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  1. Default PA to January..I need Suggestions

    I am leaving Jan. 1st to go on my first cross country endeavor. I wish I didn't have to go during winter but this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I am only going one way, I have a friend that is moving out there soon. I drive a 1986 Bmw 325, its an oldy but with a little fine tuning it should do it, however it being in the winter I may have to find an SUV. The only spot I must stop on the way is Asheville, NC. Other than that I open to any route, although I would like to make the most of the trip and would love to see some parks and mountain views stuff like that. Any suggestions would be much appreciated. I am going solo and it is my first time.

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


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    You certainly don't need an SUV to travel cross country in winter. While 4 wheel drive does have some advantages especially in deep snow, they are really quite limited on the highway. If you're traveling at highway speeds, the issue is stopping in winter conditions, and 4 wheel drive does nothing to help you there. (That's a big reason you'll see plenty of SUVs in ditches after a big storm. In many ways, good tires are much more important than 4 wheel drive.

    Having said that, I would make completely sure that your car is in suburb running condition. Breaking down in winter is not fun, and any car that's pushing 30 years old is going to have things that are worn out. I also would suspect that finding parts for a 86 BMW is going to be a tough task out on the road.

    As far as what to see, that's really up to you. The only stop you've mentioned is in the opposite direction from the direct route from PA to Seattle, so clearly you aren't just looking to take a straightforward path. How much time do you have for this trip? What are some things you've always wanted to see?

  3. Default

    Thank you for the reply. Well I originally had this route- Pa to Asheville, Asheville to Nashville, Nashville to Memphis, Memphis to Little Rock(wanted to see the Hot Springs, not sure how that would be in the winter months) Little Rock to Colorado Springs ( Heard so much about it), Colorado Springs to San Fran (Only reasoning is to drive over the Golden Gate but not that important) San Fran to Redwood Forest and then easiest way up to Seattle.

    From the time I leave (JAN 1) I'll have 3 months to find a job and a place to live hopefully outside of Seattle. I was figuring maybe at most take 3 weeks to drive maybe 4, depending on how cheap I can find living accommodations.This is what I initially thought but when I started looking at posts about driving in Jan. I thought I might want to reconsider. I will be on a very tight budget and was hoping to either camp or stay at some hostels, maybe couch surfing.

    I love music and it's history. So to see some local talent in the south or wherever would be a huge plus.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Options and Choices

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    You don't say how long you have for this journey, but I'll assume that you have at least a full week PLUS whatever time you're going to spend in Asheville. Otherwise, you would probably run into severe difficulties making the trip safely. You also don't say where in Pennsylvania you're starting from, but that makes a relatively minor difference. If you're starting from roughly Altoona or east, just get yourself to I-81 and follow that all the way to near Kingsport TN and then use I-26 to Asheville. Note that this is true even if you're starting from Philadelphia. You are still probably better off taking the Turnpike to Harrisburg and I-81 rather than fighting your way through Wilmington, Baltimore and Washington on I-95. If you're starting from roughly Johnstown or west, you'd take I-79/I-64/I-77 down to Wytheville VA and join I-81 there. It is going to take you, from most points in Pennsylvania, a bit more than a day to get to Asheville, so plan on not arriving there until the morning of your second day on the road.

    From Asheville to Seattle, you do have a few choices, but from a weather and safety point of view, you should probably stick to the shortest all-Interstate route since these roads get first priority on road clearing and there are more travelers' services along them. What I'd suggest is that you take I-40 from Asheville to Nashville; I-70 to Kansas City; I-24 to I-57/I-64 in Illinois to get to St. Louis; I-29 north up to Sioux Falls SD; and I-90 west to Seattle from there. Unfortunately, most of the parks in the northern Rockies, such as Yellowstone, are going to be closed to vehicle traffic in January, but the views from the road as you travel should be spectacular at that time of year. Nevertheless, some parks, such as Badlands National Park and Little Bighorn National Battlefield should be open.

