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trip planning

I'm dithering (again) over the route I'm taking from here to Seattle. The plan I'd been going on was:

Boston->Pittsburgh (Interstates 90, 84, 81, 76)
Pittsburgh -> Denver via Kansas City (I-70)
Denver->Seattle (I-25 to I-90)

The reasoning behind this route was visiting friends in Pittsburgh and KC, and going through Denver because of stories I'd heard about a really awesome stretch of highway going up into the mountains there.

The problems are a) takes almost a full day longer than the direct route (I-90 the whole way); b) the Pittsburgh->KC stretch doesn't divide well into driving days, which means I either lose half a day or only stop in KC for lunch, which doesn't seem worth the detour. The appeal of Denver is also offset by the endless tedium of Kansas.

Problems with the northern route are that there aren't really any people I know that I can crash with (which means higher expenses and perhap more boredom), and I'm not really sure that South Dakota would be any better than Kansas. On the plus side, I go right by Mt Rushmore and Devil's Tower, should I feel the need for a brief diversion.

Then of course, there are miscellaneous hybrids of the two routes; stopping in Pittsburgh and then cutting back north to I-90 via the PA turnpike; cutting north to 90 from KC, which keeps the detour but eliminates Kansas. I'm trying to remain somewhat flexible with regards to how far I drive in a day - I've never driven more than 5 hours at a stretch alone before, let alone for five or six days straight. I'm hoping to manage at least 10 hours/day, but I really have no idea how feasible that's going to be.

It's tempting to just plan on taking my time, stopping and see people and landmarks, and I'll get there when I get there. I'm guessing, though, that after one or two days I'm going to just want to get there, screw the scenery. I have told my landlord to expect me by the 14th at the latest (though granted I could always get a message to him if I was going to be late - I've paid rent for this entire month, so it's not like the apartment's going to go away.)

Result: extreme ambivalence. I don't know how I'm going to react psychologically to this trip, and while I could play it by ear I'd like to give people warning if I'm going to show up on their doorstep demanding a bed :)

Anyone familiar with any portions of these routes care to offer opinions or suggestions?


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 3rd, 2002 12:56 pm (UTC)

I live in Madison, which is on I-90. I've been on the stretch of I-90 in various bits the entire way from Chicago to the twin cities. What I can tell you is that I always avoid Chicago, at all costs. Part of that is my general aversion to cities in general, the absolute chaos of tollbooths in downtown Chicago in particular. Depending on when you cut through, you can get delayed by 30 minutes or more at each of them in the city - or, you can sail through if it's late enough at night.

However, the drive west from Madison is decent - there are places with actual scenery, and it's not busy at all the rest of the way through Wisconsin. To that end, if you are still wanting to take the northern route, I'd recommend taking I-70 to I-39 N. I-39 will join up with I90 in Rockford, in northern Illinois. You'll hit a $0.15 toll booth, and a $0.40 toll booth, then be in Wisconsin which are all free roads.

The only time that route would really suck is if you are coming through on a weekend (Friday eve-Sunday eve), because there still may be some lingering summer traffic going into and out of Wisconsin Dells, about 60 miles west of Madison, though now that it's after Labor Day, most of the Dells traffic is pretty dead until springtime hits again.

As for the length of the drive, I've had to take long hauls (never a 5 day trip, but once for 3 days, and some that are long 12 hour drives), and I find it best if I schedule myself for a stop every two hours, to gas the car, walk around a bit, and grab a nibbling snack for the next leg. It helps me to schedule around time bits like that, instead of by destination, because I can fool myself into holding on until the next stop because it's only x minutes left, instead of it being a variable number of miles per leg.

Hope this helps a bit.

- Eric
Sep. 3rd, 2002 01:06 pm (UTC)
If you're looking for as much straight interstate driving as possible, 81-76 is a decent route, but I'd actually recommend 81-80-220-22 as a shorter and nicer (and slightly cheaper route). That's the way we generally go to/from CT, and have never had any major problems.

