Winter Road Trip: Minneapolis to Seattle

Old Dec 11th, 2007, 05:42 AM
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Winter Road Trip: Minneapolis to Seattle

So I'm relocating to Seattle at the end of the month and am looking for recommendations on whether or not my boyfriend and I should make the journey across in a car this winter. I know part of this depends on weather conditions, but assuming there are no major winter storms, how dangerous is it to drive across I-94 and I-90 in late December/early January. My mother is shitting frisbees over this, sending me almost daily e-mails detailing why I shouldn't go and warning me I'm going to die in an avalanche or some other snowy death. (Just a note: my mom and I are both born and bred Texans, so snow is not in our vocabulary. My mom also shit frisbees -- along with a few kittens, bricks, and oven mitts -- when I decided to move to Minneapolis, simply because it snows here, and I would be expected to drive in it for my job.)

I've thought about trying to go around, but then there's the ice to contend with down south, and it's several days more driving time to avoid the mountains, which I think is ridiculous. Better to stick it out on the northern route and hold out for good weather, I think. The prospect of living in a new city, with my job which involves having to be ready and at the airport at a moment's notice, without a car is absolutely daunting. Can't afford a new one at this point, so I think I should just go across. Plus, my boyfriend has the winter driving experience that I don't, so I feel comfortable that with him at the helm, we can reasonably expect to survive a certain degree of ice and snow. Any comments, suggestions, further warnings of imminent doom?
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Old Dec 11th, 2007, 06:12 AM
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Also being a native Texan, I understand your predictament (!). But having relatives and my DW from the upper Midwest (including Minneapolis), we've driven in more snow that I care to count. I can't specifically comment about I-94 & 90, but in general I agree that I'd much rather take the more direct, northern route and deal with snow than risk ice on a more southerly course. And the interstates are usually among the first roads cleared. I think you'll be fine. [Aren't moms great sometimes?]
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Old Dec 11th, 2007, 06:25 AM
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If you have any doubts about north v south routes, turn on the TV and see what the folks in OK and MO are going through this week. Really terrible.
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Old Dec 11th, 2007, 07:31 AM
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It would totally depend on the weather.

Half the journey should be relatively easy, across on either SD I90 or ND I94, until you get past Billings and into the mountains.

If you choose to do it, give yourself plenty of time for the trip, travel during daylight, have an abundant winter survival kit, keep track of weather forecasts, be prepared to find a motel/hotel and know how far you are from the next town.

Since you live in Minneapolis, you know what bad weather looks like and if you should be driving in it.

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Old Dec 11th, 2007, 07:44 AM
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Can you give yourself a week long window to make the trip? If you can, then I'd say you're pretty likely to find a couple days of good weather in there. Assuming there are no winter storms, it's not at all dangerous to drive this route. Same goes for the southern route - yes, there's ice now, but it'll be gone from the interstate long before you take your trip.
Old Dec 11th, 2007, 07:56 AM
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One of the online car shippers says it's around $900 to ship a car from Minneapolis to Seattle (probably cheaper in winter but who knows.) Set that against 4 or 5 nights on the road for you and your BF, cost of gas and possible snow tires/chains, etc., and see if the differential is great enough to investigate further.

Otherwise I certainly wouldn't sweat the drive. One thing is that the state authorities are very aware of winter driving hazards, and if things are marginal for drivers' safety, they just shut things down until they improve.

The only areas that might be dicey (aside from the off chance of a whiteout or sudden blizzard) are the hills around Butte, Lookout Pass at the MT/ID line, and Snoqualmie Pass just before Seattle. Mandatory tire chains are required at times of heavy snow, so make sure you have chains and know how to use 'em before taking off. Otherwise, just go slow and cautious and you'll be fine. Short daylight hours too, so plan your stopovers accordingly.
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Old Dec 11th, 2007, 08:23 AM
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I agree with others. Stick with I-90/94, but give yourself lots of time. Be prepared to wait out a storm for a day or two. And take advantage of clear roads to cover as much ground as possible when available.

I've driven from RI to Seattle in 3.5 days during one Christmas by myself in a little car, so it's definitely doable if you give yourself a window of about a week to allow for (waiting out) weather.
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Old Dec 11th, 2007, 02:14 PM
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The Washington State Highway Department is very good at shutting down I-90 when it gets dangerous. There are all kinds of signs well in advance of Snoqualmie telling drivers what restrictions are in force and which radio frequency to listen to to get updated information. Carry chains, for sure.
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