    I would NOT recommend that you get an SUV for this trip. If your present car is serviceable and you have some experience driving it in the snow, then you are far better off with it than some new rig with a higher center of gravity, more torque, and a false sense of security - all of which could get you into trouble. If the weather starts to close in on you, then you should just get off the road and let the crews do their work. For this purpose you should build at least one more day into your plans than you think you need.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Camping would be a cold experience in many of the areas you are thinking about, even if it is a warmer winter than usual. However, to make that even more difficult is the fact that campgrounds are not all open 365 days of the year. Many shut down for the winter, or turn off the water between Labor Day and Memorial Day weekends. You are better off with hostels and with couch surfing. We have a member here who is very familiar with the hostel system, and others who do a lot of couch surfing...each will probably have some advice.

    If you are into music, Nashville and Memphis (both along I-40) are great places to stop.

    Hot Springs National Park just southwest of Little Rock is open year round. They DO have one campground open year round, and two bathhouses.


  6. Default

    Thanks AZ Buck and Donna.
    AZ Buck: I thought about going from nashville to st louis then kansas city but I didnt think it was as exciting as the southern route. Thank you again

    Donna: I just have it in my head that it doesn't snow in the south for some reason lol...but yes after looking at some past weather in the south camping would be pretty tough...but I would like to know more about the Hostel system...any help on that would be greatly appreciated.

  7. #7

    Default January travel


    If you envision much camping during your trip, some email and telephone work should be employed to determine what proportion of campgrounds remain open in January. I suspect there are but a few. Camping in January can be tough, too, since early January includes some of the shortest days of the year. Pitch dark by 5:30-5:45 pm and sunrise after 8:00am can make for a long, cold, difficult night.

    To the best of my knowledge, the actual hot springs in Hot Springs, AR are not readily viewable (not at all viewable?). The facilities for use of hot spring waters are bathhouses, essentially indoor swimming pools which have the mineral spring water piped in, I believe. Not that they aren't nice and enjoyable, but if you're looking for a soaking experience in a natural outdoor hot spring, I think you will need to go elsewhere. The West is virtually riddled with outdoor natural hot springs, many of them in easily accessible locations.

    With the kind of time you have available, some weather forecast vigilance on your part should allow you to avoid having to travel when the weather gets bad, as it is likely to do at least once on your cross-country journey. You have seen here, and I'll reiterate, the I-40 corridor passes though long areas of high elevation in NM and AZ. Out west, elevation is a better predictor for snow and ice than is latitude. TN, AR, OK, and TX get their share of ice storms and snow, as well. A traveler with lots of time to stand by for good weather can drive whatever vehicle he chooses.


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Budget accomodation.

    Quote Originally Posted by drev View Post
    I will be on a very tight budget and was hoping to either camp or stay at some hostels, maybe couch surfing.
    For hostels, check out this site. It is the most comprehensive listing of hostels on the internet. One little bit of advice - once you have found a hostel, and would like to make a booking (I rarely book), check out to see if you can find the hostel's own site. You will often find that it will be cheaper booking directly with the hostel. When calling, confirm that you are speaking with the reception at the particular hostel. If booking on the net, check that it is a direct hostel booking, and not through a booking site/agency. (Recently I got a 30% discount for booking directly with the hostel.)

    Are you already a member of Have you posted a comprehensive profile? Do you have your verification? Have you built up a number of references? These are all things which will make couchsurfing so much easier. Many hosts prefer to host only those who have been verified (myself included), like to read a full profile - not just a few words or sentences here and there, and carefully peruse the references. If you have not already done any or all of these, you have between now and Jan to build up the requirements, and establish a connections with some future hosts of your liking. Of course, once you are verified, you will prefer to look for verified hosts.

    It is a nice custom to have or do something for your host. A small gift from home, a box of cholcolates or some flowers. Or you may like to offer to cook a meal, do the dishes or clean the bathroom, during your stay. Some of my guests have asked if there is anything I would like them to bring. Don't just look on it as a 'free' bed, be sure to reward your host with something.

    Are you in a position to start hosting now? Does your local couchsurfering group organise functions for you to attend? All these lead to references received, and references you give.

    Good luck with your trip. You have a nice bit of time to see quite a bit of the country.


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