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  1. Default Winter Road Trip LA - Nashville

    Hi Everyone!

    I'm driving from Los Angeles to Nashville in January and was hoping to get advice on road trip options. I'm driving a Nissan Sentra (not winter weather equipped), though I do feel comfortable driving in winter conditions (grew up in NY). How is I40 this time of year? I understand its at a higher elevation than the southern 10 route. 40 is certainly the quickest, or would it be advisable to take I10 for part of the trip? I'm flexible with my dates, thinking Jan 16 - 21/22, and was hoping to see some wonderful nature sights (hikes) along the trip. I'm certainly more of an off the beaten track kinda girl (no chains or tourist attractions), and was hoping to do a combination of tent camping and bed and breakfasts, which might alter the route as well due to temperature conditions. Any advice, or recommendations would be greatly appreciated!

    Happy new year ~

  2. #2

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    I40 should be fine as it will take you straight to Nashville. Weather is updated daily so you have to keep an eye one it. With Nissan Sentra being high center of gravity, side winds might be a bit of an issue if you drive over 75MPH. If weather is bad along the interstate there are several travel plazas and motels along the I40. I don't believe chains are required on I40.

    I did drive on both I10 couple weeks back and it was as cold and windy as it was on I40. The weather will likely not matter on I10 or I40.

    You have an option of car camping but will need some modification on your car. Most Loves/TA/Pilot travel shops now have hot shower facilities.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
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    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    One thing you really need to keep in mind is that there is no "time of year" where Interstates are ever in poor condition. They can be in poor driving condition during and just after a storm, but that can happen at any time during winter. The vast majority of days, road conditions will be just fine, but if you happen to be traveling on a day when it's snowing, then all bets are off. All you can do is keep an eye on the forecasts for the specific days you'll be traveling.

    I-40 is at a higher elevation, and certainly is more likely to see snow or ice, but that doesn't mean I-10 is immune from winter weather. I-10 from West Texas to Arizona sees snow and ice every year, and even just today a large section of I-10 in Florida was completely closed due to ice. Remember, the farther south you go, generally speaking, the less able they are to deal with even a small amount of winter weather - that storm that closed part of I-10 today, and several other highways in Georgia and the Carolinas would barely have any impact on traffic in more northern areas.

    I'd also say that a small, front wheel drive car like a Sentra can actually be very good in snow and ice - particularly if you have good tires. Making sure you do have good all season tires - not just summer tread tires - would be important for this trip.

    How much experience do you have with winter camping? Trying to do any tent camping in January is going to be very challenging. You're going to need serious cold weather gear, and even there, it's going to be difficult to find campgrounds that are open. Ones that are open will almost certainly have all of the facilities - particularly water - turned off. Remember, overnight temperatures across most of your journey, no matter which way you go, are likely to be below freezing. Even Nashville's average overnight low is in the mid-20s (and today it's about 10). Even with experience and winter gear, I generally skip tent camping when it's supposed to be below freezing overnight.

  4. Default

    Thank you Midwest Michael for the warm welcome and helpful information!

    After hearing your thoughts and researching, I've decided against the winter camping - having looked at temperatures even along the 10, like you said, will reach low 20s. Guess winter camping in California is a little different than around the rest of the states...

    That being said, what are your thoughts about the I 70 route, just out of curiosity? I know there will definitely be snow, but perhaps it may be manageable?

  5. Default

    Thanks jm98 for all the helpful advice! Great to know about the I10 and I40 conditions you experienced a couple weeks back. My car certainly feels the wind, and can imagine that being the issue for higher speeds.

    I'm thinking I40 would be the quickest and easiest route, but just out of curiosity what are your thoughts on I70? I know its not a winter route, and certainly wouldn't want to push my safety...

