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  1. Default Winter Road Trip from Syracuse, NY to Los Angeles

    Hello,

    I've been looking over this forum and I was hoping someone can confirm my winter route.

    In mid-December I'm traveling from Syracuse to LA. This is just to get from point A to point B, no sightseeing, so I don't have to go a specific route for my travels. My original plan was to take the shortest route (as many people here suggested), which would be the 90 - 80 - 70. I usually avoid toll roads but I was told to take them as they are better maintained in the winter.

    However, I've also been told (and read here) that I should avoid the lake effect areas. I'm in Syracuse, so there is no way to completely avoid these areas. However, this is my first winter in New York and have almost zero experience driving in snow. I know that I could take the southern route (80-40) but I've read here numerous times its better to take the most direct route and the north is better able to react to snow storms.

    Is there another direct route that I could take that will avoid most of the lake effect? Or should I stick with the most direct and drive through Chicago? I'm trying to do the trip in five days, just me and my dog. But I will easily be able to stop if I feel the roads are unsafe. I'm just worried about which route to pick.

    Also, does anyone have any weather / road closure apps they recommend? I plan to check state transportation websites but with my traveling so many miles a day, I was wondering if there was an app anyone recommended.

    Thank you all in advance for your time,

    BA

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,833

    Default Alternatives

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    The simple truth is that as you plan you really can't count on any particular route being 'better' than any other in the middle of winter and you should plan accordingly. The things you seem to have going for you are that it's just you and your dog, and that you "will easily be able to stop if I feel the roads are unsafe." I can tell you right up front that your plan to make this drive in five days will almost certainly not work and personally I would never even consider it. At roughly 2,800 miles you would need perfect weather all the way and iron man stamina to cover roughly 550 miles a day for five days straight. If you can take a sixth day, do so and build that into your plan.

    As for routes, if you know you have that sixth day, you can use it to avoid some of the worst of lake effect snows, urban driving (Cleveland and Chicago), some but not all toll roads, and possible snow/wind conditions on the northern Great Plains. What I would suggest you look at is heading south out of Syracuse on I-81 to just west of Harrisburg PA where you'd get on I-76, the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Take that to the New Stanton interchange and get on I-70 to St. Louis and then I-44 to OKC and I-40. I-15 south from Barstow into the LA area would complete your journey.

    The advantages of such a route are that it puts the likely worst weather right at the start of your trip, so that you can sit it out in the comfort of your home if needs be, but then gets you south relatively quickly, and crosses the Continental Divide on a relatively low plateau rather than through mountain passes.

    As mentioned earlier, I wouldn't attempt this trip in only five days, and not just for possible weather delays. Fatigue, also called 'highway hypnosis' is a very real threat and covering over 550 miles a day, every day, for five days would require you to spend too many continuous hours behind the wheel. Even though you don't have time for major sightseeing, you should still take several mental health breaks each day. Your dog will appreciate the exercise as well.

    Finally, when you are driving, you are working. Turn off your phone. Most motels will carry The Weather Channel on their TVs or allow you Wifi access so that you can check the weather for any given day before you set out in the morning. You should not need updates while on the road other than what your own senses are telling you. Heading west, you will be heading into any weather so if things start to turn bad stop before it gets to the point where you have to. For me, any commercial weather source or app is, I know, giving me second-hand information. Go right to the source if you can, the National Weather Service, and make your day's decision(s) based on first-hand info.

    AZBuck
    Last edited by AZBuck; 11-30-2019 at 09:27 AM.

  3. Default

    Not a weather App, yet a valuable tool is WASE. It can alert you to road hazards and show you how far traffic backups extend. Sometimes it will route you around such obstacles. It will also alert you to police ahead.

    I like to download Podcasts on my phone and listen to them, especially when there are few radio stations out in the sticks. These help keep me alert by breaking up the monotony of a long boring drive. Some podcasts are very informative while being a lot of fun to listen to. Two of my favorites are:

    Stuff you missed in history class

    Stuff you should know.

    These cover a wide variety of subjects so it is easy to find some that interest you. You could download hundreds of podcast hours!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,800

    Default

    Safetravelusa.com has links to each state's DOT road conditions site.

    Buck's recommendation adds 100 miles to the theoretical fastest and shortest route, and involves around $40 in tolls. I have a simple recommendation that adds another 100 miles but involves NO tolls - I-81 to I-40 to I-15 to LA. HIGHLY recommend you plan accordingly for 6 days. Interstates are highest priority for winter maintenance, whether they are toll or not.

  5. #5

    Default

    I concur with AZBuck and GLC with regards to routing. Barstow is a good town to spend the night before the drive into Los Angeles. You didn't mention where in LA, but Barstow is a good choice as you can start fresh in the morning after breakfast avoiding the morning and evening rush hours (these to be for extended periods like 4 hours or more). I'd still pull over to a rest area, gas station, or somewhere to periodically check traffic for the LA area as some areas can become very jammed up but there are plenty of alternatives to choose from.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    5,291

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    I will "third" the nomination of GLC's routing. That avoids many of the headaches of the "lake effect" and the tolls. I also agree, 6 days is the minimum, to keep your days to 8 hours.

    You'll have shorter daylight hours in the wintertime, and you're heading west. Depending on your body's normal rhythm, you'll want to be into your hotel before the sun starts going down so it won't be right in your face. You might want to make reservations at certain hotels for better choice, better price, and to keep yourself from "going just a little further!" You do have three time zone changes along the way, gaining yourself an hour possibly on three different days.

    If you do the route suggested by GLC, you will have two issues to think about: snow through the higher elevations of New Mexico and Arizona, and the Cajon Pass (I-15 just northeast of the LA metropolis). The Pass is notorious for one of those jams that Landmariner mentioned, and there aren't many alternatives to that one that won't cost you more miles. (It might be one to just sigh and push through.) I have just come through both Albuquerque and Flagstaff in the past week, and snow was sitting on the side of the road in both cities.


    Donna

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    5,291

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    An addendum to my previous post, this one from my husband:

    There are a few ways to avoid Cajon Pass:

    When coming west on I-40, leave that interstate at Needles and head south on US-95. Get off the 95 onto I-10 west.

    Or, when coming west on I-40, leave that interstate at exit 9 on the Arizona side, head south on AZ-95. You'll skirt along Lake Havasu for a little while. It will junction with I-10 at Quartzsite, AZ. This is a prettier route due to the Lake views.

    My husband does not like Cajon Pass because it seems to be under perpetual construction, usually at any time of the day or night, and they seem to close lanes for miles (while you wonder why, as you go by and see nothing being done, torn up, or whatever).


    Donna

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,800

    Default

    Or you can get off at Victorville onto CA-18 to CA-138 to CA-122 to CA-14 to I-5 and come into LA that way.

    2 other options - at Flagstaff, take I-17 to Phoenix, then Loop-303 to I-10 - or, if there's reported bad weather in Arizona on I-40, at ABQ, take I-25 south to Hatch, NM-26 to Deming, then I-10. This second option adds a lot of miles.

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