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Author Topic: Roadtrip routing advice (Dayton to DC)  (Read 7639 times)

1995hoo

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Roadtrip routing advice (Dayton to DC)
« on: September 24, 2012, 10:33:35 AM »

We don't have a "route advice" forum anywhere, so I thought this section seemed like the most appropriate place to ask for comments.

Need to make a roadtrip out to Dayton in a couple of weeks for family business. I've never driven there—it's my wife's family and we got married in 2010 and I flew out the other time I went there—but I know the "conventional" route via the Interstate and we'll probably use some version of that for the trip out (most likely I-270 -> I-68 -> US-40 -> new PA-43 freeway -> I-70; main reason on US-40/PA-43 is that neither of us has used that road but we've both used I-68 to I-79 several times as well as the Pennsylvania Turnpike on many occasions). For the trip out I'm setting aside roadgeeking, except perhaps for opting for the Wheeling Tunnel instead of I-470, simply because our goal has to be to get out there in a timely fashion on a Wednesday.

What I'm trying to figure out is the way I want to come back to the DC area on a Sunday afternoon. Taking I-70 across Ohio in both directions seems like a boring option when there are so many other roads. I'm wondering if anyone could give me some comments on the pros and cons of the following options:

(1) US-35 southeast to Chillicothe, then US-50 across through Athens to Parkersburg and then across West Virginia to Clarksburg, followed by I-79-->I-68 etc. on home. (From the maps the portion of US-50 in West Virginia looks like it's four-laned. Are there a lot of annoying traffic lights and small speedtrap towns and the like?)

(1a) Same as above but instead of US-35, go to Columbus and use US-33 to Athens.

(2) Same as either of above but continue east on US-50 either all the way into Virginia or else to an intermediate point like US-219 or US-220. I've used the part of US-50 from Romney to Winchester in the past and traffic was light and the drive was scenic, but I have to concede it was a bit slow at times.

(3) Continue southeast on US-35 past Chillicothe and cross into West Virginia at Point Pleasant. Then pick up I-64 and take that road into Virginia and then return home either via our normal route to and from Charlottesville or else suck it up and take I-81 to I-66.

(4) Similar to above but instead of continuing on I-64 at Charleston, take I-79 to Weston and then hook east on US-33 past Seneca Rocks (been past there perhaps 20 years ago and remember it being very scenic). Then perhaps take a left and pick up US-48 into Virginia to avoid going as far south as Harrisonburg.

I should add that when it comes to my various detours and scenic routes, my wife is willing to put up with SOME added time if the ride is indeed scenic, but she gets quite annoyed if the added time is substantial. (The time I made a wrong turn in Colorado that led us 125 miles out of the way is perhaps one reason why she feels that way. Guess I can't blame her.) So part of what I'm interested in getting comments about is how much longer these various routes might take. Obviously Google Maps or Bing Maps or whatever can give you a mileage and time estimate based on the posted speed limits, but I'm interested in more of a real-world comment if anyone can give such—that is, "avoid such-and-such route because invariably you get stuck behind slow-moving locals and there are no passing zones," or "this route is bad because there are constant traffic lights." In other words, practical stuff that no mapping software can tell you.

I like driving the twisty mountain roads with the six-speed manual shift, but I don't enjoy getting stuck for extended periods behind some yokel in a pickup who goes 30 mph around all the twisties but floors it whenever you get to a passing zone!

Thanks in advance for any thoughts you might have.
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Re: Roadtrip routing advice (Dayton to DC)
« Reply #1 on: September 24, 2012, 10:57:09 AM »


(1a) Same as above but instead of US-35, go to Columbus and use US-33 to Athens.

This route will run into construction of the Nelsonville bypass. Eastbound US 33 currently follows old US 33 through town with a new roundabout which routes westbound traffic onto part of the bypass which is open westbound. This is interesting from a roadgeek standpoint, but there may be an extra slowdown from the construction.
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Re: Roadtrip routing advice (Dayton to DC)
« Reply #2 on: September 24, 2012, 11:14:42 AM »

US 50 between Chillicothe and the OH 32 intersection is a blah two-lane, but it's closer than taking US 35 all the way down to OH 32.

US 50 between Parkersburg and Clarksburg is a easy drive at 65 mph. Not sure how many traffic lights there are, but there aren't many. Beyond I-79, US 50 is agonizing in my opinion. There are more scenic routes across the mountains.

I'd suggest two options for a combination of scenery and roadgeeking. First is US 33 east from I-79 all the way to Harrisonburg. Second would be US 33 to US 219 to WV 93, and then make your way up to Corridor H and follow that back to I-81 (which you mentioned as a possibility).

