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  1. Default Charlotte, NC to Ventura, CA - Best/Safest Route to Avoid Snow in late December?!???

    Hi All! Just found and joined the site today.

    My husband and I are planning a Christmas vacation trip from Charlotte, NC to Ventura, CA. We have about 2 weeks, but want to spend a week with family in Ventura and fly back to North Carolina, so we need to do the drive in 8 days seeing a few highlights/cities/towns (Grand Canyon for a few hours, maybe?).

    Our most important considerations are avoiding Traffic and Snow (we do not have chains although we'll have an SUV).

    Conservatively we have a plan to drive 5-6 hours a day, but if we know there will be bad weather somewhere ahead, we can extend that to 7-8 hours a day. We do not want to drive more than 8 hours in a single day.

    I narrowed down cities by looking at a paper map and google maps, but, if someone can help with an actual step by step route with road names, I would be eternally grateful.

    You'll see below that we initially planned to stay in Flagstaff because we'd heard great things about the city, but research is showing the city gets greater than 80 inches of snow each year, so maybe we shoud reroute through Phoenix? Any advice re: route & motels would be appreciated. Below is where we are right now, Thank you!! :-):

    Day 1: Leave Charlotte for Ashville/Nashville Thursday 12/26 Stop in Ashville for a few hours -- 2 Hours drive

    then drive Ashville to Nashville ~ 4.5 hours drive

    Day 2: Friday 12/27 Nashville to Little Rock Arkansas ~ 6 hours drive

    Day 3: Saturday 12/28 Little Rock to Oklahoma City ~6 hours drive

    Day 4: Sunday 12/29 Oklahoma City to Amarillo, TX ~ 5 hours drive

    Day 5: Monday 12/30 Amarillo, TX to Albuquerque ~ 5 hours drive

    12/30 night & Tuesday 12/31 night sleep in Albuquerque to explore/rest/recharge

    Day 6: Wednesday 1/1 Albuquerque to Flagstaff ~ 6 hours drive

    1/1 night and Thursday 1/2 night sleep in Flagstaff to explore/rest/recharge

    Day 7: Friday 1/3 Flagstaff half way to Ventura ~ 4 hours drive

    Day 8: Saturday 1/4 Half way to Ventura, CA ~ 4 hours drive

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    5,250

    Default

    Welcome to RTA!

    What you might want to do is make plans to go this way, but have a "plan B" in mind in case there's a storm that comes through. In my travels through the country, I've had trips where the storm was behind me, chasing me across country, and ahead of me, where I was trying not to catch up to it. If a storm is right on top, you might have to stop, regroup, and decide to either hole-up for a day and let the storm move on in front of you, or look at weather reports and decide whether to change routing.

    In order to go through Phoenix without going through Flagstaff, you'd either have to drop south at Albuquerque (or sooner), or head through mountains whose roads may not be maintained as readily (such as a route that takes you through Holbrook, Showlow, Globe-Miami; Showlow is up in the mountains!).

    Flagstaff to Ventura's halfway point is in the middle of the desert. There is really not much between Needles and Barstow, except very few gas stations and a lot of desert. If you can't go all 9 or 10 hours between the two cities, then I'd recommend Barstow. There's lots to choose from, lodging and restaurant wise, as well as some places to check out. Barstow is about 6 hours from Flagstaff.

    Advice for motels...well, my husband and I like to stick with one corporate chain so that we can build up points for a free night or two along the way. At the current time, our normal one is Choice, which has EconoLodge, Sleep Inn, Quality Inn, Comfort Inn and Suites, to name four. There's a really decent Comfort Inn on the west side of Amarillo, for instance. In Flagstaff, if you don't mind a small room, there's a Sleep Inn right near the intersection of I-40 and I-17. There are several restaurants within a mile of the place, including two or three within walking distance (if the weather is decent). In ABQ, there are many motels at the Coors exit, but last time we were through there, there was a lot of construction going on. (But that was a couple of years ago, and we were not staying overnight in ABQ.)

    Bear in mind that if you're renting the car to go from east coast to west coast, the rental company may impose a hefty one-way-rental charge on you.


    Donna
    Last edited by DonnaR57; 10-13-2019 at 07:50 AM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,780

    Default

    You do not need chains. If the roads are that bad, they will either close them or you should get off the highway and find a hotel to wait it out.

    Take I-85 to I-26 to I-40, stay on that to the end. Then take I-15 south. You have 2 choices:

    Stay on I-15 to I-210 to CA-134 to US-101 to Ventura (will have a LOT of traffic).

    -OR -

    Stay on I-15 to CA-18 to CA-138 (Pearblossom Hwy) to 4 Points, turn left onto CA-122 to stay on Pearblossom (CA-138 continues straight) to CA-14 to the second Soledad Canyon Rd exit (Exit 9, turn left at the bottom of the ramp). Take Soledad Canyon Rd to Valley Center Dr (it's just past the Golden Valley Rd overpass), turn right, then left on Golden Valley Rd. Continue straight onto Newhall Ranch Rd, when you cross I-5, this becomes CA-126, take that to US-101.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    11,395

    Default

    You look to have a good solid idea of how to go about things and remaining flexible will help the trip remain as smooth as possible, although there are no guarantees you can avoid snow and you will certainly encounter traffic but hopefully not too much. If you like to get on the road reasonably early then staying on the west side of a city so that you are heading away from it in the morning rush would be one suggestion and settling down before the evening rush is another. If the weather is kind I would certainly enjoy a bit of 'down time' and visit the Grand canyon although there are other options such as the Petrified forest, Meteor Crater and small detours into route 66 towns such as Holbrook (Wigwam Motel) Winslow (Standin' on the corner) and if you wanted to, from Flagstaff you could drive through Oatman, home of the Burros.

