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Author Topic: Trip from Chicago IL to Durango CO, and Clinching I-35  (Read 3537 times)

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Trip from Chicago IL to Durango CO, and Clinching I-35
« on: May 16, 2021, 11:38:14 PM »

I am planning a trip from the Chicago area to Durango to visit some family that lives out there.

I am looking for a somewhat fast route, but as you can see from the map below, I’ve traveled on a fair bit of what might be considered the obvious route, which is essentially I-80 to I-76 to I-25 to US-160. I would like to minimize that as much as feasible, but I don’t know what would be the best way to do so.

Additionally, on the way home from this trip, what I intend to do is to clinch I-35, and so I would appreciate any suggestions on how to get from Durango to Laredo, or from Duluth through Wisconsin back to Chicago, ideally without using I-35 so as to save it for the clinch.

Complicating matters somewhat is that I would prefer to car camp on the non I-35 parts, and so, it would be helpful to be close to state parks or state and national forests and BLM land and so on, although that’s not strictly necessary.



Any ideas or potential concerns you might have would be most helpful.
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Re: Trip from Chicago IL to Durango CO, and Clinching I-35
« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2021, 12:46:54 AM »

If youíre looking to drive through San Antonio or Austin directly on I-35, I would highly recommending timing it to not be during peak hours. Traffic can get pretty ugly, especially north of San Antonio and into and through Austin.

SH-130 bypasses the cities along with the entire I-35 corridor in between to the east, and is posted at 80-85 mph. Virtually zero congestion even during peak hours and of course the added bonus of being able to legally travel at those speeds. But would avoid a good part of I-35 if the goal is to clinch that. Toll by plate tolls were around $20 when I last went through a couple years ago, not sure how it is now.
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Re: Trip from Chicago IL to Durango CO, and Clinching I-35
« Reply #2 on: May 17, 2021, 05:43:19 AM »

Unfortunately, if I'm reading the map right in that blue = already traveled, it looks like you've got a good amount of good routes out of Illinois covered. One option could be to I-72 to US-36 across northern Missouri and Kansas. If that doesn't appeal to you (having done I-70 already, I doubt it would be much different scenery-wise, though kphoger is the guru when it comes to US-36 in Kansas and Colorado) perhaps US-36 to I-29/I-49 down to US-412 and take that across Oklahoma and New Mexico?
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Re: Trip from Chicago IL to Durango CO, and Clinching I-35
« Reply #3 on: May 18, 2021, 01:43:15 AM »

If youíre looking to drive through San Antonio or Austin directly on I-35, I would highly recommending timing it to not be during peak hours. Traffic can get pretty ugly, especially north of San Antonio and into and through Austin.

SH-130 bypasses the cities along with the entire I-35 corridor in between to the east, and is posted at 80-85 mph. Virtually zero congestion even during peak hours and of course the added bonus of being able to legally travel at those speeds. But would avoid a good part of I-35 if the goal is to clinch that. Toll by plate tolls were around $20 when I last went through a couple years ago, not sure how it is now.

Traffic through that bit of Texas is a definite concern of mine. My initial plan is to travel through the area on a weekend day, or failing that, later at night. Would you say that Austin or San Antonio is worse, since that can affect the planning? My general assumption is that traffic is usually at its worst at 4 o'clock, which seems to indicate that Austin is worse on every day of the week, but there is always the potential for little quirks.

Unfortunately, if I'm reading the map right in that blue = already traveled, it looks like you've got a good amount of good routes out of Illinois covered. One option could be to I-72 to US-36 across northern Missouri and Kansas. If that doesn't appeal to you (having done I-70 already, I doubt it would be much different scenery-wise, though kphoger is the guru when it comes to US-36 in Kansas and Colorado) perhaps US-36 to I-29/I-49 down to US-412 and take that across Oklahoma and New Mexico?

Blue does mean previously traveled. I apologize for not making that clear.

