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Old 08-21-2009, 12:36 PM
2 posts, read 14,751 times
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Nothing is final, but there is a decent chance I will begin a new job on January 4. Being the compulsive planner that I am, I am already working on the travel logistics. This will involve a drive from Portland, Oregon to Washington D.C. The absolute latest I can arrive in D.C. is January 2.

I'd really rather not leave myself two weeks for the drive, "just in case." Doing so would have me on the road over Christmas and away from the family. Ideally, I'd like to leave Oregon on December 26 and make it to D.C. NLT January 2. That leave a maximum of 8 "driving days." Of course, in good weather this is not a problem. I can drive long days. The problem is the winter weather.

I've identified I-80 as the best route. According to Google, it is 2806 miles. It cuts right through Wyoming, which, near as I can tell, will be the most problematic stretch of the drive. I don't care at all about scenery.

Here are my questions:

1. Am I being too optimistic planning to drive cross country between December 26 and January 2? I know, I know . . . "it depends" on the weather. But unfortunately I won't know the weather forecast until shortly before I leave. And by then it will be too late to simply leave earlier. For you veterans out there -- would you typically budget more days for bad weather than I have?

2. Am I correct that I-80 is the way to go? I could do I-84 to the north, which is only 30-40 miles longer. But I'd bet that 84 through northern Idaho and Montana is worse than 80 through Wyoming. In theory, I could drive to Southern California and take the southern route. But that route too is prone to bad weather, and the distance alone would add 2 days to the drive (even in good weather). Thoughts?

3. My vehicle choices are (1) a 2002 Hyundai Accent with about 75,000 miles on it or (2) a 2004 Honda Civic with 145,000 miles. Generally, I'd take the Civic. It's a better car and the wheels are larger and better suited for winter driving. But it has a ton of miles. What would you recommend? Of course, whichever car I take will get a tune-up and I'll bring the standard winter gear (chains, flares, etc.).

4. Other than I-80 through Wyoming, what part of the country is most likely to give me fits? I've never lived east of Nebraska, so I have no clue what the roads are like in Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio in January.

FYI, my family will fly out separately and meet me in DC. So the drive will be solo.

I see this trip playing out in one of three ways: (1) it could be relatively calm, peaceful, and a positive experience; (2) it could be hair-raising and scary, but I still make it to DC on time; (3) it could be a nightmare that results in an extended stay in Laramie and losing a new job. I can deal with #1 and #2, but I really want to avoid #3.

Your thoughts and comments are appreciated.
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Old 08-21-2009, 01:11 PM
11,536 posts, read 52,057,629 times
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Your assessment ... "it depends" ... is correct.

Your trip on I-80 and eastward may be entirely without any drama or incident.

Or, it may be subject to snowfall, whiteouts, and very windy & cold conditions for quite a distance.

It's possible that I-80 could even be shut down for a portion of the Wyoming travels.

It's also possible that I-80 can be treacherous and/or closed through Nebraska, especially in the Western portion ....

Watching the weather patterns through the midwest and areas affected by the Great Lakes, you will also be affected by those condtions ... and they have a lot more moisture as you head past the Mississippi river basin. NE, IA, IL, OH ... can all have serious storm fronts at the time frame you're looking at.

I appreciate your desire to do this trip in a minimum amount of time ... but I'd be keeping a close eye on the weather patterns developing in early December. If there's any doubt of artic cold fronts with moisture heading southward across your route by then, I'd be leaving with at least 10-12 days of travel time ahead. You may yet encounter some very slow going, if not some days of closed roads.

Then again, the weather could be a cold and dry pattern and with few road problems ... "it depends".

Counting on averaging 450 miles per day in adverse conditions could prove to be a very difficult drive, especially for that many days on end. Oh, and I'd take the Honda.
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Old 08-21-2009, 01:35 PM
Location: We_tside PNW (Columbia Gorge) / CO / SA TX / Thailand
33,083 posts, read 55,195,490 times
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Yeah, take the Honda (with new belts and hoses, wipers, fuel filter, decent tires, and possibly a spare water pump) get a set of CABLE chains on craigslist, as you will need them in DC. Carry a 'survival kit'. Flares, candles, water, crackers, 6v lantern, blanket. Use an additive in your fuel to keep from freezing.