  5. Default

    Thank you all very much! These responses are exteremely helpful.

    I guess we'll have to check the Flagstaff weather and head south at ABQ if there will be snow/a storm in Flagstaff. I'd love to go direct, but there's no way to know if that will be possible.

    Does anyone have experience traveling at this time of year (late December/over New Years Eve)? Will we be OK without hotel/motel reservations? Assume we'll choose one of the Choice Hotels that Donna recommended above?

    Thanks again. This will be our first cross country trip, so we'd appreciate any feedback. Does it make sense to carry a gallon or two of gas with us in the back of the SUV in case there is snow and traffic in one of these remote destinations? Or is that too dangerous in case there is a rear end collision?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,821

    Default Decide Early

    While maintaining a certain amount of flexibility is always a good thing when setting out on a long RoadTrip, it's also a good thing to have things well thought out beforehand. Your latest post illustrates this with two good examples.

    First, there's your choice of route. The sooner you can decide on whether you want to go through Arizona on I-40 or I-10, the better off you'll be. Indeed, you should ideally make that choice before leaving Charlotte. If you're going to use I-40, then you'd leave Charlotte on I-85 to Kings Mountain where you'd switch over to US-74 to Columbus and there take I-26 to I-40. However, if the weather looks questionable on the high plateaus of northern Arizona (7,000-8,000 feet in elevation), then you'd want to stay on I-85 all the way down to Atlanta and then run I-20 to west Texas and I-10, but you'd be making that decision (I-85 to US-74 or I-85 to I-20) within about half an hour of leaving home! there are other options to get between the two routes, such as I-26 from Little Rock to Dallas or possibly I-25 from Albuquerque to Las Cruces, but they would be longer. Still you should know at least three different ways to switch between I-40 and I-10 before setting out so that you don need to stress out while on your trip.

    The second thing to work out, at least to some degree, before you leave is where you'll be spending your nights. Yes, you can just wing it and there's certainly no shortage of lodging along the Interstates (except in the wide-open emptiness of west Texas and central New Mexico). But again, if you want to keep your stress levels down you should at least know, before you start out, where the franchises of your chosen preferred motel/hotel chain are along your route. That way, you'll know where you should try to get to on a given evening, and more importantly where you shouldn't drive beyond hoping for another 'just down the road'. Flexibility without the information needed for planning is an illusion, and again - if you can plan things such as overnight stops beforehand, that's one less thing to worry about on the road.

    Finally: DO NOT carry gasoline in your vehicle, other than in its gas tank. Yes, it is extremely dangerous and there is simply no need. You will reach your personal limit (be it need for food, a bathroom break, or just a brisk walk to ward off highway hypnosis) long before your gas tank will approach empty. Just gas up often and keep the tank above 3/8th's full and you'll be fine.

    AZBuck

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    11,395

    Default

    Does it make sense to carry a gallon or two of gas with us in the back of the SUV in case there is snow and traffic in one of these remote destinations? Or is that too dangerous in case there is a rear end collision?
    There is no need to do so with a little common sense and other than the possible danger of doing so, one little spill and the car will smell of fumes.

    It will be worth doing some homework with regards to lodging over the Christmas/New year period. You can check out options in the areas you wish to stay by using the RTA lodging link.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,780

    Default

    If you need to get from ABQ to I-10, take I-25 south to Hatch, then NM-26 to Deming.

    To avoid Phoenix traffic, take I-8 to Gila Bend, then AZ-85 north back to I-10.

    This will bring you right through the heart of LA traffic, best (least nasty) way through is pick up CA-210 at Redlands, this will become I-210, see above.

    such as I-26 from Little Rock to Dallas
    I believe he meant I-30.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    5,250

    Default

    With your original choice of route, the only place where there's a lack of fuel stations is between Needles and Barstow. My recommendation there would be to fill up in Kingman (often cheaper than Needles, just because of California gas taxes) and get yourself to Barstow. It's about 205 miles between the two, I believe. There are a couple of stations between the two, one at Ludlow and one at Essex, I believe, but I wouldn't count on them being open nor cheap. BTW, gas is very high here -- we just jumped another 35c a gallon on Oct 1st. If you have a Costco card, bring it with you.

    I wouldn't travel with fuel except in the tank. Just a personal safety thing, not to mention the fumes!


    Donna

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,780

    Default

    Gas today in Kingman is $2.72 and up. At the AZ-95 exit on I-40 just before you get to CA, it's $2.85 (Loves and Pilot, open 24/7). It's $4.89 in Needles. It's $4.99 in Ludlow, $4.39 in Newberry Springs, and $3.95 and up in Barstow.

    Kingman is ALWAYS cheaper than Needles, Needles always has some of the highest priced gas in the country. This is mostly due to transportation costs, gas can't be sold in CA unless it's from a refinery certified to refine gas to CA standards. Needles is a long way from any of them. You also will not get very good gas mileage with CA blend gas.

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