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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
    Posts
    5

    Default Cali to NY, partly via Route 66 in Winter/January. Am I crazy?

    Sorry if I'm repeating threads here but I've read a fair bit on here (and thank you everyone) but I'm still a little apprehensive on the whole affair!

    Essentially I'm moving from Vancouver to Montreal and I doubt I'll ever get a chance to do a road trip like this again so I'm looking into it heavily. I could fly if necessary and can do if I hit major problems later. I know I have to be prepared for heavy winter weather along the route no matter which route I take but if I can manage it safely I would love to (aswell as cut down travel time as mush as possible) see Route 66 at least for a while.
    It will be just me, a dog and a '96 Saab 900s.

    So first off, travelling to San Fran (or probably further south to LA) I have covered...I-5 or US 101 seems to be the routes there. I'm not worried about this part of the trip but I'll welcome caution or tips if anyone has them. This is actually the part I am most looking forward to I think.


    After that however there's the West->East part and on this I'm flummoxed and afraid!

    I gather taking the I-80 or 90 at this time of year is quite treacherous so that is out which leave a few options that I understand so far:

    I-10 all the way across, I-95 up, I-87 - the safest route to avoid winter weather but will add tons of extra mileage to my trip.
    I-10 to I-20 to I-95, I-87 - less safe and less interesting than I-10 route, still quite a lot of extra mileage.
    I-40 to I-95, I-87 - could be big trouble around the Flagstaff,AR and Albuquerque,NM for weather, much less mileage, possibility of some part of route 66.
    I-40 to I-44 to I-70 heading towards NJ then hook up somehow with I-95 again - see more of 66, less mileage, I-70 might be trouble.
    I-40 to I-44 to I-55 then somehow from Chicago to NY then up - most of route 66, probably significant winter weather.


    Now the biggest issue really with me on the big run coast to coast is safety, second priority is time spent and then sight-seeing last. Getting stranded from an off-road or a breakdown might take an adventure to a nightmare but maybe I'm making more of a meal of it than it is. I really have no idea of what the "middle" of the country is like at all, which is precisely why I would like to do the trip.

    I'm having my car assessed this week as to it's road worthiness for a trip like this (I think it will be fine) and I'll be backed up by a premier account with CAA and I am planning on giving myself between 3 and 4 weeks to do this...I've driven in snow before on all-weather tires (which my car is currently fitted with) as I lived in Montreal before and I know it can be crazy.


    What do the experts think?


    Thanks again in advance.
    Last edited by ajc123; 12-14-2011 at 05:58 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,749

    Default Do not presume anything.

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    Putting it simply, there is not an 'expert' who could possibly tell you what the weather will be like, or where the worst of it will be in January. To presume that I80 will be 'treacherous and I10 will be the 'safest' is the first mistake. Secondly, you should be just as concerned about I5 as you are the rest of your trip at this point. Bad weather can strike anywhere and at anytime.

    The good news is that you have plenty of time for your adventure and in the event of a storm you can just get off the road and let it pass by. Interstates are a priority to keep open and traffic on the move and 'when' and 'where' the conditions are good you could venture from Interstate for a little exploring.

    It's good to be prepared and the fact that you are having your car checked out and have concerns is a good thing, but don't let it grow out of proportion. Local's all over the country have to be able to go about there daily business as best as possible. There should be no real need to book lodgings in advance and I would suggest you keep researching all your options to see what appeals the most. Near to the time of departure get updated with weather forecasts and road conditions and then decide on what looks to be the best option at that time.

    Have a look around the forums and road trip planning resources with a good map to hand for ideas, relax and enjoy the planning. Just have a plan 'B', possibly plan 'C'.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Some Misconceptions

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    First, let's clear up some ms-characterizations of certain routes. I-94, I-90, I-80 and I-70 are all major transcontinental Interstate Highways. As such they are definitely not "quite treacherous" but are the safest possible roads, each used by tens of thousands of people every day. They are built to exacting standards on grade and curvature so that the big rigs can maintain a steady 70 mph (110 kph) without any problems. They get the best attention during any inclement weather and are the last to close and the first to be reopened. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever to avoid them unless the weather forecast is for an actual, and particularly nasty, storm just when you want to use them. And even then, that should only delay your journey by a day. Certainly not worth driving an extra 4+ days all the way down to I-10 and back. Sp pick your route on the basis of what takes you to the places you want to see rather than what you think will be dangerous.

