Planning a transcontinental trip

So, I’ve just been accepted into graduate school at Washington State University in Pullman, WA, for astrobiology (yes, astrobiology). Classes start January 10th. Difficulty: I am currently located in northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C. My plan is to drive out there, but I need to know what the best way to get across the country is during this time of year (as I’d like to avoid being snowbound, for example).

Any suggestions from seasoned long distance drivers?

Fly there and ship your car. OK, if you must drive, pay attention to weather forecasts (something European airport operators failed to do this week). I like – very detailed forecasts and easy to use. Traveling in snow country requires four real winter tires – put them on BEFORE you need them. Take supplies – water, food, cash, condoms, blanket, cellphone & charger, laptop, etc.

Enjoy the drive and Happy Holidays!


So far this winter the weather has been bad for much of the area you would traverse. Even a more southern route isn’t immune from problems. I’d drive it, but I’d plan on a lot of extra time to make the trip. Take a few good books. If the weather is bad hold up a day or two in a motel and read the books. Once the storm clears road crews will have them open and passable quickly.

Put “winter wiper blades” on your car. Consider winter tires for the trip. Take some extra water and granola bars in the event you get stuck on the road. Keep the fuel tank at 1/2 full or higher if and when the weather gets nasty. A blanket and pillow you can access is a good idea for a roadside nap.

Check out the cost of shipping the car. With the cost of hotels, food, and fuel you might find it makes sense to ship the car.

Drive as much as you can during daylight hours. Don’t drive in the mountains at night. Don’t drive in a snowstorm at night.

Stick to the interstate highways and slow way down or stop if conditions get slippery or lack visibility.

Any route has the potential for snow. (I had to wait out 8 inches of snow in central Georgia once.) You could add several hundred miles to your trip by going a bit south to use I-40, but even that route will be getting snow this weekend, and you would still have to deal with the mountains in the west.

I echo the comments to leave plenty of time for the trip so you can wait out any serious storms. Also, when you get to decision points, you can use the forecast to decide between alternative routes – I-80 vs. I-90, for example. Watch the forecasts for mountain passes.

Stick to major highways – primarily Interstates. Watch out on exit ramps, which might be icy when the main road is clear, as well as rest stops and parking lots. The right lane might be clearer than the left lane, so let other maniacs go fast.

Keep your washer fluid reservoir full. Have a container of sand and a compact shovel in your trunk. Bring sunglasses.

Have enough food, water, and blankets that you can survive in your car for a couple of days of sub-zero weather if you have to wait for rescue crews to pull you out of a snowbank.

I enjoy a good road trip, so I would probably drive it if I were going. If you are lucky enough to have clear weather and dry roads, you can use the extra days to do a little sightseeing when you get close to your destination.

Don’t worry much about this. Take the freeway and watch the weather forecast. Most of the time you will breeze right through. The freeways must be kept open as well as possible or people will give the road maintainers the heat.

For many years I have traveled across Southern MN on I-90 at least once in the middle winter and have never had to stop for the weather.

It is not impossible, however, that weather can close a freeway. Some entrances to I-90 in MN have gates like you see at railroad crossings to keep you from entering. Then it would be motel time until things clear up a little in less than a day I would normally expect.

Stick to the Interstates, keep state phone numbers handy for checking highway conditions in the states you will travel through, and stay on top of the weather forecasts for the time and area you will be traveling through.

The latter may assure that you don’t meet a bad winter storm head on. My oldest son is a metereologist/climatologist and he’s explained to me that most storm fronts roll through like spokes on a wheel. Try to time the trip between those spokes, assuming there is foul weather present in those areas and at that time.

I-80 is better than I-70 through the Rockies…As everyone said, watch the weather and pick a decent weather window…Motel rooms are hard to get during storms and they triple the rates, so keep ahead of the weather…

Astrobiology…Sounds cool but if the Government won’t hire you, who will??