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  1. #1

    Default Solo driving, Seattle to Chicago

    I'm driving solo from Seattle to Chigago and plan to use I-90. What's the best way to receive winter storm advisories while on the road? I'm on a shoe-string budget but thought it would be worthwhile to purchase a CB with weather channels. Any recommendations for a practical CB and where best to purchase?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO



    Do you have a smartphone and/or a laptop with wifi?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Western/Central Massachusetts

    Default Emergency Radios

    While using a cell phone and/or laptop would be okay, there are times where you may not have service.
    In these instances, the long-distance nature of radio waves can be very helpful. I have a couple of devices that are useful for this purpose: one is a hand-held radio scanner with a weather band. The other is an emergency radio (hand-cranked for power), also capable of receiving weather band. My gf's car has built-in weather band, too. The CB as you mentioned is another good option. Read this article for more information.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Ft. Collins, CO.


    NOAA weather channels are the way to go unless you can do something from the internet with laptop or smartphone. The The Weather Channel and will meet your needs. Check them at rest/gas/food stops.

    I've programmed my digital scanner with all the agencies between Ft. Collins and Seattle for when I do that trip. The scanner also has NOAA weather. But digital scanners are needed to cover the agencies. The radios are expensive and complex to program.

    Buying a really cheap scanner could get you the NOAA weather freqs easily but the rest of the scanner wouldn't be of much value.

    There's also the oldtime tactic of listening to local AM/FM broadcast radio stations where they'll give the news and weather periodically. (We still have these around, don't we?)

    I-90 is pretty good road (smooth & painted) from Montana to Seattle.

  5. #5

    Default A picture: worth 1,000 words?

    The above are all great ideas for a "look" ahead at weather conditions. Be also aware of real-time webcam images of I-90 in Montana provided by the RoadWay Information System (RWIS) operated by the Montana DOT.

    Montana's RWIS is extensive and keeps adding stations as time goes by. They're up to a couple dozen cams if not more. Cams are placed in the passes and along flatter segments of highways, both Interstates and other US and MT highways. A wifi-enabled laptop can be employed at truckstops and fast food and coffee shops available at virtually any stop and one can click up the RWIS for a look-see of actual real-time conditions as well as have a look at radar imagery up ahead to see what weather systems you're headed in to. Between the two, it's fairly difficult to drive into a weather system you're not prepared for.

    A cellular wireless card for your laptop would allow you to do this without having to find a wifi at a stop. Ditto a smartphone so long as you can get a signal. The last time I was in MT, in 2011, I had a Verizon signal virtually everywhere I went, and absolutely everywhere I went along I-90, from Billings to Missoula.


  6. #6


    Thanks for the advice, everyone. No on the smartphone; my cell phone is "antique" but suits my needs. Yes to the laptop with WiFi but I agree with Mass Tim that there are areas with no service. To add to it, I'm not technologically skilled and have been frustrated with looking for good DOT info especially for the passes.

    I've done a couple solo cross country road trips many years ago, Maine to Washington where one was in Feb. in a huge Ryder truck with a car trailer. I was fortunate that the weather was on my side. I traveled with CB on and radio off and that suited me just fine. I enjoyed listening to the truckers and would also find out about road conditions that way. As a woman traveling alone, I'm leary of striking up conversations and very cautious when pulling in rest areas and gas stops. My road tactic has been to figure out who's chatty, follow behind with a quarter mile or so distance and listen to the tone of the conversation. Those truckers just want to make a living and if I happened to feel comfortable chatting with them, they became protective over me. No stopping to enjoy coffee with them though...

    Mass Tim, thanks for sending the link for CBs. Actually, I already read it and that's how I came across this forum. Great info on this site. I'm happy to see that people still use CBs.

    I noticed States now have a 511 system now. How does that work or would any of you recommend depending on it?

    So I've decided to purchase a CB with NOAA freqs. We have a small truck stop in the area; should we go there or should we go to a radio shack or car toys instead? I'm not keen on the idea of a permanent install but will reconsider; my old CB was a radio shack special with a magnet mount antenna so I could tuck everything away when not in the car. I don't want to make my car a target for thieves especially since they won't get much after they bust out a window.

    Antennas: Is there such a thing as an auto tune antenna or CB that auto tunes to the antenna? Or should I just pay a "pro" to set it up for me?

  7. #7


    Thanks for the MT DOT tip. I'll put that in my Favorites. WA DOT has a good webcam site as well but I've struggled with finding a good site for Idaho.

    Great tip too about WiFi access at stops. You must have read my mind; that was another question I had. This trip has all to do with aging parents in poor health. With a shoestring budget, driving is the cheapest way for an extended stay with them. Otherwise, I'd be crazy to do this trip in the winter!! I missed a window of good weather this past week. The forecast doesn't look promising for this weekend but I'm pushing foreward regardless.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    511 is an excellent option that can be used wherever you have cellular service. As long as you have a major carrier, you should have almost continuous service all the way across I-90 till you reach Illinois, who hasn't implemented their 511 system yet. I'd probably depend on it.

    As an adjunct to this, instead of a CB you may want to get an inexpensive dedicated NOAA weather radio.

    If you want to research more details, your wifi-equipped laptop would help. I stay in hotels with free wifi and seldom have problems getting connected. Almost all McDonalds and Starbucks stores have free wifi, and they are easy to find at or near Interstate exits. A good site to start with is, it has links to every state's official road conditions site.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Saying you are crazy to do this trip in winter is a vast overstatement. The reality is that thousands of people make this drive every day, all winter long, and the vast majority of days in winter are still perfectly good for travel. That's not to say you shouldn't be prepared, but some perspective is good too.

    I'll also point out that winter storms don't usually "come out of nowhere." Certainly the exact details of the storm will determine where an area gets the most snow/ice/wind, but generally winter storm advisories are issues for large areas and typically are issued at least a day in advance.

    511 and similar systems are ok, but I very often find them to have fairly outdated information, although some states might be better than other. I actually think the best basic information on the road can come from listening to local radio, and by stopping at truck stops that often have weather radar on monitors available.

  10. #10


    Quote Originally Posted by malia View Post
    Thanks for the MT DOT tip. I'll put that in my Favorites. WA DOT has a good webcam site as well but I've struggled with finding a good site for Idaho.

    I'm finding Idaho DOT webcams at There you may select either streamlined (for smartphones primarily?) or full feature. I was able to select the I-90 cams on the streamlined option and have the pics displayed here on my office desktop PC.

    Looks like a nice day in north-central Idaho today, by the way. Montana, too.

    Safe travels.


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