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Unread 10-07-2010, 11:01 AM
 
46 posts, read 55,003 times
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Default Driving from Prescott, AZ to Laramie, WY thru Colorado in Jan

I will be driving from Prescott, AZ to Laramie shortly after New Years (moving to Laramie for school). Google maps has us going up 160 from Flagstaff through Utah, and then getting on I-70 all the way to Laramie. I realize since it will be January, we will likely have some interesting driving conditions. We will be in two trucks, both with 4WD, one pulling a UHaul trailer. I have a few questions... my truck will be staying in Laramie, but my parents will be driving back to Arizona. Obviously we all want to make it there in one piece, and them make it back to AZ safely. My parents are more experienced with winter driving than I am- they grew up in Michigan/Illinois and lived in snowy parts of Oregon and now Northern AZ which gets snow sometimes, but not constantly like Colorado... My questions:

Is that going to be the best (as in safest) route with winter driving?

My truck will for sure have snow tires on it, is it recommended to put them on the other truck or should it be okay with chains and its 4WD? It will be the one pulling the UHaul.

Should we allow ourselves some extra time in case of road closures due to weather? If so, how much time?

Is there another route recommended by those experienced with those roads? Google also brought up I-70 to CO-13 to I-80, or taking the I-40 from Flagstaff over to I-25 and up, but I've heard I-25 from Ft. Collins to Laramie is a horrible road and has a bad reputation...

Any other insight/tips/advice would be greatly appreciated.
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Unread 10-07-2010, 11:23 AM
 
Location: Arvada, CO
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I-70 doesn't go to Laramie. I-80 does though.

I'd rather do I-40 E to I-25 N to I-80 W.

Allow extra time no matter what. You will be going a lot slower than you think, weather or not.

I-25 only goes from Fort Collins to Cheyenne, and it's pretty flat. But there is a pass on I-80 between Cheyenne and Laramie that can get sticky from what I hear.
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Unread 10-07-2010, 11:31 AM
 
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Sorry- was posting the route from memory- the I-70 one, it has us taking I-70 to CO-131 to CO-134 to US-40 to CO-14 to CO-125, etc etc. Looking at that, I think maybe it might be best to stick to the interstates (the I-40 to I-25 to I-80. Are interstates more likely to be in better shape the CO state highways?
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Unread 10-07-2010, 11:42 AM
 
Location: Arvada, CO
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Yes. The other route sounds like a pain in the arse.
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Unread 10-07-2010, 12:16 PM
 
Location: Wherabouts Unknown!
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jackaroo1223 wrote:
Sorry- was posting the route from memory- the I-70 one, it has us taking I-70 to CO-131 to CO-134 to US-40 to CO-14 to CO-125, etc etc. Looking at that, I think maybe it might be best to stick to the interstates (the I-40 to I-25 to I-80. Are interstates more likely to be in better shape the CO state highways?
I don't know the best and/or safest route, but I feel certain there is a safer route than the one above. Of the two ( the one above and Davids ) I prefer the route suggested by David.
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Unread 10-07-2010, 12:34 PM
 
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You'll not be able to make a final decision until the day or so before your trip, depending upon the weather patterns.

Having done this trip many times, my preference is the I-40 to I-25 to Cheyenne route, then West on I-80 to Laramie. The advantage is better road maintenance during storm passages, and many more opportunities to stop as needed for lodging/food as required due to the driving conditions.

It's impossible to forecast how much snowfall will be on the roads or coming through as you travel, which may lead to delays, slow traveling, or road closures. All you can do is watch the weather patterns and the forecasts during the few days before you leave. I've made this trip with a 60 mph average and only moderate inconvenience on the passes ... and I've had trips where averaging 30 mph was a challenge, and descending into the Alb-q-q valley was a respite from the higher terrain West from there, only to be followed by the slow ascent into SFe and the wintry conditions there and on to Raton, then North to Pueblo where it got milder, and so forth throughout the trip. The I-25 stretch from Ft Collins to Cheyenne has it's own climate pattern, and I-80 from Cheyenne Westward can also be daunting ....

