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Author Topic: San Francisco to Tampa  (Read 7207 times)

briantroutman

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San Francisco to Tampa
« on: November 04, 2015, 09:32:42 PM »

After about five years of living in the Golden State, Iím moving to a different ďbay areaĒ óTampa. As a result, Iíll have the opportunity to drive between here and there twice in two consecutive weeks this month, and Iím open to input from the community.

For the first trip, Iíll be driving a truck (albeit a manageable, compact box truck, likely on a cutaway van chassis). Time and fuel efficiency will be of the essence. According to Google Maps, both the middle and southern routes shown below are close to the same driving time.



Iím inclined to favor the southern option for a few reasons. Outside of LA, Palm Springs, Houston, and some of the Gulf Coast, Iíve driven very little of I-10, and this would give me an opportunity to see nearly the entirety of it from coast to coast. On the other hand, Iíve driven much of the middle route multiple times. The southern route also avoids the non-Interstate connections from Amarillo to DFW and Jackson to Mobile.

Because of time considerations, Iíll be making 12-13-hour driving days each day. Leaving on a Friday morning, current estimated overnight stops will be Tuscon (Fri.), San Antonio (Sat.), and then somewhere between Pensacola and Tallahassee on Sunday.

Have I failed to consider anything (terrain, traffic, major construction, etc.)? Will I regret taking I-10 straight through San Antonio, Houston, and New Orleans for the sake of completeness?

On the second trip, Iíll be driving my own car, so terrain is less of a concern, and my timetable isnít as strained either, so a slightly longer route that eats up a few more hours isnít as much of a problem. (I still wonít have time for sightseeing, though.) Assuming that I cross the Rockies on either I-80 or I-40, the rest of it comes down to the details of how I work my way through the Plains, Ozarks and Deep South en route to I-75. What do you suggest?
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oscar

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Re: San Francisco to Tampa
« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2015, 09:56:12 PM »

You'll be doing some night driving no matter what, but eastbound you'll be doing more of it just from losing an hour of daylight each day as you cross three time zones. That is something that always trips me up, even after more than a dozen cross-country trips (mainly in the summer).

As for the middle route, US 287 from Amarillo to DFW is pretty fast for a non-Interstate, and you might also consider taking I-49 from I-20 to I-10 to reduce the non-Interstate mileage. But weather is more likely to be an issue along the higher-elevation I-40 than I-10.

A lot of 80 mph speed limits on I-10 in west Texas, hope your box truck will be up to it. If it isn't, traffic will be light enough that you can go as fast as you can in the right lane with no problems.
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Brian556

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Re: San Francisco to Tampa
« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2015, 10:20:30 PM »

Hotel rooms are often all occupied in the FL Panhandle, but I would think that's mostly a summer problem. It's about 5.5 Hours from Pensacola to I-75, and it's a long, boring drive.

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Alex

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Re: San Francisco to Tampa
« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2015, 11:03:28 PM »

Keep in mind you will encounter a border patrol checkpoint on IH 10 in West Texas. Don't know if driving a box truck might lead to a search but at least you will know the stop is there.

I did a similar drive back in 2006 from San Diego to Tampa via I-8 and I-10 with a loop south on I-55 from I-12 to see how NOLA was faring five months after Katrina. Left early morning from SD and got to Las Cruces after night fall, that with a foray down to Nogales to clinch I-19. Took all day and part of the night to get to Houston. I did clinch IH 110 and drove part of US 54 though. Gassed up more often in west Texas to make sure I wasn't running low on a long serviceless stretch. I also kept my speed lower to stretch the mileage too. Houston to Mobile can be busy, especially through Baton Rouge and along I-12. The rest is a breeze though mostly uneventful outside of Pensacola.

briantroutman

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Re: San Francisco to Tampa
« Reply #4 on: November 05, 2015, 12:28:24 AM »

You'll be doing some night driving no matter what, but eastbound you'll be doing more of it just from losing an hour of daylight each day as you cross three time zones.

