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  1. Default Philly to Seattle in March/April

    Hello all,

    This spring, my husband and I need to transport a bunch of our stuff from Philly to Seattle, though we ourselves are still living overseas in Europe for some years. We're giving ourselves two weeks, basically, to fly to Boston, take a train to Philly, pick up our stored 2002 VW Jetta (good condition) there, and start the road trip West.... then take a one-way flight back to Boston, and from there return to Europe.

    However, my family is in Seattle and I'd like to have 5-7 days to visit them in the second half of the trip. This gives us 5-7 days to make the drive across the country, which isn't much time. I know that if we bomb it straight West on I-80/90, we can get to Seattle within 5 days (8-10 hours a day).

    But I'm concerned about the weather on the northern route (late April not so much, but March could be a problem, right?). Also, I'd ideally like to stay overnight in Las Vegas, as I also have family there... how much driving time would that add to the trip? And what would be a good route from Philly to Las Vegas?

    We'll be most likely renting a UHaul trailer (small, 5 x 8?) to drag our stuff... how much does this add to gas mileage, and would it be better to ship this kind of thing? And how safe IS the northern route, in early spring?

    Thanks for your help, everyone!!!

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

    Default shipping and more

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    There is the chance of hitting a good snowstorm in March on I-80 or I-90, but its more likely that the weather would also be just fine. Taking a southern route would also not guarentee clear conditions, but would add even more time to your fairly short timeframe. Now, if you really want to go to Vegas, that detour might be worth it to you, but I wouldn't do it just because you might hit bad weather.

    As far as moving your things, I would really look at shipping them. Even a 5x8 trailer is a pretty big stress on a small car like a Jetta. Cars like that just aren't built to tow, much less tow across country, and I wouldn't want to put all of that wear on your car. The other aspect is that you are going to have to drive significantly slower with the trailer, so that will add more time to a trip, which doesn't seem ideal under your current conditions.

    One final thought, I would make sure to get a mechanic to really go over your car before you take off on your trip. Even in storage there are things that will need to be repaired, or could quickly become problems on the the road. You will almost certainly need to get all of your fluids changed and have your battery replaced, and you'll want to make sure than none of the belts have cracked or become brittle.

  3. Default

    Thanks, Midwest Michael!

    Well, in the last few hours of discussion with my husband, we've thought about perhaps starting in mid-April instead of mid-March, thus giving spring another month or so to melt the winter roads for us. Our friend has been storing our car in Philly, and taking it for a spin every 2 weeks... but yes we will have the fluids/belts/battery changed, thanks for the reminder! (We also have to re-license/insure the car, yippee.)

    Also, he's expressed an interest in seeing the Badlands, which would basically nix stopping in Vegas. On the other hand, if taking the northern route shortens our trip enough, perhaps we could fly through Vegas on our way back East, and take care of the visit that way.

    What else is there to see along I-90, by way of the Badlands? I've driven from central PA to Madison in one night (15 hours), but I don't recall much of note along that way. Wisconsin to Seattle, any suggestions?

    Now, as for shipping... well, it's possible, I just thought it would cost more than hauling a trailer across the country. But I know nothing about the amount of drag that a trailer creates (never having driven with one, myself) -- so I take your suggestions to heart. We have a 10 x 10 storage space full of stuff, hoping to reduce it to 5 x 8 in a trailer... I have no idea how much it costs to ship all that. We're already planning on a mass donation to Goodwill before starting... this just emphasizes the need for doing so!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default what else?

    I-90 through South Dakota and Wyoming has so much to offer its hard to even narrow things down. Beyond the badlands, the Black Hills with Mt. Rushmore, Jewel and Wind Cave NPs, and Custer State Park could take up a couple weeks alone. Throw in Devil's Tower, the Little Bighorn Battlefield, and Yellowstone and you've got a huge amount of features in a 500 mile stretch.

  5. Default

    Wow, okay... good to know! So it sounds like we should drive hard west towards the Badlands, and then slow down our pace to enjoy what the area has to offer. I just have no idea what the weather will be like in mid-April... is there still a risk of snowstorms? Should I carry chains for the passes? Also, is camping along the way a possibility so early in the season, or should we stick to Motel 6's and the like, to be safe?

