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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Los Angeles, California, United States
    Posts
    3

    Default Better Route - LAX to MSP via I-40 or SAC to MSP via I-80?

    Hi RoadTrippers!

    I'm looking for a little help...

    I have always used I-40 when traveling between Los Angeles and Minneapolis. I am usually loaded down and have always felt I-40 is less stressful. And I've always avoided I-70 just because I've heard it is maybe too mountainous for smaller SUV's with a decent load. But, I am considering I-80 eastbound in a couple weeks as I will be visiting family in Sacramento before I leave California. Obviously, I don't want to add the extra 800 miles by looping back through L.A. to take my regular route to I-40. My concern though, having never traveled I-80, is that it may be significantly more mountainous (more up and down hills?) compared to I-40 East. I am traveling in a 96 Jeep Cherokee V-6 4.0L 4x4 5-spd manual transmission. Engine is pretty solid with 211,000 miles, but I will be loaded down a bit... maybe an extra 800lbs. I-40 is generally not a problem for me, but I always get a bit nervous east of Albuquerque going up that one last real steep grade. Does anyone know if there are any (more) similar uphill grades like this on I-80 going east? Are there any other significant concerns I might need to be aware of, other than snow? I also believe fuel will be a wee bit more expensive on I-80.

    Any feedback is appreciated. Thanks!

    Safe Travels!

    Tim

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Posts
    1,552

    Default Hills, extra miles, old Jeep 4.0 liter engines

    Hello Tim,

    I'm hard pressed to imagine greater folly than to add 800 miles to a trip to avoid hills (which essentially can't be avoided to begin with) and somewhat of a fuel price differential. I've never traveled I-80 from SAC to Elko, NV, but I've traveled every mile of it from Elko into Iowa. Here's what you're looking at:

    Donner Pass entering NV is a long grade and the pass is fairly high.

    By Reno, you're on the floor of the Great Basin, where you'll stay until you reach the SLC area, some 550 miles east. There's a low pass in the vicinity of Battle Mountain and a 6,900' pass between Wells and Wendover, NV, but aside from those, you're pretty much flat.

    You can avoid a long grade on I-80 climbing out of the SLC basin by heading north on I-215/I-15 at the SLC airport west of the city and going up to I-84 at Ogden, thence east to where it ends back at I-80 some 50 miles east of SLC. It'll add around 15 miles, but the climb out of the Great Basin is much more moderate on I-84 east of Ogden.

    You'll be along the route of the Transcontinental Railroad leaving UT and entering WY. There are a handful of long grades between Evanston and Rock Springs, WY and another handful east of Rock Springs. A few more ones between Rawlins and Laramie, and a final long grade east of Laramie. From "The Summit" east of Laramie, I-80 goes gently downhill for +500 miles to Omaha, NE, following the Platte River and its tributaries.

    For the last 13 years, we've had a '96 Cherokee in our family. It has served as the daily driver for all 4 of us at one point in time or another. One of my sons is driving it to his work as I type this. It's got 190,000 or so on the clock and the 4.0 liter is as torquey as the day it was made. Since yours has a manual trans, my fears about stressing the automatic trans are not present. By the way, your Jeep and ours is an inline 6-cylinder (an I-6), not a V-6. It's regarded as one of the finest bread truck engines ever designed and it's been in service in one variety or another since the early 1960s. Make sure your cooling system is freshly flushed and refilled since in the Cherokees they tend to run hot, then just keep an eye on the temp gauge and let 'er fly.

    Safe travels,

    Foy

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    10,906

    Default myths and misconceptions

    Welcome to the RTA forum!

    I think you are operating under some inaccurate information.

    First, an SUV is more than capable of going over I-70 with little to no problems at all. Remember, its an interstate that is designed to be used by Truckers, who are far more affected by steep grades than a regular car/suv - especially when you're talking about a SUV powered by a rather large V6 and a manual transmission. If you were planning to tow, then it might not be my first choice, but that's really more because it would be putting some additional strain on the vehicle, but aside from that, there should be no concerns about your vehicle that should ever keep you from being able to use any interstate.

