Driving Boston To San Fran
Replies: 20 - Last Post: Nov 14, 2012 5:18 PM Last Post By: LongIslandBob
Nov 13, 2012 3:19 PM
Driving Boston To San FranHi everyone,
I am driving from Boston to San Fran for work and cant fly because of my dog. I am leaving on December 26th so snow and weather is an issue. I would normally go north and go through Pitt, Chicago, Omaha, CO, NV, to SF. However, I think we may go south to avoid winter weather. Anyone have the shortest route south, with suggestions on cities to stay in. Want to do it in 5 days, will stop to see stuff, but only for a few minutes, so not really concerned about attractions unless its right on the way.
Nov 13, 2012 4:05 PM
1The northern route is 3,100 miles and the southern route is 3,700 miles. I think six days of hard driving is realistic. Given your time constraints, you won't have time for anything but interstates. If this were my trip and I wanted to get there quick, I'd be prepared to take both routes, and make my final decision a few days or so before leaving.
I'd use the weather forecasts as my guide; the Interstates are rarely closed by snow even in winter, but there are some spots in the West (on either the northern or southern route) where chains might come in handy. So I'd get a set and learn how to use them.
If you take the southern route, you'll probably wind up going through Flagstaff, AZ on I-40, unless you take the extreme southern route through Phoenix. If you go through Flagstaff, the south rim of the Grand Canyon (see post #129 in this branch's FAQ for details) is 72 miles from I-40. It's definitely worth the time, and it's open year-'round.
In addition to chains for your tires, you should take emergency supplies including warm clothing, a cellphone (Verizon's network matters in the rural West, by the way, and it's not fictional about being the most complete), some extra food, some extra water, a bag or two of sand, some ice melter, a Swiss army or Leatherman knife, a pair of boots (see below), gloves (see below), a warm hat (see below).
Also have a coffee can heater consisting of a one-pound coffee can, a roll of toilet paper, a bottle of rubbing alcohol, and matches and/or lighter. Laugh if you want to, but it could save your life if you have to stay in a cold car.
Have two pairs of gloves: one complete, and another with the thumbs and end of the first two fingers cut off. Practice putting chains on and taking them off while wearing those gloves. Have a warm hat, and warm, waterproof boots. These things won't cost you a lot of money, and you probably will never have to use them, but emergency kits are not for the good outcomes. If you get into trouble, you won't regret being prepared.
Finally, don't take shortcuts, and (especially) don't allow yourself to become a prisoner of your timetable. If it takes you longer than expected to get there, so be it. The alternative -- driving too long and getting too tired because you told yourself you must be X far by day Y -- is what gets people killed. One or two more days is nothing compared to the consequences of foolish decisions made when you are tired. Similarly, if the weather gets dicey, slow down even if the other drivers are going fast.
The death notices are full of people who went along with the other idiots during Western weather hazards; an especially dangerous in winter out here is fog. There are epic fog accidents in certain spots, central California being one of them, where you have pileups of 30, 40, 50 or more cars. If you run into a heavy fog event, there is nothing at all wrong with finding the nearest exit and sitting it out for a few hours or even overnight.
Nov 13, 2012 4:32 PM
2According the google maps the northern (quicker) route involves 50 hours of driving, (plus stops for bathrooms and gas.) Personally I couldn’t do that in 5 days.
I routinely drive to and from various parts of PA around the holidays. Unless you hit extreme weather it's pretty safe
Parts of I-80 can sometimes get a little difficult if the weather doesn’t cooperate, (like a dark and rainy night) but in fair weather, even right after Christmas it is both safe and scenic.
You could take I-78 to around Harrisburg, PA and then take the PA turnpike. That adds 2 hours. I’ve taken that route around the holidays many times too and except for extreme weather I’ve never batted an eye.
A little further south would mean switching to I-81 at Harrisburg. That adds 3 more hours (total 55 hours driving in 5 days.)