I realize that I didnít specify in my original post, but both trips will be eastbound. With one time zone shift each driving day, Iíll be leaving one hotel around 9 a.m. and arriving at the next around 11 p.m. At this time of year, probably a third of my total driving time each day will be in darkness.


A lot of 80 mph speed limits on I-10 in west Texas, hope your box truck will be up to it. If it isn't, traffic will be light enough that you can go as fast as you can in the right lane with no problems.

I doubt Iíd want to push much past 65 out of concern for fuel economy. And unfortunately, the rental companiesí trucks are largely built on outdated GM and Ford van chassis with gasoline engines that get mediocre economy even in good circumstances. Hopefully I can settle in behind a speed-governed tractor trailer and cruise most of the day.


Hotel rooms are often all occupied in the FL Panhandle, but I would think that's mostly a summer problem. It's about 5.5 Hours from Pensacola to I-75, and it's a long, boring drive.

Sticking to the Marriott portfolio (Iím a Marriott Rewards member), I havenít had difficulty finding availability around Pensacola, Marianna, and Tallahassee. Unfortunately, that last stretch on I-10 in Florida will likely be included in whatever route I take unless Iím taking I-75 through Atlanta, which Iím assuming would not be advisable.


Keep in mind you will encounter a border patrol checkpoint on IH 10 in West Texas. Don't know if driving a box truck might lead to a search but at least you will know the stop is there.

I should have known about this before now but had no idea. Reading through old threads (and postings on other sites) Iím getting conflicting reports: Some seem to suggest that the agents practically wave you through; others report that theyíve been detained for many minutes if not hours. Obviously your attitude with the patrol agents, your appearance, the circumstances, etc. will be a major determining factor in your experience.

But this raises a big red flag for me. I certainly donít want to be stopped for hours as agents throw boxes of my personal belongings into the dust on the shoulder of I-10 while they search for the drugs that I donít have. Do you think driving a rented truck will be tantamount to saying ďPlease detain and search meĒ? As much as Iíd really like to do the I-10 route, this might be enough of a motivation for me to take I-40 yet again.
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formulanone

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Re: San Francisco to Tampa
« Reply #5 on: November 05, 2015, 07:02:26 AM »

You will also encounter a checkpoint by the Florida Commission of Agriculture. They want everything larger than a van to stop, and you are required to pull over towards what might have been an old weigh station, while an officer does a walkaround, and will ask you to open the back door of the vehicle. I think they only perform the checks as you leave Florida. Not sure from your post if you're needing to drive back with the truck, but you might get stopped anyhow. If so, the search took us about 3-5 minutes.

If you go through New Orleans between 9-3pm, you should be okay skipping I-12. There's also some very long bridges between Baton Rouge and Lafayette which might feel a bit narrow, and a Baton Rouge rush hour along I-10 between I-110 towards US 61 will also be an annoyance (I-10 drops to one thru eastbound lane around I-110).
« Last Edit: November 05, 2015, 07:08:18 AM by formulanone »
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Alex

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Re: San Francisco to Tampa
« Reply #6 on: November 05, 2015, 08:20:51 AM »


Keep in mind you will encounter a border patrol checkpoint on IH 10 in West Texas. Don't know if driving a box truck might lead to a search but at least you will know the stop is there.

I should have known about this before now but had no idea. Reading through old threads (and postings on other sites) Iím getting conflicting reports: Some seem to suggest that the agents practically wave you through; others report that theyíve been detained for many minutes if not hours. Obviously your attitude with the patrol agents, your appearance, the circumstances, etc. will be a major determining factor in your experience.

But this raises a big red flag for me. I certainly donít want to be stopped for hours as agents throw boxes of my personal belongings into the dust on the shoulder of I-10 while they search for the drugs that I donít have. Do you think driving a rented truck will be tantamount to saying ďPlease detain and search meĒ? As much as Iíd really like to do the I-10 route, this might be enough of a motivation for me to take I-40 yet again.

