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Thread: PA to Cali

  1. Default PA to Cali

    Me and two of my friends are heading out on our first road trip in early 2009, from southeastern PA to San Francisco. I-80 seems like the fastest route but we want to avoid bad weather. Our current idea is to head south and go through VA, Kentucky, Tenn, Ark., Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, then up the Cali coast through LA to San Fran. Is this smart? Or should we just stick to i-80? We are on some what of a time restraint but not too much. We hope to do it in 3-4 days. We are also looking for things to do and see along the way. Anything cheesy or corny such as like worlds largest ball of string or something would be great, but also state parks etc, would be nice. We are young and are looking for the trip of our life, so any advice would be great. Thanks ahead of time!!!

  2. #2

    Default It won't work

    Hello meno,

    Look carefully at some mapping programs and look at what you're considering. If you've only got 3-4 days from Philly to SF, you're on a speed run and have no real options other than the shortest route. Even then, you are looking at unsafe and unrealistic miles and hours per day.

    And I'm just curious: Where did you get the notion of including Kentucky in your "alternate" route?

    But I digress: Allow at least 4 full days and part of a 5th, take I-80 all the way, and search herein for sights to see at 75 mph within sight of the Interstate.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default Agreed

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I very much agree with Fox

    First of all, your intended pace is just way too quick for even an experienced roadtripper. Via I-80, your trip would be 2900 miles. Even at 5 full days with good weather, you'd be on the road for 10+ hours a day every day, which doesn't leave much, if any, time for stops at Largest Balls of much anything.

    Going via I-40 adds 250 miles of driving - or about another half day on the road - and it certainly doesn't avoid bad weather. The southern plains can see snow - or more likely ice storms - and you're still going through significant elevation and mountain passes that can see snow once you get to New Mexico, Arizona, and California.

    Here are some state parks and other quick and easy stops that are along I-80 and other major interstates.

  4. Default

    Thanks for the advice, we have from Jan. 6th till Jan. 11th. I think we will stick to I-80 now. Is there any where along the trip where chains are needed to pass? Thanks again for any more advice you can pass along to us.

  5. #5

    Default Western US experts

    Hello meno,

    The more experienced Western US Road Trippers can comment more on point about this. There are, I think, regulations requiring chains when and where conditions dictate. The consensus is a pair of the cable types is a good investment, as is the time it takes to practice mounting them in the comfort of your home driveway or garage.

    There is a fairly high pass in the Laramie, WY area (some 8,000'?), high butte & mesa country the rest of the way across WY, a small handful of lower passes in NV's Basin and Range, then Donner Pass as you enter CA. It is conceivable the timing of your passing through any of those areas could coincide with a local requirement to use chains, or wait out the plowing operations.

    Here's a localized tip for westbounders on I-80 in the Salt Lake City (SLC) area: I-80 junctions with I-84 around 30 miles E of Ogden, UT. Staying on I-80 carries you past Park City, UT, thence up through a high pass named Parley's Summit (7,500' elevation), thence downhill for 10-12 miles and 3,500' into downtown SLC. A lower-elevation alternate, barely a few miles farther, is to take I-84 west from the I-80 junction, keeping low elevation and descending into Ogden via a gentle canyon, thence I-15 south to I-215 loop around SLC. The western side of the loop puts you back on I-80 right at the SLC airport. If it were me, and if there was any weather at all in the area, I'd take that opportunity to avoid Parley's Summit.


  6. Default

    Thanks for the tip Foy...Heres what I'm currently looking at

    It says 3,000 miles. I think we will leave the 6th and hope to arrive in San Fran on the 10th. Between the 3 of us drivers, thats 200 miles a day for each of us. That doesn't seem too ridiculous, right? Maybe I am just nieve, let me know if thats a crazy route, and not concievable to accomplish in 5 days. All advice is greatly appreciated!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Five Days Minimum

    Quote Originally Posted by menoseloso View Post
    I think we will leave the 6th and hope to arrive in San Fran on the 10th.
    If you are fortunate enough to have dry, clear roads on the route, (with no snow storms) and you don't mind being on the road a MINIMUM of 10 hours every single day, you can cover this distance in five days. But you will not have time for much sightseeing off the Interstate highway. If you drove 23 hours per day, assuming good weather, three drivers could cover that distance in about three days -- here are some more tips for a Speed Run.


  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default possible, but a bit illogical

    Yes, you could certainly do this trip and that route over 5 days, but considering your pace, I'm not quite sure why you would take a route that adds a little more than 100 extra miles to the direct option. What's your reasoning for chosing this option? As has been stated several times already, going south isn't really going to change your odds of hitting winter weather. In fact, as you go across the plains, what often can happen is that instead of hitting a snowstorm, you run into ice and freezing rain.

    Certainly over 5 days, going down to I-40 doesn't add too much time to how many miles you'll need to cover per day, but when you already are at a pace that won't allow you to see much other than what's alongside the interstate, it doesn't make much sense to me.

  9. #9

    Default Not for me

    Since you asked, I'm happy to chime in: I agree wholeheartedly with MM in that I don't see the logic of swinging south. I would not want to add 100 miles, and that's 100 California Freeway miles, mind you, to a long trip. Even though your route avoids the LA Basin per se, you're picking up some very heavily-traveled roads which could easily be avoided. I'd run I-80 and be done with it.

    Inherent with any of my advice is the fact that your trip is some 60 days from the present. As your departure date approaches, and on the first overnight stop, you'll be wise to access detailed forecasts for your intended route. If your research shows heavy weather pressing no farther south than WY and NE, and no heavy lows coming E out of the waters off the Southern California coast, systems which can bring heavy snow/ice to AZ and NM, you can be reasonably assured you'll avoid bad weather by swinging south. Unless I saw both of those (bad on 80, likely clear on 40), I'd stay on I-80.


  10. Default

    My only reasoning for the southern route would be to avoid higher elevations. Maybe we will just stick to I-80 and get a set of chains. I was trying to avoid the whole chain situation. But it sounds like chains could be needed on any route.

    Also, I basically no nothing about this. First time road trip, first time going west of Harrisburg (I currently live outside of Philadelphia). So this is all new to me. I've just begun my research saturday night.

    This trip is basically due to a friend in service being relocated to California, since he doesn't want to make the drive alone, me and a friend have decided to tag along, as we feel it could be a once in a lifetime oppurtunity for us. We are hoping to fly back on the 11th or catch the red eye on the 11th into the 12th of Jan. That way we could use the 11th for more driving, giving us then 6 days for our journey. Again, I appreciate all of your advice, its been a great help so far.

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