That said, traveling outside the blue is less important for Illinois, since it's harder to avoid, but I am always interested in other ideas. And I could definitely do I-72 to US-36, perhaps to I-29 and then back to I-80. It's a little out of the way, but this is a leisure trip, and I like driving. Another idea might be to take some two-lane roads across the state, or even elsewhere for a couple hundred miles or so, but I would have to make sure they're not too heavily traveled, since I do not like being behind someone with no way to readily pass. If I recall correctly, some people prefer US-30 to I-80 across Nebraska.
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Re: Trip from Chicago IL to Durango CO, and Clinching I-35
« Reply #4 on: May 18, 2021, 01:41:29 PM »

Obvious question -- are you going to do the eastern or western branches of I-35 through DFW and the Twin Cities?

US 36 is a nice drive through Missouri. You can make good time on the four-lane, and there are conveniently-spaced towns where you can find services (food, gas, and lodging if you prefer).

As for car camping, no reason you couldn't use Walmart parking lots, is there? While an increasing number of Walmarts are discouraging overnight truck parking, many of them actively encourage overnight RV parking. No reason you couldn't park in a remote section of the parking lot and snooze.
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Re: Trip from Chicago IL to Durango CO, and Clinching I-35
« Reply #5 on: May 18, 2021, 04:10:56 PM »

Would you say that Austin or San Antonio is worse, since that can affect the planning?
Easily Austin, but really that whole corridor between San Antonio and Austin can be heavy especially at peak times, though you'll probably be moving for a lot of it. Southside San Antonio isn't usually an issue, it's really on the north side for anything that exists there.
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Re: Trip from Chicago IL to Durango CO, and Clinching I-35
« Reply #6 on: May 18, 2021, 04:55:10 PM »

Here's the way I would go from Chicago to Durango.  Note that this is approximately the same route I drove from Chicago to Colorado Springs once already, on my way to Ouray rather than Durango.
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Re: Trip from Chicago IL to Durango CO, and Clinching I-35
« Reply #7 on: May 18, 2021, 06:04:10 PM »

If you've never driven the Million Dollar Highway (US 550) between Durango and Ridgway, I would highly recommend getting to Durango that way. Then on your way down to Laredo, you can clinch the rest of US 550.

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Re: Trip from Chicago IL to Durango CO, and Clinching I-35
« Reply #8 on: May 18, 2021, 07:21:48 PM »

Obvious question -- are you going to do the eastern or western branches of I-35 through DFW and the Twin Cities?

US 36 is a nice drive through Missouri. You can make good time on the four-lane, and there are conveniently-spaced towns where you can find services (food, gas, and lodging if you prefer).

As for car camping, no reason you couldn't use Walmart parking lots, is there? While an increasing number of Walmarts are discouraging overnight truck parking, many of them actively encourage overnight RV parking. No reason you couldn't park in a remote section of the parking lot and snooze.

As a clincher stickler, my plan for the E and W branches is to drive one and then double back somehow and drive the other. The main question is the order, which I donít know yet. I do plan to switch off, though, so if I do the E first in Dallas, I will do the W first in Minneapolis, or if I do the W first in Fort Worth, I will do the E first in Saint Paul. Itíll largely be based on how easy I can work my way back south.

As for car camping, I am not a fan of sleeping in my car, since it essentially means I wonít sleep. What I want is just a patch of ground to set up a tent and hopefully enjoy a bit of solitude for the night, so it doesnít need to be elaborate, but I would prefer it be camping-y. A web site Iíve used in the past is freecampsites.net, which has a number of good suggestions for relatively secluded places.

Would you say that Austin or San Antonio is worse, since that can affect the planning?
Easily Austin, but really that whole corridor between San Antonio and Austin can be heavy especially at peak times, though you'll probably be moving for a lot of it. Southside San Antonio isn't usually an issue, it's really on the north side for anything that exists there.

This is very helpful. Thanks.

Here's the way I would go from Chicago to Durango.  Note that this is approximately the same route I drove from Chicago to Colorado Springs once already, on my way to Ouray rather than Durango.

