Highway to hell?
July 23, 2008 9:50 PM   Subscribe

RoadTripFilter: Driving from New York City to Chicago, IL for Lollapalooza. A few questions...

According to Google Maps, we're looking at a thirteen hour drive. We plan on leaving Wednesday the 30th, late afternoon/evening, and doing a good chunk of the driving during the night, until like midnight or so, and then crashing somewhere along the way, waking up the next morning, and finishing off the reminder drive.

A couple of questions:
1) Any suggestions/personal experiences as to a particular recommended sleep spot, and/or place to avoid? Cheaper is better, but since we four are splitting it, it doesn't have to be like $35/night seedy. $100/night seedy is probably fine. Any thought?

2) As far as the route, it looks to be pretty much a straight shot on I-80. Any experiences as far as traffic speed and flow? For example, the speed limit on my home highway turf, the LIE, is 55mph, but going under 60 in anything but the right lane is...dicey. Conversely, going above 72 is basically asking for a speeding ticket. What should we keep in mind as far as driving style, regionally speaking?

3) Suggestions for not killing eachother during the trip? Four collegiate males in a car...if you've done this before, anything you wish you'd brought/done/hadn't brought.

4) Suggested road trip music?

posted by weaponsgradecarp to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you're sticking on I-80, Pittsburgh and Cleveland are about halfway (either will leave you with a 6+ hr drive one day and 7 the other) and should yield many suburban/ring hotels in your range. And once you get on the I-80 turnpike, the rest stops will have those newsprint interstate hotel ad/coupon books. Traveling the US for years, I found that bargains are there to be had at some decent national chains.

Your Spidey speed sense will probably serve you in PA and Ohio, too. I-80 is 65 in both. Indiana is tricky. Most of the turnpike is 70 through there and you can go a long way without much traffic--then some non-active construction with lowered speed limits and BAM, troopers.

Item #3? We didn't plan for enough decent car snack food (apples, trail mix etc.) and got cranky on gas station coffee & crap food. Fortunately, we all liked cranking up post-bop jazz & psych/kraut/rock full blast.
posted by beelzbubba at 11:04 PM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

1) sorry, I've always done the drive straight through, so no suggestions. I do have a strong preference for the rest stops in Ohio over the rest stops in Indiana, foodwise. however, the Indiana tollway thoughtfully prints the restaurants at each rest stop on the toll ticket, so you know what to avoid or wait for. I never stopped in PA, mostly because I'm too lazy to exit the highway just to eat.

2) state troopers seem to leave you alone for most of PA. don't speed in Ohio or Indiana, especially Indiana - that 70 MPH means 70, or 75 at the moment. if you have out of state plates you are a moving target. you may want to check out alternate routes (like the PA Turnpike) in case 80 is under construction. another thing to keep in mind is that you should be able to use EZ-Pass, if you have it, in PA and Illinois (that I-Pass and EZ-Pass have a mutual system is my favorite thing ever), but not in Ohio or Indiana, so be sure you have enough cash on hand for those tolls.

4) preview bands for the show?

drive safely and have fun! see you in Grant Park!
posted by dropkick queen at 11:17 PM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've done this trip many, many times. I don't know if you're schedule's flexible, but I'd advise against driving across Pennsylvania at night. It's twisty and hilly, with a lot of commercial (18-wheelers) traffic, and chances are you'll encounter multiple construction segments. Maybe, coming at the start of your trip (with four potential drivers) this won't be a big deal, but it generally induces really bad highway hypnosis - pitch black with nothing but reflectors, worrying about deer, passing trucks going up hills only to have them ride your ass going downhill.

It's beautiful scenery in the early morning however (hint: leave Chicago late at night, so you hit PA at 5AM). You won't be missing much driving through Ohio and Indiana in the dark.

In Eastern PA, from the Poconos exits through ~Waterloo Village in NJ there's a scarcity of 24hr gas stations - I've never run out, but it's an unpleasant stretch to drive with the empty light on.

Hotels - I just nap at rest stops, but every Best Western I've ever stayed at has been totally un-seedy, and most are very nice, for motels.

If you've got an automotive-GPS device, I imagine you'll be bringing it - if not, might be worth investing in, specially if you're unfamiliar with Chicago and want to explore at all. It'll also provide you with more dining options than the roadside markers would have you know.
posted by unmake at 11:37 PM on July 23, 2008

I-80 in Indiana is a bit strange.

The first time I ever was driving there, I watched someone who was going barely faster than my 74 get pulled over by troopers. Within that same ten mile stretch between Granger and South Bend, I was nearly run down by a semi (maliciously, not accidentally) when I was going 65 in the left lane. My advice is to go just about 70 through there, no more, no less. Notre Dame is a nice pit stop about 2 hours out, because you won't really want to stop in the industrial wasteland that is Gary, Michigan City, and East Chicago.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 11:46 PM on July 23, 2008

Okay. The suck part is getting around Lake Michigan to the City. Since you're going to Lollapalooza, you're going to want to get to I-90 and come straight in, rather than taking I-80 to the Dan Ryan. Since I-90/80 run together, this is easy. There's lots of construction on I-80/94, and I-65 is closed between I-90 and I-80, so make sure you follow I-90 off the split to the Chicago Skyway.

