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  1. Default Roadtrip - Buffalo,NY to Charlotte,NC

    Trying without any luck to find the best route from Buffalo,NY to Charlotte,NC while avoiding as much mountains as I can. I will be towing a 30ft trailer with a RAM 1500 4.7 (Gas) and really don't want to have to worry about steep grades/ice/widey roads etc. Anyone have a route suggestions, I'm not concern much with time. If it adds several hours I can live with that.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default The Alternatives Are Expensive

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    The shortest all-Interstate route is I-90 to Erie, I-79 south to Charleston WV, and I-77 to Charlotte. Yes, that does entail crossing the Appalachians between roughly Charleston and Mount Airy NC, but Interstates are built to design standards that limit grades to 5% so that heavily loaded tractor-trailers can use them with minimal delay. And where grades are long, there is almost always an extra 'truck' lane for slow moving vehicles.

    Trying to avoid mountains altogether will end up taking you longer than those slow climbs might take and cost you considerably more in tolls, which will be steep with your rig. There are two possible relatively flat routes. The worst of these is to head east on the New York State Thruway ($toll$) following the route of the Erie Canal (flat) to the Hudson then south, also on the New York State Thruway ($toll$) following the Hudson River (flat) to the New York City area, crossing the Hudson ($toll$) to the New Jersey Turnpike ($toll$), crossing the Delaware River ($toll$), taking the Delaware Turnpike ($toll$), the Maryland Turnpike ($toll$), the Harbor Tunnel ($toll$), I-95 south around Washington (traffic delays) and down to Petersburg VA, then I-85 to Charlotte. That route is also 400 miles longer than the direct route, but it is flat.

    The other alternative is to go west and then hook around the southern end of the Appalachians. This route would have you taking I-90 to Cleveland, using I-271 to connect with I-71 south to Louisville, then I-65 south to Birmingham AL where you'd hook left on I-20 east to Atlanta (traffic nightmare) and I-85 north(!!) to Charlotte. That route is also relatively flat and doesn't have as many tolls as your other alternative, but it is nearly double the length of the direct, over-the-'mountains' route.

    As I said, I'd probably opt for the direct all-Interstate route and just tough out the few long climbs.


  3. Default

    Thanks for the Reply AZBuck, those where similar to 2 of the 3 routes I had come up with. The third route I was considering but not sure if it would be any better was to take the I390/I86 to US-22 E and I-83 Baltimore, then Baltimore/ I-95 S, I-495 W, I-95 S and I-85 S to charlotte with avoid tolls enabled. This gave me a 13h route at 807 miles with no tolls but not sure how the mountains are in PA on that route. Hope my route makes sense. Google Maps isn't the easiest to copy/paste.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Better the Devil You Know?

    With the rig you've got and the worries you have about mountainous grades and bad weather, I had not considered the third alternative that you mention. I believe you mean US-15/US-11 rather than US-22E from roughly Elmira down to Harrisburg and I-83. I've driven that route quite a lot since I used to live in Ithaca and had family in the DC area. It's fine (flat anyway) once you get to Williamsport and are basically following the Susquehanna River Valley, but between Elmira and Williamsport it is a two-lane twisting forest road with few services, and if it snows that road will not have priority - the Interstates and major highways will. And it still adds over 150 miles (3 hours) to your drive and has you going through some high traffic areas including Baltimore, Washington, Richmond/Petersburg. Sometimes we try so hard to avoid something we know we don't particularly like that we end up making the job harder on ourselves.


  5. #5

    Default "The Devil You Know" indeed

    While I'm all about seeking flat routes for a tow, I am also much about avoiding traffic congestion along the I-95 corridor between about Fredericksburg, VA and Boston, MA, where manhandling a half-ton pickup with such a large trailer could be a huge handful along the "Ho Chi Minh Trail". I did recently suggest that a traveler planning a tow trip consider using the I-95 corridor through northern NJ when the alternative was I-81 and I-84 through the Poconos in PA, but the Poconos are more demanding, in my opinion, than the heart of the Appalachians to the west, in WV.

    Just back in May 2015 my sons and I did a speed run to Buffalo and back for a wedding. It was a round-trip from Raleigh, NC so it involved much of the route you've found is the most direct. We did use the US 19 shortcut from I-79 to I-77 and that avoids Charleston and its congestion, is some 40 miles shorter (approximately--don't recall for sure), and is 4-lane all the way with only a few developed areas with stoplights. We accessed I-77 near Mount Airy, NC so experienced essentially all of the route's traverse of the Appalachians.

    While I-77/US 19/I-79 cannot be called flat, it's for the most part not too bad. Yes, there are some long grades from about Washington, PA for the rest of the way to the foot of the Blue Ridge at Mount Airy, and there are a small handful of really long ones, but all in all, it's just not too bad. Given the option of that route vs anything involving I-95 into VA and I-85 from Petersburg to Charlotte, I'd run the I-79/US 19/I-77 route hands down. I do agree that if frozen precip is in the forecast, all bets are off and I'd seek the lower-elevation options involving I-95/I-85. From the northwest side of Pittsburgh the rest of the way to Buffalo was very nice--rolling countryside up to Erie and pretty much flat to Buffalo (following the contours parallel to the lake). Practically no congestion from Pittsburgh north.

    If you do go through with the US 19 shortcut, be advised of the presence of a world-class speed trap in Summersville, WV. Just be aware of the speed limit dropping to 50 mph on each end of town, observe it, and you're good. Summersville is a good food and fuel stopping point, anyway, with lots of options available on both the northbound and southbound sides.

    Down this way, you'll want to avoid entering Charlotte on either I-77 or I-85 during morning rush hour, if at all possible.

    Safe travels,


  6. Default

    Thank you all for your advice. I will probably take the Buffalo > Baltimore > Richmond > Charlotte route but it's still on the table. We considered having someone just tow it down for us and been looking into some quotes.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    I'd do that instead - a 1/2 ton truck with a (relatively) small engine and a coil spring rear just wasn't built to tow that kind of load.

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