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  1. Default From GA to WA first week of Feb...driving alone

    Hi all,

    My husband will be leaving Feb 5th from Northeast Georgia to the Puyallup, Wa area. He will be driving alone, so naturally, I am concerned for him and have been researching all I can to help make his trip easier.

    Once he hits Omaha, NE, it seems he could either take 80 or 90. One friend suggested him taking 90, but since neither of us have been northwest, we weren't sure and was concerned about it being more snow the further north he drove.

    Can anyone shed some light on this for us so we can make a more educated decision?

    Thank you so much!

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


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    Either route could be the better choice, but it depends upon something no one can know right now: the weather. The only way you'll know the answer is to look at weather forecasts once you are on the road.

    I-90 is often a better choice, because it generally is at a lower elevation, and if all things are equal that is the route I would go with. I-80 stays relatively flat, but it is at a rather high elevation across Wyoming, which can lead to some challenging wind conditions.

    I also would consider Kansas City to be a much bigger decision point, as it is also possible that taking I-70 across Kansas could be a better choice than I-80 or I-90, as the difference in weather on a given day between Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota can be significant (and again, south does not by itself mean better conditions or less snow and ice).

    Finally, the other huge factor in having a safe winter road trip is time. You're looking at needing about 5 days to make this trip safely in good conditions, so having a 6th or even 7th day available to wait out a storm will go a long way to making sure everything goes smoothly.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Welcome to RTA!

    When traveling in the winter months anywhere in the USA, it's best to check the weather before leaving and then again along the way. It's also good to have an extra day or so built into the schedule, in case the weather gets bad and he needs to pull into a motel and hole up for a day until the weather gets better.

    The issue between I-80 and I-90 is elevation. I-80 goes into higher elevations, making bad weather more likely. However, I-90 sees its share of snowy weather. My husband, a former commercial driver, has been holed up in a truck stop along each of those routes at one time or another! He could wait to decide until just before he has to make the choice.

    Since your husband is driving alone, if he is driving a car, he could do 500-600 miles a day, which would translate to 8-11 hours on the road. If driving a U-Haul or similar (as my husband has ALSO done), he probably won't want to do that many miles in a day.

    What I did for my husband, before he left, was to research his overnight stops as well as I could ahead of time. Then I downloaded coupons ( for likely looking motel properties in each possible overnight. Because he was driving a U-Haul truck that needed a larger fuel-up area, I sent him places where he could find Love's and Flying J truck stops, though I encouraged him to watch highway billboards for truck stops that advertised their unleaded fuel prices. One bummer to traveling alone is that there's no co-driver to sit there and look at app while driving, or checking the GPS.

    Is your husband flying back? Mine flew one direction and drove back in the U-Haul going the other direction.


  4. Default

    Thanks, Michael and Donna! That was very helpful!

    Donna, we will be moving out to WA soon. He is going ahead to start work. So he will be driving out there and flying back to help finish the move when the time comes. Yes, we have been studying the maps, plotting out his stops, driving around 9-10 hours a day....that's the plan anyway. But we have only been looking at I-80 because we thought it would be less bad weather that route. I did not consider the elevation at all. I'm a GA girl and never been very far west. :-)

    I'm wondering...would it be a good idea for him to have tire chains with him just in case? I have also been looking at lots of apps that might help with motel rooms, etc. He thought about sleeping in his car at a Flying J , but that scares the bejeebers out of me! I prefer the motel room!

    Thanks for your help! So glad I found this web site. I had no idea who I could ask these questions!


  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Tire chains ... well, if you're gonna need 'em, I would be the first to get off the highway and go find a nice warm motel to hole up in! If the interstate is really bad enough, they'll close it, but they'll get it open as soon as they possibly can. (Our commercial goods MUST go through quickly!) It's nice to have chains "just in case", but if push came to shove, I'd pull off the road.

