Tell me about travelling on I-90/ I-94 from Minnesota to Washington

So, I eventually have to bring my car to Vancouver, and what with one issue and another it looks like it won’t happen until the first week of November. (Not really my first choice just extremely unlikely to happen before ) I am thinking of going through the US just for the cheaper gas and less mountains incase of early snowstorms. (No guarantee I won’t have any but I will take my chances further south than through the Canadian Rockies). My thought is
Thunder Bay–Bismarck ND, then through Montana Idaho Washington state up to Vancouver. I am not sure of the terrain, and will the 8 hour drives on a map be 8 or more like 10 realistically. I can drive 12 hours a day, although I am most likely travelling alone (or if not as the only driver) I have done marathon drives before. I am not looking for sightseeing or “fun” along the routes, just getting from point A to point B

Would I be better off doing Bismark to Missoula, Missoula to Vancouver?

Or Bismark to Billings, Billings to Spokane Spokane to Vancouver?

I am interested in discussing the Canadian routes too, but it is not as likely I will do this one.

Tell me o travellers of the highways of northwestern USA.

I have not done it, but I’m posting to say that (a little surprisingly to me) Google Street View is available for those highways. The terrain is remarkably … uniform.

I have travelled I-90 through southern Minnesota and South Dakota many times. In SE Minnesota, it’s forested hills, which transition to prairie/plains in the western part of the state. Speed limit is 70, but unfortunately, you will run into a lot of locals puttering along at 60-65 in the left lane at times.

I joke about SD saying you can fall asleep, wake up 2 hours later and your car will still be going in the same direction and nothing will appear to have changed, but that isn’t strictly true. It is mostly plains as you move west (at 75mph, surrounded by a lot of trucks) and of course, since 90% of the state population is within 30 miles of I-90 and it’s mainly a drive-through state, there are a lot of tourist traps. The change at the Missouri is radical, as it gets a lot drier and browner. Pull off at the big rest stop there on top of the hill and have a look around, it’s rather striking.

Do, however, if you have the time while passing through SD, do the Badlands circle, stop at Wall Drug, or even take a detour south into the Black Hills, if only to walk around Deadwood and it’s 8 million small casinos for an hour.

You’ll thank yourself that you stopped for these diversions before you get into the Long Flat Nothing.

But I-90 and I-94 don’t hook up until Montana, so she’ll miss South Dakota altogether.

I took I-90 and I-94 from Spokane to Minnesota many moons ago and it’s pretty much just driving in a straight line. Montana is big. I remember the stop at Teddy Roosevelt National Park in N Dakota, but not much else about the state.

I’m a little curious on the your intended route from Thunder Bay to Bismark. I’d be inclined to take Canada route 11 West to I-Falls and cross into Minnesota there. Taking Minnesota 71 South to Park Rapids then 34 West to Detroit Lakes and 10 West from there to Fargo where you can join I94. It’ll be a lot of 2 lane black top and 55 speed limits but traffic density in Northern Minnesota will be almost zero (if it isn’t a Friday or Sunday when people are traveling to - from cabins) and it is pretty safe to drive 5 over the limit with near impunity. YMMV if you have Manitoba plates.:wink:

Pretty simple, really. Ontario 17 to the Manitoba border, where it becomes Highway 1. Highway 1 west, through Manitoba, Saskatchwan, Alberta, and BC. In BC, you can opt to take BC 5 from Kamloops south to Hope, where you will meet up with Highway 1 again, and then on into Vancouver.

You’re fine across the Prairies, where the road is twinned at 100-110 km/h; but as you know, Ontario 17 is pretty much two-lane blacktop at 90 km/h. Not that many people pay attention, mind; and trucks have problems keeping to any kind of constant speed in the hills around Kenora. You also find 90 km/h through the national parks (Banff, Yoho, Revelstoke). More two-lane blacktop from Banff westbound, by the way; though BC 5 is twinned.

Gas prices vary by province, as you might guess. On my recent Alberta-to-Ontario drive, I found prices highest in Ontario (the highest in Upsala at $1.49), though $1.36 was more common in northern Ontario. Manitoba and Saskatchewan both checked in at around $1.25, and Alberta is around $1.15. No idea on current BC prices, though I’m sure you can find them out.

Any questions about the Canadian route, just ask–as I mentioned, I just finished a drive to Ontario and back; and I’ve certainly done the Calgary-to-Vancouver route before.

Thanks for the replies so far.

I have driven across the prairies in Canada several times… so partly its for the cheaper gas, the flatter terrain, and so forth to go the USA way, especially since by the first week of November there could be snowstorms. Thanks for the tips Spoons.

