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  1. Default Need Advice! Road Trip: Boston to San Francisco

    Hi - I am planning a road trip from Boston to SF, leaving on Dec. 27th. I'll be traveling with my girlfriend and our dog and would like to get across country in the least amount of time, but safely. We'll be driving a 10 foot UHaul with a sedan in tow. My girlfriend is insisting that we take the northern route, through Montpelier OH, Lincoln NE, Salt Lake City UT to SF. Though longer (about 7 hours on google maps), I think it's wise to take the southern route (through TN, OK, NM) to avoid winter weather conditions and mountainous terrain. Any and all comments and advice are welcome.

    Site-seeing is not important.

    Thanks so much!

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

    Default she's a smart one.

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    Here's one you can get used to saying: Your girlfriend is right.

    Taking the direct route via I-90/I-80 is your best bet. Going farther south doesn't really put you at any better odds of seeing good weather, you still deal with mountains, and since 7 hours is basically a full day on the road, you'd be much better simply keeping that extra day of driving in the bank, and use it to wait out a storm if you hit bad weather.

    You're looking at a 3,000 mile trip via I-80, which means you're looking at a minimum of 6 full days on the road in good conditions, but you should plan for 7 to 8 just in case.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Taking I-40 (which sounds like what you're talking about, with TN/OK/NM) isn't that much better because of the mountain elevation. No matter what, you have mountains between Boston and SF. Along I-40 in NM and AZ, you will go as high as 7000 ft elevation. While Albuquerque (at 5000 ft) doesn't get a LOT of snow during the winter, it does get some! Flagstaff AZ (at 6900 ft) gets its share, though.

    No matter which freeway you choose at this time of the year, if it snows or freezes badly enough, the Highway Dept will close it temporarily. I-10 has been closed already this year, and it's the Interstate that is the furthest south.

    When you're towing, bear in mind that you will be going slower than 75 mph in most cases, even if the weather is perfect. In most states, if you are towing, you are required to go 10 mph slower than vehicles that are not towing anything. So you won't make the time you would in a regular vehicle. Even if you were in just a U-Haul, not towing, you're supposed to follow the Truck speed limits. Michael says "6 days" and he is right on -- those days will be 12 hour days, probably.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Albuquerque, New Mexico

    Default Winter Weather on I-40

    Quote Originally Posted by mrbrochu1
    I think it's wise to take the southern route (through TN, OK, NM) to avoid winter weather conditions and mountainous terrain.
    Hi, mrbrochu1. What Michael and Donna have told you about winter weather on I-40 is 100% on the mark. In fact, late this afternoon the National Weather Service issued a blizzard watch for northeastern New Mexico, which you can see below (just click).

    Here’s a different view of the warnings, and the nationwide map.

    The Texas and Oklahoma panhandles should also get a good amount of snow from this storm.

    Quote Originally Posted by DonnaR57
    While Albuquerque (at 5000 ft) doesn't get a LOT of snow during the winter, it does get some!
    We don’t usually get a lot of snow right here in town (some years we get practically none at all), BUT – what happens a lot of times is, while we might be getting just a little snow in the city, it will be snowing like crazy in the mountains just a few miles to the east. For example, this is what was happening here two weeks ago – not much snow in town, but I-40 was closed east and west of Albuquerque (and I-25 south to Las Cruces was closed all night).

    I hope this is helpful. Have a safe trip!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default There's nothing like local knowledge.

    Thanks howard. That is an extremely informative post.

    Mind you, I have never driven in winter in the US, and if it were not for my time on these forums, would probably have assumed, like the original poster, and in blissful ignorance taken the southern most route.

    Although, I have to admit I was quite taken aback when in August 2001, at Hannagan Meadow AZ, I saw (old) snow on the ground under the pine trees. I had always assumed that AZ was a hot State. In those days I knew all about lattitude and longtitude, but had never learned to consider altitude.


  6. Default

    Thanks so much for all of the useful info! As we travel west, whats the best way to track weather conditions? Also, what are some safe towns to stay in along the way?

    Thanks again.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Bring a laptop, use to track the weather and for links to all the states' road conditions. Almost all hotels have wi-fi now.

    I have yet to find an unsafe town to stay in along Interstate highways - just stay in a hotel right at an exit. I would just avoid staying in the big cities, if you reach one at a time when you want to stop, do it in an outlying suburb.

    2 pet-friendly hotel chains that come to mind are Motel 6 and La Quinta.

    I would modify the northern route a bit - I don't like taking I-90 during the winter due to frequent lake effect snows. Take the Mass Pike to Sturbridge and take I-84 through Hartford all the way to Scranton PA, then I-81 to I-80. Take I-80 all the way to SF.

  8. Default

    This is really a coincidence - I'm also going to do a road trip from Bos to SF on the 27th. Found this thread as I was searching for some relevant tips. This forum has been very helpful!

    I was going to take the southern route, but based on this thread I think I'll take I-80 and start with I-84 as glc recommends.

    My main concern is around crossing the Rockies - How worried should I be about crossing the mountain area with I-80? Do I need to have chains? (never used chains before)
    That's one of the main reasons I originally wanted to take the southern road.
    Also, I'll be doing the drive alone so I want to play it as safe as I can.

    Any tips would be appreciated!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Good to hear.

    Hi Nada, and Welcome to the The Great American RoadTrip Forum.

    It is good to hear that this thread has been helpful for you. As a solo traveller just make sure you use the same common sense and security measures as you do at home. Lock doors, use the safety chain in hotel rooms, and move on if you feel uncomfortable.

    If you have never used chains, the best thing is to make sure you have sufficient time to sit out a storm. Anytime chains are required, that is the time to stay off the roads.

    Merry Christmas.


  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    I-80 doesn't really cross the Rockies at a pass in the traditional sense. Its at a high elevation of around 7000 feet most of the way across Wyoming, but it doesn't jump up and down, like the 10,000 pass you see in Colorado, or even the way you go up and down as you cross I-40 in NM and Arizona. Of course, that creates its own set of challenges, particularly with the wind.

    You're not likely to see chain restrictions until you get to California, where I-80 crosses the Sierras. As Lifey said, if you are not familiar with winter driving and conditions are so bad on the interstate that you need chains, then you should strongly consider simply waiting for conditions to improve.

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