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Road Trip: US, Canada

Perth, Australia
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Road Trip: US, Canada

Hi guys,

So I'm planning a road trip along the west coast and then around the east and up into canada. I'll be doing the trip alone, in winter, (6 weeks: December and half of January) and meeting friends etc. along the way in different cities. I'm 23.

(Since I cross many states I'll probably be posting this in other forums too)

My biggest concern is the driving conditions. I come from Australia, so I'm definitely not used to driving in snow and ice. I would consider myself quite an experienced and capable driver (for my age) - I've had a license for 6 years and done a 14000 km roadtrip around Australia - but snow I'm a bit apprehensive about.

Anyway this is a picture of my planned route:

…picturepush.com/photo/…USA-USA-USA-USA.jpg

I haven't bothered selecting particular roads, just typed the cities into google for a general idea. I would be doing 101 on the west coast though. I'll be renting a car in LA and dropping it off in seattle, then flying to chicago, renting a car there and dropping it off in NY.

Are there any legs that might be particular difficult/dangerous or susceptible to road closures, or just any foreseeable issues? Will I need snow chains?

Also any general suggestions would be much appreciated,

Thanks!

Snrub

Perth, Australia
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1. Re: Road Trip: US, Canada

Sorry, here's the picture link:

…picturepush.com/photo/…USA-USA-USA-USA.jpg

Green Valley...
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2. Re: Road Trip: US, Canada

I suggest that you post also in the Road Trips Forum.

Several things occur to me.

You are coming (obviously) in winter and so you'd need to check with the rental company re: use of chains on their vehicles.

You should be OK with re: snow if you keep to the coastal highways and freeways.

Keep informed about conditions on the passes you'll negotiate. Though cleared of snow/ice routinely and fairly quickly, have a Plan B in mind, even if an overnight motel to await clearing, which is unlikely. But good to have a cheap cooler with food and beverages (and warm clothes) in case you are stuck during snow clearing.

Here is one of several road condition helpful numbers as you travel:

http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/trafficinfo/511.htm

Some places require, as in mandatory, chains in your car at all times to go over a pass. Oregon's Siskyou Pass, for example.

Be prepared for rain and wind along the coast. If lucky, and during your trip time, you might have good fortune, sun.

CA coast is lovely. 101 is a good route from SF north; I'd not recommend route 1; twisty, curvy, slow, and not always near the ocean.

Have you considered cutting east from, say, Astoria to Portland, OR and visit that city for a day or so? You might Google it for the major attractions. You then can take I-5 north to Seattle; much to see there (here). At least two full days in Seattle area.

Edited: 09 October 2012, 15:32
Green Valley...
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3. Re: Road Trip: US, Canada

OK, you have included Portland, I should have read your Google Map carefully.

BTW, thank you for being so descriptive in your post and providing the map!!! Saves us much guesswork knowing your thinking.

I'll send you some websites rather than clutter up the post.

Davie, Florida
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4. Re: Road Trip: US, Canada

most tourist stuff will be closed but it is an awesome trip you have planned. driving on ice/snow is very much a skill so take it easy. allow time to hole up in a motel a day or 2 to allow a storm to pass expect roads to be well maintained and no access to higher elevations.

try to do I-90 for the Black Hills in S Dakota and try to get into Yellowstone but am not sure about access at that time.

Edited: 09 October 2012, 15:51
western WA
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5. Re: Road Trip: US, Canada

Are you a skier? Why did you choose the northern route? It really isn't a great time for that part of the trip.

Have you considered going south from NY and across the southern states? You can loop up to Seattle at the end and still see plenty of snow along the way.

Green Valley...
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6. Re: Road Trip: US, Canada

Yellowstone NP is open in winter and offers a unique opportunity to see the geothermal areas and wildlife in winter: www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Driving into YNP during the winter season? Post a question on the Wyoming TA Forum for feedback , telling us that you'll have a rental car (it's about the chains, again) and that you are not used to driving in snow/ice conditions. Driving in snow conditions is tricky in terms of visibility, if snowing, and car handling. And no, 4 wheel drive is not a solution.

Also, from Seattle, it's an overnight drive in the best of conditions and you have to go over several passes, and daylight hours are fewer. I'd not recommend it. You could fly into nearby cities; see the TA Wyoming Forum, right hand column, for ideas.

Edited: 10 October 2012, 03:19
Perth, Australia
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7. Re: Road Trip: US, Canada

@ainwa, I chose the northern route because I'm meeting friends in NY at a certain time, and wanted to go to chicago, as well as toronto/montreal, so it just sort of worked (apart from the winter weather). I think I'll leave the southern states for another trip.

Thanks for the replies

western WA
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8. Re: Road Trip: US, Canada

Just be prepared to wait out a storm along the way for a day or two in a motel. You never know where that could happen, and it could happen a few times. Be sure to pack an emergency road kit in your car including blankets, water, food, and so on.

Take the extra time to get into Yellowstone since you're there. To do that, you have to drive to either Gardiner or West Yellowstone and travel by snow coach into the park. You can go on a snowmobile tour out of West Yellowstone. This would require a lot of warm weather clothing.

If you find yourself in driving snow (snow coming at the windshield thick and fast) beware of its somewhat hypnotic effect. Stop for coffee regularly. Make sure someone knows your itiinerary and check in with them as you travel across South Dakota and Montana. One of the most likely places to encounter a storm is between Rapid City and Billings. There are very few towns with hotels for emergency stops, so be sure to check the weather before leaving Rapid.

Port Angeles, WA
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9. Re: Road Trip: US, Canada

After thinking it over for a few days, I really don't recommend this trip for you. Several years ago, I drove cross country from NYC to Seattle along the northern tier of the US. It was just after Thanksgiving, which means late November. I encountered lots of snow in the mountains of Montana and Eastern Washington, and I ran into a genuinely terrifying blizzard in South Dakota. I was able to get to a motel before the blizzard completely shut down the highway, but the next day, as I resumed driving, I saw car after car lying in the center median. They had all spun out and run off the road. I don't know how the occupants got to safety, or if anyone was hurt. I lived in New England for many years and am an experienced snow driver, but I would never do this again.

Renton, WA
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10. Re: Road Trip: US, Canada

Be sure to check on whether or not you can rent a car at age 23....most rental agencies require renters to be at least 25.

Also, if you are flying from Seattle to Chicago all of the well-intentioned advice about driving in the snow and seeing sights along the highways is irrelevant.