Skip to comments.VANITY: Request for Travel Advice for Winter Road Trip
Posted on 12/17/2010 10:38:59 PM PST by rabscuttle385
I am contemplating making a road trip in January to visit friends out in Middle America. This thread is to solicit advice from fellow FReepers on winter travel in the West.
See the map below for my planned itinerary.
A few things to consider...
I have driven in the Rockies (Montana, Wyoming) in the late spring, including during the late May 2010 snowstorm in Wyoming and the Dakotas, so I'm not entirely unfamiliar with mountain driving.
My car is a four-door sedan with front wheel-drive and Michelin Weatherwise II tires with 25K miles remaining. I do plan to have a pre-trip inspection and service appointment with my mechanic.
I do have an emergency kit and full-size spare tire in the trunk.
I will get AAA roadside assistance.
I will check weather reports regularly.
I will stay on U.S. highways and interstate highways.
I will have about 11-12 days for the entire trip.
Any other advice, especially considering the portion of the route that's in Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona? Any cool places to see?
Colorado Springs should be on your list of stops.
Just be sure to carry a blanket, flashlight, and emergency food with you. If you get caught in a snowstorm, don’t run your engine to keep warm, you might get carbon monoxide poisoning by doing that. And carry tire chains.
Red Rocks is the only thing worth seeing in Denver.
If you need some info on what to do or where to stay in Houston, let me know.
I don’t think the northern leg of that trip is going to be particularly feasible that time of year unless you have unseasonably warm weather, dude.
Have you been to the WWII (D Day) Museum in New Orleans? If not, and if that type of thing interests you, I would definitely head over there on your way to Tennessee.
Good thing you’re not driving over the Sierra mountains through Nevada, we’re having a Donner Party weather year!
That said, driving through any part of the country with snow, it’s best to have a couple 50 pound bags of sand in your trunk. One bag over each back wheel. Adds weight for traction and if you do get stuck , just pull them out, spread the sand in front of all four wheels, and drive away.
I could always make Nashville my first stop and get Algore to emit some more hot air, ROFL.
While in Tucson see the Pima Air Museum, well the few bucks to get in!
The Arizona - Sonora Desert Museum is a good choice as well.
If you don;t have a lot of time, hit the Titan II missile site - you can ‘do’ that in under 2 hours.
Actually, the closest I've been to New Orleans is Vicksburg. I may stop on the way back.
I am explicitly trying to avoid mountains wherever possible.
Such a schedule looks pretty tight. If I travel alone I prefer to limit my daily trip to 300-350, maybe 400 miles for ease and comfort. If your trip is 1,500 miles long West to East and another 500 miles North to South then the round trip distance should be about 4,000 miles. (You should have the correct number in your Google route.) There is no slack in this schedule, and even if you have a replacement driver (which on such a long trip is a must) then you won't see much on the trip; and if any road is closed and you need a detour then you are even further behind. Same if the car needs servicing or you need a day of rest. You simply won't have much time to meet your friends, and if you do you will be dog tired.
There’s good numbers of things to see in every location; my concern would be that the southern route is practically chosen for you unless you’re eager to increase your risk and heighten your general anxiety level.
That seems like a lot of ground to cover in 12 days. You should probably take more time or make the trip shorter.
I don’t think you’ll have much time to enjoy many places. 11 days for this distance is too short. But when in Durango, stop in The Diamond Belle Saloon at the Strater Hotel and I’ll buy you a drink.
Well, this is a tentative schedule. I haven’t finalized an itinerary yet, and some destinations will probably get dropped due to timing. I do also plan on at least one or two alternate itineraries in case, e.g., a snowstorm rolls across Kansas and Colorado, I could veer south towards Texas. I also could request more PTO, but I don’t want to use up everything in the first month of the year.
Also keep in mind that all-season tires does not apply to the rockies. Get winter tires.
I'm not going into Ciudad Juarez. ;-)
And when you reach Pinal County, Arizona, shoot point-blank in the head the bastards who killed our border patrol agent there.
Amen to that.
Just be really careful. Leave a huge amount of stopping distance.
