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Road Trip: Detroit to Seattle: HELP

Old Oct 17th, 2007, 02:41 AM
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Road Trip: Detroit to Seattle: HELP

We are planning to drive from Detroit to Seattle over Christmas. My sister is moving there so it will a one-way drive for us and I will be flying back.

Are we crazy to do this in the winter?
How long will it take?
What route will be best?

We have 8 days to do this.
adelheid is offline  
Old Oct 17th, 2007, 04:02 AM
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Well, Mapquest says it's 2,347 miles - 34 hours and 11 minutes of drive time.

This is not something I would ever want to do (especially in the winter), but that's me. I don't like a roadtrip longer than 300 miles.

Good luck!
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Old Oct 17th, 2007, 06:04 AM
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This sounds like a lot of fun--you have plenty of time.

Be sure you have chains in case of snow.

The worse that could happen is that the Interstate is closed for a few hours. In that case, you could have a sister-bonding experience in an unexpected locale.

You want to go through Minneapolis, North Dakota, Montana, and Northern Idaho. This is the route Greyhound and Amtrak take. Much of it is quite beautiful, especially in the snow.

Have fun. You're a good sister, and the two of you will talk about this trip for decades to come.
happytrailstoyou is offline  
Old Oct 17th, 2007, 06:06 AM
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We have driven across the Northern part of the US many times, several of those in winter. As they say no one can second guess the weather. Being from MI you are use to driving in adverse weather, that helps. Make sure the vehicle is in tip top shape for the trip. The sun rises late and dark comes early that time of year. Don't expect to make the trip in the drive time given by some of the on line mapping services. It will take longer to make a safe journey. As long as you stay on the main roads and keep aware of your situation you should have little problem.. You can obtain road conditions from http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/trafficinfo/index.htm ...
There are two routes that would get you there. Interstate 80 to Omaha NE and north on I-29 to I-90. Or I-80 to the SLC area and I-84/I-82/I-90 to Seattle. Most of the sightseeing that time of the year will have to be out of the cars windows. Stop by your local Wal*Mart and pick up a Rand McNally Road Atlas for $5.97, worth every cent of it. If you are a member of AAA pick up their maps and Tour Books to help with accomodations.
RedRock is offline  
Old Oct 17th, 2007, 07:27 AM
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You can also learn road conditions by dialing 511 in any of the states through which you will be traveling: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/trafficinfo/511.htm
happytrailstoyou is offline  
Old Oct 17th, 2007, 09:51 AM
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The 511 system information is also on the main site.
RedRock is offline  
Old Oct 17th, 2007, 12:17 PM
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I drove from RI to Seattle in 3.5 days over one Christmas holiday. I gave myself 5 days, but made it early.

[I was also a trucker for 2.5 years.]

The key to driving in winter is to be flexible, and check weather info often. When weather is clear and dry, do more on that day. Since storm system moves from west to east, stop before you may hit a storm, and find hotel to overnight. It'll be over in hours, and the road crew will reopen the interstate soon.

Don't force yorself into wintry driving. I wouldn't even bother with chains. If road condition requires chains, it's too dangerous to be on the road to start with. You should be fine with decent all-season or high-performance winter tires.

The route will depend on weather. If there's no storm, then I-90 the whole way. If there's storm to the south in the mid-west, then I-94 back to I-90. If there's storm to the north, I-80 to I-84 to I-82. This last route will add some miles, but with 8 days you can "afford" the extra mileage.

The place you're most likely to see significant snow maybe the very last 60 miles on your trip over Snoqualmie Pass before Seattle.
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Old Oct 17th, 2007, 12:32 PM
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I wouldn't even bother with chains.... The place you're most likely to see significant snow maybe the very last 60 miles on your trip over Snoqualmie Pass before Seattle.

All drivers are required to have chains (or better) when they cross Snoqualmie Pass in the winter! I don't know about the rest of the route.
happytrailstoyou is offline  
Old Oct 17th, 2007, 12:51 PM
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Are you sure that all vehicle must carry chains over Snoqualmie in winter? I only see that between Nov 1 and April 1, all commercial vehicles over 10,000lb need to.

