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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Lacey, Washington, United States

    Default Help - December Trip - Lacey, Wa to Raliegh, NC

    I have made the trip accross the US a number of times, this time i was voting for a shorter trip. The Default run has me going a northern route which in the summer would be fantastic.

    My question here is do i follow the map and go for it? Has anyone made this trip? I remember going through Montana in winter and having to pull over due to a snow storm that we could not see through. Is it advisable to make this trip?

    I have a very capable Jeep, and have driven in snow cresting the hood before. But driving accross the US is a whole other thing.

    Should i just stick to my plan of heading South I-5 to East I-40 like i have ddone so many times?

    Please Help...

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


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    In winter, the shortest route is the safest route. It certainly is possible to see a white-out snowstorm in Montana, and if that happens, you should pull off the road and wait for conditions to improve.

    However, it is also quite possible that you could also see such a storm as you head down the coastal mountains on I-5 or across the mountains of Arizona and New Mexico. I-40 actually is at a higher elevation than I-90 across the Rockies. Even I-10 across southern Arizona and New Mexico will close from time to time because of the weather.

    Not to mention, as you get into the plains states, being farther south might get you out of a snow storm, but right into the heart of an ice storm. Northern plow crews are also typically far more capable of dealing with snow and ice than in the south, where the approach can be to wait a few days and hope that it melts.

    But perhaps the biggest difference between going I-90 vs I-5/I-40 is that the route the California is an extra 500 miles - which means an entire extra day on the road. That's simply one more day where you could see winter weather, and one more day you would not have, if conditions are such that you need to wait for a storm to pass.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Enjoy Something New

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    If you have the time to make the trip safely (6+ days), then I see no reason for you to take the I-90 route that your software is suggesting to you or any other route that would give you a chance to see some new sections of the country. As long as you know your limits (yours and the Jeep's) and don't try to push beyond them, you can certainly go any way you want. And actually, there's no guarantee that taking I-5/I-40 will result in you seeing better weather, Both those highways are subject to closure due to winter weather since both cross relatively high terrain (I-40 is above 7,000 feet around Flagstaff). The only way to make sure that you will get through anywhere in the winter is to leave sufficient time to be able to sit out any storm and allow the road crews to clean up afterwards. In that regard, taking a northern route is sometimes better because the crews are larger and have more experience. So, pick the route that appeals to you, but leave a day's worth of wiggle room in your scheduling and you should be fine.

  4. #4

    Default Risk management, and my own experiences on 2011 and 2012 December/January XC drives

    Hello Kris,

    Each and every mile we drive has risk associated with it. Risk of a blown tire, falling rock, out-of-control vehicles, collisions with wildlife or domesticated animals, etc. I would never advocate adding 500 miles to any trip, bringing all of the general risks, simply to avoid the mere possibility of bad weather.

    AZB and MM have already correctly noted the relevant factors in terms of elevations of other crossings and the reality that bad weather can and does strike everywhere from Mexico to Canada at some point in time each December and January.

    The one thing I'd avoid during winter, if possible without adding hundreds of miles to one's trip, is I-80 across Wyoming. There is but a single very high pass (8,640' between Laramie and Cheyenne), but for around 100 miles from Laramie to Rawlins elevations run between 6,700' and 7,700'. From Rawlins to Rock Springs holds around 6,000 to 6,500 and a few 7,000' higher points. Contrast that to most of I-90 in Montana, hundreds of miles further north, running at or under 4,000' virtually all the way from ID to WY. The higher elevation passes in MT are in the 4,500' to 6,800' range, and the higher elevation approaches to and descents from them are fairly short in duration--a matter of a dozen or so miles per pass, as opposed to hundreds of miles at +6,000' crossing WY on I-80.

    In January 2011 we crossed WY in a 4WD pickup after waiting out a 12-hour high winds and blowing snow closure of I-80 in Cheyenne, and we had 40-50 mph headwinds, subzero temps, and blowing snow. It was awful. In 2012 we did the same segment in an AWD car, but with a big stack of skis and snowboards affixed to the rack up top. The weather was far better, but it included 30-40 mph headwinds and crosswinds, temps in the low teens, and blowing dust/sand/tumbleweeds. That wasn't awful, but it was lousy. We tried and failed to outrun a weather system on the 2012 return trip and got caught in heavy, wet snow, some ice-storm precip, black ice on the highway at night, and just generally had a miserable 6-7 hours working our way towards Rawlins at 30-40 mph, where we knew we'd be clear of it if we could just get there. In each of the 3 cases, better planning to include some lay-up time to let conditions improve would have made a huge difference, and had we done so, my sons would probably be on speaking terms with me today. Our trips in 2011 were from Raleigh to and back from Park City, UT.

    I'd take the most direct route which also reasonably avoids I-80 in Wyoming, and just build in some lay-up time as you head here to Raleigh.

    On this side of the continent, I'd consider ramping down I-29 to KC from the southeast corner of SD along I-90, thence I-70 to Wentzville, MO (west of St Louis), thence I-64 to Mount Vernon, IL, I-57 to southern IL, I-24 to Nashville, TN, I-40 to east of Knoxville, I-81 north to Wytheville, VA, I-77/74/US 52 to Winston-Salem, I-40 Business to I-40 east of Kernersville, and I-40 on into Raleigh. Lots of mapping products suggest I-64 across southern IL and IN, KY, and into WV, picking up I-77 in Charleston, buy my experience along I-64 is negative (very hilly in southern IN, heavy industrial corridor truck traffic in WV, and serious mountains on I-77 in WV). The Raleigh-Mt Vernon IL distance is but 17 miles farther going through Knoxville and Nashville vs up I-77 to Charleston, etc, and it's worth each and every one of those miles to avoid WV and I-64. The other aberration noted is getting OFF of I-40 in favor of I-81 to I-77, etc, which adds another 14 or 15 miles, but which avoids a troublesome and very slow 50 miles of I-40 between the TN-NC line and Asheville. This is one of the older sections of the Interstate system and the curve radii and gradient standards have come a long way since this was laid out.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Defence of I-80...

    Another word about I-80... Notwithstanding Foy's excellent advice.... I-80 is the choice of professional truck drivers in the winter months... Yes, the winds do howl in the winter and ice and snow can be constant companions if you're unlucky enough to hit bad weather... But it's also one of the faster routes when the road conditions are more pleasant....


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