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Scenic trucks?
June 21, 2012 7:13 AM   Subscribe

Driving from Montreal to the Florida Keys, what's the best route?

I've looked at a couple options....

Either, Montreal through the border at Plattsburg then on the I87 then I95, this takes me near NYC, through NJ, south of Phily and through Washington.

Or through the thousand Islands bridge off the 401 through Alexandria, then on I81 until the 495 (around Washington) and then on I95. This has the advantage of staying away from more the urban areas of NY and NJ, but still hit Washington.

Or.... again the I81 but continue on it in Virginia and take the I77 (go through Charlotte) and then I95. This is a bit longer but I've been told this is much more scenic, and also has a lot more trucks. Some people have told me they're good drivers, other that they're maniacs that'll run you over if you go too slowly in their lanes. Also it's supposed to be a bit more up and down, and you run the chance of being stuck behind a slow truck going uphill, and has less options to bypass a traffic event.

I95 seems like it has more gas stations, restaurants, stops, etc on it. But more urban areas with congestion and traffic.

For info, we plan on leaving early on a saturday so we'd be in the NY area at around 14h/15h, and the DC area around 20h.

Any thoughts?
posted by coust to Travel & Transportation (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
The best route depends on what your criteria are. Are you looking for the absolute fastest way to go? Or the most scenic? Or the least dangerous? Or the route with the most pitstops/tourist attractions?
posted by Grither at 7:17 AM on June 21, 2012


When my family used to drive it, taking speed and convenience into account, it was I87 to I95. If you're leaving this Saturday or next, don't forget that both are the start of long weekends and to avoid traffic at the border you absolutely totally want to leave the city by 6 am, an hour or two before the leaving time I calculate.
posted by jeather at 7:28 AM on June 21, 2012


The ferry ride over the lake from Plattsburg to S. Hero, VT is nice and gives you a short break yet lets you not feel guilty because you're still moving. From there it's easy to get onto 89 down to 93 to 95 in MA.

The ferry runs every 20 minutes, 24 hours a day.
posted by bondcliff at 7:33 AM on June 21, 2012


I 95 is grueling and very boring. Lots of traffic. I've been up and down I 81 many times, the only times I've had problems is in winter because of snow. It is very beautiful in parts.
posted by mareli at 7:35 AM on June 21, 2012


I just tried it on Mapquest, it's not that much longer, it wouldn't let me drag the route over for some reason so this is what I did. First I did Montreal to Binghamton NY, then to Key West.
posted by mareli at 7:42 AM on June 21, 2012


Attractions on the route are a non-issue. I think our first criteria is to avoid traffic which would make the trip longer than it needs to be, so in a sense time is probably our criteria. Scenic is a bonus, but not the objective.
posted by coust at 8:06 AM on June 21, 2012


In that case I would take I-81 because I-95 is subject to frequent unpredictable traffic jams anywhere from Richmond, Virginia to NYC and probably beyond. Summer is especially bad with construction projects and people traveling for vacation.
posted by exogenous at 8:10 AM on June 21, 2012


Yeah, if you want to avoid traffic, then I'd take I-81 down. This route, basically.
posted by Grither at 8:14 AM on June 21, 2012


Another thought would be to pivot from Charlotte, down I-85, through Atlanta, and then down I-75. You can hook up with the Florida Turnpike north of Orlando and then haul ass, with frequent Service Plazas through Miami, then take the turn off to the Keys.

Just take care when driving through Tifton, GA. Total speed trap.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:16 AM on June 21, 2012


All my car rides were winter, which was part of why 81 was out. (The other part is that my mother can't get nearly as lost if she doesn't ever have to change highways.) But we timed drives to avoid rush hours in cities and only once hit really bad traffic (in Georgia).

I really cannot emphasize enough how you can get stuck in a multi-hour line at the border. If you take I-81, you'll probably want to leave even earlier as it takes you longer to reach the border. This can, if you are unlucky -- and I have been -- more time than any traffic jams you might hit.
posted by jeather at 8:24 AM on June 21, 2012


Avoid Atlanta! Nightmare traffic 24/7!
posted by mareli at 8:38 AM on June 21, 2012


jeather, good point about the border, we'll take that into account.
posted by coust at 8:47 AM on June 21, 2012


I drove from Tampa to extreme western Massachusetts around this time last year. Much of my drive, from Daytona, FL to Scranton, PA, was the I-81/I-95 route you're considering. It was a very nice drive, and I didn't run into any traffic hassles — the route avoids major cities other than Charlotte. (And Miami, of course, but there's no way to avoid that one.)

