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  1. Default Chicago To Salem Oregon First time 23yo female >_>

    Hi so im trying to Drive from Chicago to Salem Oregon. Im 23 years old and ill be driving alone and yah...I have never done it before. Im trying to plan as best as possible in reguards to trying to plot out gas stations every 2 hours to stay at half a tank, hotels in the areas I think ill be going through and such. I have all of my "survival" stuff ready to go. I just want to know what would be the quickest, easiest, safest route for a young adult ((female)) to take. Google maps and fuel my route both take me on i80. Yet I hear i90 is a better road by random people I wouldnt trust to eat with. So can anyone help me? Im not looking to stop and look at anything. Just drive get gas stop to sleep and drive again the fastest easiest way possible. Thanks.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Having time enough is key to safety.

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    You really don't need to over plan gas station stops as there are only a few places in the USA that they would be of any concern at all when simply using common sense. I94/90 and I80/84 and I90 look to be about the same travel time, [within an hour or so] but I will let others who are familiar with the routes in the east comment on their preferences. Any choice of route would be regarded as 'safe' but you could check weather and road conditions before departing to see if there are any significant weather events on a particular route. Again time differences are minimal, but to do this quickly and safely you will need a minimum of 3 overnight stops. Plan on treating the journey as a marathon and not a sprint, trying to do too much on day 1 when fresh and raring to go has the potential for fatigue to set in the following day and get progressively worse the further into the trip you go. Figure on stopping at 550 mile intervals to space things out evenly and take plenty of rest breaks along the way. One tip, where getting their quickly is the main goal, is to look for lodgings on the west side of any major town/city so that you are heading in the opposite direction to the majority of work traffic heading in in the morning.

  3. Default

    Staying on the west side of towns when stopping for sleep is a good tip. Seems like common sense once I read it. I didnt even think about that. Maybe im over thinking the trip but Ive never been out of Chicago driving alone so. I just dont want to run into anything too crazy. Im also driving a small compact car not sure if that matters in may? As of right now im looking into going on i80. Unless someone convinces me Chicago to Salem Oregon on i90 would be better for me. From what im reading people tend to say it doesnt matter. I just want make sure though from someone who knows the country highways what is quick and safe for a solo first timer. :)

  4. Default

    I don't know about you, but I find interstates through big cities very stressful and therefore potentially the most dangerous areas in terms of road accidents, with lots of high speed traffic and having to switch lanes quickly for navigational reasons. You could get off the interstates and use surface roads through cities, or take normal roads around cities, but both of those options would very greatly increase the time for the journey.

    I-80 would involve Salt Lake City which I've always found particularly busy (it may have changed since I was last there; and you might be lucky), and Boise which is also fairly busy. Sorry, I don't know about Des Moines and Omaha but they're big places so the same probably applies (I guess).

    I-90 seems the best option to avoid big cities, and you could very conveniently use US395 from Spokane to Hermiston to get down to I-84.

    I-94 would mean going through (or round) Minneapolis.

    BTW I-84 alongside the Columbia River is fabulous all the way, with the Columbia Gorge through the Cascades just before Portland. If you fancy a quieter road and a change from the interstates, stay north of the river and use the Washington State Highway on the north bank which is only slightly slower and IMHO much more enjoyable. There are various places you can cross the river to get to Oregon, including as far west as Vancouver > Portland on I-5.

    In terms of personal safety, if you keep to roadside motels and restaurants close to the interstates and avoid town and city centers then you should be fine.

    Don't worry about gas; except for rural backroads that you're highly unlikely to use it won't be a problem. It would be wise to top up when the gauge gets down to about half way though just in case, especially in SLC if you take I-80 because there's a long run west of the city with no services.

  5. Default

    Thank you for the reply. From the sounds of it I would like to avoid big citys so I dont get stuck in traffic or anything of the sort. So im looking at the route for i90 Chi to salem on Google maps and it says road closure on US-212 w. Thats around the north east tip of Wyoming. It looks like the road im supposed to be on? Any clue what that is? Is google maps stupid in leading me that way? Am I not supposed to take the 212 and stay on i90 through Wyoming? Or am I supposed to take this 212 to up into montana like google says? is US212w actually closed? Sorry if these are dumb questions >_>

  6. Default

    Not a dumb question! Using US212 is about 50 miles less than I-90 but if there's any doubt about that road then it would be best to stick to the interstate. FWIW I just looked to check the mileage and it's not reported any problems to me - so perhaps they've reopened it? You could check the Wyoming department of transportation web site to make sure.