I was in a Dodge Avenger packed with my things and drove through four border patrol checkpoints on that cross country trip. The ones on I-19 and Texas simply waved me through, and I was asked quick questions at the ones on I-8 in California and Arizona. I have gone through ones in south Texas without anything but a wave through as well. So you may be OK with the Sierra Blanca one.

You will also encounter a checkpoint by the Florida Commission of Agriculture. They want everything larger than a van to stop, and you are required to pull over towards what might have been an old weigh station, while an officer does a walkaround, and will ask you to open the back door of the vehicle. I think they only perform the checks as you leave Florida. Not sure from your post if you're needing to drive back with the truck, but you might get stopped anyhow. If so, the search took us about 3-5 minutes.

Good point by formulanone, as you will be required to stop at the Agricultural Inspection Stations in Florida in the rented truck. They do check regardless of direction of travel too, and as formulanone wrote, it involves a quick check including opening of the back door.

There is one just east of the Alabama state line on I-10, and another eastbound between Exits 262 and 275. I-75 also has one in operation southbound between Exits 451 and 439.

You do not have to stop at the weigh stations however.

Rothman

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Re: San Francisco to Tampa
« Reply #7 on: November 05, 2015, 08:55:33 AM »

Went through that checkpoint in a packed-to-the-brim Nissan Versa hatchback (:D) as well -- no problems. :D
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Re: San Francisco to Tampa
« Reply #8 on: November 05, 2015, 04:10:57 PM »

Actually, it is possible to stretch the first part. I'd say go for it to stop in El Paso. It's 300 miles, but that should complete more than a third of your trip. Your second day, I'd say you can stretch it again to stop in Baton Rouge or New Orleans. That should complete just over three-fourths of your trip. Last day I'd say you can stretch it to just go all out and make it to Tampa without stopping. That'd make driving times each day 17 hours, 15 hours, and 9 hours respectively.
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Re: San Francisco to Tampa
« Reply #9 on: November 05, 2015, 04:37:30 PM »

Once in a while there are weather problems up to and including closure on I-40 through Arizona.  Not very often, but it can happen.
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Re: San Francisco to Tampa
« Reply #10 on: November 05, 2015, 06:44:41 PM »

I think they only perform the checks as you leave Florida.

If it's anything like California's agriculture checkpoints (which I'm sure Mr Troutman is familar with), they perform them when you enter into the state to prevent unwanted fruit from entering.
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flaroads

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Re: San Francisco to Tampa
« Reply #11 on: November 05, 2015, 08:37:32 PM »

Quote from: Alex
Good point by formulanone, as you will be required to stop at the Agricultural Inspection Stations in Florida in the rented truck. They do check regardless of direction of travel too, and as formulanone wrote, it involves a quick check including opening of the back door.

There is one just east of the Alabama state line on I-10, and another eastbound between Exits 262 and 275.

I stopped at the one on eastbound I-10 (between Exits 262 and 275) back in 2013 on a move to the Tampa area and it was a fairly simple endevavor. They just asked where I was coming from/going and for my driver's license. I did have to open the back which was also painless. All in all it took about 3-5 minutes.

I will say though I was more prepared from when I moved to the panhandle, as I did not stop at one on U.S. 90 (just east of the Suwannee River between Madison and Live Oak). I was never told by the truck rental company that you had to stop at the agriculture stations and I had never moved far enough to ever use one. The entrance drive was coned off when I drove by so I continued on only to have one of the officers chase me down. Apparently it wasn't closed and he did get somewhat annoyed when I pointed out that his cones were blocking the station drive, so I wouldn't have been able to enter anyway. Though I was a bit of a smart ass about his cones, he still let me go with a warning.
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Re: San Francisco to Tampa
« Reply #12 on: November 05, 2015, 10:22:50 PM »

Once in a while there are weather problems up to and including closure on I-40 through Arizona.  Not very often, but it can happen.


