I plan to be traveling from Mendicino to Denver in late January 2008. I'm a visitor to Mendocino and the storms here have been ferocious. My question: would it be best to travel to LA where I can stay with a friend, then take the southern route through Vegas, Albuquerque, then up into Denver via I-25? Or does the northern (and faster) route seem doable? It goes through some hefty mountain passes. If I go AZ and NM, I only have Flagstaff and La Veta as my two mountain passes, and they are very mild. Insights? I'm already grateful for your input--oh, and I'll be driving a used new car, a Jeep Liberty, and so I'll be getting used to that, too. Many thanks!