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Re: Roadtrip routing advice (Dayton to DC)
« Reply #3 on: September 24, 2012, 08:50:12 PM »

For Roadgeek entertainment, I'd suggest the US 33/US 50 combo from Columbus on down to West Virginia.
There is construction (at the moment) at the US 33/I-270 SE interchange, and the forementioned congestion around Nelsonville.
FWIW, there is only two traffic lights along US 50 between Chillicothe (US 23) and Clarksburg WVa (I-79) and those traffic lights are at the interchange with I-77 outside of Parkersburg.
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Re: Roadtrip routing advice (Dayton to DC)
« Reply #4 on: September 24, 2012, 10:31:08 PM »

Thanks, folks. I'll spend some more time with the maps to ponder it further. The real question is going to be balancing the time factor. I think the idea of going through Parkersburg will be easy enough to sell because it doesn't add much time (at least, not according to the mapping software) and it's the part east of I-79 where I might have a harder time getting away with going exploring.
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Re: Roadtrip routing advice (Dayton to DC)
« Reply #5 on: September 24, 2012, 10:49:25 PM »

Thanks, folks. I'll spend some more time with the maps to ponder it further. The real question is going to be balancing the time factor. I think the idea of going through Parkersburg will be easy enough to sell because it doesn't add much time (at least, not according to the mapping software) and it's the part east of I-79 where I might have a harder time getting away with going exploring.

If you opt for the Corridor H routing, you'll have an easier time getting away with it. The route is four lanes with a 65 mph speed limit well past Elkins, then it's about 12 miles or so up to Parsons, then another dozen or so miles to Thomas and Davis.

WV 93 is two lanes from Davis over to Mt. Storm Lake, but it's a relatively straight and flat roadway. WV 42 descending the Fore Knobs is pretty and you'll get some good views of Corridor H construction. You have a couple of options in getting to the end of the current four-lane, but neither are exceedingly long. The four-lane portion of US 48 will be lightly traveled and you'll have the 65 mph speed limit.

From Wardensville to I-81 is about 20 miles, but it's not a hard drive at all. The WV 55 crossing of the state line is one of the easiest east-west crossings from WV to VA that you'll find. Much better than US 250 or US 33, for sure.
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Re: Roadtrip routing advice (Dayton to DC)
« Reply #6 on: September 25, 2012, 07:51:43 AM »

Thanks again. I remember a few of the roads around the Canaan Valley from a family trip when I was in high school, but since that's over 20 years ago I don't regard any such road recollections as valid because its just too long ago.

Appreciate all the tips. This is exactly the kind of practical advice an atlas or mapping software can't provide.
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Re: Roadtrip routing advice (Dayton to DC)
« Reply #7 on: September 26, 2012, 05:36:41 PM »

There's construction on US 23/35 in Chillicothe with a 50 MPH speed limit, possible reduction to one lane each way, and possible minor detour of US 35 EB.  (And don't trust the temporary signage there too much, as it doesn't always correctly indicate whether or not you have to merge.)

The construction in Nelsonville won't slow you down appreciably.  Nelsonville itself probably will.

In Columbus, I-70 E / I-71 N slows down a bit downtown for some reason in the early afternoon, well before rush hour.  The construction on the western and southwestern portions of I-270 doesn't introduce delay unless there's an accident.  I-270 heading NE approaching US 33 on the southeast side may have a significant delay if you hit it in evening hours, when ODOT may have it down to one lane. 

I quite enjoy the freeway portions of US 33 in southeast Ohio.  Fast yet hilly, and multilane so you can get around slower traffic.
« Last Edit: September 26, 2012, 05:39:09 PM by vtk »
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Re: Roadtrip routing advice (Dayton to DC)
« Reply #8 on: October 04, 2012, 09:28:32 AM »

What are they doing on I-70 at I-77? It took half an hour to go about two miles yesterday afternoon but it looked like nothing special work-wise.

I think it confirms we will use the US-33 to Parkersburg route on Sunday. Beyond Clarksburg, TBD.

Thsnks again for the advice. I'll report back on Monday.

BTW, we talk about bad road signs. East of Wheeling yesterday a VMS said "Road work I-470. Thru traffic use 470." WTF!!! (Indeed 470 was down to one lane in Ohio and because there was a truck ahead of us we were stuck doing 25 mph. Wish I'd gone through the tunnel. But a previous orange sign had said I-70 was under construction through town so I thought that was a poor choice. Doesn't help when the VMS is ambiguous.)
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"You know, you never have a guaranteed spot until you have a spot guaranteed."
—Olaf Kolzig, as quoted in the Washington Times on March 28, 2003,
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"That sounded stupid, didn't it?"—Kolzig, to the same reporter a few seconds later.

