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Old 11-12-2011, 09:36 PM
 
Location: Pacific Northwest
57 posts, read 125,054 times
Reputation: 29

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I'm driving home to the Memphis area from my new home (Seattle) for Thanksgiving this year. I've done lots of long road trips, but not this one before, and never this close to winter out west...
I'm in desperate need of advice on which route is best:
Seattle -> Spokane -> Missoula -> S Dakota & down ...OR...
Seattle -> Boise -> Salt Lake City -> Cheyenne -> Lincoln & down.

I've waited up until this wk to plan my route because the weather is so unpredictable this time of year, and now I'm seeing that it looks like snow starting next week in just about every direction... I don't really have much of a choice, in an SUV with no 4wd or anything, so what's my best bet?

Can someone give me some idea as to what the roads are like along these routes? I've only ever set foot in Montana for about 15 min in July, so any info on how things are this time of year would be appreciated...
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Old 11-13-2011, 08:43 AM
 
Location: Bozeman, Montana
1,191 posts, read 2,564,470 times
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We already have snow in Montana.

There are steep, high mountain passes, like Homestake, east of Butte, if you go through Montana. If you are nervous about driving through them when they are possibly icy and snow covered, then I advise the route through Boise.

Here is a link to Montana road reports and web-cams on the highways.
Traveler Information - Roadway Cameras

Hope that helps.

H.I.
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Old 11-13-2011, 09:17 AM
 
Location: Brendansport, Sagitta IV
7,540 posts, read 12,567,152 times
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Personally I'd take the northern route. It probably hits fewer mountains overall, and in my experience is better-plowed after a storm and less likely to be icy.
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Old 11-13-2011, 11:43 AM
 
Location: NW Montana
451 posts, read 845,680 times
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Got to agree with Reziac on this one.

The pass at Butte (Homestake) is very well-maintained during the winter, with plows patrolling at all times with exception of the worst imaginable blizzards, (which, thankfully, are rare) and then the gates are put up, the Interstate closed and everybody takes shelter. Such closures don't occur at all in many winters, but they do happen - so watch for weather updates. If something comes up, you could swing down through Idaho east of Missoula, were the roads to be better along that route at that time. That gives you a backup plan.

The pass at Bozeman is lower in elevation and less difficult, but still bears having a back-up plan.

And watch for high winds at Livingston. If the warnings are up - heed them - they ain't whistling Dixie. (I don't know what they're whistling, but it's NOT Dixie...)

I've driven this route numerous times in winter weather, and though there's been plenty of snow and wind, have never had a problem. It mostly depends on being alert, careful and not taking unnecessary chances.

And no matter which route you drive, be prepared! Which means: having extra dry clothing and a sleeping bag and/or blankets in your vehicle, together with good quality boots and gloves, a warm hat, some emergency food items, flashlight, first aid kit and a tool or method of personal protection. Our daughters and granddaughters have been taught to have a gun (that they are familiar with) handy.

If you have a cell phone, 911 is your friend just about everywhere except the mountain tops, so you can reach emergency help almost all the time.

One last thing: Keep your fuel tank full - don't let it get below half full during winter trips, and throw in some HEET or similar product occasionally - every third fill up or so..

Have fun and enjoy the trip.


mg
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Old 11-13-2011, 12:15 PM
 
Location: Brendansport, Sagitta IV
7,540 posts, read 12,567,152 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by montygarlic View Post
One last thing: Keep your fuel tank full - don't let it get below half full during winter trips, and throw in some HEET or similar product occasionally - every third fill up or so..
Single most important winter travel tip. Especially when you don't know where the next gas station is. (Or as I found in big chunks of southeastern Idaho and northern Utah, none are open after dark.) Stop and get gas pretty much every time you see a pump, cuz it's gonna be a while between pumps.

Where'd that thread go on winter-travel-preparedness??
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Old 11-13-2011, 12:44 PM
 
Location: Pacific Northwest
57 posts, read 125,054 times
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I saw that Heet stuff, had no idea what it was but I bought some anyways.. good to know that it'll be useful. Any other car maintenance things for cold weather that I might need? I've got a container of the defroster windshield stuff..
I'm from Mississippi, so definitely NOT used to snow & ice, & especially not while driving in the mountains
As far as the wind, what does it mean to heed the warnings? Like, is it so bad that I would have to stop & stay somewhere, or just continue at a slower, more cautious pace? I lived in southern Arizona for a bit and experienced a pretty massive wind/dust storm on the interstate between Tucson & Phoenix, but was able to jump onto an intersecting county road and have the wind pushing me from behind, so all was well.
I keep hearing about road closures due to the wind in MT & WY; how long does that typically last before it's driveable?

& thank y'all so much!
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Old 11-13-2011, 01:23 PM
 
Location: Brendansport, Sagitta IV
7,540 posts, read 12,567,152 times
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When the wind gets too bad above Livingston MT (and we're talkin' up to 100mph up there -- I've not seen it closed for a mere 60-70mph!), where the interstate runs, they close the gates and redirect traffic through town, down below the high windy point. So it's not really a problem. Once in a while the interstate will blow shut during or after a big snowstorm, but in such a case the inexperienced will want to stay put til the road is open anyway. Usually a matter of hours, at worst maybe 3 days.

Thanksgiving weekend, usually Yankscoming Day itself, is typically the first big snowstorm of the season (or rainstorm, further south). Our ancestors apparently timed it to force us to stay home with the family.

Here's some photos of the aftermath of a big storm near Livingston:
http://www.mdt.mt.gov/photogallery/photolist.shtml#liv
(Lots of other fun historical photos there, too)

One advantage of the northern tier states is that this is nothing unusual, so the highway department is far better equipped to cope with it. Cities further south don't get it often enough to invest in a sufficient fleet of snow-removal equipment.
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Old 11-13-2011, 01:34 PM
 
Location: Portland, Oregon
7 posts, read 9,672 times
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Hubs and I learned the hard way about how unpredictable the Winter/Spring weather can be out in the Plains states. We had assisted my In-Laws in packing up and moving to Florida to Retire from Missouri. That left us with a 22' rental moving truck of items to move back to Napa Valley, where we were living at the time. Both of us had flow to Missouri and this was our only transportation back. March 2003 ring any bells?? LOL Warm weather in Cali .. Warm weather in Missouri .. we packed accordingly. Once we hit Cheyenne, WY. we ended up purchasing the last pair of Gloves at one of the only stores open, bright red Gortex that I keep in my Jeep now for Emergency Signaling Gloves hehehe, had to buy Boots .. wooly socks .. and drive this moving truck up the street to get something to eat more than once in the 3 days we were stuck there with the Hwy closed. When it finally opened.. the ruts in the snow were SO deep .. it was a challenge to drive at all. Amazing how it all just disappeared once we were about 45 minutes outside of Cheyenne. I am much better prepared these days .. no matter where I travel. Prepare for the Worst .. Expect the Best
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Old 11-13-2011, 01:58 PM
 
Location: Brendansport, Sagitta IV
7,540 posts, read 12,567,152 times
Reputation: 2952
Other road info:

text (useful for wind info)
Traveler Information - Road and Weather Information

map:
State of Montana Road Condition Map

I'm not sure which is more up to date, as the info doesn't match.
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Old 11-13-2011, 04:20 PM
 
9,341 posts, read 25,410,918 times
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When driving in a strong cross wind, it's a good idea to crack both the driver's side and the front passenger's side windows open about 1/2 inch or so to sharply reduce the effect of the cross wind on the vehicles ability to hold to a straight path on the road.
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