I believe I saw on the news last night that Flagstaff got a fairly decent amount of snow yesterday. Not enough to close the highway, but a lot more than would be expected this early in the season. Just something to note.
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briantroutman

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Re: San Francisco to Tampa
« Reply #13 on: November 06, 2015, 02:56:24 AM »

Yes, I am familiar with the agricultural inspection stations in California, and if my experience in Florida is similar, Iíll get a quick ďAre you carrying any fresh fruits, flowers, plants, seeds...Ē, although in a truck it appears Iíll have to get out and open the back, tooónot a major problem. And no matter what cross-country route I take, the Florida ag. inspection stations are almost unavoidable, so I suppose thereís little point in worrying about them.

I was more concerned about the border patrol checkpoints on I-10 in NM and TX, but the more I read, the less worried I become. It seems like a simple matter of answering ďyes, Iím a citizenĒ, having a dog sniff around the vehicle, and perhaps opening the back of the truck. Iím actually more concerned with the prospect of being delayed just because of traffic volume through the checkpoint. Do they get backed up anything like the busier border crossings do? Iíve lost many minutes if not an hour crossing the US/Canada border before.

Then thereís also the question of rental trucks and weigh stations. It appears that CA and FL require rented trucks to stop, but the remainder of the states along I-10 donít require it. Does anyone have any information that contradicts that?
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Alex

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Re: San Francisco to Tampa
« Reply #14 on: November 06, 2015, 09:47:04 AM »

Yes, I am familiar with the agricultural inspection stations in California, and if my experience in Florida is similar, Iíll get a quick ďAre you carrying any fresh fruits, flowers, plants, seeds...Ē, although in a truck it appears Iíll have to get out and open the back, tooónot a major problem. And no matter what cross-country route I take, the Florida ag. inspection stations are almost unavoidable, so I suppose thereís little point in worrying about them.

I was more concerned about the border patrol checkpoints on I-10 in NM and TX, but the more I read, the less worried I become. It seems like a simple matter of answering ďyes, Iím a citizenĒ, having a dog sniff around the vehicle, and perhaps opening the back of the truck. Iím actually more concerned with the prospect of being delayed just because of traffic volume through the checkpoint. Do they get backed up anything like the busier border crossings do? Iíve lost many minutes if not an hour crossing the US/Canada border before.

Then thereís also the question of rental trucks and weigh stations. It appears that CA and FL require rented trucks to stop, but the remainder of the states along I-10 donít require it. Does anyone have any information that contradicts that?

The only border patrol checkpoints I ever had delays with were the ones on Interstate 8 east of San Diego and Interstate 5 at Camp Pendleton. The rest were just a minute or two in the queue.

You do not have to stop at the truck weigh stations in Florida in a rented box truck. Flaroads can confirm that.

formulanone

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Re: San Francisco to Tampa
« Reply #15 on: November 10, 2015, 02:18:27 PM »

The only border patrol checkpoints I ever had delays with were the ones on Interstate 8 east of San Diego and Interstate 5 at Camp Pendleton. The rest were just a minute or two in the queue.

You do not have to stop at the truck weigh stations in Florida in a rented box truck. Flaroads can confirm that.

I had to on my way out of Florida on I-75 northbound; 'twas a 26-foot Penske box truck. In fact, a second Penske truck and a U-Haul also stopped with us (they weren't with us) at nearly the same time.

Has the law changed since October 2013?

flaroads

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Re: San Francisco to Tampa
« Reply #16 on: November 11, 2015, 09:13:52 AM »

I had to on my way out of Florida on I-75 northbound; 'twas a 26-foot Penske box truck. In fact, a second Penske truck and a U-Haul also stopped with us (they weren't with us) at nearly the same time.

Has the law changed since October 2013?