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Re: Roadtrip routing advice (Dayton to DC)
« Reply #9 on: October 04, 2012, 06:06:20 PM »

(1) US-35 southeast to Chillicothe, then US-50 across through Athens to Parkersburg and then across West Virginia to Clarksburg, followed by I-79-->I-68 etc. on home. (From the maps the portion of US-50 in West Virginia looks like it's four-laned. Are there a lot of annoying traffic lights and small speedtrap towns and the like?)

US 50 in WV is Corridor D.  It is 4-lane with at-grades, and one of the least used roads in the east.  You can drive at whatever speed you wish from 5 miles east of Parkersburg to 5 miles west of Clarksburg and not meet another person.

Quote
(2) Same as either of above but continue east on US-50 either all the way into Virginia or else to an intermediate point like US-219 or US-220. I've used the part of US-50 from Romney to Winchester in the past and traffic was light and the drive was scenic, but I have to concede it was a bit slow at times.


East of Clarksburg, US 50 is a bad 4 lane.  However, in a few years, enough of Corridor H might be finished to make it a viable alternative to this route.

Quote
(3) Continue southeast on US-35 past Chillicothe and cross into West Virginia at Point Pleasant. Then pick up I-64 and take that road into Virginia and then return home either via our normal route to and from Charlottesville or else suck it up and take I-81 to I-66.

(4) Similar to above but instead of continuing on I-64 at Charleston, take I-79 to Weston and then hook east on US-33 past Seneca Rocks (been past there perhaps 20 years ago and remember it being very scenic). Then perhaps take a left and pick up US-48 into Virginia to avoid going as far south as Harrisonburg.


From Charleston it is actually 15 miles closer to take 79-68-70-270 than 77/64-64-81/64-81-66 and the turnpike is poorly designed and 81 is truck infested.  However, with a detailed map it is possible to take 79 to US 33 to Elkins and then follow the gonnabe route of Corridor H to the completed section to US 48.  Its fun, but requires paying attention.

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Re: Roadtrip routing advice (Dayton to DC)
« Reply #10 on: October 04, 2012, 06:18:19 PM »

East of Clarksburg, US 50 is a bad 4 lane.
2 lane. It follows the old Northwestern Turnpike with probably few realignments.
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Re: Roadtrip routing advice (Dayton to DC)
« Reply #11 on: October 04, 2012, 06:53:26 PM »

East of Clarksburg, US 50 is a bad 4 lane.
2 lane. It follows the old Northwestern Turnpike with probably few realignments.
When I took it, it moved, but my friend's experience was the opposite. We also had different experiences on US 219, so my guess is that on any 2-lane US highway in WV, you get what that day brings.

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Re: Roadtrip routing advice (Dayton to DC)
« Reply #12 on: October 05, 2012, 04:18:06 PM »

2 lane.  Sorry, typo. 
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Re: Roadtrip routing advice (Dayton to DC)
« Reply #13 on: October 07, 2012, 08:13:59 AM »

It may be because I love the old National Road, but if I had a little time and needed to get from Dayton to DC, I'd drive north to US 40 and head east.  In Maryland, don't miss all the old alignments, most of which are signed as MD 144.  When you get to Baltimore, head south thence to DC.  -Jim
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Re: Roadtrip routing advice (Dayton to DC)
« Reply #14 on: October 07, 2012, 08:31:23 AM »

Thanks to all. Driving back to DC area today. Don't have time for US-40 the whole way. We're going to head to Columbus and then take US-33 to US-50 to Clarksburg and then see what time it is. My wife has pointed out that she didn't sleep so well on the hotel pillow, so she wants to get on home.
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Re: Roadtrip routing advice (Dayton to DC)
« Reply #15 on: October 08, 2012, 09:48:18 AM »

Following up on this to report back:

Drove out last Wednesday. Capital Beltway (I-495/95) east through Maryland to avoid rush-hour backups in Virginia, then I-95 north to the Intercounty Connector (MD-200 toll road) west to I-270. I-270 north to I-70 at Frederick, then I-70 west to Hancock (breakfast/toilet stop) followed by I-68 west to the exit for US-219 south to Deep Creek Lake, but we turned the other way and took US-40 into Pennsylvania past Nemacolin Woodlands and up to Uniontown, where we picked up PA Turnpike 43. Great road, almost nobody on it. It takes you back to I-70 east of Washington, PA, and I-70 was torture after that nice empty toll road. Then we followed I-70 west to Wheeling and, as mentioned further up the thread, I took I-470 around the city due to ambiguous road signs about construction. When it merged back onto I-70 we pulled off for lunch, then resumed the slog across Ohio on I-70 the entire way except for a gas stop near Zanesville and then taking the southern part of the I-270 beltway around Columbus.

