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Swadian Hardcore

Best route Minneapolis to Reno in winter

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Me and a friend need to drive a bus from Minnesota and were wondering what might be a nice route to take home to Reno. Want a safe winter route, but wouldn't mind some scenery. Don't like staying on Interstate all the time. Got any ideas?

Edited by Swadian Hardcore

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I am assuming you are driving an older bus?

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Why not follow the Great River Road down the Mississippi River towards St Louis. Get out of the bad winter weather and it's super scenic supposedly. Then head west from St Louis or Memphis.

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If you're trying to avoid winter weather, it'll be easier to base your route close-in based on expected 1-3 day forecasts versus finding a route far in advance that's less likely to have snow. While there are definitely routes that are more likely than others to get snow, you'll be best served by being flexible on a routing and deciding whether it's better to head due west or due south based on forecasted winter weather.

In general, you're better heading due south out of Minnesota instead of due west in terms of missing winter weather/road closures in the Midwest. However, my gut feeling is that it'd be easier to cross the mountains on a more northerly track via Wyoming instead of a southerly track via Colorado. If going through Nebraska and having some time, I'd suggest going via US-30 vs. I-80. It's still Nebraska, but it at least goes through most of the towns directly and follows the railroad tracks, leading to a bit more interesting drive than I-80. It's also close enough to I-80 that if the weather isn't great or you need to stop for the evening it's easy to get to the amenities that an interstate route offers.

If weather allows, US-212 through South Dakota isn't bad either, though it's still not extremely interesting. It's more remote than I-90, though, and so I wouldn't do it unless the weather is good. The Great River Road is very scenic, but adds quite a few miles and pretty windy for a motorcoach. I also don't think you'd get any more advantage on winter weather than going generally due south over the prairie.

If I was making the drive, and the forecast allowed, I'd probably do I-35 (or US-71 or whatever's fastest) down to US-30 in Iowa. I'd then take US-30 west through Iowa and Nebraska, then take I-80 through the mountains to Utah. From there I'm not sure whether I-80 is better or dipping down to US-6/US-50 is better; I haven't taken either way via road and so I'm not sure which is better. (I haven't taken the Wyoming route either, but I remember going through Colorado being potentially treacherous in bad winter weather, so a northerly route seems easier.)

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1 hour ago, jebr said:

However, my gut feeling is that it'd be easier to cross the mountains on a more northerly track via Wyoming instead of a southerly track via Colorado.

This is excellent advice.  Driving in a non-blizzard amount snow is really not a big deal if you are on flat ground.  You just drive more slowly. 

But sustained inclines and declines are a whole different story.  You also get much worse weather the higher up you go.  I-80 reaches a maximum elevation of 8,600 feet.  I-70 has a maximum elevation of 11,158 feet with essentially three different passes that must be navigated.  (Evergreen, Eisenhower and Vail)  

I would be flexible and keep an eye on the weather.  But all things being equal, I'd rather be on I-80 than I-70 in the winter.

 

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15 hours ago, BuffaloBoy said:

I am assuming you are driving an older bus?

Yeah, since I'm well-known for hating new buses...:lol:

7 hours ago, Seaboard92 said:

Why not follow the Great River Road down the Mississippi River towards St Louis. Get out of the bad winter weather and it's super scenic supposedly. Then head west from St Louis or Memphis.

Not sure. I'm going with a driver and he doesn't want to take too long.

2 hours ago, jebr said:

If you're trying to avoid winter weather, it'll be easier to base your route close-in based on expected 1-3 day forecasts versus finding a route far in advance that's less likely to have snow. While there are definitely routes that are more likely than others to get snow, you'll be best served by being flexible on a routing and deciding whether it's better to head due west or due south based on forecasted winter weather.

In general, you're better heading due south out of Minnesota instead of due west in terms of missing winter weather/road closures in the Midwest. However, my gut feeling is that it'd be easier to cross the mountains on a more northerly track via Wyoming instead of a southerly track via Colorado. If going through Nebraska and having some time, I'd suggest going via US-30 vs. I-80. It's still Nebraska, but it at least goes through most of the towns directly and follows the railroad tracks, leading to a bit more interesting drive than I-80. It's also close enough to I-80 that if the weather isn't great or you need to stop for the evening it's easy to get to the amenities that an interstate route offers.