Hopefully the trip will be a breeze, (clear roads)

Basically you have some potential threats the whole way, including freezing rain in the Columbia Gorge. If it is a terrible winter your only choice is to go a southern route (I-10), I have even ended up going over to OR coast to get to CA if Siskyous are snowed in... a LONG TRIP to DC!

I would be most concerned about NE and UT, as I have had rough winter trips through those portions. WY is usually clear roads and blowing snow (subject to change).

Keep flexible and watch the 6-14 day forecast.. Climate Prediction Center - 6 to 10 Day Outlook I chose the Northern Rte (I-90) when bringing an eBay car home from MSP in January. SD, NE, WY were all closed, so I did ND, MT. Snowing the whole way, but passable (Very cold !). I didn't have trouble till I was back to Goldendale, WA. I had to drop elevation down to The Dalles, as the snow was too sticky and wet for my bald tires. I never used the chains but they were worth having along.
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Old 08-21-2009, 03:02 PM
Location: Tyler, TX
22,675 posts, read 23,034,467 times
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Interesting thread. We're considering moving to Cheyenne next year, and due to the nature of our business, the best time to move is the week between Christmas and New Year's Day. I know that weather-wise, that's like the worst time to be moving there, but we can't help how the industry works (trucking).

We could conceivably move during a different season, but it'd take a LOT of planning and coordination, and one of us would have to be running the business alone for a few days (not easy during the summer - our peak season).

I'll be keeping an eye on this thread, and I'll be posting a new one soonish with a lot of questions.
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Old 08-21-2009, 05:46 PM
Location: Wyoming
9,725 posts, read 20,796,030 times
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If showing up in DC on Jan. 3 means no job, I'd plan for extra days. It's not just Wyoming. I grew up in Iowa near I-80, and it's not too unusual for the interstate to close down there either -- more than likely due to black ice. I'd guess that would be a possibility across the midwest and east.

Chances are you could whiz across the country on I-80 without a problem, but there's a real chance you'll find problems -- if not road problems, then car problems. I recall a trip from eastern Wyoming to eastern Iowa one year around New Years. It took 10 days to complete the trip. Snowed in the first night at Wall, SD, car broke down in Chamberlain, SD, then snowed in at Chamberlain, then snowed in somewhere in Minnesota. Horrible trip! I've made the same trip 100 times without problems, but if my job depended on making it....
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Old 08-21-2009, 09:24 PM
Location: Sheridan, WY
357 posts, read 1,583,836 times
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In broad generalities, anywhere from about Battle Mountain, NV or Boise, ID east into Wyoming can give you fits in the wrong weather conditions. In general, I've seen heavy snowfall and road closures anywhere from about Twin Falls or Battle Mountain eastward into Nebraska at any time during the winter. As others indicate, you can see nasty storms clear into the midwest very frequently, but at that time of year, I'd say that there's a lower likelihood of storms deep into the midwest than there are in the mountain states.

As the others have suggested, you MUST keep an eye on the 5+ day forecasts and then "thread" your trip through the storms.

There can and will be times when the storms "pulse" into the inter-mountain west; we moved into WY from NV over the '07 to '08 winter, and there were times it was white-knuckle driving conditions in a F-350 4x4. I'd be turning around trips from WY down to NV and back, and it was difficult to make a trip in five days or less - sometimes I'd have to stall a little on one end or the other when turning a trip around to "line up" the trip through the next clear patch in the "train" of storms that was blowing in from the northwest.

With a 2WD car, the thing I'd emphasize most to you is to "know your limitations" - both your driving skill and the abilities of your equipment. For example, when things start getting greasy, you want to apply your chains BEFORE you get stuck or get off the road - not when you're stuck in a ditch. If you know there is questionable weather ahead of you, and you have an opportunity to get fuel before you get into it, get fuel. Don't wait. In a bad situation, there's nothing so useless as fuel you left behind you.

