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  1. #1

    Default NC to the Mountain West, Version 4.0

    For the 4th time since July 2010, I've completed half of a cross-country RoadTrip. Within a couple of weeks, I plan to finish the other half. This winter trip was Raleigh, NC to Park City, UT for an annual ski/snowboard trip with my wife of 33 years and our two adult sons. Only the boys and I drove--the wife has to economize on vacation time so she flew. We're comfortably ensconced in our friend's wonderful vacation home perched 1,000' above I-80 just west of Parley's Summit east of Salt Lake City. A few short obervations start this annual field report:

    It's a lot more comfortable to drive a 2010 car than a 2002 pickup truck.
    Premium gasoline is far less expensive than diesel fuel
    A 3,000 lb car gets far better fuel mileage than a 9,000 lb pickup truck
    This is a VERY LARGE country
    It can snow very hard on top of the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee
    Sustained 25-30 mph headwinds kills fuel mileage
    Ski racks on the roof kill fuel mileage
    Skis and snowboards in the racks kills fuel mileage
    Sustained 30-40 mph headwinds almost turns fuel mileage into mile fuelage
    Major trucking companies vehicles are governed to speeds between 65 and 72 mph
    When governed trucks start to pass one another, it can take 3 miles to complete the pass
    Averaging 66.4 mph on a beginning of day to end of day basis requires economizing of stops, quick fueling, and a slight bending of the posted limits

    The weather is as unseasonably mild as I've ever seen out here. Likely little to report on conditions while I'm here, but I'll surely do so if anything breaks loose.

    Time to go skiing!


  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    I loved reading your comments, and read them aloud to my husband. We can sure relate -- we have a 99 diesel pick-up (but our cars aren't nearly as new as yours), and understand about that fuel mileage bit.

    A few years ago, Swift Co. trucks were regulated at 60 mph. As my husband pointed out, they were anything BUT Swift! We noticed on our last road trip between CA and AZ, that they seemed to be going a little faster, so maybe they got bumped up to 65 mph. My husband's (former) company was regulated at 65 unless the posted truck speed limit was slower.

    Hope you get lots of skiing in up there!


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Glad to hear that there's some snow!

    Quote Originally Posted by Foy View Post
    ... and a slight bending of the posted limits
    I bet. And, yeah, this a large country, sometimes it seems boggling how far the distances can be. Love the first part of this annual trip report!


  4. #4

    Default Not so Swift

    Correct you are, Miss Donna. On one of the previous trips, I figured out the proper SOP when spotting the Swift logo on the back of a trailer up ahead in the distance: Start looking for opening in the passing lane, because you're going around the Swift. I actually got decent mileage in my old diesel last summer: 17.1 mpg over a 7,027 mile trip. I haven't punched it up yet, but I suspect the Equinox V6 pulled something in the 16-17 range. Three +200 lb men, lots of baggage, and the aerodynamic equivalent of a billboard turned sideways on the roof catching the major headwinds will do that. We ran most of the way in 5th gear as the load + aero resistance would only hold 6th (top gear) on a long downhill.

    Mark, there is but little snow on the ski mountains. Only those with substantial snowmaking operations are fullly operational. There is no snow on the streets and roads and just a bit in north-facing shady spots. Only snow showers in the 10 day forecast.

    More later,


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Another thing that kills fuel mileage is 10+% ethanol winter blend gas.

    A friend of mine drove for Prime Inc. out of Springfield MO and their governors are set to 56. They don't pass anything.

  6. #6

    Default Should get interesting starting today

    We're expected to be on the receiving end of 5 days of on again, off again snow starting this afternoon. The whole area really needs it, as snowpack provides much of the drinking water during summertime. Estimated accumulations vary greatly with elevation, but we may see up to a couple of feet. Wonder if I should have sprung for new tires before the trip? I'll find out soon.

    More later,


  7. #7

    Default New tires would have been a good idea, but would only have helped just a little

    Good morning all,

    We did in fact receive several "pulses" of snow and sleet in Utah last week on the 18th, but the really heavy stuff didn't arrive until Friday/Saturday. On Saturday it snowed as hard as I've ever seen it come down, and for several hours. My sons and I beat a hasty retreat early in the day as I-80 became covered within minutes of the plows passing and as local traffic, heavy due to the presence of the Sundance Film Festival, became gridlocked. It took members of our party over 3 hours to get from Deer Valley ski area (just a mile east of Downtown PC) back to their house about 6 miles west of PC). It was the first time they've EVER seen I-80 come to a complete halt.

