternoon when I was westbound on Dec 31, 2010, and didn't re-open until some time in the wee hours of New Year's Day, so that was around a 12-hour closure. We left Cheyenne at 0600 New Year's Day, got to the pass by 0645 (slow going in near whiteout conditions), passed through Laramie in the clear, and encountered +50 miles in and out of whiteouts with the posted speed limit being 35 mph, in a line of tractor-trailers. We stopped, in the clear, in Rawlins for a cup of coffee and a biscuit at McDonalds, but what I really wanted/needed was a stiff drink, but we had long to go and it was only 0930. From Rawlins to Rock Springs we had 50 mph headwinds and sometimes crosswinds, with temps between 0 and 7 below 0. My truck got 11 mpg from Cheyenne to Rock Springs, and all I was doing was maintaining around 45-50 mph when the pavement was clear enough for it. Much of that segment was run in 4WD, as was the whole Cheyenne to Laramie and west of Laramie to Rawlins. I'd just as soon not do that again.


  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default I know that feeling!

    Quote Originally Posted by Foy View Post
    .... but what I really wanted/needed was a stiff drink,
    Foy, One January, I traveled in a long line of 18-wheelers in a near-perfect ground blizzard and white-out inching along I-25 between Cheyenne and Denver. At best I just barely see the lights of the tractor-trailer in front of me and I was in constant contact with the truck behind me on the CB radio -- After what seemed like I had driven for days and days -- we noted with some degree of ghoulish glee that we'd driven about 50 miles. A stiff drink would have been welcomed... but I was driving to a meeting and had to keep going.... Like your trip, we had to maintain some sort of forward progress, in high-range 4WD or the wind gusts would have toppled us. A very long, long morning..... I was driving the Phoenix One -- and passed a couple tractor-trailers that had lost their trailers due to the wind.


  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Yes, but....

    Quote Originally Posted by Foy View Post
    I'd just as soon not do that again.
    ... what a great story you have to share. Every experience is worth it, at least once.

    The glass is always half full!


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