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Author Topic: Winter road trips  (Read 2215 times)

TheHighwayMan394

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Winter road trips
« on: September 19, 2018, 03:50:16 AM »

I've never been on a major trip during winter. I'm thinking about one this year because I want to see other regions' holiday spirit and celebrations.

Aside from the obvious (emergency kit, etc.) stuff, I was wondering about people's experiences doing so. Here are my concerns:

1. Weather, obviously.

2. Limited daylight, meaning using as much of it as possible for driving time is essential and possibly meaning shorter time on the road as a result.
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froggie

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Re: Winter road trips
« Reply #1 on: September 19, 2018, 06:26:33 AM »

Regarding #2 and your stated goals, you'll want to do at least SOME driving at night as you're obviously not going to be able to fully appreciate Christmas light displays during the daytime.
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Brandon

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Re: Winter road trips
« Reply #2 on: September 19, 2018, 09:19:57 AM »

Regarding #2 and your stated goals, you'll want to do at least SOME driving at night as you're obviously not going to be able to fully appreciate Christmas light displays during the daytime.

That only works before December 25.  If you're road tripping in January or February, not so much.
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Re: Winter road trips
« Reply #3 on: September 19, 2018, 10:01:44 AM »

1. Weather, obviously.

If planning on going in December around Christmas, you'll see most winter storms out west (Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, North and South Dakotas, Nebraska). If traveling in January or February, you'll see more winter storms in the Midwest and Northeast (in addition to the West)

jemacedo9

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Re: Winter road trips
« Reply #4 on: September 19, 2018, 10:04:22 AM »

1. Weather, obviously.

If planning on going in December around Christmas, you'll see most winter storms out west (Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, North and South Dakotas, Nebraska). If traveling in January or February, you'll see more winter storms in the Midwest and Northeast (in addition to the West)

The Great Lakes area (Michigan, Ohio, NY, upper New England) can still get some significant Lake Effect storms in Dec.
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frankenroad

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Re: Winter road trips
« Reply #5 on: September 19, 2018, 12:44:14 PM »

For about 12 years starting in the early 1990s, we would travel from Cincinnati to spend New Years with relatives in Western Mass/Southern Vermont.  I can think of four years when weather had a severe impact on our trip, usually on the return trip.   Sometimes we were able to avoid most of the weather by taking a longer, more southerly route, but at some point you either have to cross the mountains and/or drive close to the Lake Erie & Ontario shorelines.

We learned a valuable trick one year.   Our plan was to leave at 6 AM and arrive in Vt. around 9 PM.   About 8 PM the night before, I checked the Weather Channel and saw that a major storm was headed east across upstate NY the next day.   So, we quickly packed and put the kids (who were about 5 & 8 at the time) in the car and left about 10 PM.   We arrived at my sister-in-law's house in Vermont early the next afternoon, just ahead of the snow.   Ever since that year, we would always leave about 10-11 PM; we found the kids would sleep a good 8 hours and the drive was much more pleasant for all concerned.  That worked for us for many years for both our summer and winter trips to New England. 
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vdeane

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Re: Winter road trips
« Reply #6 on: September 19, 2018, 01:20:12 PM »

I've taken clinching daytrips in the winter three day weekends before.  I've found that they work well when snow doesn't interfere; with a lull in both roadmeets and family gatherings in both January and February, it makes sense to take a couple trips tied to neither if weather allows.  I wouldn't want to do anything that couldn't be easily cancelled, though.  It seems like February is the most likely month of have a snow storm pop up, at least around here, though they can happen at any time of the season, especially areas that regularly get significant lake effect.
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webny99

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Re: Winter road trips
« Reply #7 on: September 19, 2018, 02:28:35 PM »

1. Weather, obviously.
2. Limited daylight, meaning using as much of it as possible for driving time is essential and possibly meaning shorter time on the road as a result.

Head south, and both of your concerns will dissipate before your eyes as you go  :D

It seems like February is the most likely month of have a snow storm pop up, at least around here, though they can happen at any time of the season, especially areas that regularly get significant lake effect.

I would put about even money on February and March, as far as the chances of a large snowstorm. There seems to have been a lot of March snowstorms in recent winters, although it can vary quite a bit from one area to another.

And March has approximately equal daylight to September, so there's that. It's only (relatively) early on in the winter that daylight is lacking; early December to mid-January is the only time frame when both weather conditions and daylight are at a low.

