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Thread: Minnesota to LA

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2014
    Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States

    Default Minnesota to LA

    We are trekking across the midwest to LA. We will have a toddler and a cat or two in tow (pray for us ;) as we are moving. Many of my family members have taken the trip from Minnesota to LA and have warned us about going through Salt lake City and that we should just head south. I was looking through old threads here and someone warned that going Highway 40 (out of Oklahoma City) could be worse than heading west on 70 and going through Denver. But the Denver route seems to cross the same elevated and potentially dangerous areas that the Salt Lake City route does. So, the poster who seemed to be a veteran, has me wondering how the heck to go. Below is what I was thinking of doing. We are making a stop in SD to visit a relative but then heading south. Any and all advice is sincerely welcome! We don't have a time constraint. We want to make this as enjoyable as possible for everyone but also don't want to keep the cats in their version of hell (car rides and foreign places) more than needed! So want to pick the right route where delays due to weather are least likely. Thank you!
    Here is the route I was thinking of going
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 12-09-2014 at 09:49 PM. Reason: tried to get the Google Maps image to appear

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


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    Ultimately, the problem with your plan is the very idea that you can pick "the right route where delays due to weather are least likely." You simply can't. Every single route across the western US includes area that see snow and ice. You can see it on I-80 through Salt Lake City, you can see it on I-70 through Denver, and you can see it on I-40 through Albuquerque. Even I-10 across West Texas and Southern NM and AZ sees snow and ice every single year. The thing is, the vast majority of days in the winter, every single one of those routes is also completely safe and there are no weather concerns at all.

    The only way you'll know which routes look best during your time of travel is to look at weather forecasts. There's nothing wrong with the route you've picked, unless there is an ice storm across Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle, or a major snow event as the highway goes about 7,000 feet in NM and AZ, in which case, you could be in for a very challenging drive, and potentially long delays as it tends to take longer for roads to be cleared the farther south you get. But, I-80 can see snow and high winds, and I-70 goes over a major mountain pass in the heart of the Colorado Rockies.

    What it comes down to is that the safest and quickest route across country is the one where the weather looks best, so stay flexible, and hope mother nature deals you a good hand on your travel days.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2014
    Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States


    I know we to look at weather before we go. We are flexible, but since I am completely naive about these routes I wanted insight, any insight at all is much appreciated. You gave a lot. Thanks!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Some of the Specific Trade-Offs

    Just a few points about the various routes available to you. The rules-of-thumb that Michael gave you (All routes are subject to adverse weather. Elevation matters. Preparedness of local road crews matters.) are all right on. There are others such as that the shortest route is generally best because it minimizes your time on the road. But as with all such generalized rules, there are exceptions and details to be considered.

    The difference between the I-80 and I-70 routes is really minimal in terms of miles, 25-50 miles depending on how exactly you get to the two highways. One of the main winter driving rules-of-thumb is to stay on the Interstates which are the straightest, flattest, and get the most attention. That would be I-35 straight down to I-80 at Des Moines and then either continue on to Salt Lake City or take the I-76 cut-off to Denver and I-70. It's only another 25 miles to get use I-40 IF you use US-400/US-54 from Wichita to Tucumcari NM. That gets you farther south if there is snow forecast along I-80/I-70, but violates the 'stay on Interstates' rule. I will say that I have driven US-400/US-54 and its a decent road, two lanes but relatively high speed (around 60 mph) with only a few slower limits as you go through the widely scattered farming communities.

    So, if the weather cooperates, it really doesn't matter much which route you take, so you might as well choose the one that has things along it that you'd like to see. Just one example of a sight to see which you can only see along one of the routes: I-80: the Great Salt Lake; I-70: Arches National Park; I-40: the Grand Canyon. Your toddler and cat won't care which way you go, so you might as well plan to make the adults happy.

    Plan also on four full days for the drive no matter which way you go. That will leave you a good half day to sit out any weather you don't feel comfortable driving in. If you need to sit out longer - do so. For that reason, and because even though you plan on one route you shouldn't make your final decision until you get a goo long range forecast just a couple of days before departure, you shouldn't make reservations. There will be plenty of vacancies at this time of year, and you'll never be more than 25-30 miles from a good warm motel anywhere along any of the routes.

    Mostly, just plan ahead but be flexible.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    I will say that I have driven US-400/US-54 and its a decent road, two lanes but relatively high speed (around 60 mph) with only a few slower limits as you go through the widely scattered farming communities.
    I took that once from Tucumcari to Wichita, and I probably wouldn't take it again. Yes, it's a decent road through Kansas and Oklahoma, but it's in terrible shape through Texas, and I also hit high winds and blowing dust. Also, BEWARE of the speed trap in Goodwell, OK. The speed limit drops from 65 to 40 with no warning and the cop is sitting behind some trees shooting his radar RIGHT AT the 40 sign, and he pulls you over for 43.

    I personally would stay on I-35 to OKC to I-40 next time.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Unless you really hate paying tolls, I'd stick to I-35 and I-40, as GLC suggests. Better road, much more likely to stay maintained in the event of snowy weather, and more places to stop and "hole up" if you need to get off the road.


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