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User Content => Road Trips => Topic started by: VTGoose on August 16, 2016, 10:47:22 AM

Title: From the Mountains to the Gulf (or, You Can't Get Here from There)
Post by: VTGoose on August 16, 2016, 10:47:22 AM
tl;dr -- Bad drivers on poor SC interstates, no good route south

We needed a short vacation, so plans were made to visit #2 son, who is living in Apollo Beach, Florida, not far from Tampa. This wasn't the first trip (nor the first trip to this area), so several routes have been traveled. Google (and the Garmin GPS) tag the trip at 12 hours, which is pretty close, although meal stops do add time.

The problem is there is no direct route from the middle of the Atlantic seaboard (such as from Blacksburg, most anywhere in West Virginia, eastern Tennessee, or Western Pennsylvania).

Our route on most trips is I-81 south to I-77 at Fort Chiswell, then all the way to the end of I-77 at I-26 outside Columbia, SC. Then it was the awful drive down I-26 to I-95 and on down that bad stretch of highway to the Georgia line and beyond. If there ever was a state that needs to add lanes to its interstates, it's South Carolina.

Yes, there is a three-lane section for a little ways east from I-77 and the construction of the wall in the median is complete, but the pavement needs work. The concrete was milled but apparently paving is in the future. Once in the two-lane section, one has to pick going slow in the right lane behind drivers who can't quite maintain the speed limit, or hang out in the left lane to be tailgated by drivers who want to go 80 despite the long line of traffic in front of them. Add in trucks that pass each other at a 1 MPH speed difference and maintaining any type of constant speed is near impossible. The same situation occurs on I-95, compounded this trip by bands of thunderstorms with heavy rain that caused an even greater difference in speeds. The three lanes in Georgia were quite welcome.

The routing from Jacksonville over to I-75 involved taking I-10 west to pick up U.S. 301 south through Starke and beyond then cutting over to the interstate at exit 358. Since it was early evening at that point, after a dinner stop we decided to continue on down I-95 to I-4 to cross to I-75. On a trip in 2001, I-95 through Jacksonville was under construction. It was still under construction this week. Has there ever been a time when I-95 through Jacksonville wasn't being worked on in some shape or form? The trip from there was rather uneventful, other than multiple construction zones on I-4 between I-95 and the Disney exits.

On the trip home from Tampa back in January, I tried going cross-country. We went up I-75 to exit 451 to pick up U.S. 129 into Georgia, to hit U.S. 221 near Lakeland. Followed that all the way up to Wrens, where we shifted to U.S. 1 into Augusta where we stopped for the night (late start, heavy rain and traffic jams on I-75 extended the day too long to continue). I-20 took us east to Columbia and I-77 to finish the trip home.

While this seemed to be more direct and didn't have much traffic, time was lost slowing down at each little town along the way. It would seem to make sense for South Carolina and Georgia (and maybe Florida) to get together to push for an extension of I-77 from Columbia south somewhat along U.S. 301/1/221 to hit I-75 at or near Valdosta. It would be a good alternative to I-95 for a lot of traffic.

Bruce in Blacksburg
Title: Re: From the Mountains to the Gulf (or, You Can't Get Here from There)
Post by: coatimundi on August 16, 2016, 04:40:05 PM
While this seemed to be more direct and didn't have much traffic, time was lost slowing down at each little town along the way.

The song of the wayward roadtripper.
You could have also done 75 to Macon, 129 to Edenton, 441 to I-85. It adds mileage, as does the route you took, I believe. It may have been a bit quicker though because there are a couple of bypasses (Edenton and Athens).

