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possible to drive across the top end of the US in winter?

Travel Forums North America possible to drive across the top end of the US in winter?

1. Posted by stevehem (Budding Member, 29 posts) 29 Oct '12 18:18

hey me n my gf are in san iego and have brought a car, we are eventually driving up to seattle then after that our major stop is new york.
im wondering if its a good idea to drive straight across to NY or head inland a bit then head to NY?

2. Posted by derZeck (Budding Member, 4 posts) 29 Oct '12 19:55

it's going to be all inland from san diego to NYC. Best/fastest route takes you right though the center of the US

3. Posted by Calcruzer (Moderator, 1862 posts) 30 Oct '12 07:19

You can drive from Seattle to New York via the major interstates even in winter--in your case, taking Interstate 90 from Seattle to Chicago, and then taking Interstate Interstate 80 from Chicago on to New York City--but be sure to check out the weather reports to determine if each road will open, or if there will be temporary closures due to winter storms.

It would normally take about 5 to 7 days of driving to get from Seattle to New York by driving this route. In the winter, I would allow 8 to 10 days in case of weather delays and to allow for slower (safer) driving over this route. Also, be sure to get enough sleep when driving in the winter--as with the sun setting earlier, driving is more difficult and you are more likely to fall asleep while driving if you don't get the necessary sleep.

Enjoy your trip.

4. Posted by Daawgon (Travel Guru, 1940 posts) 31 Oct '12 09:08

Calcruzer - what kind of car takes 5 to 7 days to cross NA??? I know people who do it in 2 - those pro truckers for one.

The US Interstates are great for speed, but absolutely terrible for sightseeing (unless you love the sight of concrete). The best route in the north is through Colorado, but that route is also very prone to closure by snow in winter.

To be honest, I recommend a more southerly route in winter. Anyway you look at it, interstate driving is so boring that you need a co-driver to poke you to stay awake most of the time. If you have time, I would head down through Arizona, NM, Texas and Louisiana. The South east of Texas is very interesting - be sure to stop over in New Orleans for a few days (Mardi Gras is early Feb).

5. Posted by TeflonCDN (Full Member, 113 posts) 31 Oct '12 10:03

Hi Steve, you should probably avoid the northern route if you have no experience with winter driving. You will also likely need winter tires (prefered), or 4 season tires (fair weather only) for the car.

If your purchased your car in Southern Cali, you are likely to have summer tires on the car. These will not work in winter conditions. Check the sidewall on the tires to confirm the type of tire you have.

If your are not in a hurry, you should use the southern route proposed by Daawgon. You would probably be ok with 4 season tires on the car if you use the southern route. However, you should avoid travel during winter storms when crossing the great divide and when you start heading north into snow country again.

If you are in a hurry, sell the car in Seattle and fly directly to NYC. Skip the boring Interstate driving and tire expenses and spend more time in NYC.

6. Posted by stevehem (Budding Member, 29 posts) 31 Oct '12 12:56

we are not in a rush so it wont matter if it takes 2 or 6 days to drive there we are happy to cruise n see some cool sights along the way. heading inland sounds like the go

7. Posted by Daawgon (Travel Guru, 1940 posts) 1 Nov '12 09:38

I've done it in winter already, and never again. For one thing, most of the attractions and parks are closed in winter (except for the winter sports areas (skiing/snowboarding). No matter which route you take in winter, it will be boring, with not much else to eat but burgers on the highway. I too would sell that car and fly east. Spring or Fall are the months to drive across the USA, not Winter.

TeflonCDN was not kidding about proper tires (and maybe chains) - law enforcement will stop your car and force you to either turn around or get the proper equipment (it won't be cheap on the highway!)

8. Posted by Calcruzer (Moderator, 1862 posts) 2 Nov '12 16:07

Hey Steve,

I'm not expecting someone coming here for a trip to drive directly from Seattle to NYC in the middle of winter without making any stops along the way--nor without any sleep (distance from Seattle to NYC via the interstate--I-90 to Chicago and then I-80 to NYC is 2,840 miles (4,580 kilometers).

Figuring 60 miles per hour, it would therefore take someone about 47-48 hours to cross the country. But since most travellers would be sleeping at least 8 hours a day, and also stopping to eat or see some sights or fill up a gas tank at least 4 hours a day, that means it would be still take a full 4 days.

Of course, that means you would have to average 12 hours driving per day. Now I don't know about you, but I can't average 12 hours a day driving when I'm on vacation--nor would I want to. Thus, I placed my estimate at about 9-10 hours a day or driving, which then makes the trip take 5 to 7 days. Since I have driven across the country multiple times (I have moved from California to Utah to Maryland and then back to California, plus I've taken the drive for vacations, plus to take my son to his 4 years of college in Indiana after we moved back to California), I do know exactly how long it takes.

As I said, this presumes you hit no bad weather and can drive this route straight through without stopping--something that is iffy when you are talking about doing the drive in the middle of winter through the Rockies and through Minnesota, the Great Lakes and the East Coast.

Now I do agree with Daawgon and TeflonCDN's suggestion of driving more southernly for scenic beauty--but driving through Colorado (where the Rockies are the largest and the storms the most severe in winter) is a bit dangerous. (Have you ever gone over Loveland Pass in winter?--It is simply not possible if there are any storms--most of the ski lifts are actually below the road at this point.)

If one has the time, going all the way south through to LA, then east through Arizona and New Mexico along the I-40 (the old Route 66 road) would still be very scenic, but bypass the worst of the storms.. Of course, it should be noted that your original question was whether one could drive across the top end of the US in winter--and the answer to that is yes--but it takes awhile.

[ Edit: Edited on 02-Nov-2012, at 16:15 by Calcruzer ]