US Route 2 in Montana, Idaho and Washington

I am about to deliver, from NW Ohio to Seattle, Wash., a '98 Dodge Caravan (94K miles) which had been handicapped modified with a lowered floor pan to accomidate a wheelchair ramp, etc. I want to make this a pleasure trip, so I elect not to use the Interstates when I can. I plan a drive to Northern Michigan then cross North on Rt. 2 thru Minn, ND then Montana,etc. I love the small towns and look for junk the whole way.

Concern at this point is the possibility of a major breakdown on the so-called “back road route” since it is 10+ years old vehicle. I have gone over the engine and tranny from a number of vantage points and all seem well. Of course the brakes, rotors and one CV shaft have been replaced. Once there, I can easily fly back home.

Second choice is to tow the vehicle with my new 2008 Dodge Ram 1500 using a heavy duty tow dolly, which I own and have towed trucks and full sized vans with. I then plan to dismantle the dolly and carry it home in the truck bed, and drive a scenic route thru southern Canada and back around Lake Superior back to Ohio.

Question is how steep are the grades on Route 2 through the named states going thru the Rockies. I went on Goggle Earth and followed the route and it seemed most of the road was either following a railroad or coursing parallel to rivers or streams in the valleys. There were a few passes to cross but they did not appear to be difficult. I didn’t recognize any switchbacks or narrow mountain roads with drop offs.

Third option would be to tow the van with a tow bar instead of the dolly but a few have discouraged this because of “swaying”. I fully realize that I would disconnect the CV shafts from the tranny, which I can do. I am a 55 to 60 mph driver.

I would appreciate any and all comments, suggestions and warnings. No, I will not consider shipping the van because this is a personal gift to a close friend, in need.

Thank you for your consideration of this matter.

RockyDoc aka Dinky Dau, from Viet Nam

God Bless, especially this magnificent gem we live in, THE USA.

I think you should just drive the van across to Seattle. I’ve driven some pretty sketchy cars all over the country and mostly they did just fine. In fact, long leisurely travel is pretty undemanding on a car - lots easier than in the city stop and go. I drove a really beat up 53 Buick over Wolf Creek Pass in 1966 and made it fine. It just takes patience and a sense of humor. Once each day do a really thorough walk around, check all the fluids and so forth, and you’ll be fine. If this was a 2005 with 94K you’d do it without a second thought. Bring a cell phone, a cooler full of beverages, a box of tools and a roll of paper towels, a can of GoJo, some zip ties, and off you go. Enjoy!

Marias Pass where US 2 goes over the continental divide is one of the least steep of the divide crossings, but it is a little windy on the west side. Grade-wise its no problem-- there’s a reason why the major transcontinental rail link goes through there. Taking US2 through northwest Montana and Idaho actually avoids two major passes that you would take on I-90, but it is also somewhat windier and because it meanders far to the north in the panhandle it’s actually quite a bit longer. Another option is once you’re to Kalispell, to cut down on US93 to Montana 200 which is another two lane that also gets you to Spokane with no major passes, but more directly.

As for the Cascade passes, Snoqualmie Pass that I-90 goes over has been extensively regraded including a massive causeway-- it is definitely the easier pass than Stevens Pass that US2 uses. US2 intersects and runs with I-90 through Spokane, so I’d definitely recommend taking I-90 from there (or you can take highway 2 to the town of Davenport and cut down on WA-28 and back to I-90 if you want the maximum two-lane driving but still want to take the good pass).

The high-line (as US-2 is called in Montana) is definitely sparsely populated, but because of the rail link, there’s fairly good-sized agricultural support communities every 50 miles or so that should have a mechanic and tow truck, so I wouldn’t be overly concerned about that. They’re also friendly folks up there-- people will stop for you if you’re broken down!

Good Luck!

I have used 2 headed east from Spokane and I would not be concerned with the grade. What I am troubled with is your plan to remove the axel-shafts. This job is just not a simple disconnect and then you will have to find some way to plug up the trans/diff for transport. Scratch any thought of doing this off your list

Oldschool/GreasyJack/WentWest: I want to thank you all for your comments and suggestions, they were much appreciated and noted. With the sudden surge upward of the fuel prices, I am now much more inclined to drive the van and enjoy the scenery without the apprehension of the tow behind me. With almost 95% assurance that there will not be a break down enroute, my plan is to have my pick-up on stand by with the tow dolly dismantled and packed up ready to come rescue me if need be. I will have a close friend ready to come and bail me out if this happens on the Eastern 2/3 of the trip. My friend in Seattle will respond with his son’s truck and a trailer for Idaho, and Washington.

Thanks Again…don’t forget to Remember the Forgotten on Memorial Day
God Bless

Interesting, wentwest. I drove my old '53 Chevrolet with newly installed rebuilt engine and transmission, from the Midwest to Fort Lewis, in late 1964. Late December, and very cold out there. It scared the stuffing out of my parents when I took off with that old car, with only a few miles on the rebuilt stuff, but it went without a hitch.

The only thing I would add is DOUBLE CHECK THE BELTS; HOSES; AND TIRES. I once encountered a woman on I-35 in south Oklahoma, with a busted van. She was told by mechanics it was okay to drive, but the hoses fell apart north of Fort Worth, and the belts were also terrible.

I agree a car does not take much abuse at moderate speeds on the Interstate. True, anything can happen at any time, but most cars will go a long ways on the highway at moderate speeds.

I envy you. I haven’t been west since 1966, except for the Yellowstone Trip from Hell in 1985 with my family. It was something like that comedy movie where they had the grandma deceased in her rocking chair on the car roof, I forget the name. Those mountains were absolutely beautiful.

Edited: National Lampoon’s Vacation. We had almost everything but grandma on the roof. What a disaster!

Yeah, drive easy, the car will let you know if you listen to it. Odds are good it will be a great trip, something to remember a long time.

This isn’t car stuff, but if you don’t have a good digital camera with plenty of memory on this trip, you are going to cry a lot. I just bought an A470 Canon at Wal-mart for $80, down from $120, but you need a 1GB or 2GB card to add, should be good for hundreds of pictures. The A-460 cost us $120 a couple years ago, the A470 is an upgraded version, prices have really come down. My wife is going to Europe in a month or so,thus we needed a second digital.

Not to push my favorite model, and no, I do not work for Wal-mart nor Canon, but that is a good price right now. If you have a digital, any that suits you will be fine. Just reminding you in case you weren’t thinking about cameras for the trip.