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  1. Default Please advise roadie neophyte: New Orleans to Portland, OR in mid December

    Hello all! My boyfriend and I are in the process of planning our first road trip! We're driving from Nola to Portland and back from Dec 11th-20th this year. So far, I've decided that we'll drive up to Shreveport, through to Dallas, then to Amarillo and stay in Albuquerque for a day. After that, I'm kind of fuzzy, but I'm thinking we'll continue W on I40, then N on US-491 towards Cortez, CO, driving N, through Salt Lake City, then I84W through Boise, following that all the way to Portland. Ta daaaaaaa! How is that? Nuts? Doable? I'm not familar with these roads AT ALL, so I'm wondering if there are any steep passes/other scary stuff that may make us re-think our route. We're driving a small car.. a Nissan Versa with our 2 dogs (help us..) so we're trying to avoid the most popularly advised (and more dangerous mountain route), which is from Shreveport to Dallas, through OK and KS, then over to CO and WY, thru ID and to Portland. I do realize that we'll be driving through the Rockies regardless and that we should plan to only drive during the day to avoid the worst danger in snowstorms (although we may get stuck during the day as well).. Just trying to get more advice from experienced roadies! What do you think? Thank you, and good day!

  2. #2

    Default The route

    Hello cwedge,

    You're correct in that there's no way to do this without the possibility of encountering weather. I like the Gallup, NM to Spanish Fork, UT segment via US-491, US-191, and US-6, but that's a whole lotta 2-lane, and you'll encounter some elevation crossing the southern part of the Wasatch Range before reaching I-15 at Spanish Fork. Plus, you'll exceed 7,000' east of Alburquerque at Clines Corners and again west of Albq at Gallup where you cross the divide. By contrast, running from Amarillo to I-25 near the CO-NM line, thence up I-25 past Denver to Cheyenne, you stay at or below around 5,500' most of the way. From west of Cheyenne all the way into UT, however, you're at around 6,500' along I-80, and it peaks out at just under 8,000'.

    I think what I'd do is stay on the Interstates (I-25 to I-80 through CO and WY) since they have priority as to plowing and see the most traffic and have the greatest range of services. Surely it would be wise to look ahead from Amarillo to determine the potential for a heavy snowfall up that way before heading up US-287, but absent something looming there while the southern route looks clear, I'd go right up through Denver and Cheyenne enroute to Ogden, UT.


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

    Default time concern

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I certainly agree with Foy's advice about route ideas.

    However, a bigger concern I think you need to think about is the amount of time you need for this trip.

    NOLA to Portland is 2600 miles, which realistically is a 5 day trip each way in good conditions. If you've only got 10 days for the trip, then all you really have time to do is drive there and drive back. That doesn't even leave time to spend a day in Portland, much less spend a day in Albuquerque or at other points along the way. That also leaves no margin of error, so if you do hit bad weather, you are going to have a very tough time even completing the drive in 10 days.

    Is there a specific reason that Portland is your destination or can you add a few more days to your trip? Without changing one or the other, I think you're going to have a difficult time having a fun trip.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    I'm a bit concerned about your timing - it looks like you are doing a Nola-Portland round trip in 10 days? This is a FULL 5 day trip each way by fastest route, you won't have ANY time for sightseeing, much less any "down time" in Portland!

    Fastest route is I-10/I-49/I-20 to DFW, US-287 to Amarillo, US-287/US-87/US-64 to Raton, then I-25/I-80/I-84 to Portland. In the winter, it's always best to stick to the Interstates as they have top priority to be cleared.

  5. Default Re: Time concern

    Hi guys, thank you so much for the advice. We plan on switching out drivers and driving more than 8hrs per day so that we can have more time in Portland. I agree, though, that we need to try to extend the trip by a few more days, if possible. I know that we should not drive after dark, so I'm trying to figure that one out, but we're thinking Day 1 drive from Nola and sleep near Amarillo (~15 hr drive), then next day from Amarillo to Denver (~8 hr drive) and stay for a night, then from Denver to Ogden, UT (~8 1/2 hr drive), and finally from Ogden to Portland (~12 hr drive). So that would be 4 days of no night/evening driving. However, we're not on the strictest time frame where an extra day held back will hurt us, so instead of the now 11 day trip, it could be 12. I know this sounds crazy that we're just stopping off to sleep places along the way with constant driving, but yes, the reason for the trip is Portland, so it has to take us there! Thank you for your suggestions!
    Last edited by cwedge; 09-29-2010 at 05:46 PM.

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


    Switching drivers only helps so much, and you're already going to have to be on the road for 10 hours a day everyday just to do this round trip in 10 days if you stick to the fastest interstate highway routes. This trip also falls during the shortest time of year, so you've also only got about 10 hours of daylight each day.

    In any case, even with multiple drivers we really don't recommend trying to push more than about 600 miles in a day (which is 11-12 hours of on the road time), and even doing that, you're still looking at 4.5 days each way - giving you just a single day in Portland before you have to turn around. And once again, that's assuming ideal travel conditions, which frankly, to see perfect weather for 10 consecutive days in December is very optimistic.

