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  1. Default Driving from Philadelphia to Seattle in January

    Hello, my friend and I (both women, around 30 yo), are planning a drive from Philly to Seattle in January. We're driving a Honda Civic with snow tires. Debating driving through MN, ND, MT, ID, or further south through Colorado. What is the best route to take in January? Thanks!
    Last edited by winterwomen; 12-16-2016 at 09:25 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    Default

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    There is never a generic best route to take - and that certainly applies in winter. Any cross country route can and does see winter weather.

    Having said that there are a few things you can keep in mind. First, your best bet is generally to stick to the shortest route - that means the least time on the road, least number of days where you could see bad weather, and the most time to sit and wait if a storm strikes. If there are a couple of routes that are similar in distance, then pick the one that looks based on the specific weather forecasts for the specific dates you are traveling. The other thing is that elevation generally is more important than latitude in winter.

    So keeping that in mind, Colorado really shouldn't be anywhere on your option list - it adds hundreds of extra miles and takes you much higher in elevation than any other possible route.

    If I were you, I would take I-70 to Indianapolis, then I-74 to Iowa, I-80 across Iowa, I-680/I-29 up to South Dakota, and then I-90 west to Seattle. That's a little over 2800 miles, and means you should plan to take at least 5 days to make the drive - with having a 6th day available to wait out a storm being a very good idea. That route avoids the tolls, traffic, and possible lake effect snow that comes with going through Chicago. Keep an eye on the forecast, if it looks like you can avoid a storm by going up to North Dakota, then perhaps head up I-39 in Illinois to I-94 in Wisconsin. If there is bad weather in the Dakotas, then you might stay on I-80 across Nebraska either to I-25 or perhaps all the way to I-84 in Utah. I-90 is generally at a lower elevation than I-80, so that's often a preferred route, but again, keep an eye on the forecasts and let that help guide your way.

  3. Default

    Thanks Michael. That's very helpful stuff. I'm worried about getting blown off the road in wind or in mountains in western Montana/Idaho - is that a realistic fear?

    Also, what do you think is a good amount of miles to figure on driving each day? I have 9-10 days for the trip.

    And - is it silly to try to jam in both Cannon Ball, ND and Mount Rushmore? Thanks.
    -winterwomen

  4. #4
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    I-90 actually spends much of its time in valleys across Montana, so it is impacted by wind much less than I-80 - which is largely on a high elevation ridge across Wyoming. You're also going to be in a small car, which isn't impacted by wind that much - especially not compared to the semis who will be sharing the road with you. Of course, if winds are so bad that you don't feel comfortable driving, pull off the road - odds are things will be better within a day.

    If you have 9-10 days, you could drive as little as 300 miles a day and get there within your time frame. I would probably increase that at least a bit, especially at the start, to make sure you have time to wait out a storm, if one crosses your path, but really, it all depends upon what you are comfortable with.

    With the time you have, it would be possible to visit the Pipeline Protest and Mount Rushmore, but going to both would involved a significant detour. You're going to be adding 300-400 miles - and a lot of extra miles on 2 lane roads through the Dakotas.

  5. Default

    Great, thanks. Are there any spots you have heard of along that route that showcase quirky and amazing local traditions?

  6. #6
    Join Date
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    Default Two which come to mind.

    Quote Originally Posted by winterwomen View Post
    Great, thanks. Are there any spots you have heard of along that route that showcase quirky and amazing local traditions?
    Both Wall Drug in Wall - be sure to pick up your 5 cent coffee and your free iced water - and The Corn Palace in Mitchel ND could fit that description.

    Lifey

  7. #7
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    I think Lifey is referring to the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota (rather than North Dakota). It's right along I-90.

    Also, not exactly quirky, but the highway rest area near Chamberlain, SD, has a lovely display of Lewis & Clark historical items, plus a nice view of the Missouri River.


    Donna

  8. #8
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    Default That's right - and more.

    Quote Originally Posted by DonnaR57 View Post
    I think Lifey is referring to the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota (rather than North Dakota). It's right along I-90.

    Also, not exactly quirky, but the highway rest area near Chamberlain, SD, has a lovely display of Lewis & Clark historical items, plus a nice view of the Missouri River.


    Donna
    Yup! a brain freeze. Too much on my mind this time of year.

    If you are travelling on I-90 through MN, there is the golden mile rest area, where the eastern and western sections of the highway met up. It too has an extensive and interesting display about the area and the building of the interstate.

    Keeping your eyes open and your curiosity on high, you will probably find other places which will interest you.... right there along your route.

    Lifey

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