If you're staying out in the 'burbs, that may change. Expect traffic in Chicago -- we don't have rush hour so much as we have non-rush hour.
posted by eriko at 4:29 AM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Hotels. If nothing is going on in Rosemont, you might find decent prices there. Advantage -- near the Blue Line, which runs straight downtown, and with all the of the track work being done this summer, has been running faster every week.

The ideal is the Marriott O'Hare, which is very close to the Cumberland stop. (Not the Marriott Suites.) There are park and rides at the Rosemont, Cumberland and Harlem stops. The Blue Line runs 24 hours, but there is a possibility that a section between Addison and Jefferson Park will be replaced by bus service over the weekend (part of the aformentioned track work.)

Theoretically, you could find hotels near Midway, but I know so little about that part of town that I'm very hesitant to suggest staying there. As a born Northsider, everything South of Roosevelt and out of sight of the lake is marked Here Be Dragons, and there are some bad neighborhoods down there, so if someone else can pipe up if they know that area, please do. I do know that there are good neighborhoods down south, I just don't know where they are, or what the area around Midway is like (haven't flown out of MDW in 20 years.) If there are hotels, and it is safe, you'd take the Orange Line into the city, but the Orange Line *does not* run 24 hours.

Anything in the city will be more expensive -- but it might be worth it as a splurge. You could stay far out -- say, Schaumburg -- drive in to Rosemont/Cumberland and take the train in, and save a considerable amount of money both on the hotel and on parking. Parking in Central Chicago is painful -- $30/day can be cheap, and it'll be worse with the festival. Never mind getting into/out of the Grant Park area when the fest lets out
posted by eriko at 4:42 AM on July 24, 2008

There are two or three chain hotels at the Streetsboro/I-480 exit off of the Ohio turnpike (#187). There are also Shell, BP and Sheetz gas stations (if you prefer not to get Turnpike gas). I personally abhor places like Ruby Tuesday's or Applebee's, however if that is your bag, they are also at this exit. There is also a Target (with a Starbucks) and a handful of fast food restaurants, as well.

As far as speeding goes on the Ohio portion, keep it below 73mph and you'll be OK. Don't travel in the left lane, it's for passing only. (This does not apply to any other highways in Ohio).

If you feel adventurous and are willing to drive a little for (slightly) better food, you can take exit 161 onto I-71 North and exit at Bagley Rd. Turn left off of the exit ramp and you'll have your choice of better restaurants, including a Cleveland-original: Aladdins Eatery. There are also a few hotels here, due to the proximity to the CLE airport.

Bon voyage!
posted by vkxmai at 5:22 AM on July 24, 2008

I have nothing against Notre Dame--my wife was born in South Bend--but you don't want to stop in South Bend just for the sake of stopping. Push on, Chicago is a mere 90 minutes ahead, and there is absolutely nothing you can get there that you can't get better elsewhere.

Re: staying near Midway. I'm from that part of town and there is no staying at motels near Midway. Again, no reason to, and nothing really worth staying at. "Near" there, you'd be staying in Oakbrook or Westchester, not really so near Midway, but close enough to the city.

If you want to stay west side--which you don't specifically say you want--you want the Carleton in Oak Park, but again, you can usually shop for deals online; I've stayed at the Sheraton Lakefront for under $100 through Priceline. But yeah, you'll pay for parking.

But the Carleton in Oak Park or the Write Inn (a Hemingway themed "boutique" hotel, but down at the heels a bit) are right next to the El to go downtown and both have parking convenient and usually comped.
posted by beelzbubba at 5:29 AM on July 24, 2008

I just drove Brooklyn to Chicago a few weeks ago. I left NYC by about 8:30 AM and pulled into Chicago right around 10:30 PM, but I stopped a bunch along the way.

There's a cheap but solid Italian restaurant in Bellefonte, PA, called Mama Lucense's (or something like that). Its about halfway through PA and is kind of a nice break from the interstate.

Rest stops in Ohio are really nice.

Don't bother filling the tank in Jersey just because gas looks so cheap. It stays that cheap all the way to Illinois.

If your music source is an iPod, try to hardwire it into the car's sound system. Those FM transmitters sound like crap and you'll have to change the frequency about 20 times during the trip to avoid interference from local radio stations.

Gary, Indiana, smells like crap. Industrial waste or something.
posted by ben242 at 10:28 AM on July 24, 2008

Dropkick Queen - I-Passes are now accepted on the Indiana Toll Road and on the Skyway. I don't know for sure about EZ Pass compatibility, but I know my Illinois I-Pass works there.

Eriko is absolutely right about making sure you take the Skyway from I-80. I've gone well over 72 in Indiana several times and been okay, but I've also seen lots of troopers with people pulled over.

Definitely fill up somewhere other than the City of Chicago - gas is outrageous here.

Regarding the pit stop in South Bend - I agree that it's much better to stop there than in Gary (which does indeed smell like crap), so keep that in mind if there are any small-bladdered people with you.

For music, you definitely need to be making a prep mix for Lollapalooza. With 120 bands or whatever there should be more than enough out there to fill the time.
posted by slo at 1:32 PM on July 24, 2008

To clarify, I wasn't suggesting that you stop in South Bend for fun, only that it is the last place before you get to your destination that you won't feel like the air is full of soot, stench, and sadness.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 1:38 AM on July 28, 2008

« Older the most detroity thing to do in detroit   |   Help me pick out a LCD HDTV and accoutrements! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.