Well I used a 16-foot moving truck (also from Penske) when we moved back to the peninsula back in May 2013 and distinctly remembered driving by the weigh station south of Ocala (near the Marion/Sumter county line) without stopping or any sort of incident with the law after the fact.

According to the AAA Digest of Motor Laws website, in Florida all vehicles (including trailers) that could be used in the transportation, production, manufacture of agricultural, horticultural or live stock product must stop at weigh stations, with the exception of passenger vehicles with no trailer in tow, travel and camping trailers, and motor homes. Any commercial vehicle with a gross weight rate (GWR) of 10,000 pounds or more must also stop.

I do not recall what the GWR was for my rental truck, and from looking at a few websites, it varies between 8,000 and 11,500 pounds.

I also cannot remember directly if I inquired about weigh stations when I rented the truck, but I'm sure I would have given I had an issue before. All I can say is I must have been fine in not stopping due to the smaller size of my truck (as compared to formulanone), or I got away with not having to stop.

My advise would be to inquire when renting the truck or err on the side of caution and just stop at the weigh stations. It might take a bit more time but save you the hassle of getting a warning or citation. By the way, the link above does reference every state and their requirements for stopping at weigh stations.
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Re: San Francisco to Tampa
« Reply #17 on: November 11, 2015, 09:28:19 AM »

If you arrive in Baton Rouge between 3:30 pm to 6:30 pm on a weekday, expect major delays, or traffic grinding to a halt.
I-10 eastbound here is a major bottle neck and accidents are frequent.
A poorly 1960's designed freeway which has never been upgraded exist.
You could also have issues on the I-10 Atchafalaya basin causeway to the west of Baton Rouge, especially in bad weather.
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Re: San Francisco to Tampa
« Reply #18 on: November 16, 2015, 11:43:00 AM »

Thanks, everyone, for all of the advice and suggestions.

We left later than expected, so instead of our planned stops of Tuscon, San Antonio, and Pensacola, we instead made it only as far as San Bernardino, El Paso, and Lafayette as of last night.

Passing the checkpoint at Sierra Blanca proved to be a non-event. We crept through at about 5 mph, but nearly everyone (cars and trucks) was simply waived through without agents uttering a word. The only vehicle I saw stopped was some guy in a Toyota Sienna pulling a U-Haul traileróhe was digging through the back with agents looking on. I was surprised, though, by the literally dozens of cameras trained on each lane from every imaginable angle. Iím sure theyíre using facial recognition and similar technologies to look for fugitives and various wanted people.

The worst part of the trip has been the fuel economy Iím getting from the Ford E-350 box truck. Being as careful as possible, Iíve barely cracked 10 MPG, and in the whipping winds of West Texas yesterday, it sunk as low as 8.4.
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Alex

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Re: San Francisco to Tampa
« Reply #19 on: December 02, 2015, 09:08:50 AM »

So how did you make out on the last day's drive?

briantroutman

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Re: San Francisco to Tampa
« Reply #20 on: December 09, 2015, 11:25:18 AM »

Ohójust now seeing this.

The last day was fairly uneventfulódriving from Lafayette to Tampa. I stayed on I-10 through New Orleans for completeness, and that did result in some traffic delays through New Orleans, although the worst of it was through Slidell where the combination of a lane closure near the I-10/I-12 junction and the evening rush traffic made for some pretty miserable going.

The Florida agricultural inspection stations were no problem. A few brief questions and we were back on our way; they didnít make us open up the truck or anything like that. I havenít been through many weigh stations, but Floridaís seem particularly interesting. The entrance ramp splits a few times, and at each gore, thereís a variable green arrow/red X marker over each lane that illuminates as you approach. At each split, the left direction is a bypass to the exit and the right is like being kicked up to a higher level of screening.
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Re: San Francisco to Tampa
« Reply #21 on: April 18, 2016, 10:24:35 PM »

I used to drive trucks for a little while, 65-68 mph will yield decent MPG on the highway.
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