Once again we undertook to drive my wife's 2001 Jeep Cherokee from northern Colorado to Seattle and back for Christmas.
I am posting this as an experience in what winter road travel can be like.
Even though there were some issues on the drive back, I am still a firm believer in the
I-25/ I-90 route because the roads are in excellent condition most of the way.
On the way up we were pleasantly surprised by having to penetrate a WARM front rather
than the usual winter train of cold fronts. The warmth of the air meant that even if
we encountered precipitation, it fell as rain. And the roadways seemed to be warm as well.There were no issues with any of the mountain passes though we transited some in rain.
We overnighted at Missoula. Threat of rain all day was only a few snowflakes on the windshield on arrival in Missoula. Couldn't find the Comfort Inn of past experience due to the visual clutter of the motel/food signage along the road stayed at the Marriott Courtyard. Was very nice.
Next morning the view out the window was very heavy rain (not snow!) which stopped once we were loaded to go.
Had some rain thru the mountains and over Lookout Pass to Spokane then dry. Some rain again at Snoqualmie then overcast in Seattle.
Wyoming has raised the speed limit on I-25 from the Colo border to Buffalo, WY
(where we switched to I-90) up to 80 mph. Since this was a long trip I kept the speed
right on the speed limit (by GPS)except where caution was warranted. Wind noise into a headwind is quite loud at 80 mph and fuel consumption is high but it's worth the extra 100 miles behind at the end of the run.
The trip back - well, that was more difficult.
I'd been watching www.weather.com 5 day forecasts looking to see when the best weatherfor our return would be. Last time we left Seattle a day early to surf home in good weather. This time the "good" weather would coincide with our planned departure. A broad swath of snow and rain was moving across Washington, Idaho and Montana on Saturday and Sunday. "Cold air" was going to sink in behind it. That proved to be an understatement!
At Monday startup in Seattle the temp had dropped to freezing which required chipping frozen rain off the car to be able to go. Once visibility was ok we headed out.Traffic on the freeway was light as itwas still kind of a holiday week (and it was 0630). Snoqualmie pass was clear though shine on the road left me uncertain of traction so I took it easy.
Temps went down and a headwind (an East wind???!) developed across Washington where in Spokane it was 25mph or better with blowing snow and dust across the road.
Thru Idaho the roads started to show that snow had been packed into ice in the left
lane during the prior storm. This was only an issue when encountering slower traffic
as the question then becomes whether it is worth it to risk the slick lane to pass.
Toward the top of Lookout Pass between Idaho and Montana I decided it was not and
so fell in behind a big truck for the last 3 miles and eased up the hill at 30 mph.
From there to Missoula it got colder and the roads had more ice, sometimes in the driving lane.As we approached Missoula the ice on the roads grew more and more complete while the wind whipped snow off the open prairies and up onto the road so I slowed and was in 4WD much of the time.
Some of the locals kept going fast and so spun off the road in several places.
Temp there was about -5F. Very high wind at the refueling spot made refueling uncomfortable. (that station was like a doggone venturi!)
We made Butte (the halfway point) and I was exhausted so we holed up in the Comfort Inn. The room was pleasant and quiet.
Overnight it was -23F! Without someplace to plug in the engine heater it was a very
slow, unhappy engine turnover but it DID start. Decided that going someplace to breakfast and shutting down again was a formula for not getting a restart so we headed for Bozeman. Found that the radio, thru which my wife was running audio books for our listening, had died. Must have been the cold. (Had to remove it from the car, open it and reset it at home - not an easy road fix if we'd tried)
It was minus something in Bozeman too. And Billings. But the wind had stopped overnight so on the dry roads I could run the speed limit watching for ice. WYDOT had posted signs telling you to turn off cruise controls and watch for ice. The ice was inconsistent so you had to pay attention and steer tires onto the lines of dry pavement to be sure. The potential road surprises continued for the rest of the trip. Casper was -5F. Cheyenne was -12. Fueled up and got some dinner then pressed for home.
3 miles from our exit someone spun off the road confirming that the lane looked slick.(heard that one on the scanner)
We pulled in safely and put the car in the garage. Overnight it was forecast to go to
-15 or -20F.
In such low temperatures I noted that the power steering was sluggish when coming off the interstate because the oil wasn't being circulated much with such tiny steering inputs. And the idle oil pressure even after an 80 mph run was more than 10lb higher than expected which indicates it never got really hot. On checking level I find that the oil is much darker than expected for the low mileage on it - this is another indication that the oil never got fully hot (and I'll change it very soon).