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  1. Default seeking suggestions for rotues west in winter

    Hi, i hope some folks can share some ideas about traveling west in early December. i am heading to Vancouver with my elementary-age child from kansas city. had originally planned to head up north to south dakota and west across the state and continue through yellowstone, idaho and washington. this was September and the trip had to be postponed. its getting cold and i am concerned about road conditions.

    Now i am looking at the map and thinking it makes better sense to travel a southern rote to california and drive up the coast of northern california, oregon and WA to vancouver. i don't have a route planned yet and am trying to plan one.

    i would appreciate any sharing info on where is a good place to cross the rocky montains. Colorado is due west, but i think it might be one of the toughest to cross. ? my little car doesn't do too well climbing montains. if i avoid the passes of CO will i inevitably need to cross them in NM ,AZ, or CA. ? i'm looking for a safe route.
    But also, i am looking to show my girl the time of her life. i am imagining visiting the grand canyon, and spending a few days in the redwoods. and perhaps yosemite but i am not sure abot this time of year. Could anyone comment on the sierra nevada this time of year? i would like to see this area.

    We originally planned to camp all the way, now am not sure due to the season...perhaps hostels is a better plan or perhaps it will be warm enough to camp in some areas. i don't know. i hear the desert is cold at night.

    Any suggestions in response to this windy post will be recieved with much gratitude! thank you

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

    Default Heading West

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    As we get closer to winter, questions about a "southern route" as a means to avoid bad weather pop up frequently. The thing is, in the winter, there is no cross country route that will be 100% problem free. While there certainly is the chance of a blizzard along I-90, I-80, or I-70 there is nearly an equal chance of seeing an Ice storm along I-40 or even I-10.

    In my opinion, I think its best to follow these guidelines. First, Take the most direct route. The less time you are on the road, the less likely you are to run into bad weather. Second, watch the forecast and look at alternate options. Before you leave, and even when you are on the road, keep watching the forecasts, and then if possible change your route if it appears you are heading into a storm. Finally, be prepared to have to wait out a storm. Sometimes there is no good alternate route to avoid a storm, and in that case, its usually best just to lete the storm pass. Its pretty rare for an interstate to be shut down for more than a day or two.

    As far as climbing over mountains, Yes, I-70 does cross over a major mountain pass. However, small cars drive over it every single day, and it is built to interstate standards that limit sharp corners and steep inclines. If your car really can not handle going over a mountain, then one of the other routes would be better, but I'd say if your car can not handle going over a mountain, are you sure it can handle being driven half way across the continent?

    As far as lodging, I would not recommend hostels for your family. They are really ment for single travlers. Not only would you and your family be split up into gender specific shared dorms rooms, they charge per person, so they'd likely end up costing you more than just a cheap motel room. Camping could be an option in some places, but I just don't know of that many places where it would be comfortable to camp along the way if your family is not used to cold weather camping.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default Shortest route might be best for now

    I agree with Michael. You can hit bad weather most anywhere this time of year. If you have delays, the trip can be longer than anticipated without adding extra miles.

    I would suggest:
    I-29 to Lincoln, NE
    I-80 to Salt Lake City
    I-84 to Stanfield, OR
    I-82 to Ellensburg, WA
    I-90 to Seattle
    I-5 to Canadian border
    91/99 into Vancouver BC

    This is 2010 miles. And it's a very heavily travelled highway by both passenger cars and for truck transports so it has just as good of a chance of remaining clear as most other highways. I believe it only has one higher mountain pass to drive over...and that would be in Washington state.

    If you want to avoid that mountain pass, too, you could do the following:
    Take I-84 all the way to Portland, OR. Then take I-5 up through Washington to the Canadian border. This route would be 2115 miles and should also be clear.

    Of course, I can't guarantee you that they will be clear every day you are traveling so, yes, watch for weather forecasts. Buy chains and practice putting them on before you leave home.

    If you take the southern route, you might still get inclement weather and occasional bad driving conditions, but you are adding a LOT of miles. If you go south to I-40 to California and then take I-5 up through CA-OR-WA, you're looking at almost 2900 miles. 800-900 more miles isn't really all that much in good weather but, if the weather is bad, it could really make this a hard trip to drive.

    And that doesn't include driving the coastal highway, just I-5. If you do the coastal route, you're adding even more miles.

    Just to emphasize, I'm not opposed to driving these miles and, if you have the time to do it, go for it. But if this is a quick trip, those extra miles will simply not be worth it, imho.

    As to the car. I hope you're talking about power and not about condition when you express your concerns. It's never a good idea to do a roadtrip with a questionable car. Particularly in the winter months. Get a tune-up, have your tires checked, buy chains and practice with them, and make sure you carry proper road safety gear. At minimum, extra food, water, blankets, flashlight, etc. I strongly recommend a AAA-Plus membership as well.

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