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  1. Default Going from eastern pa to salt lake city leaving last week october

    NOT experienced cross-country or mountain driver (eastern city boy).

    Taking loaded-up 12 yr old 150000 mile Mercedes SUV with UHaul trailer attached.

    Looking for route that will be easiest on old car and present best chance of avoiding winter weather.

    • Trying to find maps showing topography of routes.
    • How do I reliably check out weather conditions before I leave?
    • Will I need to have studded tires or chains traveling this time of year?


    Thanks.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

    Default

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    The reality is that you can't pick a route to avoid winter weather, as every option to travel across the country sees snow and ice.

    Most online maps, like google, have a "terrain" feature that can give you an idea of the topography, and most good paper atlases - and you'll need one for your trip - also show elevations of major towns.

    I can tell you that I-80 will really be your basic route across the plains, you really don't have any other good options. It is relatively gradual, but it does stay at a high elevation for more of the trip across Wyoming, and can see some high winds, which will be a little tricky with a trailer.

    There are no shortage of weather websites like weather.com, accuweather, and weather bug, where you can see forecasts.

    If conditions are so bad that you need chains to continue, you will really be better off stopping, finding a place to stay, and waiting until conditions improve. It rarely takes more than a day for plow crews to do their thing and get roads back in good condition.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,271

    Default

    I-80 across OH, IN, and IL is going to slaughter you with tolls if you are towing a trailer.

    What I'd do is take I-80 to Youngstown, then I-76/I-71/I-70 to Kansas City, then I-29/NE-2 to get back to I-80.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

    Default

    If you want to avoid the tollways, I would actually follow the instructions above, except at Indianapolis take I-74 to rejoin I-80 in Iowa. That shaves off about 20 miles, and avoids traffic in St. Louis and KC.

    If you use I-80 across OH, IN, and IL, getting "slaughtered" with tolls means you'll pay about $40.

    However, keep in mind, if you use alternates to avoid the tolls, you're going to add about 100 miles. If your truck/trailer combo gets around 10 mpg, those extra miles will cost you about $40 in fuel, and plus potentially another 2 hours of your time. Of course, if you avoid the tolls, you'll also be avoiding Chicago, and the potential for a big traffic problem there too. Those will be things you'll have to weigh.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,271

    Default

    Thanks, Michael. I keep forgetting about I-74.

    Exactly where in eastern PA you are leaving from can also make a difference.

  6. #6

    Default I-80 topography

    There's not a lot of topo action on I-80 from the Quad Cities, IA/IL all the way to Cheyenne, WY. Some minor up and downs crossing IA, but no long Western-style grades. From Omaha to Cheyenne, you're uphill all the way, but it's at the gradient of the Platte River all the way to far western NE, and not much in the way of grades from, say, North Platte to Cheyenne.

    That all changes west of Cheyenne. Cheyenne to Laramie crosses a pass at 8,640', drops down to Laramie at 7,200', and holds 6,500-7,500' elevations all the way across the state to Green River/Rock Springs and on to Evanston, WY, where you drop down to about 5,000' at Echo Canyon. There are many miles-long grades, all at or below the maximum Interstate grade steepness, but long grades nonetheless. Wyoming thus catches some early snows as it did recently, but as noted by MM, you'll just have to allow time to let them pass.

    Depending on where in the SLC area you're going, you may consider taking I-84 at Echo Canyon, east of Park City, in order to have the gentle downgrade into the Salt Lake Basin at Ogden, where I-15 will take you south to the northern suburbs of SLC. Staying on I-80 to and past Park City brings you up by 2,000' from Echo Canyon to Parley's Summit, a +7,000' pass, then it's a rather banzai 10 miles downgrade, losing 3,000' through a canyon into SLC. The I-84/I-15 route is somewhat more out of the way if you're headed to the southern part of the SLC area, but if there's weather when you get to Evanston, WY, at the UT border not far from Echo Canyon, you just might avoid it by staying low on I-84 into Ogden.

    Any time I read of a plan to tow a heavy load with an older vehicle, I think of the rear differential and automatic transmission fluids and how hard multiple days of long distance heavy towing can be on them. Even if Mercedes is one of the German manufacturers proclaiming to have installed "permanent" automatic transmission fluid in your vehicle, I'd have it changed before such a trip, and I'd seek a "full system flush" and refill with top-quality synthetic ATF. Ditto the rear differential fluid (provided the rear axle is the main drive axle for your vehicle). Long-distance heavy towing causes tremendous heat buildup in transmissions and differential gears, and in the case of an automatic transmission, heat is the primary enemy, causing the greatest portion of failures.

    Safe travels!

    Foy

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