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  1. Default First time traveler, advice needed badly for cross-country trip in January!

    Dear all (especially the experienced travelers),

    My family - husband, myself, 12-year-old daughter and 5-year-old adorable Softcoated Wheaten Terrier dog - are moving from southern Maryland to San Francisco bay area come January. We don't want to jeopardize our dog's well-being by putting him in cargo area of an airplane so have decided to ditch all furniture/big items, send clothes/books by Amtrak, and drive across country in our 2010 Toyota RAV-4.

    We are planning to start traveling from Washington DC area on Jan 4th and need to arrive in SF on Jan 14th or 15th. I have just after looking at some posts here realized that driving too much south might not be really the best option. We would like to stick to the warm climate nevertheless as even though we do get snow here in MD, we don't have snow tires, neither are experienced driving in snow. So please look at my chosen route and let me know if it sound OK to drive on with our full car and child/dog without endangering all of us:

    Route 81 down to Chattanooga (will stop there to do some indoor climbing)
    Route 40 to Oklahoma City, Albuquerque NM and Phoenix AZ
    Route 8 to San Diego and then drive up along to coastal line (we want to visit San Diego, that's all)

    We initially thought to stop at Grand Canyon but decided it's not wise to do it in Winter. Now we are planning to stop in San Diego for couple days and then enjoy the coastal line.

    Pardon my ignorance and let me know if some other way would make our trip much easier. I'm also attaching the snapshot of this route below.



    Attached Images Attached Images

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


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    There's really no road anywhere in the US that can or endanger you and your family - at least not because of the road. Your decision about how to drive certainly can, but that really will have nothing to do with your choice of route, that's going to depend on making sure you're driving defensively, pulling off the road when weather has the roads in a condition beyond your experience/comfort level, and making sure you limit yourself to 500-600 miles a day, to make sure you aren't a drowsy driver.

    As you noted, going South is going to do nothing to increase your chance of seeing good weather, and I'd even say that using I-40 isn't going to give you a "warmer climate." As mentioned many times on this forum, I-40 sees plenty of snow and ice in the winter.

    Since you're going to San Diego and you're going to skip the Grand Canyon - which can be a fantastic place to visit in winter fwiw - then you might as well cut down through Dallas to I-10. Once again, even I-10 can see bad winter storms, so don't assume this will mean good weather, but it is a lower elevation and sees less snow than I-40 (but when a storm hits, I-10 is not a road you want to be on, so make sure to stop and wait for things to improve!)

    By going down to San Diego, you're already at 6-7 full days of driving, before any extra stops and before any weather delays, so if you're planning to spend "a couple days" in San Diego, you're not going to leave yourself much time for the coast - which takes at least 2-3 full days to get from SD to SF.

    However, since this is a moving trip and you're now going to be living in the Bay Area, you'll really be able to explore the coast whenever you'd like, and you don't really have to do it as part of your move. The same things could really be said about San Diego, which will now be a days drive away and an easy trip for a long weekend. So, if it were me, personally, I'd look to focus on my time on thing things more in the middle of the country that you won't as easily be able to get to from your new home, but again - that's me.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Good advice to follow.

    Michael has laid out all the reasons why going south will not necessarily benefit you. And with the further explanation that really in your new home the coast and SD will be much easier to visit, rather than on a moving trip.... I'd suggest you focus on driving the shortest possible route for this trip. Watch the forecasts leading up to and during your trip, and should adverse weather be heading your way, be sure to have a plan B, and implement it. Good paper maps will be of immense benefit here.

    Since this is your first trip, I venture to say you have not seen any of the wonderful country this route would take you.... places you may not easily get to see living in the Bay area.

    As for winter driving, follow the advice above, you can't do better. Taking the direct route, and with your timeline, you will not have to spend the 12 hours in the car each day, which 600 miles is likely to be. You'll be able to take it a little easier, enjoy the trip and stop when something catches your interest as well as giving your daughter and dog regular breaks. On top of that you will have the time to hole up somewhere should a storm interrupt your travels.


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