The greater weather issues will come out west. I can’t really advise you there.
Edited by: LongIslandBob
Nov 13, 2012 6:19 PM
3I really don't think you materially reduce your weather risk by taking the southern route, unless you take the extreme southern route: Boston to Jacksonville, FL via I-95; Jacksonville to Casa Grande, Arizona via I-10; Casa Grande to San Diego via I-8; I-5 and then I-580 from San Diego to San Francisco.
That route is 4,000 miles, compared with 3,100 miles for the northern route or 3,700 miles for the standard southern route by way of either Phoenix or Flagstaff. But either the northern or standard southern route will have places that could be blocked by snow. Only the extreme southern route won't likely have that issue, although maybe someone with more direct knowledge of it might disagree.
If speed is what the OP is after, he ought to take the northern route. After all, it's harder to drive a truck than it is to drive a car, especially in bad weather, but truckers don't avoid the northern route in the winter. What they do is prepare for interruptions. Oh, and I forgot to mention something for your emergency kit: a flashlight.
I'd budget six days for the northern route, seven days for the standard southern route, and eight days for the extreme southern route. In each case, I'd be sure not to make my schedule so tight that it couldn't survive a delay or two. The only stop I know of at that time of year that fits the OP's criterion of not being out of the way would be the Grand Canyon, on the standard southern route. To me, if he's never been to the Grand Canyon, that's reason enough to take the standard southern route, but his posting made it pretty clear that he's not particularly interested in seeing anything along the way.
There's no sin in that. We've all just wanted to get there, and there's no better way to just get there (by car) than to take the Interstates. Not a lot of style, and very little scenery. But they do get you there fast and efficiently. Oh, and take some Pepto Bismol. Six to eight days eating Interstate food, and you'll need it. Here's a hint: Subway 12-inch veggie. It's the best way to keep yourself from gaining weight on that kind of drive.
p.s.: Forget about staying in any cities. All you'll do is waste your money, given your tight schedule. If there was ever a good reason for Motel 6 in the middle of nowhere, this trip is that reason. You'll be driving from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day. All you need is a bed. Bring ear plugs.
Nov 13, 2012 7:17 PM
4You have your dog, so let La Quinta Inns be your guide. They are dog friendly all the time with no extra charge.
I drove Virginia-Lexington, KY-Chicago-Lincoln, NE-Rock Springs, WY-Boise-Oregon (Bend) last December with two dogs, two cars and my dad. (I drove one car, husband drove the other and Dad shared the driving) The only really notable part of that drive in terms of terrain and weather was between Rock Springs, WY, and Salt Lake City. In Chicago we stayed with family, so that was a cheap big city stop for us.
The days were exhausting. We had zero time to see anything at all along the way. When we got into the town we were staying in we crashed after dinner. Just trying to manage expectations. But I am serious about La Quinta and they are nice enough roadside hotels. In fact, I was kind of impressed.
Nov 13, 2012 8:10 PM
5Trix, that looked like six days on the road, right? Boston to S.F. is another day. I remember it well, in the air. It's tied with Seattle-Miami for longest flight in the Lower 48. Most people don't realize how far east Boston is (it really belongs in the Atlantic time zone, with Newfoundland), or how far west San Francisco is. Until they get on a United Airlines 757, a/k/a "the sore-ass special," that is. God, I hated that flight, even in first class.
Nov 13, 2012 8:23 PM
Nov 13, 2012 8:47 PM
7I've made cross country drives to and from Florida, North Carolina, New York and Boston during winter. I'd agree with most of what's posted above, except that I've done it a couple of times in four days flat (Boston or New York to California or Washington). If nothing matters more than getting there quickly, this is entirely possible: it's just 750-800 miles per day, and if you can manage to miss city rush hours this can be done in 12-14 hours per day.
