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Kevin & Yolanda Maksymyk

Best Southbound Winter route from Great Falls

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We're heading to south Texas from Great Falls, MT after Christmas..... weather dependant. 

Would appreciate opinions and experiences on routing. We've done two routes....

1) Easterly route... Great Falls east and south through Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, etc......

2) Westerly route....straight south from Great Falls through Utah, Nevada, Arizona, etc. 

The easterly route is shorter but we've been overnight delayed three times in five years due to high cross winds. 

The westerly route is longer with mountain passes, but seems to get us into warmer weather sooner. 

Opinions and experiences are welcome. We haul a 42' Montana with a Volvo 730 (and a Smart Car on the deck). 


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I've been those routes and variations of when heading south from Calgary when I lived there.  What I will tell you is you are dealing with Winter mountain driving.  Weather is the major player in this equation. Snow is no place to be when pulling, trust me I've been there but only once.  Temps drop 3.5 degrees f for every 1000 ft of altitude gained.  It's called standard lapse rate.  This from flying days.

You need a minimum 5 day weather window to get from GF to a place south far enough to get into the mitigating effect of the ocean which is generally between 100 and 200 miles from the coast.

If you are on the windward or west side of the mtns you can expect rain then sleet, freezing rain then snow as you climb.  There may be an indicator on your dash which says 'road icing conditions' or something like that. Not a good place to be, the road not the dash.

In those weather conditions you want to be on the East side, Lee side which puts you in a rain shadow or drier side.

If you start to descend in elevation, temps rise and air gets drier...to a point.  If that's the case, bolt for Salina Kansas then South to OKC.  The hiway East will have sun on it all day as short as it is, you will be in lower elevations and your wife will have sun on her right all day..

Bridges and overpasses are a big danger as they freeze before the roads do 'cus wind can blow above and below freezing the deck.  I hate the decks 'cus the truck bangs as it goes on and comes off the deck.

Heading south into Las Vegas once the temps rose over 20f, not hot but at least above freezing but LV puts you heading almost West.

GF WX tanks this next week and for the week after is at or below freezing...I checked.

Daylight is short this time of year and getting shorter.  Your area roughly 8 am sunrise and 4:30 pm sunset, a bit better as you get further south.  I checked that as well.  That's going to be less than 8hrs daylight driving, nic pitstops and probably 1 fuel stop a day in there 'cus you will have at least 2 x 100's or 2 x 150's for fuel.

Your rig may be winterized by now, if so I'd Motel it on the route South.  Probably not many if any RV parks open anyway.  I like the Super 8's and Best Westerns' , early free breakfast and you can load your pockets with boiled eggs, muffins, yogurt and don't forget sausages for the dog.  If you make waffles don't forget to spray it with that release stuff, kinda like cooking silicone.  If you don't, the waffles will stick and the waffle police will b***h you out.  Kinda like Phil on a bad day.....That's every day.

Have them call ahead to see if you can park close enough to a building to run a cord out for the block heater if you have one.

Generally, I have found in driving thru the Rockies, it takes 3 days for the roads to get back to bare and dry after a 'Weather Event" that is if another isn't right behind it.

Give a minimum 5 second spacing between you and who or whatever is in front...that's in good wx, 7 or more in poor conditions.  Also put on your 4 ways and use headlites all the time.

No 'one wants to see you or anyone else  wrecked on the side of the road.  I saw 2 completely demolished RV's  on I 10 West of Panama City mid October.

So check the weather, check the weather, check the weather. You don't have to push it and have to make the next stop.  Lots of Private pilots have been killed 'cus they 'Have to get home".....and didn't.

Everyone will have suggestions. 

Exercise an abundance of caution and have a safe trip.











Edited by rdickinson

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