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  1. Default Jacksonville, FL to Seattle, WA during the second week of December?

    During the second week of December I will be driving from Jacksonville, FL to Fort Lewis, WA which is about an hour from Seattle. My wife, two year old daughter and one year old son will joining me. We will be driving a Jeep Patriot. Which route will be the safest for us?

    Thanks,

    Mark

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,271

    Default

    Welcome!

    Normally, you would want to take the most direct route, being flexible and checking on road and weather conditions on a daily basis. In your case, the most direct route involves I-80 across Wyoming. However, that stretch is notorious for high winds and the problems that come with it. So - I'd recommend the following which is only 30 miles longer:

    I-10 to I-75 to Chattanooga
    I-24 to I-57 to I-64 to STL
    I-70 to KC
    I-29 to Sioux Falls
    I-90 to Seattle

    You are looking at about 3100 miles, which will take you 6 days to keep it safe. I'd plan on a whole week in case you have to get off the road and let a storm pass and wait for the plows to do their thing.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Most Direct, With Time to Spare

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Your question is actually a variation on one of the most common questions we get, and the simple answer is that no route is guaranteed to be 'safe' in the sense that you will not see adverse weather in the winter. Even the southernmost Interstate route, I-10, is subject to icing in the winter, while the people responsible for maintaining that route are less well-equipped than their northern counterparts. There is simply no way to predict at this point what the weather will be like along any route. Even at the moment of your departure, forecasts for the western portions of your trip will be suspect at best.

    So - What's your best course of action? Unless there is a strong indication of serious adverse weather along it, simply take the most direct all-Interstate route and budget at least a day or two longer than you might expect it to normally take. That way you will have time built into your schedule to sit out any weather that is beyond your capabilities. In your case, the most direct route is (roughly) I-75 to Chattanooga, I-24 to southern Illinois, I-70 to Kansas City, I-29 to Sioux Falls, and I-90 to Seattle. That should normally take about 5½ days of deriving at a pace that allows you to enjoy a few short stops at sights along the way. Budget 7 days for the journey and you should be fine.

    AZBuck

  4. Default Thanks!

    Thanks for the awesome feedback guys! While traveling on the northern interstates will I need snow chains just in case or based on your interstate experiences will I be okay without them? Are there any more tips you have for me since this my first time driving that far north during the winter months.

    Thanks Again,

    Mark

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

    Default

    The rules for traveling on northern interstates are really the same as traveling on the southern ones - as they all can and do see snow and ice over the course of the winter. In many ways I-90 is often one of the easiest routes for winter cross country travel, because of its relatively low elevation and top notch plow crews.

    But as far as chains go, chain are great in some situations. However, they do not make up for a lack of experience in winter conditions. If conditions are so bad that chains are needed, you're best off finding a hotel and waiting for conditions to improve. It takes an unusually large storm to keep roads in very poor shape for more than a day, and even with experience, you have to keep your speeds under 30 with chains on, so you wouldn't be going anywhere fast anyway! Its much safer and easier jut to let the plow crews do their thing.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Extra Time is Your Most Important Tool

    It is not unheard of for certain roads in the Rockies, at certain times and under certain conditions, to require that your vehicle be equipped with chains in order to proceed. Unless you have considerable experience with winter mountain driving, that should be your clue to get off the roads and let the plowing/salting/sanding crews do their jobs. The roads will be in much better shape a few hours to a day later.

    In all seriousness, I have driven in the north (Maine and lake-effect snow country in upstate New York) for many, many years. Winter driving techniques are not something you learn in a few hours. And reliance on equipment (chains, 4WD, an SUV) is a sure way to get into more trouble than you can handle. Case in point - I worked for a long time near a USAF base in New Hampshire. I could guarantee you that every November, with the first snowfall, all the recent recruits from Alabama and other southern points would end up in the local ditches wondering how they got there. Four drive wheels with no traction are not much better than two drive wheels with no traction, and conditions which trigger the chains requirement (typically deep and drifting snow) in the mountains are not ones where the novice should be taking his/her first lessons in how to handle a car.

    You're really much better off sitting out such conditions in a warm motel room (with a heated pool?) and playing in the snow with your kids rather than trying to bull your way through dangerous situations. As noted previously, you can usually be on your way with a delay of a day or less. If the delay proves longer than that, you clearly made the right decision to sit it out. You can keep an eye on the two-to-three day forecast as you progress and if you see a truly large storm headed your way, then maybe a substantial detour is in order. But a plan that can handle the typical winter snowfall with nothing more than a day's delay is what I'd suggest as how you should build your itinerary.

    AZBuck

  7. Default

    Some of my coworkers prefer to drive from Texas to Seattle via I10 and I5, even if it adds mileage/time. They hate traveling through northern stats during winter times for safety and other reasons like vehicle conditions. Some have residences in both locations and have to move vehicles back and forth once/twice a year.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

    Default

    While I have no doubt there are people that prefer I-5/I-10, the problem is that most people who cite "safety" as the reason are doing so based on myths and misinformation. Despite what many people think, it is simply not true that you can avoid winter weather by staying south. The reality is that I-10 does see severe storms every winter, and while they occur less frequently, when they do hit, they tend to cause much bigger problems and last longer because the roads aren't salted, and crews simply wait a couple days for temperature to get back above freezing. There's also the fact that I-5 has multiple mountain passes that see winter weather issues, especially in Northern California and Oregon where winter travel challenges are quite common. That doesn't even include other non-winter dangers, like increased traffic and things like desert dust storms.

    The other factor in this specific case is that starting from Jacksonville is quite a bit different than starting from Texas. There are many areas in "Texas" where sticking to I-10/I-5 is a good choice, because it is the shortest all-interstate route, or doesn't add many extra miles vs. the shortest all-interstate route. Taking I-10/I-5 from Florida to Seattle means more than 500 extra miles, meaning a minimum of one extra day on the road, and going through some terrain that is actually more challenging than sticking to the direct route.

  9. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    While I have no doubt there are people that prefer I-5/I-10, the problem is that most people who cite "safety" as the reason are doing so based on myths and misinformation. .
    It's not a myth. It's whats preferred and proven better over other options. Other benefits are stopovers or hotel stays are better options on both of this interstates, at least from their point of view. I agree it's long route but some people have time and options to drive extra.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
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    9,271

    Default

    Stopovers and hotel stays in west Texas along I-10 are actually quite limited and far apart. That's one of the most desolate stretches of Interstate in the whole country. You also have to deal with LA's traffic nightmares.

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