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Old 09-16-2013, 10:26 PM   #1
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Help planning winter driving route from Montana to Florida

We are considering a 6-12 month full-time RV adventure with two kids. One of my concerns right now is that we will be leaving Montana in January - I know, not the best time to be travelling, especially in a motorhome, but sometimes you take what you can get. We aren't able to leave work until then so that's the deal.

We are heading for Florida as our first long-term destination and will work our way back up the Eastern Coast. Our first thought was to head straight south and then east to Florida. Google maps routes the trip in a southeastern direction through the plains. My question is posed to those of you that are familiar with winter weather and general winter driving conditions for the two possible routes:

Option 1: Straight South (either through Salt Lake or Denver) and then East
(Utah/Wyoming/Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama

Option 2: SouthEasterly
(South Dakota, Nebraska/Iowa, Kansas/Missouri, Tennessee, Georgia)

Now I know this is not a simple question - winter weather is very unpredictable (as I am familiar with living in Montana and travelling to Oregon frequently over several mountain passes). I'm hoping to just get a general feeling/thoughts/observations about either route. We will watch the weather and be flexible in our plans as the time get closer. I'd just like to get a starting point to work from.

Thanks in advance! I look forward to asking many, many questions as we get started on this journey.
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Old 09-16-2013, 10:28 PM   #2
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I would want to get as far south as fast as possible.
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Old 09-16-2013, 10:44 PM   #3
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We drove from Minneapolis to Florida last February. I guess that's about a 2 day head-start from Helena. We found the freeways to be good, even a day after a snowstorm in southern WI. We drove from MN to Paducah, KY the first day. A long drive, but we wanted to get south ASAP.

My best advice, the NWS has 7 day graphical forecasts on their website. Time the weather and pick your route/departure accordingly. Don't be afraid to get off the road and hit a hotel with a pool for the kiddos for a day or two if a storm blows in.

Sounds exciting!! Enjoy it!
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Old 09-17-2013, 08:33 PM   #4
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Weather.com has an option to get forecasts on every interstate highway ... I suggest you find it and bookmark it ...

Almost every interstate has times with bad weather that causes you to change your travel plans (even I-8 in southern California was closed two years ago for a day due to a snow storm ... the day I was scheduled to drive it)
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Old 09-17-2013, 08:41 PM   #5
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Double check on the weather, Amarillo Tx. has had blizzards with high winds that blow 18 wheelers off I-40.
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Old 09-18-2013, 10:53 AM   #6
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Is your fresh water tank in a heated bay? Or is there a source of heat for the tank.

In years past we have left Wisconsin about Jan 1. The motorhome was winterized ... we travelled straight south until we could de-winterize ... that was generally more than 1 day because I was reluctant to de-winterize until the overnight lows were in the teens ...

We drank bottled water and flushed the toilet with windshield wiper fluid until it was time to de-winterize ... no showers ...

So I think you have two questions ... which route will
  1. provide the best roads ...
  2. allow you to de-winterize the quickest
If you need additional hints on cold weather RVing, I believe there are several threads on this bulletin board
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Old 09-18-2013, 11:16 AM   #7
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We have done this from Minneapolis area several times. Some good, some not so easy.

First of all don't just take off the first day you are free. Pick a good day to travel and avoid bad roads and storms.

Second get as far south as you can as quickly as you can. We leave our coach winterized and use truck stops and bottled water until we get to warmer weather.

Once in warmer weather take your time, see the sights. Don't travel on bad weather days. T-storms can be a bitch in the south.

From Florida we journeyed north along the coast. You've got to see Savannah, Charleston, Cape Hatteras, Gettysburg ect.

In the Washington area we stayed in a campground at Harpers Ferry, Wva. From there with a car you can take day trips to DC and many many historical areas.

If you have that much time there are many places and things to do and see. Enjoy. Read every day about the bad weather back home.
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Old 09-18-2013, 11:18 AM   #8
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One more thing: When I can I try to get off the Interstates and drive well maintained secondary roads. I really love seeing small town America and you won't see it on the Interstate.
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Old 09-18-2013, 12:36 PM   #9
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Sounds as though your first concerns are the weather. Having spent years driving and 18 wheeler I quickly learned that bad weather can be just around the next curve of the road and it may also be bad for only 50 miles and then you drive into better or even worse roads than you just traveled. Driving early in the AM may be the time of day when the temps drop below freezing and the chemicals no longer are working and things start to ice up. Just after dark may do the same thing. Montana may have terrible weather at an altitude of 6500 feet and 5000 may be clear. So ya takes your chances! But you can do it knowing what you may expect ahead of you and attempt to travel after the roads are clear. If you have no time table pushing you, staying put for a day or even a week is possible. This has taken no account for the way your MH is winterized and if you can safely use the water or store other fluids without problems. There may be a need to leave Mt with the house completely winterized and use a Motel for a couple of days until you get further south. Just because you are driving the house does not mean ruling out an occasional motel. I believe that I would head directly south until I10 and head east along that route until Florida. Also be aware of the mountain passes all the way south as it can still be snowing in Arizona in Jan, and Feb. The further south you go the chance of snow lessens and freezing rain possibilities become greater.
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