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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    Chicago, Illinois, United States
    Posts
    3

    Default Chicago to Seattle on February 1st

    Hi all and Happy New Year to you!

    My girlfriend and I (plus our small cat) will be moving westward to the Seattle area on February 1st and are looking for some pointers on where to stop along the way. We won't be taking a large van, but instead a 4 wheel drive Expedition and only our most prized possessions. After giving Google maps a strong once over and reviewing other threads we are already well aware that this is (at minimum) a 4 day trip. We will be splitting the driving (which will make the long days easier) but we still would like to stop someplace cheap and quaint each night to rest and give the cat some time to run about. (Safe motel suggestions will be greatly appreciated!)

    The plan is to leave super early the first day, like 3 am, and take 94 N to 90 E. If we push it far the first day we should be able to take it nice and slow through the more scenic parts of the country. The problem is that I can't decide on whether to take it to La Crosse (then head west through South Dakota to see Mt. Rushmore) or to take it all the way through Minneapolis/Fargo/North Dakota. These are the two options I've come up with.....

    Option A) Chicago/Rapid City/Livingston/Spokane/Seattle
    Option B) Chicago/Fargo/Billings/Spokane/Seattle

    We've had a rough winter here in Chicago and I am expecting the rest of the North has seen the same. I'd like to see a sight or two along the way but we don't plan to stop much as it will be a tough journey. (We have the car for 5 days but would like to get into Seattle early enough to use the car to get basic supplies upon arrival.)

    Thank you, in advance, for any suggestions!!! Any input at all would be an amazing contribution to our move! :)

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,272

    Default

    Welcome to RTA!

    In your case, with only having the vehicle for 5 days, I'd take the route that looks best weather-wise at that exact time. You have NO cushion to get off the road and wait out a blizzard. If possible, I'd get the vehicle for a full week just in case. I would not plan on ANY sightseeing with that constraint.

    Just about any motel at an Interstate exit in rural areas, small towns, and city suburbs will be safe. I would not make reservations, you shouldn't have any problem with a walk-in.

    The I-94 option shows to be about 30 minutes faster than the I-90 option, but you can lose that half hour if you hit traffic in MSP.

    Chicago to Rapid City is NOT realistic in 1 day. I show overnights along I-90 at Sioux Falls, Buffalo WY, and Missoula.

    Chicago to Fargo is also a push - I show stops at Alexandria, Miles City, and Wallace.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,749

    Default It's a Marathon, control your pace at the start.

    As said above, you shouldn't have any trouble finding lodgings as you go and that will leave you open to change. If you had a good window of weather you might be able to gain some miles and on another day have the option to pull over for the night early, or set out later, if the weather is poor. Even I80/84 would be an option if conditions were more favourable and would only take an extra couple of hours over the other 2 options mentioned. You can check Interstate forecasts and click on different towns along the way for an extended forecast prior to leaving and decide from there.

    I also agree that Rapid City is not a reasonable target for day one, if you made it you will be exhausted for the next couple of days of travelling. This a marathon and you should pace yourselves to avoid becoming exhausted in the early part of your trip.

    Safe travels !

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,067

    Default

    I agree that the weather really needs to be the big factor, considering the pace of which you hope to travel.

    I will say if all things are equal, I personally favor I-90 a bit more. The distance between the two is pretty insignificant, but I-90 has almost no chance of seeing any significant traffic. There is also the issue that along I-94 there basically is a shortage of hotel rooms in central and western North Dakota because of the oil boom there - so the available rooms tend to be very expensive. If you follow the stops GLC recommended, it wouldn't be a huge factor, but if something came up and you had to stop in say Bismarck, it would be a relatively expensive place to spend the night.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    Chicago, Illinois, United States
    Posts
    3

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Southwest Dave View Post
    Even I80/84 would be an option if conditions were more favourable and would only take an extra couple of hours over the other 2 options mentioned. You can check Interstate forecasts and click on different towns along the way for an extended forecast prior to leaving and decide from there.
    I read on another thread that I wouldn't want to travel through Wyoming, though I couldn't exactly tell why from the post. But (weather being an issue) I will definitely keep the option on the table! I also didn't know you could track weather specifically for each interstate..... that helps significantly!!!

    Thank you!!!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    Chicago, Illinois, United States
    Posts
    3

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    There is also the issue that along I-94 there basically is a shortage of hotel rooms in central and western North Dakota because of the oil boom there - so the available rooms tend to be very expensive.
    I may very well rule out 94 just based on this insight. Thank you!!!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Ft. Collins, CO.
    Posts
    307

    Default

    I-80 across Wyoming is very rough and runs at higher altitude on average than I-90. Plus you would have diverted further south and added mileage with no likely gain in weather resistance or efficiency.

    Since you're going westbound you likely will pass thru one or more weather fronts. The fronts roll in like ocean waves moving from NW to SE. You're running W so you'll hit the waves.

    There likely will not be a 4 day clear weather window.

    Given this, watch the weather carefully and try to make good tactical decisions as to where to stop to let one of those weather fronts roll over you while you are safely bedded down. Use the map and plan ahead as to where there are towns big enough to have multiple hotels. And don't expect the weather to work out exactly as forecast. Sometimes the weather lags the forecast and sometimes it arrives faster than forecast.

    Be wary. If all the trucks are pulling over and you're the only one out on the road you ought to know why. (they have to stop after so many hours of driving so it might just be that or..... they know something about the weather ahead.)

    I have a radio scanner that I program with all the snowplows, highway patrol and county sheriffs and rescue that I can on my routes. I use this to keep up my awareness about what's ahead. You probably can't do this but see if you can get creative and find an equivalent. (One Christmas trip to Seattle I knew that Boise was turning to ice an hour before we got there. So I knew to slow down much earlier than some others who spun off the road......)

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,067

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Erick Jefferies View Post
    I may very well rule out 94 just based on this insight. Thank you!!!
    At this point I wouldn't rule out any route at this point. the conditions you could see on any given day between I-94 in North Dakota, I-90 in South Dakota, or I-80 in Nebraska could be significantly different.

    It is true that I-80, on average, can be more challenging because of its terrain, and I-94 has hotel issues (again keep in mind, unless you hit an unexpected problem, you really shouldn't be spending the night in western ND based on reasonably spaced travel days), but weather forecasts really should be your most important factor in picking a route.

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