    In fact, if you are looking for a scenic option, I'd really think about taking US-50 across Nevada to I-70.

    Now, if you just are focused on travel time, I-80 would be the logical choice for your trip, and again, you shouldn't have any problems at all with your vehicle. The one big hill you'd be looking at is Parley's Summit, east of Salt Lake City, which is a relatively steep climb. If you were towing, you could bypass it by using I-15 North to I-84 East, rejoining I-80 past the summit, but based on the set up you've described, you really should not have any problems with it. Otherwise, the highway largely remains at a higher elevation across Wyoming, but there are no major inclines that would cause any problems.

    Out of curiosity, what steep grade east of Albuquerque causes you problems on I-40? From my memory of driving it last year, and my understanding of the terrain, you're mostly going down hill at that point.

    I'd say your thought that I-80 has higher gas prices is also largely a myth. They are changing all the time, but right now, Utah and Wyoming are seeing some of the lowest gas prices in the country. Even if they were slightly cheaper along I-40, it certainly wouldn't make up for the extra fuel you'd burn by adding 500 miles, and full extra day on the road, by going all the way down to I-40.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    7,332

    Default

    The most direct way from SAC to MSP is I-80 to I-35, no matter what you are driving. I don't see why you are nervous climbing grades - I drive a full size pickup truck with a V-6 and manual transmission, and I do have to drop down from 5th to 4th going up the grades, but I have no problem maintaining the speed limit. 800# is not a big load, a Cherokee is built to handle that no problem.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Posts
    1,552

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    Welcome to the RTA forum!

    Out of curiosity, what steep grade east of Albuquerque causes you problems on I-40? From my memory of driving it last year, and my understanding of the terrain, you're mostly going down hill at that point.
    I've only been through there once, but I recall a fairly long westbound downgrade down a canyon for a few miles east of ALB. Perhaps a couple thousand feet of elevation lost. Farther east, Cline's Corner is one of the higher points on the I-40 transcontinental profile at around 7,700'.

    Foy

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Posts
    1,552

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    Welcome to the RTA forum!

    Out of curiosity, what steep grade east of Albuquerque causes you problems on I-40? From my memory of driving it last year, and my understanding of the terrain, you're mostly going down hill at that point.
    I've only been through there once, but I recall a fairly long westbound downgrade down a canyon for a few miles east of ALB. Perhaps a couple thousand feet of elevation lost. Farther east, Cline's Corner is one of the higher points on the I-40 transcontinental profile at around 7,700'.

    Foy

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Los Angeles, California, United States
    Posts
    3

    Default

    Thanks Foy,

    Yes, you are right, an I-6 engine. I stand corrected. It IS the SHiznit, for sure!

    I appreciate your detailed topographical account... exactly what I was looking for. I'm sure I will be okay, I just like to be prepared and not have any surprises beyond my control!

    Best,

    Tim

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Los Angeles, California, United States
    Posts
    3

    Default

    Thanks Michael and GLC,

    I appreciate your feedback!

    There is a steep grade on the east edge of Albuquerque. It has been taxing for me when towing. I am not towing, however this trip. I do believe that it is the steepest grade between Flagstaff and ALB? Maybe not the longest, but is rather steep during a good stretch of the hill. Yes, Cline's is higher, just not as much of a lengthy climb from what I remember. I guess it depends on which trip and which load I'm pulling is coming to mind. HA!

    AS far as gas prices Michael... I compared online with GasBuddy and another website. From what I saw I-80 was on avg. $ .05 to .10 more. I agree, paying a little more and driving less is a perfectly acceptable trade-off. I would like the change of scenery also!

    Thanks again everyone!

    Safe Travels,

    Tim

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