And yes, the WADOT can pose requirement when necessary, but can you point out info that says all vehicles all winter? And what are the dates?
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Old Oct 17th, 2007, 12:53 PM
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"All drivers are required to have chains (or better) when they cross Snoqualmie Pass in the winter! I don't know about the rest of the route."

Interesting, I didn't know that. We drive the mid-Montana to Seattle route by way of I-90 a lot. Our worst roads are Lookout Pass on the MT/ID border and Snowqualmie.
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Old Oct 17th, 2007, 01:40 PM
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It is more accurate to say that if DOT decides chains are required, drivers of two-wheel drive vehicles will be turned back if they don't have chains. Here is an example:

4:00 p.m., Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Pass open in both directions; chains required Snoqualmie Pass is open to both directions of traffic after the roadway was cleared of accidents and spun out vehicles. Chains are required on all two wheel drive vehicles. Chain enforcement is taking place at the milepost 47 Denny Creek exit. The Washington State Patrol is turning around two wheel drive vehicles that do not have chains. Check Mountain Pass information for changing conditions.


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Old Oct 17th, 2007, 01:49 PM
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I should add that sometimes Snoqualmie Pass is closed for hours for avalanche control, accidents, excessive ice, etc.

That's why I said that you may find yourselves having a "sister-bonding experience in an unexpected locale."
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Old Oct 17th, 2007, 01:49 PM
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I agree. My points is that if the road condition is that chain is required on all vehicles, then I would wait it out. And that's what I'm suggesting the OP to do.

They can get from Detroit to just east of the Cascades in 4-5 days of driving, unless they have more storms to wait out. I don't think Snoqualmie will take 3-4 days to clear, even after some major snowstorms.

Anyways, if one's taking I-80/84, then if the forecast is that Snoqualmie will be bad, then one can continue through the Columbia Gorge to Portland and take I-5 north.
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Old Oct 17th, 2007, 05:33 PM
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Thanks to everyone for your suggestions and advice. It's definately helping us and making me feel better. I will have to look at the pass situation/chains for sure.
We can't really plan on how far we are going to get everyday so I was wondering if you think we will have problems finding hotels?

Thanks again
adelheid is offline  
Old Oct 17th, 2007, 05:41 PM
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That time of the year, you should have no problem getting motels along the way last minute.

I always suggest people to NOT pre-book motels for roadtrips like this. Drive more when weather permits and you feel like it. Drive less when the opposite is true.

Check the weather channel and decide right then which route to take and when to stop.
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Old Oct 17th, 2007, 07:05 PM
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We have never book a motel/hotel in advance. Much to restrictive on your driving and have never had a problem finding a place to stay.
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Old Oct 17th, 2007, 07:58 PM
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Couple of comments...

I really don't like the I-94 route. It's boring, cold as hell, and has some really empty patches. I-90 across S. Dakota is more scenic and IMO a quicker drive than I-94. I don't know if one is more prone to closure or icy conditions than the other; obviously any XC drive in December requires flexibility and keeping the radio tuned.

I'm also not aware of any legal requirement to carry chains. If the troopers say chains are required, then they are. If your sister's car has studded tires I'd think that would be more than adequate. If it snows so much in the Cascades that they close I-90, one lower-altitude alternative is to bug down to the Columbia and go through I-84 (Columbia Gorge) and then up I-5 to Seattle. Mind, some times the Gorge can be icy if it's snowing in the mountains, but that's the way the ball bounces. Pack some sleeping bags and some kind of emergency pack just in case. Keep cell phones charged.

In all likelihood it will be a non-event; Detroit Decembers are way worse than anything the Pacific NW can throw at you.
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Old Oct 18th, 2007, 03:47 AM
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Studded tires are prohibited in most states on the freeways, except in special situation.

People living in Michigan will either have all-season tires, or non-studded winter tires. Either type is fine for driving to Seattle in the winter.
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Old Oct 18th, 2007, 06:54 AM
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Scenic, SD is about 40 miles east of Rapid City and 20 miles south of I-90.
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