One modification of the route proposed by Grither is to take I-87 south to near Newburgh, NY, and then to cut over to Scranton on I-84. When I drove this route the other way, I-84 was eerily deserted. (Of course, that may have just been good fortune.) You could also take I-87 and cut over on I-88 shortly after Albany, though I have no direct experience with this route.
posted by Johnny Assay at 9:01 AM on June 21, 2012


(And Miami, of course, but there's no way to avoid that one.)


Actually, transfering to I-75/Florida Turnpike will have you avoiding Miami. You'll be about 15 miles to the west and it's a lot smoother taking the back way to Homestead, then the Keys.

If you decide on I-95, Indiantown Rd, Exit 97 on I-95, is the best exit to take to get to the Turnpike as you can see it from the freeway.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:16 AM on June 21, 2012


Avoid Atlanta! Nightmare traffic 24/7!

This really depends on when you come through town. It's not all that bad except in rush hour. For Southbound travel, any time after 9AM should be fine. I85 turns into I75 downtown.

Total time to get through Atlanta if you're not in rush hour, about 30 minutes, tops.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:18 AM on June 21, 2012


Would you consider Amtrak's AutoTrain? You'd still have to drive from Montreal to Lorton, Virginia (about 20 miles south of Washginton DC), but then you and your car can ride the 900 miles down to Sanford, Florida in comfort.
posted by easily confused at 9:46 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


oops, forgot this part: www.amtrak.com or 877-SKIP-I95
posted by easily confused at 9:47 AM on June 21, 2012


easily confused: thanks for the tip, didn't knew about that. It would cut the trip in half.

Thanks to all of you for the opinions and tips, keep em coming.
posted by coust at 10:08 AM on June 21, 2012


+1 for the Amtrak Auto Train, though it can be pricey or sold out depending on when you plan on traveling. The trip down from DC is great, since you board at 4 PM, have a leisurely dinner, sleep through the night, and arrive in FL around 9 AM the next morning;
posted by evoque at 10:44 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Watch out for Florida Turnpike-- most of it is cashless tolls, soo, not sure how that works with Canadian drivers plates.
posted by sandmanwv at 10:45 AM on June 21, 2012


I used to live in NYC/NJ, and now live near Albany, NY. I highly recommend that you do not come anywhere near NYC on a summer Saturday - road construction and people going in or out of the city makes it a snarl with unpredictable, sudden traffic jams. NYC folks leave to go north to the Adirondacks or south to the Jersey Shore; Upstaters head south for a slice of the city, concerts, etc....a mess.

If you want to come south on I-87 first, I recommend Johnny Assay's suggestion to cut over to I-88 and then connect with I-81. At Albany, transfer to I-90 West for about 6-8 miles, then take I-88 West, (it actually travels south-west) which connects with I-81 at Binghamton. I-88 is in great shape, always has little to no traffic on it, and according to the NYSDOT website has no construction scheduled on it. As a bonus, it runs through some very pretty farmland. Its only drawback is that it is somewhat hilly; I find my cruise control has to downshift regularly to maintain speed on the uphills.
posted by Ardea alba at 10:57 AM on June 21, 2012


If you don't have a Sunpass, you are on the toll-by-plate system, it takes a picture of your plate and eventually you receive a bill by mail, if you pre-register you avoid the service fees.
posted by coust at 11:15 AM on June 21, 2012


I drive between Memphis and Boston 4 times a year,and we always take I-81 through VA and PA. Very pleasant. One trip there was a bad accident involving an overturned trailer and hazardous chemicals that shut down the highway for a long time, but that can happen anywhere. Otherwise I've never encountered much traffic. In the northeast I have done I-81 to I-84, very bucolic, low stress. I-87 does have more traffic sometimes, but by all means you should AVOID I-95 in the northeast AT ALL COSTS. It will make you stabby.

The hills in VA on I-81 are fairly mild, IMO, and I've never been stuck behind a slow truck on that route. There is always plenty of room to pass.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 11:22 AM on June 21, 2012


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