    Thanks for all the tips... this is very helpful!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default A little bit of everything

    April can be a wild month to start guessing weather, because a little bit of everything is really on the table. I've gone camping with daytime temps in the 70s or 80s during this time, and I've also seen good snowstorms. Also remember, it might not just be the passes that cause problems, last year Cleveland got hammered with snow throughout early and mid April.

    That said, I probably wouldn't worry about chains, weather events in april are usually short term things, so in you reached conditions where chains would be required, simply waiting a few hours would probably be enough to get the Interstates cleared back off.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default To ship? To camp? Yes! Yes!

    I agree with Michael that shipping makes much more sense. You might double-check this with a VW dealer but I believe Jetta's are only rated for towing less than 1000#. It doesn't take much to get higher than that. The trailer itself probably weight that or more. So you need to consider the price differences between shipping and renting a trailer. Then you need to add in the higher gas costs, the fact that it will add at least a day to your trip due to your slower pace, and the wear-and-tear it will do to your vehicle. I find it hard to imagine that all these things considered will be cheaper than shipping.

    If you like to camp, I would throw the camping gear in the car and have it for an option. You can always Motel 6 it if weather doesn't look good for tenting it.

    If you want an idea of some of the wonderful sights in South Dakota, you might enjoy Peter Thody's great roadtrip report about that area. One of our other contributors, Gerald Thurman, has a nice photo essay about Wyoming.

  8. Default

    Yes, we enjoy camping very much... it's just a matter of how much space in the car we can use for that equipment, since we're going to need every spare inch for packing "important stuff" that doesn't get shipped. Tent, Thermarest air mattresses, sleeping bags, Jetfuel stove, packable dishes/utensils, and dried food packages... and what kind of emergency supplies do we need, on top of that (for crossing the country)?

    How much does hauling a trailer decrease the fuel mileage of the average vehicle? I am just trying to calculate the total cost before making a decision... the trailer itself will cost about $600, then the additional day of traveling + wear on the car, and how much more for gas mileage should I figure in? (Using an online calculate for mileage between Philly and Seattle, it gave me a price of under $400 for the non-towing cost of gas between the two cities.)

    Thanks once again folks, this is all great information.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default can't answer that one

    I can't tell you how your mileage is going to change because it depends on so many different factors - including the weight of what you are pulling, the size and shape of the trailer, and how much harder your engine is going to have to work. If you want a rough estimate, I would say you would get about 50% less mpg than driving alone. In other words, double your fuel budget.

    I said it before, but I will say it again, I think towing a trailer with a Jetta is a really bad move if you have any desire to keep your car beyond this trip. Even if you save a few hundred bucks, I think you will be taking thousands of miles of the life of your car. I'll also say that the 5x8 trailer is the "medium" sized trailer from UHaul, and its the largest trailer that UHaul will recommend for me to pull with my small SUV, even though I have a towing package with oil and transmission coolers. Fully loaded, they can easily weigh well over 2,000 lbs, and I just don't think that would every be recommended for use by a Jetta.

    As far as emergency supplies go, check out our list of car packing threads.

  10. Default

    Alright Michael, you've sold me on NOT taking a trailer across the country!! And thank you for that, I really appreciate it. I also called my dad this evening (in Seattle) to let him know about our plans, and he strongly recommended freighting our stuff across the country (sidenote: he drove the other direction with my own car, 5 years ago--albeit in October, but he made the trip in less than 4 days!).

    Now, I have no idea how to find a freighting company who will do door-to-door service (he mentioned getting a pallet and strapping everything to that?)... but if anyone here has info for me, I'm all ears!

    Latest trip update: we've set our dates in stone tonight (purchased flight tickets across the Atlantic), so we'll land in NYC on April 27th, get our car in Philly and get it in shape within a couple of days, pack up and ship out our stuff... then drive a bit south to Washington DC (embassy stuff and some friends to visit) before driving back north through Pittsburgh to I-80, and then due WEST from there!

    Our return flight is on May 11, so most of our trip should be happening in mid-spring... I think this should be a perfect time, and quite beautiful as well.

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