Lake Erie is known for producing incredible November snowstorms, but the Lake Ontario machine takes considerably longer to start producing. The vast majority of yearly snowfall, at least from Rochester east, occurs after New Years.
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AsphaltPlanet

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Re: Winter road trips
« Reply #8 on: September 19, 2018, 02:43:45 PM »

I tend not to do too many roadtrips in the winter, but for the last few years I have done a trip in early November (and will be doing so again this year down in Texas).  The biggest issue that I find is the annoyance of short days.  Typically I try and plan my days around the places that I want to see, and then try to plan for driving between destinations at night. 

So for example, this year in November, I am going to fly into Dallas on a Saturday, and then spend Saturday during daylight hours driving and photographing the Dallas area freeway network.  Then as dark falls, I'll drive to Houston, and spend the night.  I then get Houston in daylight on Sunday morning (deliberately in order to enjoy a Sunday morning on the freeway network), and then drive down towards Brownsville on Sunday night after daylight hours... ect.

The shorter days are doable, you just have to give some thought to how you want to plan your days.
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: Winter road trips
« Reply #9 on: September 19, 2018, 07:57:57 PM »

Generally I try to avoid most elevations above 4,000 feet because of chain control areas.  That said, I've found the Colorado Plateau Region to be at it's best during the winter months given it is largely devoid of people and has very little long term snow concerns.

vdeane

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Re: Winter road trips
« Reply #10 on: September 19, 2018, 08:15:33 PM »

Yeah, I forgot to comment on daylight.  I generally aim to not be driving more than 8-9 hours anyways, and most things I'm looking to clinch are an hour and a half drive away anyways, shortening the amount of daylight I need even more.  I do aim to leave earlier and not dawdle too much on lunch for winter trips, though.

There certainly have been some snowstorms in March, though February still seems bigger.  Maybe it's because that's when President's Day is, and March has no natural three day weekends, so that's when I would have been looking for good weather outside the Albany area (seriously, I live in a snow desert here; in just about any storm, drive half an hour in any direction, and snowfall totals increase by 50% or more).  Maybe it's because there have been at least a couple winters where every single Monday in February saw a nor'easter pass over Albany.
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froggie

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Re: Winter road trips
« Reply #11 on: September 19, 2018, 08:31:41 PM »

Regarding #2 and your stated goals, you'll want to do at least SOME driving at night as you're obviously not going to be able to fully appreciate Christmas light displays during the daytime.

That only works before December 25.  If you're road tripping in January or February, not so much.

He specified that he wanted to "see other regions' holiday spirit and celebration."
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Rothman

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Re: Winter road trips
« Reply #12 on: September 19, 2018, 08:56:37 PM »

I do take winter road trips from time to time.

One that comes to mind is that we headed out to MI, down to KY and back here to NY.  On the way back, lake effect snow hit Buffalo, so we tried to duck south on I-80 and come up I-88, but the snow extended east and hit south of Oneonta.  Followed a plow and then had to creep up the highway and luckily we got out of the storm eventually. 

Weather just slows you down and I find that the biggest risk.
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paulthemapguy

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Re: Winter road trips
« Reply #13 on: September 20, 2018, 09:46:33 AM »

Weather just slows you down and I find that the biggest risk.

And by "slows you down" he means that your travel time is doubled, if not more than doubled.
And by "biggest risk" he means "biggest risk out of those that are guaranteed to happen."  Other risks not guaranteed to happen are sliding off the road, sliding into other cars, other cars sliding into you, other sliding caused by black ice or slippery surfaces hidden beneath the snow, your car failing to start, snow blowing onto the road, dangerously low visibility...

With all that said, a winter road trip can still be a perfectly good time--just check the weather forecast beforehand and don't be afraid to cancel if there's a winter storm!
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Re: Winter road trips
« Reply #14 on: September 20, 2018, 11:42:09 AM »

February still seems bigger.  Maybe it's because that's when President's Day is, and March has no natural three day weekends,

Some of us don't get any three-day weekends at all between New Years and Memorial Day. Must be nice.
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hbelkins

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Re: Winter road trips
« Reply #15 on: September 20, 2018, 12:50:10 PM »

Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge/Sevierville put up lights well before Thanksgiving, and leave them up after Christmas. In fact, they used to add Valentine-themed lights for February.
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doorknob60

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Re: Winter road trips
« Reply #16 on: September 20, 2018, 06:25:18 PM »

I've done Boise to Idaho Falls to Vegas and back, one trip Boise to SLC and back, and a few trips Boise to Seaside and back, all in December. It's generally all went well, though definitely have narrowly avoided some bad weather. Ended up using WA-14 instead of I-84 on the way back to avoid bad road conditions (the north side of the gorge gets more sun, and less vehicles; the way there was a bit scary). The trips to/through Utah have all been very smooth, but I have been within days of hitting very bad weather on them (as in, if my trip was 2 days later, roads would have been closed or would have to drive half the speed limit level bad), so also I was lucky. I'll probably do more winter trips (especially since they are often to see family for holidays, or to escape cold weather), but they are not always ideal. They're fun as long as the roads are good.

