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  1. Default Calgary - Portland - San Fran in February

    Me and a friend are planning a trip for next february. We will be driving from Calgary to Portland (hopefully in one shot taking turns) staying the night, and then Portland to San Fran via Pacific Coast Hwy (open to taking a more leisurely approach).
    Does anyone have some pointers? I am slightly concerned about the driving conditions from Calgary to Portland in the winter, and also about the winding twists of the 101 down to California.
    What are the must-sees between Portland/San Fran? What are typical driving conditions?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
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    Default a deadly plan

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I'm sorry, but you're starting your plan by trying to do something that is impossible to do safely. Calgary to Portland is about 800 miles - with much of that being on 2 lane, mountain roads. Planning to do that without an overnight stop somewhere is in a word, homicidal. Taking turns does not help, because you need real rest to drive that kind of distance - and real rest is impossible to get while sitting in the passenger seat of a moving car. You're talking about a trip that will take you at least 18 hours, and that's if the weather is good. Again, "driving conditions" while impossible to predict until you can see a weather forecast in the days just before you depart, are way down on the list of safety concerns - compared to the certain danger that would come with trying to do this trip in 1 shot. Even worse, fatigue builds up, so even if you managed to make it to Portland without hurting yourselves of someone else, you would be in no condition to continue the drive to San Francisco.

    BTW, if you plan to follow the coast the entire way, you should plan for at least 3-4 days to drive from Portland to SF.

  3. Default

    Thanks for the advice! In my mind I compared the Calgary/Portland drive to the Calgary/Winnipeg drive. Google maps estimated 13.5 hrs straight through to Portland, but I definitely will take your warning and plan to stop overnight between Calg/Portland. Will most of the roads be 2 lane between those two places? In your experience, what can you share for someone's first time driving a route like this one? Other than the obvious be cautious/follow speed limits.
    Thanks again for the reply!

    edit: i should have been more clear, we definitely would not be going straight from portland down to california. that is a definite overnight stop

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
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    Default Questions.

    As Michael mentioned there is just no way of knowing what conditions you might face at the exact time you travel until a day or 2 before you set out so you need to allow some 'wiggle room' in case of delays. We don't really do 'Must see' places as tastes are different so you will need to tell us a little more about what you are looking for. The other thing we do not know is how much time you have in total for the trip, but what I can say is that if you want to drive down the coast you will need more than an overnight stop and then some to actually get about and see things along the way. Does the time you have include getting home or is it a one way trip ?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
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    Southern California
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    Default

    You mentioned Google Maps -- this is a fine website for getting mileage, but as has been said above, their drive time estimates are pure fantasy. It also lacks in details such as the wonderful things you can find along various routes. That's why my husband and I always use paper maps for the true planning of the trip, and Google Maps/Mapquest/etc only to get mileages. If you don't have a road atlas or some maps, you should get them. A road atlas can be purchased online here at RTA (just scroll down to the bottom) and will be there in a week or two, if you can't purchase one locally in Calgary. If you are a member of the CAA, bring your membership card, the maps portion of the benefits is reciprocal with the US AAA.



    Donna

  6. #6
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by sleepyneptune View Post
    Thanks for the advice! In my mind I compared the Calgary/Portland drive to the Calgary/Winnipeg drive. Google maps estimated 13.5 hrs straight through to Portland,
    1, Calgary to Winnipeg is also not a drive you should attempt to do in one day. Professional drivers are forbidden by law from driving that far in a day, because it's simply not safe.

    2, Driving across the Rocky Mountains, on 2 lane roads, in the middle of winter, is quite a bit more challenging than taking the Trans-Canada across the Great Plains.

    3, Google Maps estimated times assume you'll be able to travel at or above the speed limit for every minute of the day- never slowing down for traffic or weather or stopping for food, fuel, or rest. Your actually drive times will typically be at least 20% longer - and I would estimate even more factoring the relatively high likelihood of seeing winter weather on this trip.
    edit: i should have been more clear, we definitely would not be going straight from portland down to california. that is a definite overnight stop
    Which is why I said if you are planning to follow the coast the whole way, you should be planning at least 2 overnight stops (3-4 days on the road). If you are planning to take US-101 the whole way - which is not the coast highway through most of California - then you can probably get through it in 2 days, but you won't have much time to stop anywhere and enjoy the trip. Weather isn't as likely to be a concern here, but you are still talking a winter trip with relatively few hours of daylight available.
    In your experience, what can you share for someone's first time driving a route like this one?
    If there is one major "rookie" mistake, it's the one that is written all over your trip - it's overestimating how much you can do and underestimating how much time it will take you to do things. When you do that, fatigue is the end result, which not only makes you a dangerous driver, it also makes it virtually impossible to enjoy the trip - and enjoy the company of the person/people you are traveling with (which is why overbooked roadtrips have lead to the end of many a long term friendship).

  7. Default

    We are giving ourselves about 3-4 days on the road each way (ideally) and 2-3 weeks once arrived in California.
    As far as "must sees" we are interested mostly in scenery and good photo opportunities. I'd love to check out some lighthouses / beaches along Nothern California. We are both into art and music, so if we are passing any cool opportunities that have to do with that, i'd love to hear.

  8. #8
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    Default

    There are countless opportunities for that. Certainly, Mendocino is a famous art/music community right on the coast, and there are plenty of great lighthouses and beaches along that section of the coast.

    However, that is the section that is along CA-1 - not US-101, and if you want to drive there, you're going to need at least 3-4 days, after you get to Portland. The "ideal" 3-4 days you listed for the entire trip really doesn't leave you the opportunity to stop and see anything along the coast.

    Of course, if you've got 2-3 weeks for "California," I'm not quite sure why you think it would be ideal to rush through the drive there.

  9. #9
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    Default

    Heading down the coast you should check out the Redwood State and National parks where there are some great drives like the Newton B Drury scenic parkway in Prairie creek and The Avenue of the Giants in Humboldt plus walks in the Ladybird Johnson Grove. There are plenty of other things to do down the coast which includes slow driving and plenty of stops for scenic viewpoints but as Michael mentioned, you will need more time to enjoy be able to enjoy it as Calgary to SF is almost 3 days of solid driving by the most direct route. I would (if possible) take more time to enjoy the drive and take a few less days in Cali even if it meant taking a direct route home over 3 days and using 5-7 days to get there, 7 days being the point it will become a fun and relaxed trip. Once you have determined if you will give yourselves longer to explore the things you want to (and by how much time) then we can give you more meaningful advice, but right now you haven't got time for lots of extras.

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