Road trip from Houston to Bakersfield, CA

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A friend of mine moved earlier this year from Houston area to Bakersfield for work and inviting me to visit him with the family for Christmas. I've never done a road trip to west coast in close to 10 yrs we've lived in US. Can you guys advise me on the sightseeing that is a must on the way there? the route i'm looking at right now is drive up to dallas, then amarillo, albuquerque (I40W). My concern though, is the condition of the roads mid december in New Mexico. Can you guys share your experience driving in that area at this time of the year? I'll be driving FWD Honda Pilot will brand new Michelin Defender LTX. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated folks.
 
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I use that stretch of I-40 regularly on my commutes between the Chicago area and central coast CA. I keep an eye on the weather in Amarillo, TX, Albuquerque and Grants, NM, and Flagstaff, AZ, especially in the winter. If things look dicey, I drop down to I-10 and come through Las Cruces, NM and Tucson, AZ.

I can't help much on the sightseeing question. My sightseeing routes are I-80 through Wyoming and Nevada, or I-80, I-76, I-70 and I-15 through Colorado and Utah.

I'd recommend a Basque restaurant in Bakersfield, but the best one (IMHO), Noriega's, closed a few years ago, and I haven't heard good things about the current incarnation.
 
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i still have a turtle that was carved from desert ironwood that i bought in arizona from a navajo shop. that thing is hard as steel and does not float in water. i also like the navajo jewelry made from silver and turquoises. there was a house shaped like a flying saucer that you could see from the I-40 in arizona between kingman and seligman. it's been 8 years since i have not been on I-40.

one thing i clearly remember is the snowstorms. they can get pretty intense on I-40. so much that they will close the roads. i got stuck in a truck stop in flagstaff for 2 days. i have seen very intense snowstorms from amarillo to seligman arizona. if things get too intense, just stop somewhere and rest until road conditions improve. snow was falling at the rate of a foot an hour in flagstaff. highway 17 from flagstaff to pheonix will really test your abilities as a driver. especially if you are a truck driver with a loaded truck.
 

parshisa

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i still have a turtle that was carved from desert ironwood that i bought in arizona from a navajo shop. that thing is hard as steel and does not float in water. i also like the navajo jewelry made from silver and turquoises. there was a house shaped like a flying saucer that you could see from the I-40 in arizona between kingman and seligman. it's been 8 years since i have not been on I-40.

one thing i clearly remember is the snowstorms. they can get pretty intense on I-40. so much that they will close the roads. i got stuck in a truck stop in flagstaff for 2 days. i have seen very intense snowstorms from amarillo to seligman arizona. if things get too intense, just stop somewhere and rest until road conditions improve. snow was falling at the rate of a foot an hour in flagstaff. highway 17 from flagstaff to pheonix will really test your abilities as a driver. especially if you are a truck driver with a loaded truck.
ugh. snowstorms is the last thing I'm looking for on the all season tires...thanks for the heads up
 
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ugh. snowstorms is the last thing I'm looking for on the all season tires...thanks for the heads up
since you are leaving from houston texas and going to bakersfield, i would suggest that you take highway 10 until highway 210 and then highway 5 and then the 99 until bakersfield. you would avoid problems related to winter conditions. i have taken that route a lot of times. or you can decide to take another route when in california. there are many possibilities. I-40 is good most of the time in winter, but conditions can become very difficult.
 
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If there's time, I'd generally recommend going through Los Angeles and/or OC. There's frankly way more there than any of the more remote routes, although traffic can be a pain sometimes. But if you're used to Houston traffic it's probably not that painful. Along the I-10 route, an obvious quick side trip could be Joshua Tree National Park. Maybe the Salton Sea if you're curious. But in LA or Orange County there's obviously theme parks (Disneyland, Universal Studios, Magic Mountain), museums, food, sightseeing, etc. Maybe go to the beach, even in winter.

Around that time of year the main thing that might be tricky on the way to Bakersfield would be I-5 at Tejon Pass - aka the Grapevine. It's one of those weird cases where it can be shut down due to excessive snow, but it doesn't have those conditions often enough that they allow chains and there is no should safe for chaining up. They obviously worry about chains damaging the road.
 
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since you are leaving from houston texas and going to bakersfield, i would suggest that you take highway 10 until highway 210 and then highway 5 and then the 99 until bakersfield. you would avoid problems related to winter conditions. i have taken that route a lot of times. or you can decide to take another route when in california. there are many possibilities. I-40 is good most of the time in winter, but conditions can become very difficult.

I-5 can be closed at Tejon Pass in winter. It's rare, but it can happen. I've driven by there where it was open but there was a lot of plowed snow off to the side.