  6. #6
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    The best thing you can do is check weather forecasts and road conditions prior to leaving and make an informed decision then. I-70 is certainly a winter route, it transports people and goods all year round, but that's not to say it doesn't see weather related disruption. As mentioned, all routes can and do see winter weather but the only thing that matters is what's going on at the time you travel. I-70 adds time to your trip but if the weather is good you will see some beautiful views. If the weather was good you could take 89 from Flagstaff to 160 and then through Monument valley on 163 to 191 to Moab and onto I-70. That would fit in with how you like to travel but it would be better suited to using the 6 days so you have time to enjoy some of it. Like I say, keep an eye on the weather forecasts and if they co-operate you can pretty much take whatever route suits you best.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by NinasDriving View Post
    Thanks jm98 for all the helpful advice! Great to know about the I10 and I40 conditions you experienced a couple weeks back. My car certainly feels the wind, and can imagine that being the issue for higher speeds.

    I'm thinking I40 would be the quickest and easiest route, but just out of curiosity what are your thoughts on I70? I know its not a winter route, and certainly wouldn't want to push my safety...
    Well, I70 can be an adventure in that small car however it's doable. You won't be camping in car on I70 and should have car winter ready since you from California. The winter driving on I70 Colorado is most exiting and adventurous. There are nice small towns along I70 for night stay. Some winter destinations in Colorado going to feel like you are not in US and it's going to feel like you are in European country surrounding Alps. You will get a strange feeling when driving on I70/Colorado and you don't get to see McDonald's or other fast-food chains on town exits.

  8. #8
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    Right now, there's another thread going in this same forum (Fall & Winter Road Trips) where there is a discussion about the pros and cons of I-70, I-40 and I-8/10 for crossing the country. Click here. It's a bit different because we are discussing U-Haul type trucks, but things like weather and grades are also compared.

    To summarize, though:
    I-70: you'll have a gradual climb from St George (on I-15) all the way to Denver, but a major climb when you are between Glenwood Springs and Eisenhower Tunnel. The 70 gets up to 11,000 ft elevation, which *can* mean more snow and ice (to the skiers delight), then there is a 6% grade down into Denver. From there, it is a gradual downhill to rolling hills in KS and MO and flat lands in IL. Somewhere, to get to Nashville, you'd have to get off of the 70.

    I-40: There is a gradual climb out of Barstow into Kingman and then gradual to Flagstaff, where you are at 6900 ft elevation. Then you are in rolling hills, staying above 5000 ft into Albuquerque, dropping after that. The one constant, every trip we've done between OKC and ABQ, seems to be wind. One time it was a tailwind (really improves gas mileage). Another time, a headwind (just the opposite: eats fuel). Yet a third time, in a U-Haul, hubby was battling a side wind.

    I-10: gradual climb out of Tucson into eastern AZ and western NM. If you are headed to Nashville, eventually you'll get off the 10 and head northeast. Winds can be a problem, same as 40. One time my folks were towing a travel trailer through western Texas on the 10 and had to hole up in Van Horn due to a snowstorm...in April!


    Donna

  9. #9
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    LA to Nashville via I-15/I-40: 2000 miles. Via I-15/I-70/I-64/I-57/I-24: 2175 miles. Via I-10/I-20/I-30/I-40: 2105 miles.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by NinasDriving View Post
    That being said, what are your thoughts about the I 70 route, just out of curiosity? I know there will definitely be snow, but perhaps it may be manageable?
    There will certainly be snow on the ground, but that doesn't mean that there will be snow on the roads. Of course, I-70 goes up to a much higher elevation, so that does increase the chance of seeing snow or other bad weather, and that means you do have to be that much more mindful if you choose to go that route. Having said that, I certainly wouldn't call it adventurous, unless making a drive that is literally driven by thousands of people every day throughout the winter is adventurous. Some of the ski resort towns along I-70 do provide a glimpse into how the other half lives, although you'll still find plenty of fast food and other traveler services.

    After hearing your thoughts and researching, I've decided against the winter camping - having looked at temperatures even along the 10, like you said, will reach low 20s. Guess winter camping in California is a little different than around the rest of the states...
    It certainly is, although you don't even have to leave the state to remember that. The worst night of camping I ever had was when I was living in California and went camping in Sequoia in late fall - it was pleasant enough during the day, but at night it got down way colder than I - or my gear - was prepared for. Being too cold to sleep is a miserable experience and a mistake I won't make again!

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