Easy drive on the whole except for the backup at I-77 mentioned further up the thread (lost half an hour there), the slow truck traffic on I-470 near Wheeling since it was down to one lane, and the usual unpleasant experience on I-70 in Pennsylvania (which, while I had not previously driven that particular segment, struck me as typical of Pennsylvania's antiquated Interstate system). Total distance about 517 miles, travel time about 10 hours including stops.


The trip home is where I sought advice and we made the drive yesterday. Thanks again to all for the advice. It worked out very well and I liked the West Virginia roads enough that I think I'd make some version of that part of the trip my standard routing in future trips to southern/southwestern Ohio. Only downside was rain. It didn't really affect the drive all that much, but it made some of the pictures quite naff when the autofocus messed up due to waterspots on the windshield. Just means a future trip is needed to get more pictures, right?

Anyway, based on the comments about US-33 versus US-35 I decided we'd take I-70 back to Columbus and then take US-33 down past Lancaster and Nelsonville to the Athens area. This also allowed for taking I-70 through Columbus, which we didn't do on the way out since we hit the area around 4:00 PM last Wednesday. I had no idea it was that big a city with the high-rise office towers downtown and such. Don't know why, I just pictured a smaller city. Anyway, US-33 was an excellent route, light traffic and easy to set the cruise control at 70 mph for most of the way. (Passing the town of Logan was nice because we have a four-year-old nephew named Logan, so we took some pictures of the BGSs for him.) The construction at Nelsonville was not an issue at all, but as "vtk" said further up the thread, the trip through town slowed us down a little. I didn't really mind, as it's nice to get a little variety once in a while. I was a little bit surprised at the lack of an advance sign for the roundabout, but I suppose it's new.

Anyway, at Athens we turned onto US-50 and followed that east to the crossing located west of Parkersburg. Stopped for lunch at a Burger King on the outskirts of Parkersburg and then took US-50 (Corridor D) all the way to Clarksburg. What a pleasant drive! Set the cruise control at 70 mph for most of the trip—might have been able to go faster, but since it was raining and I didn't know the road I opted against that idea. Perhaps six or eight other vehicles on the road going eastbound but I left them behind climbing the hills.

As we approached Clarksburg I asked Ms1995hoo how she wanted to go for the rest of the trip. I figured she'd want to take the Interstate and I got a pleasant surprise when she said that on trips home she hates the segment from Hancock to DC because it feels like a rat race, too much traffic and too many aggressive drivers. So she said to go how I wanted! So I took I-79 south to Exit 99 for US-33 near Weston. After a toilet stop we headed east on US-33 (Corridor H) to Elkins, at which point I decided we ought to go down to Seneca Rocks because she'd never seen that area and I thought it would be a scenic detour (which of course it was) and more interesting than Corridor H construction near Mount Storm. BRIEFLY got stuck behind two trucks climbing one of the mountains, but we got past when they had to stop at a mandatory brake check spot before descending the other side. Made a left onto WV-28 at Seneca Rocks and followed that to Petersburg, then US-220 to Moorefield and a gas stop. At this point Ms1995hoo asked how much further it would be, so I turned on the sat-nav (it said 126 miles) and it had me take Old WV-55 out of town back to Corridor H (US-48/WV-55). This proved to be another excellent road, saw maybe one other car heading eastbound the entire way and again I set the cruise control around 70 mph. Damn shame when that beautiful freeway ends near Wardensville. Continued on WV/VA-55 to I-81 and then took I-81 and I-66 back home. Total distance worked out to about 514 miles (shorter than the drive out!) and it took about 9 hours 30 minutes including stops and a delay of about 15 minutes near Delaplane, Virginia, due to a wreck on the highway that had us crawling past on the shoulder.

The drive across West Virginia was an outstanding route, far better and more interesting than the conventional routes going around via Washington, PA. The ONLY negative in my mind was that the mountains occasionally interfered with the satellite radio reception—we were listening to Game 1 of the Nationals–Cardinals series on XM and it kept cutting out through some of the more mountainous stretches. But we heard the important parts!