I have done night driving in winter, but only from ~St George, UT to Las Vegas on the way in (left Idaho Falls in the morning, started getting dark around then), and Las Vegas to Ely, NV on the way back (left Vegas around sunset). So for the most part (until approaching Ely), in warmer/drier areas. Definitely would try to avoid it as much as is realistic.
« Last Edit: September 20, 2018, 06:27:51 PM by doorknob60 »
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D-Dey65

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Re: Winter road trips
« Reply #17 on: September 21, 2018, 11:10:28 PM »

The closest I've come was March 2017, and by that time I hadn't done any winter driving in over a decade. Unfortunately, I had the lower quarter of my car buried in snow which became ice! It was a pain in the ass getting a front-wheel drive Toyota Camry out of that crap, especially when you're surrounded by a block mainly of SUV's and vans. I though my tires were all-weather tires too, but looking back, I should've bought a set of chains for the thing. Luckily, I'm one of the few drivers in Florida who carries an ice scraper for my windshield.

When I lived on Long Island though, I drove in the winter plenty of times.

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Rothman

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Re: Winter road trips
« Reply #18 on: September 23, 2018, 08:37:48 AM »

February still seems bigger.  Maybe it's because that's when President's Day is, and March has no natural three day weekends,

Some of us don't get any three-day weekends at all between New Years and Memorial Day. Must be nice.
Unionize.
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D-Dey65

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Re: Winter road trips
« Reply #19 on: September 23, 2018, 11:43:06 PM »

Do any of the service areas along I-95 north of DC sell snow chains in the winter? Because it seems like they should.

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oscar

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Re: Winter road trips
« Reply #20 on: September 24, 2018, 12:19:37 AM »

Do any of the service areas along I-95 north of DC sell snow chains in the winter? Because it seems like they should.

Wouldn't they need to stock as many sizes of tire chains as there are tires (at least the popular sizes)?

I think some of the New Jersey Turnpike service areas have repair facilities large enough to stock a variety of the most popular tire sizes, for emergency replacements of tires damaged beyond repair. It might be manageable for them to stock matching tire chains. But I don't know if they indeed stock chains.

Besides, drivers' skill in properly installing and removing chains is, uh, uneven. (I didn't learn how to do it until I bought my own set online for a pickup truck I once owned, ahead of some planned winter mountain driving. Of course, in my local area I've never had to use chains except for practice.) If the snow is so deep, or falling faster than snowplows can clear it, that chains are needed, probably best to close the highway altogether to drivers who don't already have their own chains and know how to use them.
« Last Edit: September 24, 2018, 12:55:26 AM by oscar »
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webny99

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Re: Winter road trips
« Reply #21 on: September 24, 2018, 08:47:16 AM »

February still seems bigger.  Maybe it's because that's when President's Day is, and March has no natural three day weekends,
Some of us don't get any three-day weekends at all between New Years and Memorial Day. Must be nice.
Unionize.

Heck no  ;-)
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Rothman

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Re: Winter road trips
« Reply #22 on: September 24, 2018, 08:51:14 AM »

February still seems bigger.  Maybe it's because that's when President's Day is, and March has no natural three day weekends,
Some of us don't get any three-day weekends at all between New Years and Memorial Day. Must be nice.
Unionize.

Heck no  ;-)
Then enjoy not having as many days off.
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webny99

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Re: Winter road trips
« Reply #23 on: September 24, 2018, 08:54:42 AM »

February still seems bigger.  Maybe it's because that's when President's Day is, and March has no natural three day weekends,
Some of us don't get any three-day weekends at all between New Years and Memorial Day. Must be nice.
Unionize.
Heck no  ;-)
Then enjoy not having as many days off.

I get enough other perks, PTO and such, that I think I can handle it, despite my grumblings.
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Rothman

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Re: Winter road trips
« Reply #24 on: September 24, 2018, 08:58:28 AM »

February still seems bigger.  Maybe it's because that's when President's Day is, and March has no natural three day weekends,
Some of us don't get any three-day weekends at all between New Years and Memorial Day. Must be nice.
Unionize.
Heck no  ;-)
Then enjoy not having as many days off.

I get enough other perks, PTO and such, that I think I can handle it, despite my grumblings.
"These walls are funny...Enough time passes, gets so you depend on them."

Suit yourself.  Don't see why one would settle for less, however.
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