Roadtrip from Seattle to Dallas. Advice needed.

Dear friend and comrade, Honey Bunny (HB), recently called me to say that she’s moving from Seattle to Dallas, and asks if I can come with to help her out. While most of her household will be going into a POD, the cats, houseplants, and HB herself, must be transported by car. She’s covering airfare to bring me up and send me back, food, lodging, and mochas, while I will provide company, moral support, cat wrangling services, and commentary.

Here’s the problem: this happens in a little over a week. As in “2000+ mile trek from frozen northwest through really frozen Rocky Mountains to mostly frozen north Texas”.

We’ve made this trip before, but it was in July, and our biggest problem was finding shade when we had potty breaks and all the Denver hotels being booked because of some sports game. This time? I’m worried.

HB drives a Mitsubishi coupe which she keeps in good condition. She will be getting it serviced before we go. However, she seems to think that we can travel the same distance in the same time. I’m thinking, in the middle of winter, we need to be ready to increase the time by a minimum of 50%. She says she has an emergency kit, but it’s mostly chocolate. I’m a big fan of chocolate, but it doesn’t start fires, build shelters, or signal helicopters for help. I’m probably being a little overly worried.

The current route is from Seattle to Salt Lake City to Albuquerque to Dallas. The weather in those cities looks . . . okay for the next 10 days. I’m more worried about the long stretches of lonesome, snow covered highways in between, as well as another round of blizzards. Both of us have some experience driving in snow and we’re both sensible enough to slow down and be careful.

Those of you who live in the north, drive lots in cruddy winter conditions, or have lots of roadtrip/moving experience, I’d really like your advice. I’m looking specifically for:

  • expected or likely dangers driving long distances this time of year
  • ways to minimize risk
  • tips, sympathy, ideas

Thanks!

I have made that trip multiple times in the past. I don’t really have any advice or tips (I only managed to take the trip in the summers), but you have my sympathy…it is one hell of a drive.

I don’t think the 50% longer is the real way of looking at it. There is a >90% chance of it taking the same amount of time, a 9% chance of a one-day delay, and a 1% chance of a multiple day delay. The roads you’re taking are major highways, it is a long drive, but there are always cars around- if you don’t feel comfortable with the conditions, don’t drive. There are no dangers of driving in the winter except snow and ice, but they are taken care of quickly on interstate highways.

If, of course, said highways are open at all. I-80 in southern Wyoming closes often in the winter, between Rawlins, Laramie and Cheyenne. How are you planning on getting from SLC to ALB?

I played with this in Google Maps and was interested to note that the default suggestion has you coming into Dallas from the north, thru Wichita and OKC. The Denver/SE Colo/Amarillo option is the same amount of time but 80 miles shorter. It’s also not using interstate highways for most of that last part.

I’d suggest keeping an eye on the weather until the last minute and then navigating around whatever’s going on at the time.

-ways to minimize risk

I’ve made the DFW<->Seattle trip several times in the winter months. I always took an ‘L’ shaped path (Seattle-Portland-Sacramento-Bakersfield-Flagstaff-Amarillo-DFW). It was my belief that I could avoid a lot of snow and mountain passes with that route. In 4 trips (all in Dec-Jan) I only encountered delays in the Siskiyous (sp?). Can’t remember the name of the pass, but it’s at the CA/OR border. I had to use chains there, but never had any problems anywhere else. Most of the trips took 4 days.

Disclaimer: I was pulling a trailer behind my truck each trip. That made me fear slippery roads more than the average driver. (That and being a flatlander with very little mountain experience. :p)

I second pullin’s suggestion. It should only be 5 hours longer, barring traffic, and may take less time dealing with weather. To be more certain, you could compare forecasts along I-40 and I-10.