In good weather, that is, and by an experienced and determined driver. I don't know if you qualify as experienced or determined--hell, I don't even know if I qualify myself anymore, since I haven't done this in a decade or so.
The weather piece, which is mentioned by several posters above, is also crucial, and it needs managing. When I'm driving long hours during wintertime, I watch the Weather Channel very carefully every night and morning. This, with a knowledge of mountain ranges and local snow-zones, will allow detours north or south of all but the largest storm systems. If you're in a rush, it's often better to detour 500 miles than to wait two days or test your luck driving in bad visibility or when there are sheets of ice covering the roads. I've tried that, too, and it's not worth it. If you watch obsessively, you'll get a clear picture of the situation a day or two in advance--they'll tell you if an upslope storm is going to hammer the Front Range, or whether lake effect snow is going to create local blizzards along Lake Erie or Ontario, or around Salt Lake City. Then you can adjust your route accordingly.
Of course, six or seven days is far more reasonable. Know your own limits and warning signs, and act accordingly.
Hope that's helpful.
Nov 13, 2012 9:19 PM
8I think that post #3 pretty much nails it (except that even in perfect weather I personally would add a few days to each of those travel times.)
My last long trip was supposed to be 5-and-a-half hours of driving. We hit traffic, had a few more bathroom stops than planned, then it got dark and a rainstorm set in. It turned into a 9-hour nightmare.
We would have pulled over and found a hotel but we had to be to a 10 am funeral so we didn’t have any choice.
On the return trip the only thing that went wrong was a bad choice of diner. Six hours of easy travelling (including stops).
Yeah, he's right about the trucks and winter driving.
Be prepared (emergency kit) and be mentally prepared for a few interruptions. Pull over when you have to.
Edited by: LongIslandBob
Nov 14, 2012 2:45 AM
9If nothing matters more than getting there quickly, this is entirely possible: it's just 750-800 miles per day, and if you can manage to miss city rush hours this can be done in 12-14 hours per day
"Entirely possible" if you're a glutton for punishment, but not realistic. As swomeone who's driven as much as 900 miles in a single day, I wouldn't want to drive more than 500 miles a day for multiple days in a row. Driving long distances day after day, even on the Interstates, and even in perfect weather, takes a toll. I think the drive times I gave above were pretty ambitious. I think I could do it, but I can't say I'd enjoy it.
I might add another day to the extreme southern route to accommodate congestion along I-95, I-10, and I-5.
Nov 14, 2012 4:16 AM
10something like http://www.uship.com/dog-shipping/ may be cheaper overall, and surely more pleasant.
Nov 14, 2012 12:27 PM
11I notice the OP wrote that he was traveling for work. Upon re-reading, I notice he didn't say he was moving. So we don't know if he's returning to Boston, or what. And it was his first posting, which as we all know radically increases the chances that it was a troll to begin with.
Nov 14, 2012 3:05 PM
12Personally I find that with long distance driving East to West, the setting sun is a problem for the last couple of hours, - at least in Australia
Nov 14, 2012 3:17 PM
13One of my great travel memories is of driving into the setting sun after visiting the Grand Canyon for the first time, almost 30 years ago. It's a loooooooong downhill ride from the Canyon plateau into the Mojave desert along the California border.
The U.S. interstate system is rarely known for its scenery, but that evening on westbound I-40, I pulled over to the shoulder and turned the engine off. As big semitrucks roared past, I stood and watched the setting sun play with the purple mountains ahead; glanced at lightning from the usual late afternoon storm clouds in the distance behind; and tracked individual squalls as they marched eastward in the distance off to my left and right.
The whole sky was in motion, a drama being played out all around. It was the most thrilling Western I'd ever seen. Looking back on it, that might be when I truly fell in love with the great American road.
Nov 14, 2012 3:39 PM
(4 star Hotel)
From US$319.00 per night
San FranciscoBook now
(3 star Hotel)
From US$219.00 per night
(4 star Hotel)
From US$279.00 per night