Thatís an interesting idea. What was that non-Interstate bit like in Nebraska and Kansas? A good flow to traffic? Nice scenery?

If you've never driven the Million Dollar Highway (US 550) between Durango and Ridgway, I would highly recommend getting to Durango that way. Then on your way down to Laredo, you can clinch the rest of US 550.

Another interesting idea. It would be a bit out of the way, but getting another clinch while also getting the view might be enough to tip the scales.
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Re: Trip from Chicago IL to Durango CO, and Clinching I-35
« Reply #9 on: May 19, 2021, 12:45:12 PM »


Here's the way I would go from Chicago to Durango.  Note that this is approximately the same route I drove from Chicago to Colorado Springs once already, on my way to Ouray rather than Durango.

Thatís an interesting idea. What was that non-Interstate bit like in Nebraska and Kansas? A good flow to traffic? Nice scenery?

I grew up in northwestern Kansas, so I'm pretty familiar with the area.

Traffic is quite light, and "flow of traffic" is not a concern.  Scenery is just typical farmland, same as any other highway you'd go through.  But everyone should have the chance to drive through a town named Funk at least once.  I believe all of the two-lane highways I traced in Nebraska and Kansas have 65mph speed limits.  (This didn't use to be the case in Nebraska, but  it appears they've been bumped up over the years.)


If you've never driven the Million Dollar Highway (US 550) between Durango and Ridgway, I would highly recommend getting to Durango that way. Then on your way down to Laredo, you can clinch the rest of US 550.

Another interesting idea. It would be a bit out of the way, but getting another clinch while also getting the view might be enough to tip the scales.

It being out of your way is the only reason I didn't recommend it myself.  US-50 across Colorado has wonderful scenery, and US-550 south of Ouray is even better.

For what it's worth, my most popular Google review is of a campground just outside of Ouray.
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Re: Trip from Chicago IL to Durango CO, and Clinching I-35
« Reply #10 on: May 20, 2021, 12:07:44 AM »

US-53 between Duluth and Eau Claire is a controlled-access or limited-access 4-lane highway all the way to I-94 posted for 65 or 70. It's lightly trafficked and moves quite well.

You could also stick to 2-lanes south of Eau Claire, clinching the entire length of US-53 in Wisconsin, then following US-14 from LaCrosse into northern Illinois. The route goes through a scenic region and doesn't have too many slow urban sections until you're well into Illinois.

You also have the option of taking US-2 to US-51, then following US-51 south, picking up the northern portion of I-39. It's slower and farther, but it's quite scenic north of Wausau.
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Re: Trip from Chicago IL to Durango CO, and Clinching I-35
« Reply #11 on: May 25, 2021, 12:16:53 AM »

If you've never driven the Million Dollar Highway (US 550) between Durango and Ridgway, I would highly recommend getting to Durango that way. Then on your way down to Laredo, you can clinch the rest of US 550.

It being out of your way is the only reason I didn't recommend it myself.  US-50 across Colorado has wonderful scenery, and US-550 south of Ouray is even better.

This is definitely quite the vote of confidence. My aversion to it is that it would take about an hour and half longer than the US-160 routing, but if it’s an hour and a half well spent, that’s what this trip is about.

For what it's worth, my most popular Google review is of a campground just outside of Ouray.

You had me up to “high clearance vehicle,” since I have a Honda Civic, with a ground clearance of not much more than 5 inches. Otherwise, this place seems amazing.

US-53 between Duluth and Eau Claire is a controlled-access or limited-access 4-lane highway all the way to I-94 posted for 65 or 70. It's lightly trafficked and moves quite well.

You could also stick to 2-lanes south of Eau Claire, clinching the entire length of US-53 in Wisconsin, then following US-14 from LaCrosse into northern Illinois. The route goes through a scenic region and doesn't have too many slow urban sections until you're well into Illinois.