  7. Default

    Thank you so much for the info you have given me...As simple as it might have been. I tend to over think things and scare myself. The website said something about falling rocks or something :\ Maybe it will be fixed by the time I leave in may. If not ill just circle around it on i90 I guess. I think I figured out what I want to do. 4 days 3 nights, 8 hours a day driving and I plotted out the towns I should be at around the mileage I want to do each day adding in time for gas, food, resting so I could maybe book a place ahead of time to stay at for cheap. I think I feel better about this now than I did 2 hours ago :) Maybe I will actually stop and take some pictures of the view now that im not so paranoid.

  8. Default

    Think of this way: it's a bit easier now than it was in the 1840's for the pioneers with covered wagons and oxen :)

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    If you are a nervous, first time traveler, the best thing I could recommend is to stick to the Interstates. That is really going to be the easiest way to do it, where there will be plenty of services like gas, food, lodging all along the route. You certainly don't need to preplan your fuel or meal stops, as it is very rare when you'll go more than 50 miles between opportunities for food and fuel. Similarly, you don't need to make hotel reservations, but that's something that could simply be easier and make you feel more comfortable to do in advance.

    In your situation, I would strongly recommend you avoid 2-lane shortcuts like US-212. It won't save you much, if any time, and it will be much easier to stick to the Interstates. The only exception, if you take the I-90 route, is US-395 in Washington, which is still a 4 lane near-interstate quality road that will get you back down to I-84 in Oregon.

    Remember, Online mapping programs are just a tool, and you should never assume that they are giving you the only or even best options.

    I would also never ever recommend a new traveler get onto surface streets through a city. While interstates in a city can be a stressful, it's still much much easier than trying to navigate through stoplights and street signs in an unfamiliar town - especially since highway signs can be much tougher to see with the "noise" of other signage. The possibility of making a wrong turn and ending up in a bad neighborhood or simply getting lost would increase multiple times over once you are away from the freeways. With your trip, there really isn't any place where you'd be going through a major city, unless you took I-94, which would take you through Minneapolis/St. Paul, and even there you could bypass the downtown areas on I-694. I-90 really has no major cities at all, and the "major cities" on I-80 really are not really issues at all, as wih the exception of brief rush hour bursts, places like Des Moines, Omaha, and Boise don't really have traffic problems (You wouldn't actually go through Salt Lake City, you'd bypass it to through North via I-84.)

    I would keep in mind that over 4 days, you will have to be on the road more than 8 hours a day to make this trip. It will be closer to 10 when all is said and done.

    If you take I-80, I'd look at stopping around Lincoln, NE; Rawlins WY; and Boise. If you use I-90, then I'd be looking at Sioux Falls SD; Buffalo WY; and Missoula, MT.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Another female chiming in here. I would agree with what Michael stated: stick to the interstates, without any surface street shortcuts or 2-lane highway bypasses. BTW, this is advice I would give to my own grown daughters.

    If you're looking for cheap overnights, there are two options. One is to pre-book at least 7 days ahead, online. In many cases, you'll get a really reduced rate, better than the rates given for AAA/AARP/Military. The problem with pre-booking is if you are tired and want to pull in somewhere 50 or 100 miles earlier than you'd expected. You're stuck. Oh, this would definitely be a good option, though, if you are traveling on Memorial Day Weekend. The other option, as long as you aren't traveling on a weekend or holiday, is to stop at the state information center every time you pull into a state where you think you'd spend that night, and get a coupon booklet for the motels. You'll get some good rates this way.

    When you find a motel, there is the option of asking to see the room before you plunk down your hard-earned money. If the establishment won't let you do that, find somewhere else. Look for good solid locks on the doors with a chain lock. Parking right outside your room, to me, is a plus as well because your stuff is right there.

    If you pull into a rest area, make sure it's a busy one. If there are no other cars there, keep going and stop at a truck stop or busy gas station to use the facilities.

    If it were me, I'd look at the weather before deciding between I-80 and I-90. You'll have to do this right before you leave. Take good PAPER maps or a decent atlas with you, and don't rely on electronic GPS or SmartPhone GPS solely.

    As for gas -- very few areas of the country have more than 50 miles without fuel and food services along the interstates, and then they will warn you ahead of time. I've always used the rule of "1/2 tank, fuel up". If price is a factor, stop at a rest area, check your map, and then it would be okay to use GasBuddy (assuming you have a SmartPhone) to find a station ahead with more reasonably priced fuel. You know your fuel tank better than we do, but 1/2 tank is a good time to stop and stretch your legs anyway.


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