    By that time, the boys and I were well into Wyoming and enjoying our own white-knuckle drive. We'd thought we'd get ahead of the worst of it, and while we did, it took much longer that we'd hoped. The entire distance from PC to Rawlins, WY was slow and harrowing, with us putting along at 30-45 mph on snow and slush, with 18-wheelers occasionally blasting past us at 50-60 producing an avalanche of slush, much of which froze on the car. By the time we stopped in Rawlins for fuel, we had the front and the entire ski rack encased in brown ice. Much of the way from Rock Springs to Rawlins was on black ice, and that was the worst of it. At least the 18-wheelers were whoa-ed down by those conditions, but the result was about 3 hours of 25-35 mph with white knuckles on the wheel.

    The remainder of the drive Sunday & Monday was uneventful.

    I don't think I'll be getting any volunteers to drive out to Utah in Winter any time soon. I doubt I'll summon my own personal courage to do it again next year, unless I can stay for longer. The effort to get out there and back for a short time, an effort which precludes waiting out bad weather for long, just isn't worth it. It's interesting to add such trips to the list of experiences, but now we've "been there, done that", so until I can spend 3 weeks or so, I'll be flying in January.


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Fly and Drive... eh?

    Thanks for the report, glad you made it home safely.... and I'm sure this thread will scare the jeepers out of any new newbie contemplating such a drive...

    And for even more shakes and giggles -- look at this video of people trying drive on fresh snow over a layer of ice from Bountiful, Utah, (a place where drivers really do -- normally -- drive on snow)...


  9. #9

    Default Not intended to scare, but instead to educate

    Yes, Mark, on its face, perhaps the report would scare some planning such a cross-country traverse in winter.

    With enough study, however, RTA regulars and newbies will see the facts "between the lines" which are that sometimes the chosen route gets crummy, but by allowing time for a short stay in a rest area, a truck stop/travel plaza, or just safely parked at the top of an entry/exit ramp, one can by and large avoid such problems. Regulars and newbies alike will also notice the cautions concerning I-80 in Wyoming vs I-90 in Montana, several hundred miles further north, but several THOUSAND feet lower in average elevation. I looked at the Wyoming DOT webcams extensively right up until we departed and most of the route was clear (wet, but clear).

    I-80 across Wyoming and the Wyoming DOT are examples of some of the worst of winter travel planning. I paid close attention to elevations this time, and the portions of I-80 at or above 7,000' are astounding. A friend who lives in Green River, WY, and who travels I-80 over to SLC regularly, says the Wyoming DOT does not use salt whatsoever, preferring to eliminate the wetness so created in favor of dry packed snow which they do liberally plow and apply sand/cinders to the dry, packed powder remainders of. Once it's sunny, the surface clears from plowing and the evaporative process called sublimation, where solid water (snow, ice) vaporizes directly without passing into a liquid state. At those elevations, it's to a certain degree good thinking. The rub comes in DURING the storm, when snow falling at a high rate has only the fairly infrequently-passing plows and traffic to move it around. In the highly populated parts of Utah, next door, the DOT has more equipment and personnel, and the Friday-Saturday storm is the very first time I've seen I-80 come to a halt. Before the unusually heavy Festival and Saturday skiing traffic all hit the road around mid-afternoon, "The Cavalry" was out in force, running FIVE plows, en echelon, up and down Parley's Summit (pass) every 30 minutes or so. They had 2 five-plow crews, one running uphill while the other ran down, swapping lanes at the bottom each side, and heading back up and over.

    Probably the greatest problem with the weekend's event was the warm temperatures. We left Park City at 3:15 pm local time, at a point in time around 9 hours after major snowfall began. The temp at 7,800' was in the high 20s while in PC it was 33-35 degrees. In Bountiful, where the video was filmed, the snow/rain line was barely above the city, so they likely received plenty of sleet and freezing rain BEFORE the snow started. Then, the snow was not traditional Utah "champagne powder" but instead was heavy, wet snow. Put that atop a layer of grease and hilarity ensues, no? Give me temperatures in the low 20s to mid-teens, lots of dry powder snow, and I'll drive anywhere. Wet snow on top of ice, time to stay at the house.


  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default That video brought back so many memories.

    I really did not need to be reminded of all what happened when I was driving taxis in the NSW alps, during their ski season.


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