Best Route from Billings to Eugene?
July 28, 2014 7:00 PM   Subscribe

My husband is going to be traveling from Billings, MT to Eugene, OR and is still trying to determine the best route to take. He will be towing a small trailer with a Ford Ranger and he's not very familiar with mountain driving, so would like the easiest route, time is less important. Any suggestions, or even general tips I can pass along?
posted by Quizzical Hamster to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total)
I've driven from Bozeman to Portland quite a few times. For ease of driving, he should stick with the major interstate highways. The route that goes south on 15 to 86/84 is an easier route with fewer mountain passes. It takes a bit longer, but if he doesn't mind, it's the better way to go.
posted by ohisee at 7:22 PM on July 28, 2014

Agreeing with ohisee. The grades on the interstate are designed for vehicles that are towing (usually semi's but still...). There are adequate turnouts fairly often to stop and rest and cool off your brakes or engine (depending on uphill/downhill). There will also be truckstops that have very large fueling areas designed for vehicles towing a trailer (backing up/turning in a tight gas station with a trailer is NOT fun).
posted by bartonlong at 8:36 PM on July 28, 2014

I've done the Bozeman/Billings to Portland a number of times as well and have always taken the Northern route (I90 to 84, then you'd just get on I5 down to Eugene). It's a gorgeous drive.

He should be fine in the truck, especially in the summer. Easy peasy. Only problematic area can be the pass through Coer d'Alene, but then only in the winter really (I've gone through that pass at the end of February with a 4 cylinder engine and no chains and it wasn't the least stressful thing I've done but it wasn't too bad). Some steep-ish grades, but semis do that route all the time without issues. Plus that stretch of 90 and 84 is pretty populated so no worries on gas and such.

Tell him to have lunch in Missoula or Bozeman - awesome little cities and really beautiful.
posted by Lutoslawski at 8:38 PM on July 28, 2014

Should be fine on the routes recommended above, with two caveats:

The drive is BORING in most places, it's all too easy to fall asleep if you're tired, so please ask him to be super-careful, and

Especially since he will be pulling a trailer, have him absolutely, without a doubt, take care on what the locals call "Cabbage Hill". I don't know if it has a name more official than that. It's on I84 between between Meecham and Pendleton, right as you drop down off the Blue Mountains into Pendleton, if you're traveling east-to-west. (This section: )

That hill can be a doozy, and x10 that if there's wind, and x100 if there's snow or ice. (Or rain.) It looks all broad and sweet and innocent, but it's steep and curvy and the wind can yank trailers around.

There is a truck stop (Arrowhead) at the base of Cabbage Hill that's a great place to stop and chill after crossing the Blues.

And of course, follow I84 all the way to I5, and then turn south. The only time trucks turn south and skip the Gorge by using 2-lanes is when the weather has the Gorge closed to trucks.
posted by stormyteal at 9:17 PM on July 28, 2014

"Cabbage Hill". I don't know if it has a name more official than that.

I've heard it called Cabbage or Emigrant Grade my entire life. It's not a big deal unless you aren't smart enough to slow way down, which people often aren't. There's a rest stop just before La Grande, another around Deadsman Pass, and then of course the truckstop at the bottom of the grade, plus a ton of pull outs, so stopping to check tires or take a break is no big deal.

But coming from Billings, why would you be going down Cabbage? The basic interstate route is fine (staying north on 90 to Spokane then down to 84 at Hermiston) but don't take Lolo Pass if you are pulling a trailer. It's beautiful and looks shorter but you get stuck behind jokers in RVs and it takes hours and hours.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:04 PM on July 28, 2014

Response by poster: Awesome, thanks everybody! I'll pass along the advice.
posted by Quizzical Hamster at 5:03 AM on July 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

If he isn't familiar with mountain driving, have him so some reading (there are probably YouTube videos, actually). Key thing: when going down a long hill, shift into a lower gear and let the engine slow you down, ESPECIALLY when towing. If he rides his brakes down the hills, they will be toast by the end of the trip.

Also, does the trailer have brakes? The trailer should have brakes.
posted by entropic at 6:01 AM on July 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

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