Also, as far as showing up randomly on someone's doorstep and asking to crash, you are quite welcome to do that at a moment's notice with us (although I think you already have crash space in pgh). We have space and beds readily available, and I can even tell you how to break into our house if we can't be home when you get here. :)
Sep. 3rd, 2002 02:10 pm (UTC)
I have driven cross country a lot. I did every year I was in college, usually twice. All the times I was driving between Pittsburgh and San Jose. There are two major routes to use for that I-80 and I-70. I found I prefered I-70 even thought it took longer (about 4 hours of driving)

As far as the Kansas question goes, you'll get that boring strech anyway you take. Yes Kansas is boring, but if you take I-80 you'll get about the same long boring strech in Nebraska, I-90 you get it in S. Dakota. It's called the plain states, You can not get across the country with going though one of them.

The drive up out of Denver is amazing but in the truck it is going to be super slow. It is a long steep grade.

I am very used to driving. (I have driven a lot in the past 8 months). I just go. I eat at speed in the car. I try to stop only for gas but my bladder usually gets me before that. Having said that, I do not recomend it if you are not used to driving. Take frequent breaks. Every 2 hours is a good interval of time. Even if you just get out of the truck and read the stupid signs in the rest area, you'll be much more alert and awake. All use power naps. If you get tiard, pull over and take a 30 minute nap. They are amazing.

cortneyofeden and I would love to see you but as I said in my email: I think it is really silly for you to come as far south as Kansas City.

Sep. 3rd, 2002 04:10 pm (UTC)
Do NOT take 84 between 90 and 81 unless you like crappy roads and sitting in traffic.

I drive between boston and pgh 4-6 times a year. I found that the best way to go [from boston] is to take 90 all the way into NY to 88 around Albania to 81 in Binghamton and then take that south until you pick up 80.

80->220->22 is a good choice. I prefer 80->28, but about an hour of that is on smaller 2 lane roads, and they are roads I know. :-)

Then, yeah, leave Pittsburgh via the Turnpike, to the Ohio Turnpike, and it'll merge with 80 and then 90 (around cleveland) and then your brain explodes.

Film at 11.
Sep. 3rd, 2002 05:13 pm (UTC)
I live right on I-84 in CT and it is not crappy. no, really, the only city you hit is Hartford and Hartford barely ever has traffic except at rush hour. after that there's just Waterbury and then you're practically rural and you sail right through.
Sep. 4th, 2002 10:07 am (UTC)
Re: um
Sorry, but I've driven back and forth on 84 so many times that I QUIT! The last 4 times I got stuck on 84 in bad traffic jams from accidents, cars breaking down, and construction.

When a section of your trip that should take under 5 hours takes over 8, it's time to Just Say No. I really like the 90-88-81 route, it's a lot less populated with cars. Much prettier and quieter.
Sep. 4th, 2002 11:37 am (UTC)
Re: um
I think it really depends what time you go on it and how far you travel. I made the mistake of trying to get into hartford in late afternoon, and got stuck in a traffic jam for an hour. On the other hand, we've left the city at 2 in the afternoon or 5 in the morning dozens of times, and never had any trouble at all.
Sep. 4th, 2002 07:27 pm (UTC)
Re: um
so this is a dumb argument. I think you just have bad I-84 karma. the question, really, is whether heather does or not :)
Sep. 5th, 2002 02:41 pm (UTC)
Re: um
the stretch of 84 between hartfod and wilkes-barre is long and deadly boring, but other than that I have no issues with it :)

and I'll be driving through on a saturday, which should make traffic not too awful.
Sep. 3rd, 2002 06:12 pm (UTC)
My advice... Get here safe. Plan your route, decide whether you're trying to marathon it like Jarrett did, or if you're trying the human method (stopping every 2 hours or so sounds pretty good). If you find yourself nodding off, stop! And eat good food to keep yourself awake. Good luck!
Sep. 4th, 2002 10:51 am (UTC)
Sorry to get in my $.02 so late, but I have definite opinions on the PA part of the route.

80-220-22 is definitely the shortest by mileage. It tends to be the shortest by time too, but there's a distinct possibility (not probability) of getting stuck behind slow traffic during some of the two-lane sections. That can be icky.

Also, if you don't have anywhere scoped out yet, I'm from the city that exists only because 80 and 81 cross there (Hazleton). If you need crash space, and you don't mind friend (or probably relative) of a friend issues, I could probably set something up. E-mail me if it'd be useful.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )


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