You also have the option of taking US-2 to US-51, then following US-51 south, picking up the northern portion of I-39. It's slower and farther, but it's quite scenic north of Wausau.

These are also good ideas. The last one is particularly interesting since my maternal grandmother’s family comes from Wausau, or rather, Marathon. So, that might be a good way for me to go.
« Last Edit: May 25, 2021, 12:19:16 AM by CtrlAltDel »
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Re: Trip from Chicago IL to Durango CO, and Clinching I-35
« Reply #12 on: May 25, 2021, 12:27:43 AM »

hit Big Bend if you can.  Most of the travel to Laredo will be fairly easy.  Yes avoid I-35 in Austin during bad times.  It even backs up on weekends for no reason.  I leave for work at 5:45 instead of 6 just to make it 15 minutes faster.
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Re: Trip from Chicago IL to Durango CO, and Clinching I-35
« Reply #13 on: May 25, 2021, 11:30:47 AM »

I would defiantly do US 550 out of Ouray for sure.  The scenery is great out there.  I-35 can be heavy but doable.
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Re: Trip from Chicago IL to Durango CO, and Clinching I-35
« Reply #14 on: May 25, 2021, 11:51:33 AM »

I would defiantly do US 550 out of Ouray for sure.  The scenery is great out there.  I-35 can be heavy but doable.

Yes come in on 50 by the nice reservoir, black canyon, montrose, then down 550
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Re: Trip from Chicago IL to Durango CO, and Clinching I-35
« Reply #15 on: May 25, 2021, 06:24:00 PM »

Using US 550 is in defiance of something?
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Re: Trip from Chicago IL to Durango CO, and Clinching I-35
« Reply #16 on: May 26, 2021, 12:23:19 AM »

Making use of the comments that have been graciously provided, in combination with my proclivities, Iíve drawn up this map for the general route of my trip.

As you can see, there is some repeat driving, but itís mostly to get out west a bit more quickly, which is where I plan to do some of the more ďuniqueĒ driving.



As always, if you have ideas for tweaks or changes, Iím happy to hear them.

One idea I have would be to do the US-550 and US-50 bit after I leave Durango as opposed to before, since Iíll be in something of a fresher state of mind, but I could play that by ear.
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Re: Trip from Chicago IL to Durango CO, and Clinching I-35
« Reply #17 on: May 30, 2021, 07:27:24 PM »

I am currently in the process of finalizing my route for the clinch of I-35. Most of it is, as you can imagine, pretty straightforward. The biggest issues are the double deck sections in San Antonio and Austin as well as the tolls in Kansas, which I assume still take cash. That said, if you have any observations, Iíll be happy to hear them.

The most problematic aspect is the W and E splits in Fort Worth / Dallas and Minneapolis / Saint Paul. My general plan here is to drive E section first through Dallas to the north split and then double back on a non-Interstate route back to the south split and drive the W section, and then I will do the opposite in Minnesota, driving the W and then the E.

Here are the routes that Google has given me. There are other routes closer to the cities, but they donít seem to save much time. Still, if you have any concerns about them, like speed traps or likely congestion, I can easily modify them.



« Last Edit: May 30, 2021, 07:59:39 PM by CtrlAltDel »
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Re: Trip from Chicago IL to Durango CO, and Clinching I-35
« Reply #18 on: May 30, 2021, 08:39:42 PM »

For doubling back, wouldnít it simply be quicker to take the same interstate back as opposed to diverting to surface routes? Unless thatís what youíre going for.

I believe the Kansas Turnpike takes cash, though not 100% sure.
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Re: Trip from Chicago IL to Durango CO, and Clinching I-35
« Reply #19 on: May 31, 2021, 12:14:36 AM »

For doubling back, wouldnít it simply be quicker to take the same interstate back as opposed to diverting to surface routes? Unless thatís what youíre going for.

We're road enthusiasts. Since when do we just take the quickest route? Might as well see a new road if you get the chance.