When there are whiteouts or you start seeing other cars getting skidded off the road into the ditch, you might want to strongly consider pulling over and holing up in a motel for a little while. I grew up driving in snow, I've driven in snow all over the northern tier of the US, and there are times in Wyoming, in a 4x4, that I'll pull over and let the storm blow by. Often, what tips me into this state isn't just the conditions, it isn't how well I'm doing, it can be that I look around and say "Golly, there sure are a bunch of ripe idiots on the road today..." and I'll pull off. I've seen 18 wheelers switch ends on I-80. I've seen U-haul trailers rip the hitch off the frame of a Volvo station wagon - and the box trailer be blown out into the sagebrush. I've seen 28-foot fiberglass boats blown out into the sagebrush in winter (Why someone was hauling a fiberglass boat during a winter storm in Wyoming is beyond me, but that's the sort of this you might have to deal with) and I've seen trucks and cars in the median, off the sides, down in ravines, you name it.

When I've seen enough stupidity on the road, or I've been passed by enough clowns doing 60MPH in a white-out as I'm putterin' along at 30MPH, I'll make discretion the better part of valor. There's only so far my skill and prudence can go against the mass of stupidity out there... and if a whole lot of people want to be really stupid, it isn't my place in the universe to stand in their way yelling "In the name of all that does not suck, stop your stupidity!"

No, I'll just get out of the way and watch the show.
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Old 08-22-2009, 06:08 PM
Location: pensacola,florida
3,202 posts, read 4,338,486 times
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There is really no way to predict very far in advance.Ive done it and been fine with above freezing temps during the day and clear roads,all the way across the country.Ive also done it where i had my gas pedal pushed all the way to the floor,trying to make headway against the wind and had so much snow blow through the grille on my dodge truck that it piled up on top of the intake and formed a block of ice around my throttle linkage,and froze it in place at wide open throttle.I had to shut the engine off,coast into pulloff and chisel the ice off around the carburator!You may be totally fine all the way,or have problems part of the way.It can and does snow in the east also and wash dc is one of my least favorite places to have to drive in it as traffic is a nightmare there on a sunny summer day and 1" of snow throws the whole area into a panic.In the west there is at least usually some room between you and the other cars.You will just have to watch the weather around the time you leave,hope for the best,and plan accordingly.
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Old 08-22-2009, 06:32 PM
739 posts, read 2,229,833 times
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Why don't you just fly there and get there in a few hours and rent a car.
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Old 08-25-2009, 10:37 AM
Location: Champaign IL
50 posts, read 141,628 times
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It really depends, I once drove I-80 from Chicago to I-84 to Portland and had no problems in winter another time the gates were down at Evanston WY so I took I-15 south and took I-40 accross and got snowed in on I-44 in Missouri. The worst will be the mountain passes in the far west where it seems to snow all winter, I-84 over Blue Mountain Pass between Pendleton and LaGrande has heavy snowfall and you will need chains as a precaution. Any pass over the Cascades or Sierra Nevada is to be avoided over winter, truckers told me the pass on I-80 between San Francisco and Reno is one of the worst. I personally would head down to Los Angeles and take 1-10 across the country until you are east of the Appalacians then I-95 up to DC. Truckers told me Pennsylvania can be a nightmare in winter too with snow in the mountains.
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Old 08-30-2009, 04:54 PM
Location: Hermitage, TN
10 posts, read 50,475 times
Reputation: 14
Pennsy sucks in the winter. Lots of mountains and ice, they are good with the plows though. The mountains in eastern Oregon will be a nightmare if the weather is bad. A southerly I-10/I-20 route will add 1000 miles to your trip, but might be the best alternative if the weather turns bad. You will avoid the eastern mountains with that and most of the bad western mountains. Just watch your forecasts WAY in advance and be prepared to make a change at the last minute. Also remember that you can do 715 miles per 11 hours at 65 miles an hour average.
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