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Q: What is the best route for driving across the country in winter? ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: What is the best route for driving across the country in winter?
Category: Sports and Recreation > Travel
Asked by: jenster-ga
List Price: $50.00
Posted: 26 Aug 2004 18:38 PDT
Expires: 25 Sep 2004 18:38 PDT
Question ID: 393190
I'm planning on moving from San Francisco to Cleveland and then to
Boston at the end of December/beginning of Jaunary, and I am planning
to drive.

What would be the safest route to take?  I'm not very concerned about
the length or time of the trip - I want to take the safest route

I'm mostly concerned with driving across moutains during winter.  If I
drove far enough south in California, could I safely cross the
moutains at some point?  Looking at the map, it seems like I could
take 5 to 99 to 58.  Taking 40 most of the way then seems like it
would be a good way to go.

What I need to know is:
a)  The safest routes I can take when crossing mountains
b)  The relative safety of driving on 40 - can I expect much snow or
bad whether, etc.

Subject: Re: What is the best route for driving across the country in winter?
Answered By: digsalot-ga on 26 Aug 2004 20:37 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello there

Actually most of the routes would be relatively safe if you stayed
with the Interstate System.  However, since you want to avoid the
mountains as much as possible and with time and distance being no real
problem, I'll send you across the southern part of the country with a
sharp turn to the north to get you to Cleveland.  Mountain crossings
will be minimal and at much lower elevations than the passes farther

From Cleveland to Boston, you will be pretty much stuck with the
Interstate System in the Northeast.  Living fairly near Cleveland, I
can assure you that with the exception of extraordinarily winter
weather, for which there is plenty of advanced warning, the roads
around here are generally clear and open all year.
The fact that you use the terms "move" and "drive" in the same
question leads me to believe you are taking something other than just
an automobile, perhaps a pull trailer or rental truck.  I am taking
that into account as well.  If you are using just an auto, by planning
a trip based on something larger, I would be looking for lesser grades
to climb, etc.  It will still make your trip a little safer.

You had mentioned "40" and I presume you mean Interstate 40.  You seem
to have already picked the best route.  You would cross a minimal
number of mountains such as the Cajone Pass out of Southern California
and the Sandia Mountains east of Albuquerque, NM.  There are other
lesser elevation changes but the "climb" grade is steepest in the two
areas mentioned, though neither is out-of-line steep.  The highest
elevation you will reach is a little over 7000 ft, and you might be
surprised to learn that is not a mountain pass but the western edge of
the Great Plains as you leave New Mexico.

Remain on I-40 to Knoxville, TN.  I-40 merges with I-75 near Pine Top,
TN. and stays merged until Knoxville.  From Knoxville, stay on I-75 to
just south of Toledo, OH.  There you will go onto I-80 (the Ohio
Turnpike) and head east to Cleveland.  You can leave I-80 either on
I-71 in Strongville, OH or I-77 in Brecksville, OH.  Both will take
you into Cleveland.

While this route does not take you the farthest south, it is generally
open in the winter and as mentioned earlier, if there is to be severe
weather, there is sufficient advanced warning to take precautions.  I
have made the identical trip several times in all seasons.  I even
"hitched" it once - many, many moons ago.

As you pass Knoxville, throw stones.  One of them might hit
Mathtalk-ga and as you glide by Toledo, honk and wave, Missy-ga might
be out hitch-hiking.

When you turn off I-80 to go into Cleveland, look to the south and I
will be looming over the horizon giving benediction to your travels.

For your drive from Cleveland to Boston, continue east on I-80 to
Teaneck, NJ.  There you will go on to I-95 for a straight shot up to
Boston.  While the eastern part of your trip will take you through
some Pennsylvania mountains, there is little to worry about.  The
ranges are not all that high in that part of Pennsylvania.

If you should have an emergency, this route takes you through areas
where services are readily available.  I-40 will take you through
Barstow, CA, Flagstaff, AZ, Albuquerque, NM, Amarillo, TX, Oklahoma
City, OK, Little Rock, AR, Memphis, TN and Knoxville.

I-75 - Through Lexington, KY, Cincinnati, OH 

For the trip from Cleveland to Boston, you will never be far from
"civilization" and emergency services should be no problem.

