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Should i get a dog sled?
September 24, 2011 8:12 PM   Subscribe

Help an anxious dude navigate cross country. I have to drive from Portland, OR to Portland, ME leaving the first week of December.

I will be driving a 2002 Honda Civic that is in good repair from Portland, Oregon to Portland, ME, with a dog as a co-pilot (wife and baby will have flown out a week prior). I am a lifelong north-westerner, and haven't ever really dealt with driving in snow, beyond going up to Mt. Hood a few times.

I will have chains, a typical road emergency kit, a bit of food and water for me and pooch, a fresh AAA membership, paper maps, along with a GPS. The car will be fairly full of worldly possessions, including some bikes and a top-rack. Anything in particular i should make sure to be carrying?

The good news, is that I don't have a firm date for arrival, so if the weather gets too hairy, I'll simply hole up for a day or two.

It looks as though my options for routes are
1. I-80
2. I-94 then to I-90
3. I-90 the whole way

Which am I least likely to run into problems on? Do these roads typically stay fairly clear? Are any of these particularly better than the others? I have a couple options for friends and family to stay with on all 3 routes, and will be staying in hotels if need be.

I'm quite looking forward to one major part of the trip: Never having driven across the country, I'm stoked to sample some of the better regional dishes offered up by each area. I'm willing to deviate a couple hours off the highway to get the tastiest regional dish available. Once I hit the rust-belt, Beef on Weck will haunt my dreams. What else can't be missed, and where shouldn't i miss it?
posted by furnace.heart to Travel & Transportation around United States (9 answers total)
 
Take a sleeping bag and/or some blankets in case you end up going off the road and having to sleep in your car. Also, some food and water is good to carry. Of course the interstates are typically clear. Just watch the weather carefully for each leg of the trip and make adjustments as needed. You will be fine. Have a great trip.
If you have driven up Hood in the winter then you probably know about driving in snow but just one piece of advice: if you are driving while it is snowing or on snowpacked roads (or both) do not try to keep up with the idiots who blow by you in their SUVs. Drive slowly and carefully, the other folks might end up upside down. Bringing chains along isn't a bad idea - you will probably need them in Maine anyways. Practice putting them on before you need to.
posted by fieldtrip at 8:37 PM on September 24, 2011


Check the pass information on the web before you try to drive over them, whatever route you take. If there is a snow storm, don't go if you don't have to. Keep some calories in the car in addition to water, just in case. Nothing wrong with going slow.
posted by jeffamaphone at 8:45 PM on September 24, 2011


Your biggest issue will be crossing the Rockies. Time that to avoid falling snow if possible. The mountains in Pennsylvania can also get a little dicey, bit December should be fine. I would take 80 to 287 ( in NJ) then cross the Tappan Zee to 95 but that is only to avoid the lake effect snows around Buffalo and the other cities on the Great Lakes.

In addition to what you mentioned, I would bring basic emergency supplies like matches, flash light, road flares, etc. I would also bring a few extra hoses and a fan belt jic. Also lock deicer and an extra set of wipers.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:47 PM on September 24, 2011


I haven't needed chains in New England for 30 years but snow tires are a must. On all 4 wheels.
posted by Hobgoblin at 4:53 AM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would also bring a few extra hoses and a fan belt jic.

Something really improved in fan belt technology a while back. Every old truck I've own has chewed through fan belts like crazy, but newer vehicles don't seem to do this. Personally I'd suggest spending the money on a) having a trusted mechanic check out the car carefully before the trip, and b) getting an AAA membership to cover towing and minor breakdowns.

In winter I'd suggest the more southern route (I84 to I80, rather than heading north to I94) because the weather is usually a bit better. Those highways are critical national infrastructure for keeping supplies and people moving, so even massive blizzards get cleared quickly. Every state has a website and 1-800 number for pass conditions and highway closures -- have those on your cellphone and keep checking a day or two ahead. You can often divert south or north around a closure if you know far enough in advance.

Otherwise, it's mostly just sitting there and remembering to take breaks before you get too tired. There are big stretches with crappy radio options, so bring your ipod. Chains and/or winter-rated tires may be required in the western mountain passes -- check each state's pass website to make sure you are legal until you are east of the Rockies.
posted by Forktine at 8:03 AM on September 25, 2011


Snow tires for sure but I'm not sure if you can even find them (or afford them) in the Pacific NW.

A small shovel can be helpful in case your car gets stuck in a drift. And the worst thing about blizzards isn't usually the amount of snow, it's the blowing snow. Remember when you check the weather to check the wind speed.

Remember to steer into slides and, more generally, do everything slowly with lots of room when you're driving in snow and ice. For example, when you're coming up to a stop sign, start breaking earlier and don't press down really hard and fast, gently ease into the stop.

Stay on the main roads but it looks like you're planning on that anyway.

I'd suggest maybe a seatbelt for your dog. You don't want your dog wandering around the car and it would help if you get in an accident. My old roommate was in a not-so-bad crash where she was fine thanks to her seatbelt but her dog didn't make it.
posted by hydrobatidae at 9:05 AM on September 25, 2011


Snow tires for sure but I'm not sure if you can even find them (or afford them) in the Pacific NW.

There is a Les Schwab on every corner, ready to sell you both studded and unstudded snow tires. Affordability, well, that's a different question, though I think that nationally tire prices are pretty standardized.
posted by Forktine at 9:19 AM on September 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Midwest is notoriously icy in December--more than a snow issue. Just drive slowly when things get hairy. Don't get suckered by idiots who drive too fast. You will quite often find them later on down the road in a ditch.
posted by RedEmma at 11:06 AM on September 25, 2011


fieldtrip writes "Take a sleeping bag and/or some blankets in case you end up going off the road and having to sleep in your car. Also, some food and water is good to carry."

This is very important. 99.999% of the time you won't need those supplies but if you get trapped in a rest stop for 24 hours by road closures or worst case slide of the road in an extreme snow fall event the ability to keep warm, fed and watered will make your stay much more pleasant.

Forktine writes "There is a Les Schwab on every corner, ready to sell you both studded and unstudded snow tires. Affordability, well, that's a different question, though I think that nationally tire prices are pretty standardized."

Also Costco for retail and The Tire Rack for internet shopping.
posted by Mitheral at 2:53 AM on November 28, 2011


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