I would recommend this route to just about anyone except perhaps for the portion near Seneca Rocks—that part depends on the driver's comfort with twisty mountainous two-lane roads (indeed we briefly got stuck behind a guy in a Mazda 5 who was clearly terrified going down the mountain between Harman and Seneca Rocks....thankfully he pulled into one of the truck pullouts and let me past). Next time I might follow the future Corridor H route around to the north of the Canaan Valley area because I suspect it would be faster, but the desire to take a scenic detour trumped that this time.

I may upload a few pictures from various places, but it needs to wait—got to call the mechanic. Auto-dimming rearview malfunctioned and I see a double image every time I look in it, so it has to be replaced ASAP. Damn annoying.

So thanks again for the comments. Until I saw the advice here about how good the Parkersburg-to-Clarksburg segment is I was rather wary of heading across West Virginia based on past experience with getting stuck on some of the two-lane roads. I like a good mountain two-laner, but I don't like those as major portions of the trip when I have to get somewhere by a particular time.
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Re: Roadtrip routing advice (Dayton to DC)
« Reply #16 on: October 08, 2012, 02:36:12 PM »

Second to last time I was on US 33 heading east out of Elkins, it looked like a new truck climbing lane was being built on one section. Wonder if that got finished? I think that's east of Harman, because last time I went out that way I took WV 32 up to Davis and then across WV 93, and I don't remember passing thru that section.

If all goes well I'll be doing US 33 from Weston all the way to Richmond on Thursday.
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Re: Roadtrip routing advice (Dayton to DC)
« Reply #17 on: October 08, 2012, 02:57:01 PM »

I recall using a climbing lane at one point on the segment between Elkins and Seneca Rocks, but I can't say as I recall exactly where, or whether there were any others, because normally unless I'm trying to get around a slow truck I find climbing lanes unremarkable and I just treat them like a normal lane (that is, I drive in them under the "keep right except to pass" theory). Didn't notice any significant roadwork anywhere along that segment, however. There was also a section between Elkins and the Monongahela National Forest where the road was a four-lane divided expressway. I don't know whether that was a new configuration or not because I had not been on that segment before (and it had been 20 years since I'd been in that area at all).

I took a look at a map and I see the mountain where the trucks had to stop at the top is Allegheny Mountain and it's marked as being on the Eastern Continental Divide. There was no climbing lane heading eastbound on that particular mountain; I passed one of the trucks in a passing zone and then passed the other at the brake check spot just after the summit. On the descent to Seneca Rocks the westbound side DID have a climbing lane, however, and I recall it because I was tempted to use it (illegally passing over the double yellow line) to get around the slowpoke in the Mazda 5. I have to say I was thankful for the brake-check stop for truckers because I do not like descending a mountain on a two-lane road with a truck behind me, especially when the driver in front of me is slow.

Looking at the satellite view (which of course I know could be out of date), the only climbing lane I can see on eastbound US-33 in that area covers the segment shown here, just east of the four-laned portion.
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commenting on the Capitals clinching a playoff spot.

"That sounded stupid, didn't it?"—Kolzig, to the same reporter a few seconds later.

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Re: Roadtrip routing advice (Dayton to DC)
« Reply #18 on: October 08, 2012, 09:16:15 PM »

There was also a section between Elkins and the Monongahela National Forest where the road was a four-lane divided expressway. I don't know whether that was a new configuration or not because I had not been on that segment before (and it had been 20 years since I'd been in that area at all).

Known locally as "The Racetrack." Built in the late 70s-early 80s as part of Corridor H before the routing was moved north to follow US 219 out of Elkins. This section was built before the portion between Buckhannon and Elkins was finished.

My family went on a vacation in the early 80s to drive Skyline Drive and the BRP, and we spent the night in Harrisonburg. I remember we had to take the two-lane route through downtown Buckhannon and on to Elkins because the four-lane was only completed to Buckhannon, and then that short portion east of Elkins.
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    • 20th Century roadfan material
Re: Roadtrip routing advice (Dayton to DC)
« Reply #19 on: October 08, 2012, 09:36:38 PM »

Anyway, based on the comments about US-33 versus US-35 I decided we'd take I-70 back to Columbus and then take US-33 down past Lancaster and Nelsonville to the Athens area. This also allowed for taking I-70 through Columbus, which we didn't do on the way out since we hit the area around 4:00 PM last Wednesday. I had no idea it was that big a city with the high-rise office towers downtown and such. Don't know why, I just pictured a smaller city.

Columbus; we're bigger than Baltimore and D.C. (though much smaller than those two combine)
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