I'm driving through flyover country. Where should I stop?
November 20, 2012 8:15 PM   Subscribe

I'm driving from northern New Jersey to Ann Arbor, MI tomorrow via I-80, and returning to DC on Sunday via 76/70/270. What can I do to make these journeys less boring?

I know I'll need to stop for gas, nourishment, caffeine, and amusement along the way to keep myself from going insane as I pass through [what has been described to me as] a whole lotta nothing. What are the hidden gems on these routes?

I have the entire day to complete the drive, and will be on my own. Although I don't want to push the trip too far into the night, I don't mind stopping for a bit along the way.

Thanks in advance!
posted by schmod to Travel & Transportation around Midwest, WY (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I do the same drive from Detroit to DC fairly regularly. There is a) nothing and b) serious disincentive to get off the Pennsylvania and Ohio Turnpikes as you have to pay the base entrance fee again upon reentering the highways.

That said, there are a few things: the town featured in this slightly-problematic New York Times series is off the Ohio turnpike near Cleveland. There is a very large General Motors plant at Lordstown, just across the border from Pennsylvania, although I don't know if they offer tours. The Toledo Glass Museum is pretty cool.

But seriously, it's an ugly, ugly drive, and the Sunday after Thanksgiving will be even worse. You'll learn to hate the word "Breezewood" with the passion of a thousands suns, by the way.
posted by downing street memo at 8:26 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is an awful stretch of road. The only advice I can offer is to take a different route (Canada?) I sympathize for what you're about to go through, hopefully the roads are patched.
Don't bother stopping for anything beyond the necessities, the only redeemable things to draw from this stretch is:
1. you traveled it
2. how fast you made it through the corridor.

if you have a passport I'd say it would be worth driving through Canada. Although I'm not sure what the weather is like in Western NY at the moment.

Safe travels!
posted by Bridymurphy at 8:29 PM on November 20, 2012

Response by poster: Long story, but my passport is in Ann Arbor.

Oh, and a random question, but do I need to peel the HRC sticker off of my window?
posted by schmod at 8:36 PM on November 20, 2012

I don't see any reason why you would need to remove that sticker. I did a similar route during grad school and never found it particularly awful with some good music. Also, I sorta like Breezewood for its overall ridiculousness. Embrace the stupidity of America, you know?
posted by joan_holloway at 8:38 PM on November 20, 2012

Best answer: I've gotten through many boring drives with the This American Life app.
posted by 4ster at 8:55 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Recorded books. Fresh Air podcasts. TED talks audio.
posted by musofire at 8:57 PM on November 20, 2012

do I need to peel the HRC sticker off of my window?


I live in the Rust Belt and have traveled between its many wonderful cities and I can assure you this is not a thing you need to worry about.
posted by mcmile at 9:09 PM on November 20, 2012

If travelling at night, see where the furthest AM station you can tune in is coming from.

WTF podcast if you're into stand-up comedy. Just fast forward through the host's monologue and get to the interviews.
posted by not_on_display at 9:10 PM on November 20, 2012

I grew up in that part of the country, I love it dearly, and... yeah, that's a terribly boring drive. Sorry.

The trouble is that the turnpikes, PA in particular, make it hard to justify little detours and bits of exploration and so on, so you're just stuck on the Interstate and eating at rest areas. It's loathsome.

If you were starting further south I'd recommend I-68, which is a gorgeous, fun-to-drive bit of mostly rural road, with proper little diners and whatnot along the way. But I don't know if you can really justify that coming from North Jersey.

The HRC sticker is absolutely not an issue. We have liberals here. We've seen bumper stickers before. Nobody is gonna blink an eye.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:02 PM on November 20, 2012

Get off I-76 in at Pittsburgh/Monroeville, take I-376 into Pittsburgh, enjoy some of our many cafes, stores, restaurants, etc (check the numerous other threads on here about Pgh), leave Pgh via I-279N back to the turnpike and enjoy a bunch of money you saved on tolls as there are no booths between Cranberry and the Ohio border.
posted by buttercup at 4:03 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, to avoid Breezewood, you can take I68 over to US220 and go through Bedford, PA (a great little town) and connect with I-76 there. It doesn't add any significant time especially with the backups in Breezewood.
posted by buttercup at 4:08 AM on November 21, 2012

Go see the full size x wing fighter at mikes in kent ohio and eat a big big slop bucket of gold.

Eat at red wells famous roast beef on sylvannia ave in toledo. Sorry in advance as eating here will oblige you to return to toledo semi-annually.
posted by chasles at 4:18 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you're going through Dayton on 70, stop at Landes Meats. They're kind of a farm market with a little Mennonite flair, if there is such a thing. I haven't been there in close to 20 years, but they were always fun to go to for things like Lebanon bologna and whoopie pies. Plus their blueberry pies were so good that we demolished one before the next exit. (Sorry, Dad.)

They're only a mile or two off of 70. According to their website, they would love to meat you.
posted by Madamina at 6:26 AM on November 21, 2012

Flyover country? Really? I thought that was everything west of Chicago to at least the Rockies.

If you take the turnpike, your most realistic option is to stay on it, have a big library of audio, and make the best of it, which basically means that there are rest stops every 30-60 minutes along the entire route and you should enjoy them. The best part of the turnpike is just that it's FAST. There are some small numbers of good-to-great views, including the area crossing through Cuyahoga Valley National Park... it's the first major bit of scenery on the eastbound trip in my opinion. There's also a large wind farm in Somerset PA right near the wind park, and the eastbound rest stop there always seems to work out for me. The scenery in PA is possibly/probably dull but it is at least different than a lot of driving I normally do, so I don't find it as dreary as others might. Lots of large hills/small mountains, curving roads, etc.

Personally, if I'm passing through the area of Pittsburgh at night, I'll be tempted to find a reason to get off, find a bite (probably at a chain restaurant in a busy area), and drive through Pittsburgh when it's dark. It's visually very interesting, being built in a very hilly area. Entering downtown via the Fort Pitt tunnel at night is somewhat stunning.

And I'd also suggest I-68 for one leg, especially westward (better, in my opinion) if that's at all reasonable to your travel plans.
posted by jgreco at 6:30 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I always hit Road Food before any long drive, in case there's someplace interesting to stop:
Roadfood means great regional meals along highways, in small towns and in city neighborhoods. It is non-franchised, sleeves-up food made by cooks, bakers, pitmasters, and sandwich-makers who are America’s culinary folk artists. Roadfood is almost always informal and inexpensive; and the best Roadfood restaurants are colorful places enjoyed by locals (and savvy travelers) for their character as well as their menu.
posted by bcwinters at 6:41 AM on November 21, 2012

I listened to my audible app on iphone at full volume as otherwise I could not hear it to "how to make friends and influence people" but I'm sure this would work with any book especially a nonfiction. Listening to an audiobook makes driving particularly long time driving be a lot more relaxed. And I actually await pauses (red lights) or drivers driving slowly as an opportunity to focus on what I am hearing. So get some sort of device that can play audiobooks and listen to them.
posted by uncreative at 6:42 AM on November 23, 2012

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