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First time across the Plains

Discussion in 'Anything goes' started by MrMojave, May 30, 2006.

  1. MrMojave

    MrMojave Member

    Planning a little ride this summer from Las Vegas to Minneapolis. I've driven roughly 100,000 miles in the open Southwest in the last 10 years, so I know (just) a bit about roadtrips.

    But by most accounts, this is the most challenging drive anyone can make.

    The plan, as it stands, is to go up to Denver via I-70, then across on 76 and 80 to Des Moines, then up. That puts me at around 700 miles the first day and 900 the second day.

    Personally, I'd like to see Denver for the first time, get there a little early and explore the city for a bit. I'm advised to keep pushing as far as I can, doing all my Denver sightseeing at 65 mph.

    But the maps don't indicate much between Denver and Kearney. So begins my slew of questions:

    • To Denver... or beyond? And if so, how far beyond? If not, what's to see and do in the Mile High City?

    • What's the worst part of the drive – Colorado, Nebraska along the Platte, Nebraska beyond the Platte, Omaha to Des Moines or Des Moines to the Twin Cities?

    • Does it go by as I've heard it does? Do miles seem to last more than 5,280'? My mind's saying, if I can do 80-85 on I-40 in Arizona, which is neither straight nor flat, then why shouldn't I be able to do 85-90 on I-80 in Nebraska, which is both?

    • Anything along the way worth seeing/doing/eating? Anything in the Twin Cities I should make a point of seeing/doing/eating?

    • Any advice on a ballgame in the Metrodome? Seeing as I'm going to be between Albuquerque and Greensboro for the first time, should I (or, is it practical to...) take a day and go down to Chicago?

    • Lastly, what's the best way to get from the Twin Cities to Yellowstone – down to I-90(which gives me the added bonus of Mt. Rushmore) or across on I-94?

    I was pretty psyched until my parents said to picture the longest, ugliest, most deserted stretch of road you've ever seen (this would be US 95 between Goldfield and Hawthorne, NV) – and make everything around it completely flat.
  2. Big Buckin' agate_monkey

    Big Buckin' agate_monkey Active Member

    I don't know the answers to any of your questions, but I'm fuckin' jealous. That sounds like a lot of fun.
  3. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    Most challenging drive anyone can make? I beg to differ. I've driven from L.A. to Atlanta. Twice. Once in five days, the other in four days. 2,500 miles, one way. Both trips in the last three years.

    Random fact: There are 878 miles from El Paso to Orange, Texas, all on the I-10. Exit 1 is in El Paso. Exit 878 is in Orange. Except for Houston and San Antonio, there is nothing in between ... but rolling hills ... and Lone Star state troopers. I've met them both.
  4. Norman Stansfield

    Norman Stansfield Active Member

    Definitely take a day out to visit Chicago, if you can.

    Avoid I-90 (Dan Ryan Expy) at all costs, though. Major construction.
  5. Norman Stansfield

    Norman Stansfield Active Member

    Depends on the time of day. Rush hour, yes. Any other time, fairly passable.

    I-894 bypass is a quick alternative to avoid the Marquette Interchange.
  6. pallister

    pallister Guest

    The ride from the Twin Cities to Chicago is a pretty scenic one, but it's quite a haul to stay just one day and come right back.

    I don't know the roadways out West, but having driven many mind-numbing stretches of interstate (Illinois, Arkansas, Georgia, etc.), be sure to take along some music. I'd sooner pull my fingernails out with a needle-nose pliers than take a long road trip without a massive amount of loud music.

    If you're going with wife and kids and must keep the volume down, then get satellite radio so you can bide your time with many options for listening to sports, politics, etc.

    Also, if you can, make the bulk of the trip the first day. If you don't and that day's ride sucks, you are not going to look forward to 900 more miles the next day. I always try to get 2/3 done the first day. That way, I don't have long to reach my destination the second day and I always have time (and energy) to do something when I get there. You drive 900 miles, you ain't gonna be up for doing much of anything when you get where you're going.
  7. Norman Stansfield

    Norman Stansfield Active Member

    There are times when they shut down the whole shebang, Doc. You're right about that.

    Generally speaking, though, it's not all that bad.
  8. ServeItUp

    ServeItUp Active Member

    The whole of I-76/80 from Denver to Omaha is painful. Get to Denver and call it a night, and enjoy the Mile-High. Catch a game at Coors if the Rox are at home because it's possibly the nicest place to watch shitty baseball — aside from Wrigley, of course. Plenty to see and do right around Coors, not the least of which is the Tattered Cover bookstore, a great place to kill a few hours (which I'm not sure if you have). Once you get to Omaha you have some civilization, which I'm not sure you want at 85-90 mph. By the way, I don't think the state mounties will have a whole lot of tolerance for a a set of Nevada tags trying to blaze across their state at that speed. Use your best judgement.

    Twin Cities to Yellowstone on I-35 to I-90 and then across. Then, when you get to Buffalo, Wyo., get off the road and take U.S.16 over the Bighorn Mountains to Worland. One of the five most scenic drives ever. Stay on 16, which takes you right into Yellowstone; no four-lane road anywhere near Yellowstone, which is something to keep in mind. And as long as your out there, you might as well see the Big Tits — I mean, Grand Tetons — south of Yellowstone around Jackson.

    Drive safe and enjoy!
  9. Armchair_QB

    Armchair_QB Well-Known Member

    The only bad stretch you'll find when driving in Nebraska is the part from the Colorado state line to the Iowa state line. Other than that, it's not bad.

    Rosie can probably give you all kinds of fun ideas for your time in the Twin Cities. As far as a Twins game goes, you can pretty much walk up and get any seat you want on a weeknight.

    If you want to go to Chicago for a day I'd recommend looking into a cheap flight rather than drive. It's a haul to just go for a day and Wisconsin state troopers can be real bitches.
  10. Lucas Wiseman

    Lucas Wiseman Well-Known Member

    I drove the entire length of Nebraska on I-80 and it sucked. The only interesting part is that there is this random huge building that goes over the interstate at one point. Not sure what the purpose of it is but I guess you can use a radar gun to see how fast cars are going? Kinda strange if you ask me.
  11. micropolitan guy

    micropolitan guy Well-Known Member

    I-94 is better than I-90, IMHO. Up through Minnesota lake country to Fargo, lots of sunflowers, etc., in eastern ND, then far more scenery once you get out of the Red River Valley past Valley City and past Jamestown and head toward Western ND. Lots of buttes, etc., once you get past Mandan. (Fort Abraham Lincoln in Mandan is interesting if you're into Custer).

    The ND Badlands are better, more diverse and colorful than SD's. Medora is kind of a tourist trap, but can be interesting for an hour or so, and there are several loop trips through Teddy Roosevelt NP that don't take long but show the Badlands off well.

    Eastern Montana isn't as bad as you might think, rolling hills, etc., and the truck traffic will be much less than on I-90. Then cut down to Yellowstone just past Billings, through Red Lodge; Sawtooth Pass/Cooke City are scenic . Laurel might be the ugliest city in Montana, though.

    You can probably drive 80-85 in ND and Montana without much problem, as I believe the posted speed limit is 75..
  12. writing irish

    writing irish Active Member

    Read "Great Plains" by Ian Frazier.
    Or "Great Plains" by Walter Prescott Webb.
    The former is great travel lit, the latter is a classic history.
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