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Old 08-20-2012, 02:12 PM
3 posts, read 10,188 times
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I will be moving to Denver next week. I plan to make the trip in two days. While I know how far the drive is and what route to take, I could really use some advice on the following:

I am just filling my car with whatever will fit and driving from Michigan to Denver. What city in Nebraska or Iowa would you suggest I stop at for the night? Any hotel preferences?

Is it difficult to find gas stations along I-80? I have a small car with a small gas tank, so I expect fairly frequent stops.

Is making the drive in 2 days realistic?

Any other general advice about a cross-country move?
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Old 08-20-2012, 03:55 PM
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Wink Lodging and other considerations

Two days from Michigan to Colorado is realistic, if you are comfortable with two near 12-hour days. If not having done that type of drive before, you might want to reconsider and make it three easy days instead. Three will certainly be more pleasant, unless you're just into driving, although that section of I-80 is hardly inspiring.

Assuming two days (presumably beginning from somewhere near Detroit), then either Des Moines, IA or Omaha, NE are the natural midway points, with Des Moines a bit more so. In reaching Des Moines one might feel like pushing on to Omaha, so the second day shorter; although without this option if having made reservations, with this a good and welcome idea when arriving late in an unknown city. Believe me, it can be no fun arriving some place at dark thirty and wondering where decent lodging might be found.

Aside from reservations, it is generally easier when traveling (and not intent on seeing the local sights) to aim for the periphery of cities. If doing a search under Des Moines or Omaha one is likely to be directed to hotels either in the CBD or near the airport. That could be a huge pain, particularly if already dark. Pity, as otherwise there is a nice Hyatt Place in downtown Des Moines. Never mind that; you are surely better off with the likes of Hampton Inn or Holiday Inn Express, both being quite comfortable and safe, and not terribly expensive. One could always economize and go downscale from that, but do you really want to listen to some biker gang partying all night through thin walls, or perhaps find your vehicle vandalized the next morning? Although do be aware that even supposedly perfectly sound brands are not all created equal, so it pays to do a little research on the exact hotel in question.

Look to the outskirts of Des Moines and one will find a conveniently located Holiday Inn Express in Altoona, IA, close to I-80. Or, just on entering Omaha, NE, a Hampton Inn with ready access just across the river in Council Bluffs, IA. But location does matter, and you may wish to consider other factors, such as dining. While some hotels offer restaurants or room service, the calibre of those I am referring more usually only provide some semblance of a free breakfast. The Hampton Inn in Council Bluffs appears to have no nearby services readily at hand, at least within walking distance. Whereas not far east of that there is a Holiday Inn Express with a few restaurants, such as Ruby Tuesday, nearby. At the end of a long day and drive, such proximity may be welcome.

One advantage of interstates is the easy availability of services. You'll still want to watch your gas gauge, as long distances are involved, but will find petrol and fast food at regular intervals. They tend to be grouped near the more major interchanges, often with large signs to draw one's attention. No more than keeping the car fueled should be a simple matter. And do yourself a favor in not searching high and low for bargain brands and prices; fuel near interstates tends to be higher in cost; just aim for a decent brand with easy access and be done with it.

Insure you vehicle is in decent shape to begin with, liable to make it to Denver without incident, and other than a long and somewhat tedious drive you should be fine. If packing the car to the brim, use a blanket or somehow keep from advertising all the paraphernalia someone might want to rip off in the middle of the night. To this end, also choose your hotel parking spot carefully, in a lighted area with good public view. Otherwise pay attention as warranted, and then just relax on what at times might be an interesting and even pleasant road trip.
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Old 08-20-2012, 07:52 PM
Location: Denver, CO
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I recently moved to Denver from downtown Chicago, and I spent two nights on the road, staying at hotels in the Council Bluffs, IA area and in Sterling, CO. I wanted to arrive at my new apt. in the morning, so I planned to stay my second night closer to Denver. As the other poster suggests, you can probably do it in two days (one night), but you're going to be driving more hours than is probably comfortable. I'd suggest two nights on the road.

I planned the hotels weeks before I left to make sure I'd have a place to stay with vacancy (it was late July). I just reserved the rooms with my name (not with a credit card) since I didn't want to be charged if my car broke down or I got delayed for some reason. Most hotels have a 6 p.m. day-of cancellation policy, but the place I stayed in IA had 48-hours cancellation, which means I would have had to commit to it before I left Chicago. Not my ideal. After explaining my situation, they just accepted my name and I was good to go.

While at the hotels, I made sure I parked my car really close to the front entrance (in eye-shot of the reservation desk) as it was loaded with my most valuable possessions. (My movers took most things, but the stuff in my car was what I didn't want to get lost or stolen. My car was still LOADED up, though, and at quick glance, you knew I was moving!) When I arrived at the hotel, I brought into the room the most valuable of the valuable (computer, tax papers, financial docs, anything with my SSN on it, etc.). I also brought in my plants as I didn't want them to wilt in the hot July night. I had to make several trips to and from my car to unload that night and reload the next morning, but the peace of mind was worth it.