    Next, I'm sorry to tell you, but US-66 was decommissioned about 25 years ago. It is no longer signed, and in many places no longer exists, having been completely replaced by the Interstates I-40, I-44, and I-55. There are small sections here and there that are marked as "Historic Route 66" and with a lot of trouble it is possible to follow the old road, but it is really a destination more of nostalgia than current interest.

    So, I'd suggest that rather than limit yourself to roads that you think will be open and interesting, that you instead find those sites that you wand to see and then the roads that connect them. You have time for a weather delay or two, and if you stick to the numbered highways and exercise even a modicum of good sense, you are not going to get stranded anywhere. As to the middle of the country, the best way to find out what's there is to go and explore.

    AZBuck

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
    Posts
    5

    Default

    This is excellent advice thank you. Reading on most of the answers outside of this forum where a similar question is asked they do essentially say "avoid I-80 and 90 this time of year, it's brutal for weather", which of course may be true or not depending on what mother nature plans for us this year but it's tough to decide on playing the averages on what is going to be a massive trip in a country I have little experience of (I'm from UK originally). This is why I need real working advice from experienced folks rather than the odd anecdotal evidence, although it's all going to be that to some extent.

    The reason I'm not to worried about I-95 or I-5 is that I've travelled them somewhat before having taken trips south from Vancouver and Montreal before..though not in January admittedly.

    "Quite treacherous" is perhaps stronger wording than I should have used but I would presume given everyones' caution elsewhere that the driving conditions compared to the southern routes are far more likely to lead to trouble. You are both right though I've presumed many things and built up misconceptions it seems based upon what I've read so far that I should probably look at again.


    I suppose the biggest thing I can take from this so far is, choose what I would like to see and have multiple plans ahead. Be flexible.
    So...winter tires might be a good idea straight away. I'll need them in Montreal anyway and if I run them on warmer ground for a bit, they wont lose tread enough to be not totally worth it if I do hit snow/ice.


    I was aware Route 66 of old is dead but the I-40 on follows it to some extent so you can veer off for some parts...Anyway it would be nice to see but I'm not 100% stuck on it.

    Really what I want to experience the most on the sight-seeing and experience side would be the food and finding a little about what "makes" a city/state from the feel I get as I go through it with a few stops. Route 66 is just one of these things that would be nice, but what I really want is to know about America.

    Thanks again.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

    Default

    Just to put a real life up to date example of why the idea that you need to go south to avoid weather is silly, you just have to look at what's happened so far this winter. I-10 has already seen closures in southern New Mexico because of snow/ice, but I don't believe there has been a single closure on I-90 yet.

    There are several other big reasons why the "avoid i-90 or i-80" advice is simply foolish. First, I-90 is generally at a much lower elevation than I-40, which can make it a far better choice. To get to I-40 or I-10, you also have to deal with several mountains along the coast, and you're adding several extra days of travel time, all of which are extra days where you could get caught by a storm. Second, going farther south often simply means that instead of seeing a snowstorm, you'll run into an ice storm - and I'll drive in snow over ice anytime. Third, plow crews are better in the north, where they are used to storms and know they have to quickly get the roads cleared. In the south, plow crews often don't have the experience or equipment because they know that within a few days the temperatures will warm back up enough to basically take care of itself (which can mean it will take several days before the roads will be back to normal, which never happens in the north.)

    As far as what to see, "to know America" that's a matter of time far more than it is about where you go. If you're just stopping in a town to grab a quick meal, your just not going to be able to get a feel for a place. That comes from spending time, and talking to people. Its kind of like the age old question we get here that people want to "see the real america" and in all my years of travel, I've yet to find the part of america that's fake.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Some great suggestions there.

    Quote Originally Posted by AZBuck View Post
    As to the middle of the country, the best way to find out what's there is to go and explore.
    I couldn't agree more! Just head out to the horizon, it is amazing what you may stumble across. I have found the greatest gems, those which are not in the tour guides... or on the internet... just by following my nose, looking out for signposts, and talking to the locals.

