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  1. Default June 2015 Southern Illinois to Washington, D.C.

    Hi everyone! First time posting and so glad to find this planning forum as my only resource for planning this vacation to this point has been google maps and my trusty atlas.

    Myself, my husband and two sons (ages 12 & 9) will be traveling by car from Illinois (west of Evansville) to D.C. in the last days of May and early June. We haven't yet decided how many days we need for this trip, so I guess that's my first question to you. We plan to spend 5 days in D.C., but how many travel days to and from would be best?

    I was thinking about taking US-50 the whole way, which google maps tells me is four more hours than taking I-70. We want to "see stuff" on the way so that's my main motivation for avoiding the interstate. But what about stops along the way? Are the state parks/picnic sites easier to access from the interstate?

    We'll pack a cooler and usually like to stay overnight at a Hampton Inn or the likes. Our kids are good travelers; we can usually drive about 8 hours a day pretty easily.

    Any suggestions? TIA!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
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    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    Welcome to RTA!

    I would think that staying off the Interstate will take you a lot longer than 4 extra hours. Google drive times must be taken with a grain of salt, it assumes you will be driving at the speed limit at all times with no stops, no red lights, no traffic.

    Via fastest Interstates, it's almost a 2 full day drive - almost 900 miles. This would be I-70 to I-79 to I-68 to I-70 to I-270. If you stay off the Interstates, this will probably extend it to 3 full days.

    Another option, which is quite scenic, would be I-64 to I-81 to I-66. This only adds an hour or so.

    Bottom line? Off Interstates, you need at least 3 travel days. On Interstates (you can take one way going out and the other way going back for a change of scenery) it's 2 travel days.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default There are Interstates and Then There are Interstates

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Who would have thought that the fastest way from Illinois to DC involved first going southwest and crossing the Mississippi into Missouri? But that's the way mapping routines will send you if you listen to them. Simply put, I wouldn't. Because what they're trying to do at all costs is save you 3 seconds. So they send you out of your way and through a major city (St. Louis) just to get you onto the Interstate of their choice (I-70). What I'd do (I'm human and like a good, interesting, scenic drive even if it costs me a few minutes extra) is to first head east using County Routes (CRs - I'm sure you know these better than I do!) CR-4 to Sparta, CR-16 t Oakdale, CR-21 to Plum Hill, and finally IL-15/IL-127 through Nashville to I-64.

    I-64 is an under-utilized Interstate where the largest city you'd go through is Louisville KY. Along the way it would give you access to the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial near Dale IN, the world's biggest baseball bat at the Louisville Slugger Factory and Museum, horse farm tours in bluegrass country, and some neat caves. You can continue on I-64 by using the West Virginia Turnpike (toll) and passing near Jefferson's home Monticello before heading north on I-81 and using I-66 into the Washington area, but my own preference, having driven both routes, is to take I-79 north out of Charleston WV to Weston WV and then take US-33 (dual carriageway, much of it near freeway quality) to WV-55/VA-55 to the I-81/I-66 junction. Now most of WV-55/VA-55 through the Monongahela and George Washington National Forests is two-lane and a bit twisty as they cross the Appalachians, but they are perfectly safe with decent speed limits and the twistiness is part of their charm. And I-66 passes by Manassas National Battlefield just before entering Washington.

    As to how much time to allow, you could make the drive between Evansville and Washington in two days each way. That would mean that you could still have five days in DC over a long week (a week and two weekends). That would still leave you a few hours each day to stop and see a site each day, as well as make a couple of much shorter stops just to get out of the car and get some fresh air and exercise. Many state and local parks are surprisingly near Interstates and are usually a lot more interesting than your typical roadside Rest Area. If you want to spend more time seeing things during the drive, just add days. This would be a good time to go back and review your maps with the direction suggestions you've received so far and see what else along those roads might interest you and, especially, the kids. Be sure to get their ideas and buy-in n any stops you'd all like to make. It will make the whole trip a lot more pleasant and interesting.

    AZBuck

  4. Default

    Wow, thank you for some fantastic suggestions! I'm going to get to work on this right now!

  5. Default

    Ok, we won't go over to St. Louis first, but after looking at all routes, I think I-70 is best for us for one reason...we've got one kiddo who is prone to motion sickness. It looks to me like this northernmost route is easiest, as in lest mountainous twisting and turning. Am I wrong?

    And, if I'm right and this way is easier, are there any interesting stop along that route you can help me identify? Terre Haute, Dayton, Columbus, Maryland?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    Dayton -- the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson and of course, Wright Bros historical areas. You can spend 2 days at the AF Museum and not see it all. The nice thing, though: it's free.

    If you are on interstates, there's no twisting and turning.


    Donna

  7. Default

    Are you closer to Evansville or Mt Vernon? With a child prone to motion sickness I-70 is the safest and most direct route. You can get to I-70 at Effingham or Terre Haute. I-70 is fairly flat farmland until you get east of Zanesville, where it starts to get hilly, and it gets very rugged between Pittsburgh and Breezewood along the I-70 part of the Penn Turnpike through the Laural Highlands, but unlike other highways that are steep and windy, I-70 cuts through the mountains through a series of tunnels, so this is a good way to go. The Columbus Zoo is a great place to take the kids if you have time.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
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    Default

    I'm assuming Evansville IL, not IN. Thats near St. Louis.

    We are recommending I-79 and I-68 to bypass the PA Turnpike. Those are hilly but so is the Turnpike.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Bits and Pieces

    A few things that you should know now that you've decided on the I-70 option. First of all, your best rout to I-70 is probably something like heading as directly as possible for Mount Vernon and getting on I-57 north to I-70 at Effingham..

    Near the end of your journey, the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-70 in west central Pennsylvania) was built before the Interstate Highway standards were drawn up, and even though it carries an Interstate designation it does not fully comply with those standards, most notably on lane widths, median separation, and shoulder availability. In other words it is fairly narrow through the mountains. It is also heavily traveled by large trucks which have no other reasonable route through the area. All that won't bother the kids, but will make it a bit stressful for the driver and adult passengers. It's also a toll road - $10.75 for a passenger car using the I-70 portion. For all those reasons, we recommend that you use the newer (and free) I-79 to drop south from Washington PA to Morgantown WV and use I-68 (also free) through the mountains in Maryland instead.

    As for stops for the kids, the Air Force Museum and the Indianapolis Speedway are big draws, but can take some serious time to see. If you have the time, that's all well and good, but if you stop at such major venues you should really add a third day to your travel plans. What might work better for you is to take a couple of one hour stops each day so that every one can get out of the car (and each other's hair), see a smaller site, and get some fresh air and exercise. A few such sites along the I-70/I-68 route would include the Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site, Summit Lake State Park, Barkcamp State Park, and Fort Frederick State Park. The last stop in particular, along with the nearby Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park would make a good place to pull up and wait for Washington's notorious rush hour traffic to clear before heading into the city.

    Columbus OH would make a pretty good midway point if you do end up making a couple of smaller stops each day. Be sure to go through the city later in the evening (after rush hour) so that you are on the far side and leaving town rather than fighting the morning rush hour.

    AZBuck

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