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Re: Trip from Chicago IL to Durango CO, and Clinching I-35
« Reply #20 on: May 31, 2021, 02:16:33 AM »


For doubling back, wouldn’t it simply be quicker to take the same interstate back as opposed to diverting to surface routes? Unless that’s what you’re going for.

It would be, but I would prefer to avoid re-driving the interstate I just drove. The part where I avoid all interstates in doubling back, that I can't really explain.

We're road enthusiasts. Since when do we just take the quickest route? Might as well see a new road if you get the chance.

This maybe sums it up pretty well.  :cool:
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Re: Trip from Chicago IL to Durango CO, and Clinching I-35
« Reply #21 on: May 31, 2021, 03:09:28 AM »


For doubling back, wouldnít it simply be quicker to take the same interstate back as opposed to diverting to surface routes? Unless thatís what youíre going for.

It would be, but I would prefer to avoid re-driving the interstate I just drove. The part where I avoid all interstates in doubling back, that I can't really explain.

Texas has direct ramps between 35W and 35E at their merge points, if you would rather more or less skip them entirely at first (other than setting up a clinch checkpoint) and then simply reverse direction via the direct ramps. It would get the drudgery extra driving out of the way first rather than in the middle.

Minnesota, however does not have direct ramps back to the opposite directions of 35W and 35E and you would need to reverse at either County 46 for the Burnsville split or MN 97 for the Forest Lake split.
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Re: Trip from Chicago IL to Durango CO, and Clinching I-35
« Reply #22 on: May 31, 2021, 07:35:28 AM »

For doubling back, wouldnít it simply be quicker to take the same interstate back as opposed to diverting to surface routes? Unless thatís what youíre going for.

We're road enthusiasts. Since when do we just take the quickest route? Might as well see a new road if you get the chance.
See the part where I put ďunless thatís what youíre going for.Ē

It was merely a question.

It would be, but I would prefer to avoid re-driving the interstate I just drove. The part where I avoid all interstates in doubling back, that I can't really explain.
That makes sense then. Perhaps take the opportunity to clinch other freeways in the region, but yes if youíre going surface routes only, then obviously donít. Itís all your preferences, just throwing out some suggestions, albeit obvious, here.
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Re: Trip from Chicago IL to Durango CO, and Clinching I-35
« Reply #23 on: June 01, 2021, 01:54:25 AM »

For doubling back, wouldnít it simply be quicker to take the same interstate back as opposed to diverting to surface routes? Unless thatís what youíre going for.

We're road enthusiasts. Since when do we just take the quickest route? Might as well see a new road if you get the chance.
See the part where I put ďunless thatís what youíre going for.Ē

It was merely a question.

It would be, but I would prefer to avoid re-driving the interstate I just drove. The part where I avoid all interstates in doubling back, that I can't really explain.
That makes sense then. Perhaps take the opportunity to clinch other freeways in the region, but yes if youíre going surface routes only, then obviously donít. Itís all your preferences, just throwing out some suggestions, albeit obvious, here.

I apologize if it seems I was attacking you. I didn't mean to come across like that. By all means, keep giving me your comments.
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Re: Trip from Chicago IL to Durango CO, and Clinching I-35
« Reply #24 on: June 01, 2021, 02:25:52 AM »

Probably the most difficult part of the route to plan will be from Durango to Laredo to begin the clinch of I-35. What I would prefer for this leg would be a route pretty much out of the way once I get off I-25, so it doesn’t need to be particularly fast, just something with a bit of solitude to it in the ideal. What I also want to do is to make a stop at the I-40 Welcome Center at Glenrio, New Mexico, but without spending too much time on the Interstate.

What I’ve come with is the following. (Click for a link to Google Maps) The basic idea, especially in Texas, is to stay off roads with a high AADT, at least on the whole. Some of them aren’t even marked on the map I found. but if there’s anything that would be better, do let me know. It should at least be paved, though, since, as I mentioned above, high clearance does not go with my car.




« Last Edit: June 01, 2021, 02:29:54 AM by CtrlAltDel »
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