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  1. Default Seeking advice for driving a 16' Penske truck from Bellingham to Iowa City

    Hi all, I'm new here, so please forgive me if I break any forum rules.

    I'm planning my route for driving from Bellingham, WA to Iowa City, IA next week, and I'm wondering if anyone here has any advice for me.

    I'll be driving a 16' Penske truck with a car carrier in tow. I'm hoping to get to Iowa City as quickly and as safely as possible, so I won't be stopping for any sights or tourist attractions. This is my first time driving a big truck with a car carrier, so I'm nervous and want to avoid difficult roads and hazardous conditions whenever possible.

    I'm considering two routes (the intermediate cities are places where I'd book a hotel for the night):
    1. Bellingham, WA ---> Coeur D'Alene, Id ---> Billings, MT ---> Sioux Falls, SD ---> Iowa City, IA

    2. Bellingham, WA ---> Boise, ID ---> Rock Springs, WY ---> Kearney, NE ---> Iowa City, IA

    The milages and conservative time estimates are given at the end of this post.

    I chose cities that have a reasonably large population just because I figure it's safer to stop in more populated places in case we are having any problems.

    The first path is somewhat of a simple straight shot east, and is around 100 miles shorter. I plan on taking I-29 down to I-80 for the final leg from Sioux Falls, SD to Iowa City, IA. My problem with the first route is the long segment between Billings, MT and Sioux Falls, SD. Additionally, I found that Penske doesn't have any service locations on I-90 between Spokane, WA and Sioux Falls, SD, so if we had any major problems with the truck, we might end up waiting longer for help.

    The second path is an extra 100 miles or so, but has more even division of milage between days. I also found that there are Penske service locations in Boise, ID, Salt Lake City, UT, Fort Collins, CO, and Lincoln, NE, which are all either on the route or relatively close to the route. However I'm unsure about the route between Bellingham to Rock Springs, WY. Is it a more difficult road (like mountainous as parts of I-70 are)? Google maps keeps optimizing the route to take me off interstate highways and do strange shortcuts, so I'm wondering if the road conditions are unusual. Also I've heard wyoming often has bad weather conditions, is it anything to worry about?

    If any of you have any thoughts or advice to give I'd be so grateful. Thanks.

    Milages and conservative time estimates (two hours for stops are added to the milage/speed estimate)

    | start | stop | miles | hours @ 55 mph | total drive time |
    | bham | coeur dalene,id | 393 | 7.14 | 9.14 |
    | coeur dalene,id | billings, mt | 508 | 9.23 | 11.23 |
    | billings,mt | sioux falls, sd | 660 | 12 | 14 |
    | sioux falls, sd | iowa city, ia | 398 | 7.23 | 9.23 |

    | start | stop | miles | hours @ 55 mph | total drive time |
    | bham | boise,id | 577 | 10.49 | 12.490909 |
    | boise,id | rock springs, wy | 484 | 8.8 | 10.8 |
    | rock springs, wy | kearney, ne | 571 | 10.3 | 12.38 |
    | kearney, ne | iowa city | 430 | 7.81 | 9.81 |
    Last edited by anto375; 06-23-2017 at 10:13 AM. Reason: trying to fix table readability

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


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    You're certainly on the right path, but there are a few things to keep in mind, and adjustments you should make to your plan.

    First of all, don't expect online mapping programs to be accurate. They expect that you are in a car, traveling at or above the speed limit for every minute of the day, never having to slow down for traffic or construction, let alone stop for food or gas. Considering you're in a slower moving moving truck and towing, add at least 25% to those expected travel times.

    Along those same lines, you really should limit yourself to no more than 500-550 miles in a day. Finding stops that meet those guidelines is far more important than finding larger cities - in fact, most relatively small towns along the interstates have plenty of services for you pick from.

    If I were making this trip, I would choose I-90. It's generally at a lower elevation and a little less prone to wind issues than I-80. I would imagine that if Penske doesn't have any locations along this section that they have contracted out to other companies for service, but it would be worth specifically asking them.

    If you go I-90, then the stops you have listed are pretty good - except for Sioux Falls. 660 miles is WAY too far to do in a day, especially in a moving van and towing. Additionally, It looks like even that is assuming you take the US-212 "shortcut" that Google loves, for some reason, but you should absolutely not take! Stick to I-90, which is faster, and much easier while towing.

    I would probably keep your first two stops, and I like CdA as a first stop because it is a bit shorter and since it will probably take you a little longer to get on the road the first day as you wrap up things in WA and it will take you a while to get used to driving a big truck and trailer. The important thing is to make sure you adjust your 3rd night so you are doing something like CdA/Billings and then either Murdo or Chamberlain SD.

    If you decide to go I-80, you've got a good start, but I would adjust it so especially that first day is no more than 500 miles, so probably looking at Baker City, OR; Evanston, WY; and North Platte NE as overnights.

  3. Default

    Thanks for the tips Midwest Michael!

    I'll work on adjusting my I-90 plan to make that 3rd segment more reasonable. What mapping application should I use to plan my routes instead of google maps? Or should I just buy some paper maps? If so, any recommendations on good paper maps to buy?

    When looking for hotels, should I call the hotel before booking to inquire about parking a truck with a trailer?

  4. Default

    Also, I spoke to penske about service locations: they said that they have 24/7/365 roadside assistance wherever I am. So I'll definitely get assistance if I have trouble. However I expect that I'm still better off if I'm within a couple hundred miles of one of their actual service locations throughout the trip.

  5. Default

    Just spoke to a penske customer service representative again about the service stations. I pointed out to them that there are many more service locations on the I-84 and I-80 path than on the I-90 path. He said that the roadside assistance people don't necessarily operate out of those locations, so being far from a service location doesn't mean assistance will take longer.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Google Maps is fine for planning, just don't believe the drive times. I would pick up a Rand McNally Road Atlas for backup and to keep in the vehicle. I agree with Michael - take I-90 to I-29 to I-680 to I-80. I show this as 2018 miles, which is a full 4 day trip, ~ 500 miles a day. Overnights don't space out too well, but I would think Coeur D'Alene ID, Billings MT, and Chamberlain SD would work.

    You shouldn't have any problem finding hotels at Interstate exits that have truck parking.

    I seem to remember that Penske's fleet is fairly new and well maintained. I wouldn't expect any trouble.

  7. Default

    Thanks for the input, glc. I'll be sure to pick up that road atlas.

    Yeah I think you're right, we should stop at Chamberlain instead of Sioux Falls.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    If you are looking for accommodations, you can go about it a number of different ways. There's a motel finder right here on RTA, for one, and I believe that one of the criteria you can choose is "truck parking". That's the term that will be important for you. Another way is to do either a Google or a TripAdvisor search under each of the cities/towns you've chosen, for lodging. The term in Google is "Lodging Chamberlain, SD", for instance.

    We try to use only lodging that is cancellable up until 4 pm the date of arrival, especially when on the road like that. When in an area that is touristy, some places have more of a lead time (such as "must call 48 hours in advance"), but if you call with extenuated circumstances, they're good to go -- such as vehicle issues or family issues.

    BTW, I will agree with everyone else on this thread: when you are towing and in a big truck, you will be slower. Don't plan to drive more than 500 miles in a day. Get a reasonable start in the morning -- far earlier than checkout time -- because that 500 miles is going to take you every bit of 10 hours, if not more.


  9. Default

    Thanks Donna. That's a good point regarding cancellation, I'll make sure to look for that.

    I didn't see any filter for "truck parking" on the RTA lodging search tool, is it somewhere else?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO

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