Rustbelt Roadtrip!
November 19, 2008 11:13 AM   Subscribe

Looking for tips for my upcoming Minneapolis - New York roadtrip. Specifically, where should I sleep, and are there cool things along the way I should check out? I'll be by myself and this will be in December.

I've done variations on this trip several times, but never by myself and always in a rush. Since i'll be doing this trip alone, I plan on pacing myself: 19 hours over three or maybe even four days. Here's a map of the route I'm likely to take, with this route as an alternative.


Where are good places to stay along this route? I'd like to try to stay in some cute towns, as opposed to a strip mall motel or spending 3 hours getting into and out of a city like Chicago. I'm really into old industrial towns, which there should be a lot of along this route. Or a college town could be good. Either way, a hotel/motel in town where I can walk to a nearby restaurant/coffee shop after a day of driving would be perfect, and I'd like to keep it under $100/night.

Any other good places to stop along the way? I'm looking for good places to eat (ie, great examples of local cuisine, exceptional road food, diners, etc) or cool historical spots, or really anything interesting along the way to break up the monotony of the road.

Also, I've read a lot of the other road trip questions, but I'll certainly take any general road trip advice you've got. I've never done such a long trip by myself!

To answer questions that might come up: I have a AAA membership, I plan on tuning up my car before I go, and yes, this trip does need to be made by car.
posted by lunasol to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Osseo - in Wisconsin past Eau Claire....stop at the Norske Nook for pie.

In Madison, stop at Ella's Deli for sandwiches, ice cream and eye candy.

Just past Madison stop at the Wollersheim Winery.
posted by ian1977 at 11:43 AM on November 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

I live in South Bend, which you could make in a 9 hour day. It's both college-ey and industrial, if you're into that sort of thing. Check your mefi mail. Exceptional food is a little hard to come by, but you can have a great burger at CJ's Pub. A couple good highbrow places too, interestingly enough. See the Notre Dame campus, it's very pretty. Mefi mail me for more details if you want 'em.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:44 AM on November 19, 2008

In Central Wisconsin, take the Merrimac Ferry for a free, interesting, not-too-far-out-of-your-way trip. It will be interesting during winter, too.
posted by yellowbkpk at 12:20 PM on November 19, 2008

Best answer: Looks like you're driving through Chicago anyway, so you might want to stop for the day and take in the Art Institute (come back when it's warm and take the downtown architecture tour). If you're on 94, it will take you within 8 blocks of the museum. On your way out of the city, take route 41/South Lake Shore. You can pick up the Skyway, a truly amazing road, from this route or if you don't want to pay the, I believe $6 toll, continue down Rte 41/South Shore Drive through the South Shore neighborhood, the old Port of Chicago, and the working class neighborhoods near the steel mills, now casino central. You'll go under the Skyway and get back on 94 right at the Indiana border. (Watch carefully for the Route 41 signs, the route is well marked, but twists and turns, so you have to pay attention). Once we discovered this route, we never took 94 or 80 again to get out of Illinois.

Or, continuing with the theory of old industrial towns, Stay on 94 through and past downtown (that's a horrible drive, BUT), and check out the Pullman neighborhood. Directions here.

Coupla states along, you might check out Port Clinton OH and Lake Erie Islands on Ohio's north coast (you'll be able to see Canada from your house!). It's an old Erie Islands logging community turned sailing resort; about the closest thing to Provincetown MA in the Midwest. I don't know what it's like in December; again, in summer it's fantastic. Getting back to the highway from there you'll go through an extensive waterfowl protection area anchored by a nuclear power plant. I believe they give tours.
posted by nax at 3:43 PM on November 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Just read the other comments; forget South Bend for food! There's a fantastic fish restaurant in Elkhart IN. Get off at Exit 92, go north. It's at Simonton Lake, right on the water, pretty much right where the "A" balloon is on this Google map. Just a little family place, on the east side of the road; the little parking lot is right on the water's edge. Wish I could remember the name; they have the most fantastic sausage and mixed peppers sandwich!
posted by nax at 3:55 PM on November 19, 2008

Best answer: Interstate 80 through Indiana and Ohio is soul-destroying. It's a toll road that seems designed to give you the worst possible impression of these two states. US Highway 20 and Ohio Highway 2 run alongside it, however, and given your schedule you can afford the slightly slower, slightly longer route. They run through a whole bunch of interesting small towns and get you into the atmosphere of the landscape -- not to mention access to good food and cheap, non-chain motels.

Once you're in Pennsylvania, I-80 actually rubs up against small towns again -- check out the Maple Cafe in downtown Dubois.
posted by gum at 5:51 PM on November 19, 2008

Yeah, stay off the Indiana Toll Road. It's privately managed and is the worst worst worst road in America.
posted by nax at 6:19 PM on November 19, 2008

Best answer: All other things being equal, an interest in rust definitely means you want to take the Cleveland route through Ohio rather than the Columbus one. Angelo's has really, really good pizza. After you pass Cleveland it's pretty easy to jog down to I-70 instead of going on I-80. Doing this will put you near Johnstown, PA, the happiest place on earth.
posted by fidelity at 7:04 PM on November 19, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for all the tips - the food and highway recs were exactly the sort of thing I was looking for. Nothing worse than hours upon hours on a horrible toll road. I was a bit random with the best answer button, but these are all helpful.
posted by lunasol at 9:35 AM on November 20, 2008

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