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  1. Default Chicago to Tacoma

    My daughter and her new husband are taking her new car from Chicago to is post in Tacoma, Washington. They have from 5 to 7 days. He has mad the trip once across I 90 and feels that it may not be interesting enough or safe enough this time of year. So he is considering taking I 80 across to California then taking I 5 up through California through Oregon and up to Tacoma. My guess is that this last part will be particularly nice if they take time to get off the road on the way. I have a few questions. Is this a good route given the time that they have? Is it safe for travel in February? Are there interesting things to see on the way? I know they'll miss Mt. Rushmore but is the trade off worth it? Looking forward to comments they are looking to leave on March 1. Thanks for your help.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,067

    Default Two vastly different things

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    Asking about which route is safer and which route is more interesting are two very different questions.

    When it comes to safety, especially in regards to weather issues, I-90 (and/or I-94) is the pretty clear winner, compared to taking I-80 all the way to California and up I-5. First, I-90 is 700 miles shorter! That's a good day and a half less driving. Every day you are not on the road is a day you don't have to worry about weather or other problems, and if you do see a severe winter storm, that's a full day and a half you would have available to sit and wait for conditions to improve.

    I-90 also has the advantage when it comes to topography, as it is one of the lowest elevation routes across the country. You still have some mountains, but I-80 stays at a consistantly high elevation (8,000 feet or so) across Wyoming, more mountains crossing the Sierras in California, and then going up I-5, you have one of the steepest mountain climbs on the interstate system, heading from Northern California into Oregon.

    There is a 3rd alternative, which would be to take I-80 to Utah, and then use I-84/I-82 into Washington. That route is only about 100 miles longer than I-90, so it still saves you a full day+ vs. driving all the way to California, and could be a good option if it looks like there will be a storm on I-90. Again, just don't fall into the trap of thinking that because it is farther south it will see better weather.

    As far as Interesting, that is an entirely different question, and is much more subjective to the person making the trip. Personally, I-90 is one of my favorite routes across country, but if they have made the drive before and want to take I-80 because they have never gone that way, that makes perfect sense too. The big thing to keep in mind still is time. If they take I-80 to I-5, it will take at least 5-6 hard days on the road, and when you throw in having an extra day available just in case you see bad weather, there isn't much time to do anything other than driving. I-90 can be done in 4 pretty comfortable days, which leaves quite a bit of time to stop and explore, with up to 7 days available.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,272

    Default

    I-80 across Wyoming can be very difficult in bad weather. It crosses a high elevation plateau which is subject to high winds. This can mean whiteouts, black ice, and road closures. I-80 across the Sierras and I-5 over the Siskiyous frequently require tire chains in bad weather.

    Your route decision should be made at the last minute, and even as you go, dependent on current conditions and forecasts.

  4. Default Thank you for the replies/

    Quote Originally Posted by glc View Post
    I-80 across Wyoming can be very difficult in bad weather. It crosses a high elevation plateau which is subject to high winds. This can mean whiteouts, black ice, and road closures. I-80 across the Sierras and I-5 over the Siskiyous frequently require tire chains in bad weather.

    Your route decision should be made at the last minute, and even as you go, dependent on current conditions and forecasts.
    Firstly, thank you both for your wise advice.

    I understand safety and interesting can be different things. I did not realize that I 80 was at such an altitude especially when compared to 90 or 94. I think my son in law made the trip two years ago on I 90. he didn't like going through North Dakota nor Montana, I think the high plains got to him. We looked at I 80 to I 84, but it sounds like it could be dicey going that way. What about interesting sights along the way? They are going to be traveling across 2/3 of the country, I think that is awesome for a young couple. I will make sure they have a cold weather survival kit including blankets, candles, fire starter, etc... I think they will be fine and agree that they should wait until later to decide which route and see what the weather is going to be. Happy traveling all of you out there.... Walleye John (I spend some time in Canada)

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,272

    Default

    I forgot to mention - there are 2 downsides to I-94. You have to deal with MSP traffic, and due to the oil boom, hotels are expensive, frequently booked out, and not very well maintained in western ND. If you go that way, I'd plan on driving straight through from Fargo to Miles City.

    I-90 is the best compromise in my opinion. Some things to see are the Corn Palace in Mitchell SD, the Badlands, Wall Drug, and Mt. Rushmore. If weather permits, I-80 to SLC, then I-84/I-82 would be my second choice. You have the option to stay on I-84 to Portland, then head north on I-5 - if you are committed to I-90 and the weather is bad over Snoqualmie Pass, you can take US-395 west of Spokane to get to I-84 and Portland.

  6. Default They made it!

    Thanks again for the advice, they ended up going straight across I-80 then to I 84 up to Tacoma. They had a great trip and thought it was a beautiful way to go. They had one storm but it was rain in Idaho. So either they were lucky or blessed, but they are there. Little Honda Civic ran great. Thank you for all the advice, I really appreciate it.

    John

    Quote Originally Posted by glc View Post
    I forgot to mention - there are 2 downsides to I-94. You have to deal with MSP traffic, and due to the oil boom, hotels are expensive, frequently booked out, and not very well maintained in western ND. If you go that way, I'd plan on driving straight through from Fargo to Miles City.

    I-90 is the best compromise in my opinion. Some things to see are the Corn Palace in Mitchell SD, the Badlands, Wall Drug, and Mt. Rushmore. If weather permits, I-80 to SLC, then I-84/I-82 would be my second choice. You have the option to stay on I-84 to Portland, then head north on I-5 - if you are committed to I-90 and the weather is bad over Snoqualmie Pass, you can take US-395 west of Spokane to get to I-84 and Portland.

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