 
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I-5 can be closed at Tejon Pass in winter. It's rare, but it can happen. I've driven by there where it was open but there was a lot of plowed snow off to the side.

yes, the only spot that could be tricky on that itinary. but in 9 years, i have not seen snow once. i guess i was lucky, but sometimes it was very close to snowing. i got a speeding ticket at the same spot as james dean got his speeding ticket on the day he had his car accident.

 
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Since it's mostly I-10... there's Joshua Tree NP. Kofu Wildlife Refuge in Yuma, AZ, I'm sure there are some detours around Tucson and Phoenix, AZ to do.

If you ski or snowboard or snow tube, there's the Big Bear Lake area skiing in the San Bernardino National Forest. Bring chains, in case it snows when you're there.l
 
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yes, the only spot that could be tricky on that itinary. but in 9 years, i have not seen snow once. i guess i was lucky, but sometimes it was very close to snowing. i got a speeding ticket at the same spot as james dean got his speeding ticket on the day he had his car accident.



It's certainly rare, but when it does happen pretty much nobody is prepared for it and the freeway just gets shut down until Caltrans/CHP think it's ready for normal traffic. And then there are really no good alternatives to go around. I wouldn't necessarily worry about it though. But it's just something to think about and not be surprised if it does happen.

I haven't had to deal with it being shut down before, but the alternatives (if Tejon Pass is closed) don't sound very good. I don't think going through Ojai is terribly fast, and I've been on CA-58 which isn't bad west of Mojave. However, if Tejon Pass is closed, those alternatives are going to be packed.
 
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It's certainly rare, but when it does happen pretty much nobody is prepared for it and the freeway just gets shut down until Caltrans/CHP think it's ready for normal traffic. And then there are really no good alternatives to go around. I wouldn't necessarily worry about it though. But it's just something to think about and not be surprised if it does happen.

I haven't had to deal with it being shut down before, but the alternatives (if Tejon Pass is closed) don't sound very good. I don't think going through Ojai is terribly fast, and I've been on CA-58 which isn't bad west of Mojave. However, if Tejon Pass is closed, those alternatives are going to be packed.
i always stopped at the frazier park flying j. the first time of my life i had a kidney stone was at that place in 2010. i will never forget the pain. in 2005, i have slept on the side of I-5 in northern california. i c'ant remember the exact place, but i was coming from oregon. we got caught in a snowstorm and i felt it was too risky to keep going. I-5 in northern california can be pretty intense in the mountains on I-5.
 

parshisa

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Have you guys had any experience on the snow with Michelin Defender LTX? I have plenty of experience driving in snow conditions, but always on dedicated winter tires. Never drove all seasons in the snow
 
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If you take I-40, Arizona has Petrofied Forest National Park near Holcomb, Meteor Crater west of Winslow and Walnut Canyon just east of Flagstaff. When you get to Kingman, taking Rt 66 through Oatman is worth it, then you proceed down to Boundary Cone Rd/Hwy 153 to Mohave Valley, turn left on Hwy 95 and follow it across the river into Needles where you rejoin I-40. You will save a few miles and see incredible scenery and burros, plus a great ghost town.

If you take I-10, the side trip to Tombstone is worth it.
 
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Do you like driving long distances? About a 24 hour drive one way.

Me I would take a cheap flight from houston to LAX and rent a nice turo car to drive to bakersfield.
 
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When we drove out to AZ in 2020, we took I-40. Quite frankly, I don't think I'll do it again - there isn't much to see and it is much more efficient to just fly and rent a car. I used to be a huge fan of road trips, but spending a double digit number of hours driving in desolate areas doesn't carry much value to me.

Have you guys had any experience on the snow with Michelin Defender LTX? I have plenty of experience driving in snow conditions, but always on dedicated winter tires. Never drove all seasons in the snow
I believe @OVERKILL has - I will let him comment.
 

OVERKILL

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Have you guys had any experience on the snow with Michelin Defender LTX? I have plenty of experience driving in snow conditions, but always on dedicated winter tires. Never drove all seasons in the snow
Yes:
Expedition_Snow01.jpg


We never ran dedicated snows on our Expedition, and my parents still don't on theirs, just LTX's. They are surprisingly good on ice for an all season, snow traction is good if you have a heavier vehicle.
 
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Since it's mostly I-10... there's Joshua Tree NP. Kofu Wildlife Refuge in Yuma, AZ, I'm sure there are some detours around Tucson and Phoenix, AZ to do.

If you ski or snowboard or snow tube, there's the Big Bear Lake area skiing in the San Bernardino National Forest. Bring chains, in case it snows when you're there.l
Palm Springs valley has some of the best places to eat.
 
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