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Road trip from Madison, WI to Portland, OR in April, 2017

Road trip from Madison, WI to Portland, OR in April, 2017

Old Dec 2nd, 2016, 07:46 PM
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Road trip from Madison, WI to Portland, OR in April, 2017

My husband and I are planning a road trip from Madison, WI to Portland, OR. A good friend will be getting married in Wisconsin and we thought it would be fun to fly out and drive back to Oregon. We are planning to make the trip in early April. I have heard horror stories about the weather patterns and treacherous road conditions (freak blizzards in NE) on I80. Has anyone else made this trip around April and if so what route do you recommend or do you have any tips? Safety is a major concern as we will be traveling with our young daughter.
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Old Dec 3rd, 2016, 11:15 AM
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Leave the driving to Amtrak. Your choices are the Empire Builder from Milwaukee to Portland or a bus from Madison to Chicago to catch the California Zephyr to Sacramento and the Coast Starlight from Sacramento to Portland.
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Old Dec 4th, 2016, 04:03 AM
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Tom never met a train he didn't like, but weather is just as likely to delay Amtrak as it is semis, though the views would be beautiful if all goes well.

"We thought it would be fun". Maybe, maybe not. It depends on what "fun" means in this context. Having a family experience would be a lot of fun for many unless your daughter is still at the "are we almost there?" stage. It is a whole lot of "same" from Wisconsin to the Rockies, sort of Eastern Oregon but for days.

What about tourist sites at that time of year? Do you have the time to visit the Black
Hills, Little Big Horn, Glacier (the passes are closed until June), Jackson Hole and the Tetons? Are things open?

If you just drive 80 or 90 you may find the trip a lot like watching paint dry but with trucks and a drop off fee for the car.

Hmmm, the Empire Builder sounds better and better.
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Old Dec 4th, 2016, 08:50 AM
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Re the train. If your daughter is easily bored, the train might not be such a hot idea. You'd need a bedroom, which can make the trip very expensive, and if boredom does set in, it can be uncomfortable both for you and for others. (Don't know your daughter, of course - maybe it would be terrific.)

I did a transcontinental drive in early April a few years ago and did indeed encounter wintry conditions from Iowa through the Dakotas; I ended up having to swing way south through Nebraska to avoid it. There are no guarantees, of course; it might be a breeze.

But just as a thought experiment, what if you flew to Portland, did your family thing, then rented a car and drove around Oregon and Washington for the same number of days you'd take driving home?

It would probably be a lot cheaper, as plane fares are inexpensive in April and you wouldn't pay a fortune in one-way fees/rates for the rental car.

You could visit the Columbia Gorge - magical in the spring - or go out to the coast - maybe stormy, which makes it even more beautiful and awe-inspiring. Or drive up to Seattle and see the tulip fields and maybe explore an island or two in Puget Sound.

With five or six days starting and ending in Portland, you could see a lot, with no concerns about snowy conditions, and probably save a fair amount of scratch.
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Old Dec 4th, 2016, 08:59 AM
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Oh, cr@p - you live in Portland and are traveling to Wisconsin. Silly me. Very sorry for the huge blunder.

How long do you have? If time isn't a concern then I suppose you could drive back, but I'd plot a fairly southerly route and have plenty of wiggle room in the time frame. But even so, I'd still be inclined to suggest flying and doing some sort of regional road trip in the Midwest - maybe Chicago, or Door County...
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Old Dec 4th, 2016, 09:35 AM
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"Safety is a major concern" In that case, flying is the safest way to go.

Days on end in a car is not my idea of a good time, perhaps because my family did a number of cross-country road trips when I was a child.
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Old Dec 4th, 2016, 04:43 PM
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Where are you flying to and renting the car to go to Madison?
Flying and Amtrak are both safer than driving yourself over the Rockies.
Milwaukee has an Amtrak station right at the airport in addition to the one downtown.
Columbus WI is about 30 miles from Madison and is the closest train station to Madison.
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