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  1. Default LA to Chicago mid-December...I-70...should I be nervous?

    Family & dog road trip on the books. Trying to get to Chicago prior to Christmas Eve, leaving mid-December. Plan is to take I-15 & I-70...thoughts on weather / road conditions? Non-4WD car doable? i'm getting panicky and considering buying back my airline ticket.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

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    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    Many days in December the weather between LA and Chicago is perfectly fine. There are also days in December where you're going to see winter storms.

    If you're going to drive, you need to be prepared for winter weather. Road crews give the interstates first priority, so if there is a bad storm, they still usually have the roads cleared within hours - to a day at most. 4WD is not necessarily - and in fact, is probably the most overrated feature on a car when it comes to such matters, as 4WD does not help you stop any faster.

    Having enough time is necessary. I would recommend having at least 5 days available for the drive. You need a minimum of 3.5-4 days to make the trip safely in good conditions, and a 5th day is good to have if weather is not on your side.

    I would also recommend not picking your route until you can see the forecasts. I-70 goes over the heart of the rocky mountains, and can see significant storms. It might make more sense to use I-40/I-44/I-55 through Albuquerque, OK City, and St. Louis, if there are storms i the forecast for Colorado. On the other hand, I-40 can see storms too (they just saw bad ice on I-40 in Texas the past weekend) so don't assume that south means better weather, as there are times where going north can keep you out of a storms path, or put you into snow instead of ice.

    If you are frightened by the thought of driving in any snow at all, then flying or taking the train might be better options, but thousands of people drive across this country every day of the year, and it can be perfectly safe, if you take a safe approach to your driving.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,271

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    Welcome to RTA!

    No reason to panic, the weather is what it will be. You just need to examine the road conditions and weather forecasts on a daily basis and choose the best route at that particular time. I-70 may be rough due to the climb to 12000 feet over the Rockies, I-40/44/55 may be a better bet. With that said, those routes are not immune to winter conditions. Allow extra time in case you have to find a hotel and wait out a storm and the roads are cleared.

    Colorado doesn't have strict chain laws like California, but they do have "adequate tires" requirements, which means without 4wd, you need snow tires or chains when conditions require.

    In good weather this is at least a 3.5 day trip, so I'd allow a week, just in case.

  4. #4

    Default

    If you've ever driven I-70, which I have too many times to count, at a lot of the onramps, especially in Western Kansas, you will see metal gates that can be quickly closed when winter storms occur. That is why you need to plan a little cushion in your drive across. I don't mean to scare you, but the road could be closed for a few hours or a few days, and wind is usually more the culprit than snow. Watch your weather forecast and be prepared for delays or detours.

    Of course, I've driven I-70 from KC to Denver in the winter with no problems at all, too. I think you're right to plan some extra time just in case.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Ft. Collins, CO.
    Posts
    304

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    Tonight's national news about the big storm in the midwest is illustrative of what can happen. Lots of ice bring down power lines and trees and glazing the roads.
    Pay attention to the weather, have some time cushion and don't be in transit when that stuff happens. Be at your destination or holed up in a nice safe hotel instead.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,271

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    Harry, I don't think the OP would be taking I-70 out of Denver - I-76 to I-80 is the most efficient way to get to Chicago.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by glc View Post
    Harry, I don't think the OP would be taking I-70 out of Denver - I-76 to I-80 is the most efficient way to get to Chicago.
    I agree with your routing, but I-80 is similar to I-70 and I believe they have the same closure gates in Western Nebraska as on I-70 in Western Kansas. That prairie wind can be a problem in winter. I used I-70 because it was my route to Denver, but the principle is the same for both routes. Thanks for the correction, though.

  8. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post

    If you are frightened by the thought of driving in any snow at all, then flying or taking the train might be better options, but thousands of people drive across this country every day of the year, and it can be perfectly safe, if you take a safe approach to your driving.
    This is important!

    If you've never driven in snow before, pay very close attention to Midwest Michael's advice!

    Last February I drove back to Detroit from Florida. It was raining in Tennessee and the temperature began falling into the 20's. Slush started forming on I-75.

    The road got slippery. No big deal. Typical winter weather. I just adjusted my driving for the conditions like I had many times before. The ice turned to snow.

    In a short time, there were accidents all over the place. People were spinning out and cars were going off the road. I couldn't believe it. Hadn't these people driven in ice and snow before??? Sure it was slippery, but come on!

    Even though the roads were no challenge for me, the other drivers were. I got off and looked for a hotel. To my surprise everything was closed! No gas stations. No restaurants. No drug stores. Even Cracker Barrel was closed!

    I finally made it to an open hotel. Turns out that snow was so rare in the area that most hadn't the driving experience to deal with it and everyone had already gone home! The city had shut down due to inexperienced drivers.

    The point is that typical winter weather is beyond the driving ability of many drivers who have no such driving experience.

    So, if you have never driven in ice or snow, allow plenty of time for a layover and get off the road if conditions deteriorate. Please don't take offense, but my impression is that you are inexperienced or a timid driver or both. If so, please drive defensively.

  9. Default

    Thank you sO much!!! This definitely calms my nerves a bit... I think we'll move forward with some hotels banked as a cushion, but also prepared to just hunker down and weather the storm if we have to. I'm going to get my little Prius all souped up with fresh tires and traction before we go... thank you for the reassurance!

  10. Default

    you guys are awesome!!! this is my first time using the road trip forum but I'm a friend for life now! Thank you for the advice -- I feel the best bet is to push forward, but keep an eye open for storms and just stay put if so. I feel comfortable and have driven in snow, but I am a little Cali girl at heart so I'll probably be white-knuckling it no matter what. Thank you for the feedback! :D

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