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  1. Default Dallas to Philadelphia in early winter

    Hi, I will be driving from Dallas to Philadelphia the week of Thanksgiving. I'll be driving a Penske truck since I'm moving. I've done the route from Dallas to Nashville a few times since I went to school up there, but beyond that is new for me. Will I encounter any mountains (any hill is a big deal, Texas is pretty flat) and should the weather be okay or will it start to get iffy (again, it snows once a year here, so keep that in mind). And are there any sights/things to do/places to eat along the way that shouldn't be missed? Thanks!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    You've got a couple similar route options for making this trip. Both involve heading to Nashville, and from there, you can either continue east on I-40 to Knoxville then take I-81 up the edge of the Appalachians to the PA turnpike (I-76) into Philly. Otherwise, you could head north on I-65 and I-71 through Louisville and Cincinnati, to I-70 and Columbus and follow that all the way east to the PA Turnpike.

    You will deal with some degree of mountains no matter which way you go, as you have to get across the Appalachians somewhere, but it isn't something that should significantly impact your trip. There is of course the chance of seeing some bad weather - both options have seen a little snow in the past couple days - but there is just no way of knowing what the weather will be like when you will be on the road.

    With 2 options, you can play it by ear and see which one looks like it will have better weather, based on the forecasts when you are actually on the road. In either case, you should expect the trip to take a good 3 days, and having a 4 available in case there is really bad weather would be helpful.

    There are plenty of things to see and do across both routes, but how much time do you have, and what kinds of things are you interested in?

  3. #3

    Default The Appalachians

    I-40 crosses the Cumberland Plateau between Nashville and Knoxville. Most travelers regard the CP as "mountains", but it's only 1,000 to 1,500' higher in elevation than Nashville and Knoxville. There are several-mile long grades on each end, and some shorter ups and downs in between. But, it's Interstate, so the pitch of the grades and the curve radii are limited. I wouldn't be the least bit concerned about running a Penske over the CP.

    I-81 from just east of Knoxville to I-76 in PA is a beautiful drive right through the heart of the Appalachians, albeit within the "Great Valley" of the Appalachians, in between the Blue Ridge/Smoky Mountains massifs to the east and the Alleghenies on the west. There are plenty of short to long grades within the Great Valley along I-81, but I would rate the drive as superior to I-65/I-70 and the PA Turnpike near and just east of Pittsburgh. The PA Turnpike from about Pittsburgh to Breezewood crosses the Laurel Highlands. Add to that the fact that the route was laid out in the 1940s and the outcome is a very heavily traveled goat trail which I would avoid if I could.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default The Other Option

    As both responders have pointed out, you have a choice of routes that will get you from Dallas to Philadelphia in around 1450 miles. But there is also a route that for just about a hundred miles more will get you there with no mountains and a somewhat reduced chance of bad weather. That is to take I-20 to Atlanta and than I-85/I-95 up to Philly. Now although this route addresses your stated concerns, it is somewhat less desirable in a couple of other areas. It is a hundred miles longer which is just enough in your case to make it more than probable that you will need the better part of four days for the drive. And you would have to deal with Atlanta's traffic as well as the Washington/Baltimore/I-95 corridor.

    However, each of those 'problems' is also present on the other routes to some extent. Although mapping software will tell you that you can drive from Dallas to Philadelphia in three days, those routines assume that you're in a car and never have to stop for food, fuel, or bathroom breaks. In a truck, your speeds will be slower and your stops more frequent, so that even the shortest route is likely to take three and a half days in the real world. And no matter which way you go you will have to deal with some moderate to large cities such as Little Rock, Memphis and Nashville, and then either DC or Columbus depending on route. Another consideration is that if you go the route up to Columbus and then I-70 into Philly, you'll have significant tolls on the PA Turnpike which is also one of the oldest interstates in the country with relatively narrow lanes and very heavy truck traffic.


  5. #5

    Default AZ Buck makes a strong case

    I-20 crosses the far southwest "tail" of the Appalachians, which are represented by some rolling hills around Birmingham and between B'ham and Atlanta. If one can avoid hitting ATL at rush hour, one should do that.

    When I drive from my Raleigh, NC home to points south/west of ATL, I'll normally run down to I-95 and connect to I-20 at Florence, SC. Doing that avoids the Greensboro, NC through Greenville, SC urban/suburban congestion, which is considerable, and a goodly amount of up-and-down hills generally between Spartanburg, SC and ATL itself. From my home on Raleigh's north side, it's about 25 miles farther to where I-85 south to Montgomery, AL splits from the ATL beltway, and I gladly drive that extra distance to have flat highway travel for the great majority of the distance. By contrast to I-85 between ATL and Petersburg, VA, I-20 is virtually flat from around 30 miles E of ATL all the way to I-95, and I-95 runs along the SC, NC, and VA Coastal Plain all the way to DC. That said, I-95 can get terribly congested in SC, NC, and VA at peak holiday travel times, so if your trip would have you passing through on, say, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, you might want to take I-85 instead.


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