Good afternoon, Road Trippers-
I've just returned from a quick speed run from Raleigh to Daytona and back. Here's a quick highway and travel conditions report:
Purpose: The Daytona 500 and ancillary events
Vehicle: 2002 Ford F350 crewcab diesel
Trip length: Around 550 miles each way
Departure: Wednesday 13 February, 0530
Return: Monday 18 February, 0600
Route: I-40 to I-95 to FL 40
Travel time: 8 hrs 50 minutes down, 8 hours 10 min back. One 30-40 minute sit-down meal, one fuel stop, and a couple of "run-in, run-out" rest area stops each way
Highway conditions: Surprisingly good. It's been 9 years since I drove farther south than Florence, SC on I-95, and there have been many improvements since that Feb 1999 trip. There are few remaining old concrete segments so a great deal of the terribly bumpy driving is history (at least until the trucks tear up the new sections). There is around 10 miles of 3 lane each way around Fayetteville, NC, 15 miles of very new 3 lane around Florence, SC, and it appears it won't be but a few months before the entirety of the 110 miles through Georgia is 3 lane each way. All of Florida (from the GA border to mile 265, at least) is 3 lane asphalt and is very smooth. Excepting local congestion and construction zones, all of Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina post 70 mph speed limits. Most of the NC segment we traveled is 65 mph, likely due to the 1950s-1960s design and poor pavement surfaces.
Traffic: Surprisingly bearable. Part had to do, of course, with the dawn patrol start times, but even during the early afternoon segments, and on this holiday Monday, we were slowed by "rafts" of traffic only sporadically. It appears that while many haven't fully grasped the "left lane for passing only" rule, most will yield to a quick blip of the headlights. Then again, most Prius drivers will quickly move over when an 8,000 lb pickup truck approaches from the rear at 80 mph and don't need the headlight's encouragement.
Fuel prices: cheapest in SC, and FL, GA, and NC were all around the same, with unleaded regular running just over $3/gallon and diesel around $3.35. Gas in SC was a few cents below $3/gal and I scored some $3.27 diesel there this afternoon. Fuel mileage was 16.2 mpg on the way down (into a stiff headwind all day), and 17.4 mpg on the way back today, with a moderate tailwind. It certainly proves once again the effect of aerodynamic drag on fuel consumption, as I drove on average 5 mph faster on the way back today than I drove on Wednesday, yet I got better mileage, due simply to the wind conditions. In this truck, I normally lose about 1 mpg for every 5 mph between 60 and 75 mph, and 1 mpg for every 3 mph from 75 to 80 mph.
Happy Motoring, Road Trippers!