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Old 09-04-2009, 01:35 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Shorter and Hillier vs. Longer and Flatter

In December I'm making a trip from Columbia to Buffalo, NY. Looking on Google Maps, there are a few ways to go. One is 50 miles shorter but goes along the Allegheny Mountains, while another route is longer but crosses those mountains and gets into less hilly terrain. I can get some nice FE with NICE-On coasting, but driving with load back up kills it. Also, there's the potential for lake-effect snows along Lake Erie. The longer route would leave me more exposed to lake-effect snow, which can be nasty to drive through. Lived in Buffalo for 3 years, so I know all about lake effect.

Which route would you pick?

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Old 09-04-2009, 01:43 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I don't think the extra 50 miles of flatter ground will make up for the difference of going up the hills.. I think it's going to be a close cut either way, and potential hazards should account for 60+% of the decision.

I'd say just take the shorter route, where you're more protected from the weather. Many of those mountains (foot hills) also have rest stop areas on them, do they not? Might be something to look into, in case you get into some inclement weather and need to stop somewhere safe.
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Old 09-04-2009, 01:47 PM   #3 (permalink)
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That's a valid point about the rest areas, and one I had not considered.
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Old 09-07-2009, 03:29 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I looked at Google Maps and saw the two routes you mentioned. Having just done part of the drive a month or two ago (So Carolina to Pittsburgh), I can testify that the West Virginia interstates are extremely wide (6 lanes in a lot of places,) and you'll have no trouble getting a lot of good coasting opportunities downhill, and at the same time not worry about cars/trucks getting on your rear when DWL'ing uphill because of the third lane. They are incredibly well-maintained and not very heavily traveled.

I do not have any experience with winter driving in those areas, but I suspect the roads will be clear (I'm sure Bob Byrd will have arranged for the rest of the country to pay to keep the roads clear, so might as well take advantage of it!)
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Old 09-08-2009, 02:56 AM   #5 (permalink)
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I personally prefer hilly routes for mileage, but as mentioned, it's probably a toss-up. The issue of winter safety would make my decision easy. If there's a possibility of snow, avoid the lake effect route.
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Old 09-08-2009, 08:19 AM   #6 (permalink)
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By the way, if my years at Penn State are a guide, there's almost as much potential for getting lots of snow that sticks through North Central PA as there is around the lake. And the back country roads Google indicates to take going that direction are likely to be more treacherous in inclimate weather than I-79/I-90.

If you're really worried about snow, a good set of snow tires won't hurt, though not worth it if you're just making the one trip.
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Old 09-08-2009, 11:30 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I grew up in NY and lived there until a year ago, so snow driving is nothing new to me. And skiing in Ellicottville, NY was a regular college pastime, necessitating more than one 20 mph whiteout drive back to Buffalo up Rt. 219.

The only bad part of the trip is US 19 in WV. I've driven that in winter before, and it's not nice.

Fortunately the current tires do okay in deep snow as long as I'm light on the throttle. It's the light stuff where they spin in. I'm not the world's best driver (okay at hypermiling), and my car isn't ideal, but it is heavy, FWD, with the skinniest OEM-size tires on it, so I'll muddle through.

Besides, less mileage is a good thing. Shorter and hillier! Thanks for all the advice, folks!
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Old 09-14-2009, 06:36 PM   #8 (permalink)
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As a driver in the far eastern Kentucky mountains (some are pretty big) I believe I have found ways of driving my XFE by using some tricky gear shifting with my 5-speed. Of course with an automatic one can not do the same. Anyway, I find I can get the same MPG in the mountains as on flat land, as long as I shift the gears just right and use neutral for a lot of coasting.

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