The Driving Route from SF Bay Area to Moab
September 14, 2016 10:36 AM   Subscribe

So according to Google Maps I have two main choices when driving from Berkeley to Moab, 80 to 50 to Moab which is 907 miles and 80 to Salt Lake City to Moab which is 955 miles. Despite the 40 mile difference these two routes are generally the same duration according to Google's estimates. What is it about going 80 to 50 that makes it so much slower then 80 straight through?

On a trip of this length I can usually pick up some decent time on the ETA/Duration estimate so I'm inclined to do 80 to 50 because its shorter, but wondering if the other route is going to be smoother and faster in the end.
posted by bitdamaged to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The northern route is all major roads until Provo. The southern route is secondary roads. and you can expect a slow-down at every little town through which you pass. At first glance, that's only Ely, so you might be tempted to say "yay! I can speed!" but zooming in shows there are a lot of those little towns.
posted by ubiquity at 10:46 AM on September 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

It may be as simple as the speed limit: 70 vs 65, perhaps?

For a desert road trip I'd absolutely drive 50. I've driven it twice, the road is fine. It's narrow but has little traffic. And while of course you should always obey the speed limit, 50 can be safely driven quite fast.

Ely, NV is kind of a sad town but has its charms and makes for a decent overnight stop.
posted by Nelson at 10:54 AM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

50 is a two lane highway a lot of the way, so over that distance, it's easy to get stuck behind slower drivers repeatedly. It also goes through a number of little towns, as others have noted. My guess is that the speed limit is lower than 80, which is four lanes.

That being said, the San Rafael Swell area along I-70 in Utah (outside Moab) is worth driving along 50 all by itself. It's spectacular enough to be a National Park in its own right. If you're not in a hurry, once you get across the Nevada border into Utah, there are an extraordinary amount of interesting things to see.
posted by cnc at 11:48 AM on September 14, 2016 [4 favorites]

Yes, Highway 50 is a two-lane road, so you can get stuck behind slower vehicles. But it's pretty easy to pass. Highway 50 is The Loneliest Road In America, and also quite beautiful. Having done both, that's the one I'd take.
posted by slidell at 12:16 PM on September 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

The lack of...anything...between towns on 50 is utterly, completely mind-blowing. And like cnc said, the drive across the other half of Utah on I70 is pretty amazing. The cut in the Swell is...swell!
posted by notsnot at 12:23 PM on September 14, 2016

Marking all as the best. It looks like I'll take 50! Thanks!
posted by bitdamaged at 2:26 PM on September 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

I took 50 while cycling across the U.S. It's a lot of fun. Middlegate Station for a meal, Cold Spring Station if you need a place to stay; Toiyabe cafe in Austin; Eureka was interesting to explore. I thought Ely was actually quite bustling for it's size -- it's said to be the biggest town for 250 miles. The Bristlecone is more expensive than most places in town, but it's definitely worth it. In Baker, there's a neat little place called the Electrolux Cafe.
posted by Borborygmus at 3:01 PM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

The speed limit/small town responses are correct, and it seems like you're already on this path, but Nthing just take 50. I used to drive from Oakland to CO pretty regularly. Once, in the middle of the night, I stopped somewhere between Ely and the Utah border so overcome with the sheer number of stars and lack of traffic that I lay myself down in the middle of the road for a good half hour just staring up at the stars, knowing that I'd hear/see any oncoming vehicle from ten minutes away.
posted by aspersioncast at 10:09 PM on September 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

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