We left way more than we needed on our last winter trip, but even that didn’t help us on a sheet of ice when the car in front of us flipped.
...or I could move my northern route further south by getting off I-70 West at Columbia, Mo. (friends @ Mizzou), thereby eliminating Denver, and driving across Mo. to I-44 South towards Okla. City and then taking I-40 West towards Albuquerque. Then, I could get a rental car in Albuquerque with winter tires and take a two-day run up to Durango. (It's probably cheaper than buying a full set of winter tires for my car, since we never have any real reason to use them here in the DC area.)
Actually, this might work, since I'd have an added opportunity to stop over at Wilson's Creek (Mo.) and maybe Pea Ridge (Ark.) for a day or two.
See Salida. Its in the mountains west of Pueblo and it can be compared to the Swiss Alps. Its free of crime and has a temperate climate year around, thanks to the mountains that surround it on all sides. The “Banana Belt” of CO should be on your sight-seeing stops!
A tom tom GPS is also a good nav aid in heavy big city traffic.
Emergency kit good.
Maybe add couple cans of fix a flat to back up that long AAA wait.
Cable chains for surprise snow storm.
Subscribe to XM or Sirrus Sat radio so tunes an news is always there.
Load up your smartphone with tunes an podcasts an get a cord to link it to car stereo and ear buds as well.
Good bubba mug for beverage with a good cup holder.
Quality sunglasses an holder for em.
Okole seat covers.....
An of course....CHL / CCW tool for protection.
Enjoy. Stay Safe.
Hwy 50 is very gentle on a car and you DO NOT need snow chains even in the winter. If there is snow, drive with caution.
I think that would work and save you some cash.
Btw when ya get down in San Antonio go to the old bar in the Menger hotel. That’s where Teddy Roosevelt recruited rough riders.
Good history stop with a shot of crown an steak.
Both Wilson’s Creek and Pea Ridge are worth the time, but they both likely have more restricted hours this time of year.
I-44 to I-40 should be an easily workable route.
I can't know your circumstances, but I would rather take the PTO for this trip in summer. There are many reasons. Driving in winter is more dangerous even if you know the route. On some days weather may be just too bad to drive safely, and it's too late to change the course. Then you won't see much in places where snow covers the ground. Then you need to carry clothes for all kinds of weather, considering that you will be all over the place, and a winter survival kit. So if technically you can get from point A to point A through point Z, it won't be much fun.
You probably also need a set of chains too, unless you are very sure that you won't find yourself where they are mandatory.
You are routing through the Blue Mountains of Virginia.
I have been in there and got hit by the same storm 14 times.
Storms have a habit of getting stuck in there and bouncing around. You would have to see it to believe it.
Me personally, I would go back through Ohio and through Cincinnati rather than trying to shoot down through all those mountains in the Wintertime.
Most of your route that I have knowledge of along the southern United States is fine. I don’t know anything about your route through Colorado.
(I have no qualms about doing 800-850 miles a day on some stretches, e.g., Northern Virginia to St. Louis, if the weather is good, and I'm sufficiently well-rested. I have done it before.)
+Added up to 15 days.
+Albuquerque to Durango is by rental car with snow tires.
I could do that, but then I'd have to schedule the trip around Memorial Day or Independence Day rather than MLK Day, in order to gain the additional three day weekend, and I'd rather not do that as Memorial Day and Independence Day are very popular road trip times for most folks.
Carhenge in Alliance, NE. Yeah, I know...it isn’t on your route, but I thought I’d let ya know.
Sounds like a pretty good plan. The drive between Alb. and Durango isn’t anything to write home about though. But once in Durango, which is in The Four Corners area, there is a lot to see. You could spend a week here in the summer and you’d still have more to see of the area. This is “big country”. Deserts, lakes, mountains, etc.
If they are anything like Shiloh, they will be empty and quiet. (I visited Shiloh last January.) Well, except for the ghosts. I don't mind them; I'll just make sure I'm not wearing a grey shirt and blue jeans like I did at Antietam last summer. (It's not a good idea to take a walk by yourself on the Antietam Creek wooded trail in the late evening while wearing the colors of both sides' uniforms.)
