Day One, January 15th: I left Sacramento at around 4:00 pm, which was a lot later than I had hoped to head out. I had already had a pretty full day by then, and I really didn't know how long I'd be able to last. My stamina held up great, and I made good time getting to Reno. It's pretty mountainous along the way, and it got dark fast, so I couldn't go terribly fast. Colorless Nevada passed me by without a hitch, and I checked into the city of Wendover, Nevada, around 12:30 for a little sleep. I stayed at this crazy hotel/casino called the Red Garter, and they gave me a great deal on a room.
Day Two, January 16th: I left Wendover after a few hours, since I didn't get very much sleep. I loaded up on coffee, and continued heading east along Interstate 80 at around 4:00 am. The landscape was dull and boring, and I was hit with severe fog between the Nevada border and Salt Lake City, which made me a little nervous. This day was definitely the most mundane, since I drove through Utah, Wyoming, and Nebraska in one shot. I reached Laramie, Wyoming around noon, and Omaha came around 8:00 pm. That's correct; I drove for 16 hours straight. I stayed in Omaha for a bit.
Day Three, January 17th: Eager to continue, I checked out of my Omaha hotel prematurely, at about 11:00. I didn't give myself enough rest, and I felt it as soon as I hit the road. Nevertheless, I drank a cup of coffee and pushed into Des Moines, Iowa, two hours later at around 1:00 am. I stayed in Des Moines until I felt rested enough to continue, and I pushed onward. I woke about seven hours later, at 8:00 am, and drove until I reached the town of Youngstown, Ohio, 12 hours later. The weather steadily worsened.
Day Four, January 18th: I knew that the only thing that stood between me and victoly was Pennyslvania. Weather was horrible. Fog, snow and ice reduced my speed down to about 45 miles per hour, and I could do nothing but crawl along the interstate. I left Ohio at around 1:00 am, and reached New York City, and the University, at 8:00.
I have several tips that may sound completely obvious, but I didn't know about this stuff until now!
1. In bad weather, truckers are your best friend. If you don't have a CB radio, don't worry. When I cruised on to Salt Lake, the fog became so dense that it reduced visibility to almost nil. However, a kind semi flashed his powerful fog lights at me, and I fell in behind him and used his rear lights as a beacon to guide me through. It was a lifesaver, and I was sure to thank the trucker for helping me out.
The evil truckers of movies like "Joy Ride" are few and far between, I can assure you. The vast majority of these people are hardworking, kind folk.
2. When driving in harsh conditions, slow down. This is obvious, but it's worth repeating.
3. Follow in the tracks of the cars in front of you in harsh weather. I was driving a cute little sports car, which was great for eating up miles in Wyoming, but in snow, it became a huge problem. Trying to plow through snow lying on the road was a huge risk, and I would always lose traction.
Follow the tracks of the cars/trucks that've been down that road before you.
4. Check your brakes. I was surprised indeed to find that my brakes had iced up on several occasions. In very cold conditions, be sure and double check. It'll be a shocking experience having no brakes to save you if a situation should arise.
5. Stay rested. Especially in bad weather. I had the decent sense to pull over in Des Moines, even though I had just been to a hotel, but hey, I made it, didn't I?
Anyways, I hope this was of interest. I gave myself six days for the trip, and I made it in four, easily. This was my first cross-country trip, and I have to say... it was no fun at all. It was lonesome, desolate, and boring. Unless you take detours from your route, there is almost nothing to see along the way. So please! If you're doing a speed run, try and take someone with you. Not only will you make better time, you just might keep your sanity.
Average speed of trip: 69 mph (I did as high as 105 in Wyoming/Nebraska, and as low as 40 mph in Pennsylvania)
Average economy: 25 mpg
Average range: 400 miles (I gassed up whenever my range computer told me I had about 150 miles or less left. Better safe than sorry!)
Total hours: About 46.
Average amount driving/day: 11.5 hours/day.
You're A Seasoned Pro!
Your trip sounds like fun to me, but I understand the lonesome feeling. I think that weather plays a big role. I've been uncomfortable behind the wheel alone a few times over the years. (Terrible line of thunderstorms on I-80 in Pennsylvania, unimaginably thick fog on I-5 between L.A. and S.F., etc. ) Overall, I've been lucky with weather when traveling alone, but have seen some pretty bad stuff when I've had other people around to share in the misery.
I encourage you to do some more road travel when you have some downtime from school. Try to recruit some of your classmates to get away for a long weekend early in the semester. Once you get past the traffic barrier surrounding the tri-state area, Long Island becomes a fantastic starting point for roadtripping. Philly and Boston are 2.5 and 3.5 hours away respectively. The Adirondacks and Appalachians are a day's drive tops.
Try to check back with this forum from time to time. There are bound to be postings from other "rookies" that could use your insight.
Good luck with your studies, and don't get too smart.
Glad you made it
I'm glad you had a safe trip but sorry to hear you didn't enjoy it. It sounds like fun to me! Although I have rarely driven in the type of bad weather you encountered so I might not have liked that part either.
However, I did learn something. I have no idea how to check my brakes for icing. I never even thought about it. Can you give me a description of the process?
Enjoy school and hope you have some good roadtrips in the future!
I think that in very cold weather, a thin layer of ice will actually form on your brake rotors (if you don't know how a braking system works, the rotor's a round metal pad attached to the wheel that the brake pad clamps down on when you press the brake pedal). So, when you go to brake, the pads'll be squeezing down on ice, and you'll have basically no stopping power at all.
Maybe I'm completely off target, but I found that if I just held down my pedal, the friction would melt the ice and my brakes would free up again.
Didn't know any existed
Glad you made your speed run -- Thanks for the field report -- I have traveled the same roads you did many, many times over the years in all sorts of conditions. In my experience, road boredom is usually a state of mind having relatively little to do with the external landscape. Hopefully you will have more fun on your next roadtrip adventure.
If I were a betting man -- I would wager that tales derived from your cross-country drive will enliven conversations for years to come.
Good luck in school.
Thanks and I'll ask around and see if that is a good thing to do. It sounds like it worked for you so your advise is appreciated. I do know where the rotor is but I've never paid much attention to it before. It sounds like a good technique to know and understand how to use properly for safe driving.
I could be completely off on the actual details on how the ice forms, but I just know that when it got really, really cold, near zero degrees, my brakes wouldn't work until I gave them a little exercise first :)