    I'd work right now on adding as many days as you can, as trying to do this in 10 days just isn't a very realistic or wise plan.

  7. Default

    Okay thank you for the sound advice, Midwest Michael! I will see about adding more days. Cheers!

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

    Default real world

    You edited your post after I responded (which hopefully you did while I was writing a response, and not after), but your travel time estimates simply are not based in real world travel times.
    So that would be 4 days of no night/evening driving.
    I'm sorry but its simply not possible to do what you've laid out with no night/evening driving. You've got a couple days that will require several hours more driving than you have daylight.

    Nola to Amarillo is nearly a 900 mile drive, while a computer mapping program that never has to stop for fuel or food, never has construction slowdowns, and can drive through the Dallas area at 75mph the whole time might be able to do that in 14-15 hours, a human simply cannot.

    Real world, its a minimum of 16-17 hours and its way way way too far to drive in one day without being so exhausted you'll have no business being on the road the next day. This is basically a trip that requires 2 full days on the road.

    Just for comparison sake, the last time I drove 900 miles, it took me 19 hours with 2 drivers and only minimal stops. I did it only because of a family emergency, and there's no way I would have thought about driving another 500 miles again the next day. That's from someone who loves driving, and will drive about 70k miles total just this year.

    Amarillo to Denver to Ogden is fine over 2 days, but then Ogden to Portland is 750 miles - again too far to be driving in a single day even with multiple drivers. That's at least 14 hours, and simply not possible to do without lots of driving after dark.

    Once again, these estimates assume a best case, where you'll see perfect weather conditions every day you are on the road.
    I know this sounds crazy that we're just stopping off to sleep places along the way with constant driving, but yes, the reason for the trip is Portland, so it has to take us there!
    There's nothing crazy at all about a trip where you are just trying to get to a destination, but two things.

    First, your original trip plan talked about taking scenic routes and spending a day at places like Albuquerque, but as long as you understand that you are no longer talking about that kind of trip and this is more of a speed run, that's fine.

    Second, even on a speed run, you need to understand there are limitations on what you can do safely. One driver can go for 8 hours on the road no problem, but that doesn't mean you can then safely drive 16 hours with 2. Simply being in the car as a passenger is draining, and with these kinds of distances, the second person really should be awake to make sure the driver is staying focused and not drifting off.

    You've never said the actual reason for taking this trip, other than Portland is the destination, but if you've now got 12 days to work with, you should be able to spend a 2 or maybe 3 days before you come home, and while that's not a ton of time, that's still a whole lot better than having the 1 day or less you'd have with just 10 days available.

  9. Default re: real world

    I certainly didn't edit my response after you responded. That would be very weird. It must have been while you were preparing your response and I was rethinking our scattered ideas for plans. Please excuse the hasty response; I should have thought things through more logically before posting (and editing).

    I understand everything you're saying, and I trust your advice as a clearly seasoned driver. We will be adding more days to the trip so that we can safely drive during daylight hours only.

    I have 2 more questions:
    1) If we take the route through CO, WY, UT, and ID to Portland, will we have to put chains on our tires, change our regular tires to snow tires, or will the ones we already have be alright?

    2) Is the initially suggested route (through Albuquerque and up through UT, ID, to Portland) off of main highways so much that it would be that much less friendly to drive than the route you suggested through CO and WY? I understand that your route would have more readily available road workers to clear inclimate weather problems, but is it really a huge difference in the two drives if I stay on the interstates as Foy suggested? Regardless, we're just looking for the quickest/SAFEST route there (if that is even possible to have those two qualities in our route together).

    I don't mind not seeing Albuquerque; the point of the trip is to get to Portland (if you must know, it's for visiting Portland State U as a prospective grad student and checking out housing options). My initial wanting to drive through Albuquerque was due to the seemingly quicker route than through CO/WY, but I understand that with weather, one never knows. So while we'd love to have a scenic drive to Portland, the "speed run" up to our destination is the most important factor.
    Last edited by cwedge; 10-05-2010 at 12:06 PM.

  10. #10

    Default tire chains, route

    Hi cwedge,

    The issue concerning chains is one of strictly localized usage: One does not exceed a fairly modest speed with cable-chains or old-fashioned steel chains mounted. It's been decades since I used any, but I don't forsee speeds much > 35 mph with cables or chains mounted. They're really just to get you through the worst of conditions, not for all-day travel. If it's snowing that badly, you'll want to wait it out, anyway.

    I find comfort in the all-Interstate route if for no other reason than the reduced likelihood of oncoming traffic losing it and entering your lane. No such protection on a 2-lane highway. Especially if I were uncomfortable with my own snow driving, I'd be staying on the Interstates, as it could be you unintentionally entering the oncoming lane.

    I'm also rather less concerned with night-time driving than many, even though at age 55 I don't see as well as I used to at night. I'd likely ratchet down the speed once it's dead-dark primarily to lessen the chance of being caught in a patch of black ice, but that's about all. We don't have much daylight to work with in mid-December, you know?


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