No, but the cute girl who works in Durango is. ;)
I live in the foothills of the Blue Ridge.
I-81 is a boring drive through the Shenandoah.
I am definitely avoiding I-68 from Hagerstown/Hancock to Morgantown though. That road is hell--it's worse than I-64/I-77 through Charleston and Huntington--in the snow.
I was in the Badlands and at Rushmore in May. If we had known about Carhenge then, we would definitely have detoured.
Empty and quiet has been my experience, too, unless I take my sons with me. They’re very, ummmm, enthusiastic when it comes to cannons, firearms and battles.
Both have some nice trails. Be prepared for hills and, potentially, ice. Pea Ridge’s auditorium runs a film where reinactors stage the battles.
It is hard to read the details of the map, it looked like you were heading down past blacksburg, bluefield, route through the mountains.
Depending on which side of that ridge line you are will determine whether you are going to have a hard time or an easy time.
Sorry, can’t tell from the map. I would have expected you would have had to go further south if you on the right side of the ridge.
IF you have any concern about being stuck in your car somewhere in winter I advise you to buy a Mr. Heater “Buddy” heater. It is a ventless propane heater that will work on those 1# bottles. You get about six hours per bottle IIRC, but you should check that at the Mr. Heater website. A heater and a couple of six packs of 1#ers would likely be around $100. or so down there.
If you don’t need it fine, if you do it could be very important. The heater will last you for years. Just make sure that you read and heed the manual.
They are handy to have anyhow.
(Of course I’d say that, I live in Alaska.)
Also IF you like to ski, you are going right by Crested Butte Colorado. You have to go there on purpose but it beats Vail and all of the rest of them imo.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have family that lives in Crested Butte, so I’m not really “objective”.
Killer, wide, LONG runs, and smaller crowds than the rest usually.
Just my .02
There's a much better map at post 33. I'm driving along I-81 past Blacksburg, Lexington, Staunton, etc. The route is usually fine unless it's snowing like crazy.
bluefield, route through the mountains.
I tried to outrun a snow storm last year by driving through the mountains of West Virginia, and it was pretty harrowing. (My dad still makes fun of me.) I did at least one or two 360 spins in the snow (at 10-15 mph, so it wasn't that bad, just scary) north of Charleston before stopping at a rest area for the night.
No, but the cute girl who works in Durango is. ;)
Oh, I wasn’t aware of that. LOL
In that case, I’m happy to say that the road from Alb. to Aztec is very good and fast. Aztec to Durango is not bad. Go for it. Have fun!
She's a conservative too.
If you back track on the same route you took through on your way Maryland, you only back tracking on the same route you took.
I wasn’t suggesting that you blow through the mountains in WV, they are almost as bad as the mountains of Virgina but with poorer roads.
I missed where I made a suggestion to go by way of the West Virginia Mountains.
Chances are high you won’t see much but dry roads on that route, except on the leg through Colorado. Of course, anything is possible, including ice.
They won’t let you up on the passes in the West without chains if it’s snowing. It’s always a good idea to have a set when you’re traveling through snow country anyhow.
Blankets. Water. A few bags of food, especially high-energy items. A shovel and ice scraper. A couple of emergency candles. Flashlight with extra batteries. Gloves. Hats. Warm coats and long johns. All are good to have.
Keep your gas tank as close to full as possible. Someone above said not to run your vehicle if you get stuck, but that’s not realistic. As long as you only run it for short periods to stay warm, and keep a window cracked open for some ventilation you should be fine.
Keep your cell phones well-charged just in case.
And don’t be afraid to hit the motel if the weather report looks bad. All it will cost you is a few bucks and some time, but that’s better than getting in mortal trouble.
And that's exactly why I want to travel more now, while I'm in my mid-twenties with few obligations and before I meet some girl, get married, and have kids.
One or two empty and quiet days at a battlefield is worth more than a semester in a college class, except when the lecturer is Gary Gallagher at UVA. I usually check out the visitor center, get my NPS Passport stamped, hit up the auto trail, and then stop and hike around for a bit with a camera.
You didn't. I just felt like sharing a road trip story.