    Sleeping in the car at any time of the year is dangerous, though in places such as truck stops it isn't so bad. However, in February, it is a matter of keeping warm enough. Even if the weather isn't snowing, it's likely to be cold -- especially THIS winter! I live in SoCal, and the thought of sleeping in my car when it's 42F outside makes me shiver...much less the below O's you could find in the farm belt country! Also, unless you have an old station wagon where you can stretch out fully, it isn't comfortable enough to get a decent night's sleep. Add to that, lights from the truck stop, rumbling truck engines that NEVER stop, you don't sleep well. Find inexpensive motel rooms for him -- check Google, Yelp and TripAdvisor for ratings (bearing in mind that many people complain and few compliment) and or this website for the prices.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Tire Chains are not all that useful for a cross-country interstate trip. If conditions on the interstates are so bad that he'd need chains to get by, then he really has no business being on the roads at all. He should find a comfortable place to stop, and let the plow crews do their thing.

    Sleeping in a car at a truck stop isn't dangerous from a crime type perspective, but doing it in February? It could be quite dangerous from a hypothermia standpoint! Other than blocking the wind, a car provides almost no insulation from the elements, and trying to stay warm by using the cars heater while sleeping can be deadly due to carbon monoxide. Unless he has heavy duty winter camping gear, I wouldn't recommend it!

  7. Default

    Thanks again for your help!

    I was working up a "loose guide" for him, just to get an idea of what he could do in a day. We were thinking it would take him 4 days to get there, however, we will make time for an extra day or so, just in case.

    First day:
    Ga to Columbia, Mo 10 hr 37 mins (he will be motivated to drive more his first leg of the trip!)

    Columbia, Mo to Chamberlain, SD
    8 hr 51 mins

    Chamberlain, SD to Livingston, Mt
    9 hr 27 mins

    Livingston, Mt to destination WA
    10 hr 27 mins

    Does this look doable? I had read somewhere else on these forums that from Livingston to Spokane there will be four "high spots", entering the Rockies. I was thinking he could start out on that leg of the journey first thing in the morning and then end in the evening at his destination.

    Do you think it is doable to drive over 10 hours in a day through the Rockies. Again, this is if all goes well, no inclement weather, etc.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Your drive times are not realistic. Computers never have to stop for anything or get caught in traffic, and never drive under the speed limit. Add 20% to what the map app says.

    There is no need to plan out each overnight, you will never be more than 50 miles away from a choice of hotels. He should know when it's time to start thinking about stopping for the night. For me, it's right around dinnertime!

    This is a 5 DAY drive minimum, in order to allow for bad weather I would allow 7 days. I would target the following areas for possible overnights:

    Marion IL
    Omaha NE
    Sundance WY
    Missoula MT

    I use the app on my phone to research places to stop.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Absolutely Not

    Using Athens GA as a starting point in 'northeastern Georgia', it is over 725 miles to Columbia MO. There is simply no way that you can drive that in a day, let alone ten hours. Yes, I also got the same driving time estimate, but you have to remember that computer generated time estimates bear absolutely no resemblance to reality. For starters, they assume that you can drive at or above the speed limit for every second of every minute of every hour that you're on the road. They allow no time for traffic, construction, fuel stops, meals, or even time to go to the bathroom. And worst, they assume that a human being can just keep up a monotonous drive for hour after hour and maintain the alertness needed to operate a two ton vehicle at highway speeds. There is a reason that professional long-haul drivers are forbidden by law from driving more than 600 miles a day. It is simply unreasonable, and more importantly: unsafe.

    The drive to Pallyup will take a minimum of five days to drive, plus any additional days for weather related delays. Safe and sensible goals for each night's stop, assuming good weather, would be roughly Mount Vernon IL, Omaha NE, Moorcroft WY, and Deer Lodge MT (assuming he uses the I-90 routing).


  10. Default

    Thanks all! I guess I was basing this on our yearly trips to his family in MI, which we drive straight through, taking about 12 hours or more. I know he is usually "wide open" on his first day of driving and therefore thought he would drive the longer day on his first day, but then I scaled it back to 9 hours the other days except the last....again, knowing he will want to "conquer" that last leg.
    Everyone else that we talked to said that they have driven it in 3-4 days. I've never had anyone say it took them 5 days. Guess we need to rethink some things.
    Thanks so much!

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