Advice on a cross-country route from Minneapolis to Richmond
May 14, 2013 11:24 AM   Subscribe

We're driving from Minneapolis to Richmond this weekend, and want to change up our usual route. Will you locals in the major cities along our route provide wisdom/advice on the traffic and construction situation?

Husband & I are driving from Minneapolis to Richmond this weekend. We've done this drive twice before and we'd like to change up our usual route, which typically avoids Chicago and other major construction/traffic areas. Instead, we'd like to do this route, linked here.

Wise? Not wise? We've never driven through Pittsburgh, Cleveland or NOVA/outer-DC, and I'm wondering if the change of scenary won't be worth the time we sit in traffic and weave through construction. We plan to check traffic and construction maps, but there's nothing like hearing it from the locals. Our trip there will start this Saturday, with arrival in Richmond on Sunday, while the trip back will be next Thursday and Friday. One of us (me) is also a nervous driver, so while my husband will be pulling most of the city routes, this new route snakes us through more major city traffic.

Any warnings or advice on this route would be much appreciated. We're not interested in sight-seeing -- just getting to the destination and plan to do about 12 hours over two days, with no particular planned stop place on the first evening (we'll just stop when we're tired). Thanks!
posted by Zosia Blue to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total)
For the DC area I think you'd be hitting it during decent times, nothing crazy like rush hour. I'd probably still cut down 81 from Hagerstown and bypass the whole area - it looks like it doesn't really add any time on and you don't risk being stuck on the beltway or 270.
posted by brilliantine at 11:59 AM on May 14, 2013

Going out of your way to use the DC Beltway and I-95 South with no interest in sight-seeing seems a bit crazy to this DC-area native. Doing that on a Saturday morning would be certifiably crazy, but Sunday should actually be pretty much ok. I would definitely wait until after rush hour when you come back Thursday morning. Commuting-to-DC traffic starts just north of Richmond in Fredericksburg.
posted by 0 at 12:01 PM on May 14, 2013

Best answer: The express lanes construction on 95 south from DC to Quantico and beyond means usual lane closures on weekends. Might be on the Sunday you're going through.

So I'll second "stay the bleep away from DC".

If you want to come through Pittsburgh and avoid DC, take
- the Turnpike to Breezewood/I-70 E
- I-70E to I-81S in Hagerstown.
- I-81S to I-66E,
- Get off I-66 at Route 17S. Take Route 17 to I-95 South (in Fredericksburg).

Just watch for county sheriffs on 17.

This is the route I take to PGH from somewhere near Richmond.

I think this link shows the corrections
posted by k5.user at 12:12 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

My family regularly drives from Richmond to Cleveland, and k5.user gave you exactly the advice I would have given about the way we avoid DC-area traffic.

Although going north, we also take Route 522 up after I-66 (instead of going around on I-81); however, there seems to be very little gas available on 522 so plan accordinglly.

There are a bunch of farmer's market-type stands on Route 17 that have some amazing produce. Also, for reasons I can't figure out, a pit stop at Rey Azteca in Somerset, PA has kind of become our "usual" thing -- although there's lots of (chain dining) options in Breezewood, if that's more your thing.

I originally took a route that swung wide and went through Charlottesville, but Route 17 is really much better.
posted by QuantumMeruit at 12:55 PM on May 14, 2013

Response by poster: k5 (and everyone), that's exactly what I needed to know. Thank you! I think we'll likely take your advice to the letter here.
posted by Zosia Blue at 1:08 PM on May 14, 2013

No idea if this is something you'd be interested in, but I've driven from Minneapolis to North Carolina and back 4 or 5 times and I found that it's about a million times more enjoyable to avoid the big interstate highways. All I do is take a big old school atlas with me and pick small highways that go roughly southish and eastish and bring me closer to my destination, and highlight the ones I take so I can remember my route.

When you get off the big highways, I feel like you get such a better sense of the area you're passing through. Along the interstate, it's all the same chain gas stations and fast food restaurants. It's hard to get any sense of the changing architecture, geography, and communities from the interstate.

When you get off the major highways, it may take a little bit longer, but you avoid the heavy city traffic, and the stress and confusion that can some times accompany it. I find it actually seems to pass much more quickly, because I'm a lot more relaxed (partly because I'm not surrounded by others in a hurry buzzing all around me). You can witness and hear the changing culture. Find cool small town cafes to stop in. Take a break in a city park. It can feel really good to just slow down and not worry about getting there as fast as physically possible. It really changed the experience for me. YMMV, of course!! ;]
posted by hannahelastic at 10:11 AM on May 15, 2013

Response by poster: k5, we took your route exactly and it was perfect. However, we (stupidly!) forgot how expensive tolls were, so we took a Southern route on the way back. Thanks again.
posted by Zosia Blue at 6:35 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

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