Keep abreast of the weather conditions and you should have no problem
with the route suggested.

Search - Google
Terms - interstate maps - - plus personal experience with the route suggested.

If I may clarify anything, please ask

Welcome to Ohio.  Why do you need to go on to Boston when we have
everything you could need, or want, right here in the Buckeye State? -
Including great baked beans. - - If you give Cleveland a chance, you
could easily fall in love with the place.  The Coventry neighborhood
reminds me of San Francisco.  And our art museums, sports facilities,
theater district, restaurants, parks and more, are among the finest in
the country.


Request for Answer Clarification by jenster-ga on 26 Aug 2004 21:47 PDT
First, thanks so much for your reply, Digsalot!  It was awesome.

So, would you say that taking 5 south in California and then over to
40 (it looks like I'd take 99 north a bit to 58) would be a minimal
mountain crossing?

One thing I'm thinkng about is trying to leave a bit earlier - say,
mid-November.  Would it be possible at that point to take any more
northerly route through the mountains and avoid most of the snowfall? 
I'm unfamiliar with when the snow starts getting bad.  My concern is
that, unless I trade-in my car, I'll be driving a sports car, and
that's why I want to avoid very moutainous regions!

Lastly, I am originally from Cleveland, and I really do miss the area!
 My family is in the area, and I plan to stop for a week or so to
visit before I continue to Boston (I am relocating for a job). 
Perhaps if I could swing a mid-November time-frame, I could make the
OSU-Michigan game, which I'd been planning on trying to do anyway!

Clarification of Answer by digsalot-ga on 26 Aug 2004 22:53 PDT
Hi again

While it would mean more traffic - stay on I-5 right into LA then the
San Bernadino Freeway to I-15 and on to where you will intersect with
I-40 in Barstow.

By doing this, you will only have the 4,183-foot Tejon Pass to contend
with, not that steep a grade, then the Cajon Pass out of San

As for California 58, you won't have great elevations to contend with,
but the climb to the summit of the Temblor Range from Carrizo Plain is
very steep. When the road descends the other side of the Temblor
Range, it is also steep and becomes tight and twisty.  Many of the
corners are smooth decreasing radius turns but at least there is good
visibility through them.  You would need to take some care there.  It
is not exactly my favorite drive.

I know, I know - the LA traffic and all of that (used to live there)
but it does avoid those mountain climbs on the state routes.

I would suggest 'biting the proverbial bullet' and go through LA to
avoid the mountain crossings out of the Central Valley.

In November, I would not want to predict.  I took a northern route
once (on my honeymoon, in fact) and was snowed in at Little America,
Wyoming, for a week. (no real complaint)  It was the first week of

jenster-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars

Subject: Re: What is the best route for driving across the country in winter?
From: liner-ga on 27 Aug 2004 08:37 PDT
From someone who has visited relatives in Arizona in the winter for 25 years:

Do keep your eyes out, and the radio on as you come through the high
plains of western Arizona.  There is a LONG climb through Williams up
to Flagstaff, and an equally long descent afterwards.  Often times
there is rain at lower altitudes, which turns to snow at higher
altitudes.  The weather forcast will say "rain turning to snow at 3000

Stop in Seligman or Ashville (I think that is the next "big" twon east
of Seligman, just before the climb) and ask the highway patrol or
sheriff's office about conditions, if things sound bad.

Beware of "black ice", which is frost collecting on the road.  This
will happen at night as the temperature drops.  There are regular
stories in the papers of trucks especially sliding off the road.  So,
time your trip through Flagstaff for the daylight, and preferably
start the climb no earlier than about 10:00.  Getting through that
pass does not take more than a couple of hours.

These conditions do not stay around long, and typically you will be
delayed at most 1 day.  Flagstaff gets about 75 inches of snow a year
on average, but the temperature is mild so that it melts quickly.

If the weather is good, stop in Flagstaff for lunch, or even
overnight.  They have lots of motels, and in the winter the tourist
traffic (Grand Canyon, etc) is very low and the prices can be
astonishingly cheap.  Downtown Flag has had a revival in the past few
years, and there are some really nice restaurants around.

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