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  1. Default Best 2 day routes MN to Raleigh, late March: thru KY-TN, or WV?

    Greetings!

    We are planning a family trip from Minneapolis to NC by car for Easter. Our family is husband, wife, and 3 boys under 10 who are great road trippers. We have a Ford Explorer we love, and are comfortable driving 600-650 miles a day or 9 hours of driving time (we typically add 2-3 hours for stops.)

    For various reasons, we need to make the trip *there* in two days' drive, (and we will have a little wiggle room for weather.) My questions are about the interstates and routes through the mountains over to NC. We would take I-94/I-90/I-39-I-74, with the thought of going through Champaign, Il rather than going anywhere near Chicago/Gary. So that gets us to I-74.The question is then what.

    We are less interested in this direction being fun and more interested in time. My experiences with I-40 from CA to AK and I-80 across CO-IL is that the truck traffic is so heavy that driving is unpleasant. Our car will be fine in the mountains no matter what, but I'd prefer less accompanying truck traffic over those passes. My guess is the easiest is to make it the first day to Indianapolis. Does that sound sane? Should we do I-77 thru WV or I-75-I-40 through knoxville/asheville? We also need at least some decent (a clean McDonald's or better?) place to stop and eat twice, typically one late morning and one mid-afternoon.

    How are the rest stops along these routes? We typically end up using rest stops 2-3 times a day on trips like these, in addition to the other big 2 stops.

    Our return has more leeway, and more time, probably 3-4 days. We'd probably prefer to leave by a different route, just for the experience. We'd love physical beauty, but the kids are more inclined to the Largest Ball of Twine like stops. I haven't really investigated the kitschy opportunities for them along these routes yet, so suggestions are welcome.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,272

    Default

    Welcome to RTA!

    Indy is the logical overnight.

    My software says the fastest route from Indy to Raleigh is I-70 to Dayton, then use US-23 and US-35 to I-64 through Charleston, I-77 to I-74 to US-52 to Winston-Salem, then Branch-40 to I-40. The next best option is I-65 out of Indy to Louisville, then I-64. My software says it's 30 minutes longer but it's all Interstate. It's another 30 minutes longer than that going via Knoxville.

    On the Interstate portions of the route, there are plenty of rest areas and exits with food and fuel. The toll road portion in WV has service plazas.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    Welcome to RTA!

    We also need at least some decent (a clean McDonald's or better?) place to stop and eat twice, typically one late morning and one mid-afternoon. How are the rest stops along these routes? We typically end up using rest stops 2-3 times a day on trips like these, in addition to the other big 2 stops.
    Rest areas along the interstate highways are usually pretty safe during the daytime. They generally run 50-100 miles apart. Fuel is also abundant, usually every few miles. If keeping fuel costs down is important to you, and you have a smartphone, then I would recommend Gas Buddy app for finding the best priced fuel. (Sometimes simply waiting until you cross a state line can save you 30c a gallon.)

    As for food, interstate exits usually have signs that tell you what food is at the exit, IF that restaurant has paid for a little extra advertising on the blue-signs. Other ways to find out would be to check your GPS, watch for billboards, or a book like we carry called THE NEXT EXIT. Off the interstates, most small towns have places to eat. In service plazas, you've got fuel, food, gift shops and restrooms all in one.

    Truckers may be a pain in the neck sometimes, but really -- look on them as the reason you have a nice variety of things to choose from in your stores, restaurants, homes and workplaces. It's because of their diligence, and away-from-home time, that we have a lot of our goods. They do use interstates when they can because of the need to "make time".


    Donna

  4. Default

    I don't trust software because I used to write it :) Google claims you should drive near Chicago and Gary. I know better.

    Assuming good weather, what's average speed on the trip through the mountains itself on I-77? And what's the truck traffic like?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    AAA routed us through Chicago using 90-94, on our '14 trip. We avoided it because we were staying in the southern 'burbs and leaving north on a weekday. So we headed east on 80 and then north on 39, I think it was. It was 100 miles further that way but far easier on the fuel mileage and on the lack of tolls, so we were happier.

    I still like paper maps. Always will. I don't always trust software and definitely don't trust Google or Mapquest.


    Donna

  6. Default

    Hi Donna,

    Thanks!

    I'm not mad that trucks exist. I just don't want to drive between trucks on every lane for every mile. The difference between the traffic on I-90 and I-80 west of the Mississippi is considerable. I'm trying to get a gauge of the heaviness on these roads, because I am totally unfamiliar. How "rural" is this route--by that I mean, how far apart are the towns? My experience is considerable out west, but haven't ever traveled south of I80/90 east of the mississippi.
    on I-90, you can literally go 300 miles without a decent place to eat, period, and it's too late to rely on GPS or billboards with the assumption that there's bound to be something in the next 50-100 miles.

    Thank you!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,067

    Default

    The east by its very nature is much more compact than the west, so the distances between towns is also much smaller.

    Of course "decent" is in the eye of the beholder, but there is no place on I-90, even out west, where you'd go even 100 miles without some dining options. The intervals on all of the roads that you'll be on will be much smaller. If you find even a 50 mile gap between services, I'd be quite shocked. Still, a good look at a map will show you exactly what you'll be going past in ways of towns.

    The US-35 route that GLC recommended is a good choice. It is 4 lanes the entire way, except for a short section just after you cross from OH into WV. Every interstate is going to see a fair amount of truck traffic, but I-77 isn't a major cross country route in the way that I-80 and I-90 are.

  8. Default

    MM, You've never driven from Mitchell, SD, west to Rapid City, I see. Even if I give in and let you have Wall (which doesn't count as decent), still well over 100 miles.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,067

    Default

    I have driven across South Dakota several times, and found plenty of good places to eat along the way.

    I've had several good meals in Chamberlain, a very nice town along the Missouri River that has numerous restaurants to pick from. I've also had a "decent" meal in Wall. And even in between there are still several towns with multiple restaurants to choose from. Kadoka, Murdo, and Plankinton are some of the other towns where you can stop and have a few options to pick from for food.

    Again, "decent" is in the eye of the beholder, and if you're out to prove you can't do something, then it's easy to declare that nothing is decent - but even in the example you provided, you've got plenty of dining options that are far less than 100 miles apart.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,272

    Default

    Hmm - you claim that there's nothing "decent" in Wall, but you have defined "decent" as a clean McDonald's or better? I just looked on Tripadvisor and found 10 restaurants in Wall, including a DQ and a Subway.

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