    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    If you're just stopping in a town to grab a quick meal, you're just not going to be able to get a feel for a place. That comes from spending time, and talking to people. It's kind of like the age old question we get here that people want to "see the real america" and in all my years of travel, I've yet to find the part of america that's fake.
    If you are travelling on your own, see if you can make a habit of sitting down at a table with another (apparently) lone traveller, whenever you sit down for a meal, a snack, or even a cuppa. Not all of them will be amenable to a friendly conversation (so have a book handy), but you will find a good 50% will. Then you can ask about the area, its people, its industry/agriculture, etc. etc. Often you will be told where to get the information locally. Go follow it up. Get used to asking questions. Write down those questions which seem to work for you.

    And what I always do.... have something to give to all these friendly locals. It may be a token souvenier from home... it may be a business card designed just for this trip. (I design a new one for every trip.) A photo of a local attraction, with your name and email on the back, will often go down well. And when you run into someone helpful, and they have children, have something to give them. (I already have a box full of items collected over the last two years, and I don't leave till March. It includes pens, cards, tiny native animal soft toys, keyrings, teaspoons, even local coins.)

    But to get to know the locals, be prepared for them to get to know you. You could end up with more friends across the US than you will have time to visit on your next trip.

    Lifey

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
    Posts
    5

    Default

    To follow on from this, your advice seems to be spot on. I see good sections of the lower states along the "safe" routes I mentioned have had a good amount of winter weather.

    Anyway I've had the car serviced and had winter tired fitted so thats ready...


    So, I believe what I am going to do is take the 5 to Seattle from Vancouver, 101 towards San Fran, then to LA, Las Vegas and then...well, east.

    For the east part I was thinking of taking the 15 and meetup with the 90, head towards Chicago, then decide the route from there towards Montreal.

    Honestly though after San Fran I'm pretty easy on what route East to Montreal I'll take. Advice on "best" route for scenery/time would be appreciated.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,271

    Default

    The "best" route for time from SF to Montreal (weather and road conditions permitting) would be I-80 to Chicago, I-94 to Battle Creek, I-69 to Sarnia, then 402 to 401. This would be about a 6 day drive.

    From LA, it would be I-15 to I-70 to Denver, then I-76 to join I-80. I-70 through Utah and Colorado is very scenic. This could be modified to take in several national parks such as the Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon, etc.

    If the northern weather and weather through the Rockies is not good, there are other options - I-40/I-44/I-55 to Chicago would be following the routing of old 66.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
    Posts
    5

    Default

    So I'm about two thirds of the way through my trip atm. You guys were right, the fear of winter weather on the interstates was a little dramatic, everything has gone smoothly so far.

    I took the i5 to seattle, highway 101 and then 1 down the coast to san fran, stayed a few days and the i80'd it all the way to Chicago where I currently am.

    There was a massive winter storm that breezed through the NE and especially illinois but I have been keeping a close eye on this http://www.weather.com/outlook/drivi...egional?reg=us and its been very helpful and reassuring so far.

    As for what ive done, well i thought i would find the drive kind of dull and the sites the hilights but its funny, the drive itself has become the hilight for me. I never epected this at all but having never driven for more than 5 hours in one go before Im finding it really good. Its almost like meditation and if you have something like the Oregon coast next to you aswell, its simply incredible.

    The only time it has become a little "i cant wait for this to end" was near the end of the 750 miles i did from san fran to salt lake city and also through a lot of Wyoming, which was almost desolate and very dull in bits.

    Ill be doing a lot more road trips in the future. This one was a mixture if pleasure and necessity, next time it will be just for pure pleasure.

    Thanks everyone, Ill be back!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

    Default

    When you push 750 miles in a day, everyone "can't wait for it to end" no matter how great the views are. That's exactly where your focus on the road fades, and starts to compromise your own safety. Its why we strongly discourage driving that kind of distance in a day, and its why professional drivers are limited to driving roughly 600 miles in a day

    But that's just an aside, pointing out your real life experience and how it compares to our recommendations.

    We are very happy that your trip was a success, and that you came back to share your experience! We hope to hear from you again for your next journey.

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