The reason of going by Bismark is I would actually be going to Duluth MN before heading back, to visit some friends, so I would cut over from near Duluth, and I envision doing the Duluth to Bismarck run after having lunch with some friends on Saturday The real long days of travelling will start Sunday. I have to be back at work by Friday morning, so I have some buffer built in but less days on the road equal cheaper trip. (I Don’t have maps open right now, but there is a big turn off either before/after Duluth) The real long days of travelling will start Sunday. I have to be back at work by Friday morning, so I have some buffer built in but less days on the road equal cheaper trip.I want to stay as north as possible so I don’t end up doing a big detour back north.

I am definitely not doing any sight seeing etc. Originally I was going to take a senic trip back this summer and doing some camping with my son, but I can’t fly for a few more months (or really really don’t want to) and this is mostly about getting car+ some stuff I don’t want to pay to ship (china, books, awkwardly shaped or heavy objects) back to Vancouver.

I won’t be having my son miss school and my hubby miss work so it will be just me, unless I can convince one friend of mine that a road trip this time of year is exactly what her life has been missing. (Doubtful) Or maybe I will bring my kinda-sorta stepdaughter along for the ride, but its a long trip with someone who I barely know. (Haven’t even offered this yet… there is a vague plan for her to visit this fall, but this is nebulous. She is 21 but I don’t think she has her drivers license, so no “benefit” in having a second driver… on the other hand my car insurance doesn’t cover under 25 year olds anyway.)

Seriously, don’t fall asleep.

Maybe do some texting to stay awake. :wink:

I saw the thread title as “Minnesota to Wisconsin,” and then the OP about “heading to Vancouver,” and my first thought was “well, for one thing, you’re going the wrong way…”

I’ve only driven I-90 from Seattle as far as Idaho.

The Seattle to Ellensburg stretch isn’t too bad and actually goes through some beautiful country. The Ellensburg to Spokane stretch, on the other hand, is pretty damn boring. Lots of flat country and wheat fields.

I have driven The Canadian prairies several times once alone from swift current to Ontario. done long stretches through north western Ontario where there are towns only every few hours. I am skilled in the ways of long boring drives. I am just trying to get a feel for typical weather in early November, and if the idea of 3 11 hour days vs 4 8 hr days makes a big difference.

From my driving around in the northwoods experience I think your slow driving will be at the beginning of your trip. Two lane roads, RVs and campers moving slow, and such.

Thunder Bay to Duluth and lunch with friends. Then it is all two lane federal or state highways crossing Minnesota. Most of that will be 55mph. Once you reach the outskirts of Fargo you pick up Interstate highway. Smooth driving from there.

Not sure what you mean by “Spokane to Vancouver”. Why not Seattle to Vancouver? As for the I90/I94 corridor, it’s problem free during good weather. November could be a problem crossing the Rocky Mountains at Lookout Pass. Hell, it could even be a problem just crossing North Dakota and Montana if you run into an early winter storm. I’d carry tire chains with you, just in case you’re required to chain up over the mountains.

Not sure about Canada, but here you can get a car delivered across the country pretty cheap (like 500 bucks)

I mean I am breaking it down in terms of one day driving and where I would stop at night. Spokane would possibly be my last stop. Again this is not a pleasure cruise its a get 'er done, in the 7 days I have off anyway. (Well I have 6, then I would swap a 7th so I would have a buffer zone day.)

Ah, I see. Spokane to Vancouver would be a breeze, then.

My quotes were in the range “about the same as do it yourself” ($1500)because Thunder Bay’s location. If I had to pay that much I might as well go home, see my folks and friends, sort the last of my possessions, and do it my way. Actually at 1500, I will be saving money, since when we figured it would cost about the same we were figuring on feeding a family of three rather than just me, and I am fine with a cooler, some fruit and sandwiches, a thermos of coffee and one decent supper in a day. My hubby and son, not so much. Although you are making me wonder about the feasiblity of shipping my car Duluth to Seattle, my parents could drop it off and I could take a bus to Seattle to pick it up. Thanks for the reminder such services exist.

Yes, I may have been ambiguous. The advice about chains was what I was looking for. I would not do this through the Canadian Rockies without chains, wasn’t sure about through the US route.

There’s a second mountain range in the middle of Washington/BC that you’ll be going over as well. It’s lower than the Rockies, but it’s there. And in bad, rainy, possibly snowy weather, I’d prefer going over in the US than in Canada and going on 90 rather than 2. It’s also cheaper (gas).

In November, there’s a chance of snow and they could recommend or require chains.
Also, I’d head north as soon as possible after you cross the mountain range - traffic can be evil on the major roads from Seattle to about Marysville, and that wears me down when driving to Vancouver.