If weather allows, US-212 through South Dakota isn't bad either, though it's still not extremely interesting. It's more remote than I-90, though, and so I wouldn't do it unless the weather is good. The Great River Road is very scenic, but adds quite a few miles and pretty windy for a motorcoach. I also don't think you'd get any more advantage on winter weather than going generally due south over the prairie.

If I was making the drive, and the forecast allowed, I'd probably do I-35 (or US-71 or whatever's fastest) down to US-30 in Iowa. I'd then take US-30 west through Iowa and Nebraska, then take I-80 through the mountains to Utah. From there I'm not sure whether I-80 is better or dipping down to US-6/US-50 is better; I haven't taken either way via road and so I'm not sure which is better. (I haven't taken the Wyoming route either, but I remember going through Colorado being potentially treacherous in bad winter weather, so a northerly route seems easier.)

You're right, that's why we're trying to figure out our basic route right now, and keep track of the weather and make changes as necessary. Not interested in I-35, but maybe following the old CNW routing on MN 60 (it's a divided highway) to Sioux City, south to Omaha, and hitting I-80 or US 30 from there will be better. Another option would be US 14 to Pierre and Rapid City, then SD 79 / US 18 through Lusk to Douglas, I-25 to Casper, cut down to Rawlins, and I-80 from there. Google is recommending that route. Then of course there's the option of US 50, which has very little difference with I-80 in Nevada since both cut across flat desert, so it mostly comes down to I-80 vs I-70.

1 hour ago, VTTrain said:

This is excellent advice.  Driving in a non-blizzard amount snow is really not a big deal if you are on flat ground.  You just drive more slowly. 

But sustained inclines and declines are a whole different story.  You also get much worse weather the higher up you go.  I-80 reaches a maximum elevation of 8,600 feet.  I-70 has a maximum elevation of 11,158 feet with essentially three different passes that must be navigated.  (Evergreen, Eisenhower and Vail)  

I would be flexible and keep an eye on the weather.  But all things being equal, I'd rather be on I-80 than I-70 in the winter.

Something to keep in mind is that the coach is geared for 60 mph. I can go 70 but any higher would be a waste of fuel anyway. I've heard that taking a more northerly route via Rapid City, Lusk, Casper, and Rawlins may be better. WY-220, which turns to US 287 at Muddy Gap, apparently has less gradient than I-80 over Sherman Hill.

Thanks for the replies guys!

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43 minutes ago, Swadian Hardcore said:

You're right, that's why we're trying to figure out our basic route right now, and keep track of the weather and make changes as necessary. Not interested in I-35, but maybe following the old CNW routing on MN 60 (it's a divided highway) to Sioux City, south to Omaha, and hitting I-80 or US 30 from there will be better. Another option would be US 14 to Pierre and Rapid City, then SD 79 / US 18 through Lusk to Douglas, I-25 to Casper, cut down to Rawlins, and I-80 from there.

The biggest caveat to MN-60 is that pretty much any major snowstorm will shutter that road, whether it's near Mankato or further west in St. James or Windom. That'll also be the biggest problem with doing US-14 - blizzards aren't unheard of this time of year, and the roads that way will often shut down for a day or so a couple times a winter. It seems as though I-35 is shut down less often, though that could be because I don't notice that as much as well.

While South Dakota can be a bit more scenic, it's also a lot more remote, especially off the interstate in winter. Nebraska, especially along US-30 or I-80, will have a lot better options should a snowstorm kick up en route, something breaks down, or you simply need a place to rest or grab a meal. That'd also be the general reason I'd personally consider sticking to I-80 in Wyoming through Salt Lake City; should something happen, there's at least a good chance of cellular coverage or roaming coverage if you have one of the major four carriers. There's also a good chance that if you don't have coverage there'll be other traffic and/or highway patrol coming by relatively quickly and being able to help.

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Lots of good advice given.   If I were driving, it would be to simply take I-35 South, to I-80 West.   Interstate all the way, with usually superior maintenance, safety, services, etc...

Only exception for me, would be if there was a storm between Laramie and Rawlins....I would take the old Lincoln Highway (US-30) via Medicine Bow, rather than the interstate via Elk Mountain....;)

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Looks like the best option is for us to keep an eye on the weather, and determine the route as necessary. If the weather forecast is all-clear a few days before, I'm sure South Dakota will be fine. Otherwise, we can always do US 30 or I-80; however for operational reasons it would be much easier to go MN-60.

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