Even though you are driving 4x4 trucks, it's not deep snow conditions that are plowed off that will typically be the problem, it's the slick icy conditions that can form on the highway. Snowpacked roads are relatively easy to negotiate, but black ice is a whole 'nother story. Sunny days of intense daytime sunshine at altitude can melt the top layer of snow and it gets packed back down as a dense slick ice layer on top when the temps drop ... either at night, or in shadow areas, or in very low air temps during the day.

The only thing you can reasonably count on for this trip is ambient low temps. Be sure to bring your snow brushes and ice scrapers, and have good quality winter wiper blades on your vehicle (they really help to keep the snow from packing into the blades). Of course, be sure that your vehicle is serviced before the trip ... you don't want to be looking at routine item failures enroute, such as belts or a t-stat. Monitor the weather and road condition reports as you travel, and consider stopping sooner than later if they are adverse on your route. It's a lot easier to be snugged down in a town and motel room for that time than it is to be caught out in some really nasty conditions. Don't forget to bring your gloves and hat and warm layerable clothes ... even with a good heater in your truck, it's nice to be dressed appropriately when the defroster is working at max just to keep the windshield clear and you're not able to have lower area airflow from the heater ...

The trip ahead may be a "piece of cake" in merely cold conditions ... or it can be much more difficult with storms. Only time and the climate pattern/snowfall when you are enroute will tell .... As you get closer to the departure, you can better gauge the potential for road closures and delays and plan your trip.

Last edited by sunsprit; 10-07-2010 at 01:01 PM..
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Unread 10-07-2010, 02:27 PM
 
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I've traveled just about every route from western Colorado to the Wyoming that there is. Any one of them has its unique challenges, especially in winter. The I-70 route has two major passes that are generally affected with every significant winter storm that goes through the area. They are better maintained but suffer from heavy traffic--much of that idiots who have no idea how to drive in adverse winter conditions safely. Both passes (Vail and Eisenhower Tunnel) have long sustained grades, as well.

Though it is somewhat out of the way, the I-40 to I-25 to I-80 routing might be your best bet. Just know that it can get adverse winter conditions, as well. I-25 from Colorado Springs to Fort Collins can be a holy terror for traffic anytime, but can be absolutely miserable (and very dangerous) in a winter storm.

ANY route you pick is subject to severe winter driving conditions at times in January. As sunsprit said, you might luck out and have no bad road or weather conditions, or your trip could involve hundreds of miles of adverse conditions. I've had it both ways--many times.

As to I-25 specifically north of Fort Collins and I-80 west to Laramie, the main issue there is usually blizzarding. US287, which goes direct from Fort Collins to Laramie I do not recommend in your situation. It is sort of a "roller-coaster" road with a lot of up and down, and--like the Interstate--it can blizzard quite severely. Please note that it is not necessary for it to be snowing to have severe blizzarding condtions--all it takes is wind with snow on the ground. In fact, some of the worst blizzarding conditions occur immediately after a winter storm has passed. There is a lot of fresh snow on the ground and then the wind starts blowing. Visibility can be zero on the ground with a cloudless sky above.

PS--If you're going to be living in Laramie--well, get ready. You will be seeing all of the conditions described above on a regular basis in winter--especially the wind. This photo is a joke, but it rings far more true than most Wyomingites want to admit.

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Unread 10-07-2010, 05:42 PM
Status: "Will be taking a little time off soon" (set 15 days ago)
 
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Sunspirit and Jazzlover are right.

I've been on I-80 several times in my day. The last time I was on there I was visiting a close friend who lives in Sheridan in early February a few years ago. Forecast for the day was fine, except for one small problem-wind. I've had ballcaps taken right off my head while getting gas in Casper with the wind blowing. Still, not a cloud in the sky till I got to Rawlins. The closer I got to Rawlins clouds had descended on the town like a weather inversion. And it wasn't a storm blowing in, it was 30 to 40 m.p.h. winds stirring the snow off the ground.

I knew better than to drive one more mile. I got a room there. Spending $40 to $50 on a room and a hot meal at night beats the bejeebers out of running your vehicle in a ditch, hitting a slow moving semi (with the vision about 100 feet) or having a vehicle hit you (same reason).

There is something about the lay of the land, about the way the storms roll through that area of the state, that I don't take anything to chance-period. I've had too many close calls in my life. And speaking of close calls, there's the issue of animals on the road.
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