I let the guy at the front desk know that I was moving and to keep an eye on my car. Of course, that could work against you as now you're giving yourself away, but I trusted my gut and decided to do it anyway. It all worked out. I arrived in Denver without any problems.

There are tons of places to refill your gas tank on I-80. It's a well-traveled road for cross-country trips. My little 15-yr-old car fills up with only 8 or 9 gallons, and I found I didn't have to stop that often. I got great gas mileage the entire trip. Iowa has really inexpensive gas (at least compared to where I was living), so it's a good idea to fill up before you enter Nebraska because I found Nebraska to be a tad more.

For an excellent burger on the road, I suggest stopping at Runza for lunch. They have locations mostly in NE, but there might be some in IA, too. With all the windows around the place, you can easily find a seat so you can keep an eye on your car in the parking lot.

Good luck! Enjoy the drive!
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Old 08-20-2012, 08:10 PM
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Livonia, MI to Denver, CO is 1252 miles.

An easy two day drive.

Start early each day, going 580 miles on day one, stopping near Des Moines, IA.

Day two will be 672 miles, but it's high speed open road driving on I-80 and you will be in Denver by 6-7 PM.

Two days should be easy to do.
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Old 08-20-2012, 08:25 PM
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I relocated to Denver from Atlanta. It was ~1500 miles altogether. I could have taken a slightly shorter route, but I chose to visit a friend in Tulsa and stay at his place instead of throwing down cash for a hotel.

Gas stations are few and far between out on the plains (I'm talking 20-30 miles apart) so you should plan accordingly. You can either be obsessive compulsive like I was and use the total amount of miles per tank of gas to plan gas stops, or you can just use the "1/3 rule" - If you're coming up on a gas station and you have 1/2 to 1/3 of a tank left, buy gas. Don't try and minimize gas stops, because they are a good way to breaking the tedium of all-day driving and you can get food there as well.

Also, if your route takes you through toll roads, take a careful look at the non-toll alternative. A lot of people are hell-bent on avoiding tolls no matter what, but if avoiding tolls adds another 20 miles to your trip, then it's obviously more cost-effective to simply pay the toll.

Finally, start your driving early in the morning and check into your hotel by 6pm. Why? Because you'll be driving west for the entirety of the trip and you don't want the sun in your eye the whole time - that would be downright dangerous. Hope this helps.

Last edited by Antares45; 08-20-2012 at 08:34 PM..
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Old 08-20-2012, 09:09 PM
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Thank you very much for all of the feedback! I think I will plan to stop in Des Moines. I also am bringing my dog with me, so I will call around to the hotels on the outskirts and see who will allow my small pet.

I'm not terribly excited about driving in two days, but I don't think I could stand 3 days of driving...
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Old 08-21-2012, 09:45 AM
Location: Colorado
59 posts, read 87,533 times
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Being from Iowa, I've made the Des Moines - Denver drive many times on my way to skiing in CO. Gas stations along I-80 are very frequent and regular in Iowa but they get more spaced out as you head west through Nebraska and eastern Colorado. I agree with the advice above, if you feel you're car has a smaller tank or worse mpg than most, fill up at 1/2 or 1/3 tank.

I believe it was Ogallala, NE (one of my favorite town names) that had ridiculously more expensive gas than the next closest stations east or west of it. It was around 70 cents higher!
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Old 08-21-2012, 11:43 AM
Location: Colorado - Oh, yeah!
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Originally Posted by Idunn View Post
Aside from reservations, it is generally easier when traveling (and not intent on seeing the local sights) to aim for the periphery of cities.
One little trick I like is to stay on the far side of town (i.e. drive through town and stop on your way out). This accomplishes two things; there is the mental advantage of, "I have gone through town, I am that much closer to my destination" and more importantly, you take your chances of dealing with rush-hour down to almost zero. To me, there are few things as aggravating as starting a long day on the road by sitting in traffic; I want to get going and set a positive tone for the day.

Pre-Internet this was a little harder to do as you risked being out of town before you found a place to stay, but now that you can google everything and see exactly where the hotels are along with reviews it is pretty easy.
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Old 08-21-2012, 11:49 AM
Location: Colorado - Oh, yeah!
833 posts, read 1,381,749 times
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Originally Posted by Droppin By View Post
I believe it was Ogallala, NE (one of my favorite town names) that had ridiculously more expensive gas than the next closest stations east or west of it. It was around 70 cents higher!
There's an app for that - several in fact. I haven't done a long distance drive without planned stops in awhile so I am not sure what the best one is currently, but if I were going more than the 3.5 hours to Las Cruces, NM (which seems to be my most frequent long drive lately) I would hunt one down.

If the OP doesn't have a smart-phone this could be done from home before leaving - you already have the nightly stops planned, so why not? Prices may change a little, but the places that rip you off will still be the highest.
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Old 08-21-2012, 07:39 PM
Location: Na'alehu Hawaii/Buena Vista Colorado
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My favorite tool on the road for finding lodging is Trip Advisor. Sometimes you can find the off-brand family-owned place that is quite nice and affordable. And you can find out which ones allow dogs. BTW, you will need to add frequent dog pit stops to the length of your trip.
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