I typically try to balance interstate time and back road time on road trips. I used to be able to tolerate 12 hours per day on nothing but interstates, but the trucks and annoying drivers start to get to me now, and I find myself longing for the pensive drives on two-lane roads, where the towns give you at least something to look at beyond another Hardees logo sign.
Title: Re: From the Mountains to the Gulf (or, You Can't Get Here from There)
Post by: VTGoose on August 16, 2016, 06:58:35 PM
You could have also done 75 to Macon, 129 to Edenton, 441 to I-85. It adds mileage, as does the route you took, I believe. It may have been a bit quicker though because there are a couple of bypasses (Edenton and Athens).

I typically try to balance interstate time and back road time on road trips. I used to be able to tolerate 12 hours per day on nothing but interstates, but the trucks and annoying drivers start to get to me now, and I find myself longing for the pensive drives on two-lane roads, where the towns give you at least something to look at beyond another Hardees logo sign.

I'm looking at that Macon/Athens/I-85 route for the return home -- both for something different and to avoid I-95/I-26 in South Carolina. No matter which way we go, it works out to about a 14-hour day. I don't mind driving but like you, the trucks and annoying vehicle operators (they aren't actually "driving" since that implies some skill and ability) make long trips a pain any more.
Title: Re: From the Mountains to the Gulf (or, You Can't Get Here from There)
Post by: jwolfer on August 16, 2016, 07:09:31 PM
I agree about SC interstates. All of 95 and 26 need more lanes. SC (and NC) have no rush to improve 95 for people traveling between FL and the Northeast. Thankfully GA is not as short sighted, however GA has major ports in Savannah and Brunswick which give more incentive.
Title: Re: From the Mountains to the Gulf (or, You Can't Get Here from There)
Post by: VTGoose on August 16, 2016, 10:06:19 PM
I agree about SC interstates. All of 95 and 26 need more lanes. SC (and NC) have no rush to improve 95 for people traveling between FL and the Northeast. Thankfully GA is not as short sighted, however GA has major ports in Savannah and Brunswick which give more incentive.

A lot of the trucks on I-26 were hauling containers, to Charleston I would guess. Given that the port there faces competition from Norfolk (deepest on the Atlantic coast), Savannah, and Baltimore and Philadelphia to some extent, it would seem that making it more convenient to get from Columbia and beyond to the port would be incentive to widen the highways.
Title: Re: From the Mountains to the Gulf (or, You Can't Get Here from There)
Post by: jwolfer on August 16, 2016, 11:13:45 PM
Jacksonville i would think is more direct competition. 

SC has grown a lot in the past 20 years. The interstates in SC are for a small agricultural state, not a growing more urbanized and retirement haven
Title: Re: From the Mountains to the Gulf (or, You Can't Get Here from There)
Post by: hbelkins on August 19, 2016, 02:59:11 PM
I just did I-77 south from Wytheville all the way to I-26, then I-26 southeast to US 601, where I departed the interstate to do a county-collecting trip. In general, I found I-77's condition in South Carolina to be equal to or better than in NC, especially from Statesville south to the state line. I too noted the milled pavement on I-26, and a small fender-bender on the shoulder somewhere around mile marker 133 had traffic backed up for about four miles.
Title: Re: From the Mountains to the Gulf (or, You Can't Get Here from There)
Post by: 1995hoo on August 19, 2016, 03:13:22 PM
I've faced the same conundrum about getting south from Columbia to Florida. Two years ago, at Mapmikey's suggestion, I tried Georgia's Fall Line Expressway from Augusta to Macon. (Georgia actually calls it the "Fall Line Freeway," but it's not a freeway.) Take I-520 to US-1 on the west side of Augusta, follow US-1 down to Wrens, and then turn west on GA-88. It's a four-lane divided highway with a 65-mph speed limit and absolutely nobody on the road. Emptiest road I've ever driven in the USA. Somewhere between Sandersville and Milledgeville the four-lane portion abruptly ends (it isn't finished yet) and dumps you onto two-lane GA-24. You just follow that to Milledgeville and keep straight onto GA-49. It brings you down to Macon near the junction of I-16 and I-75. As I say, we used this route in June 2014 en route from home to Venice, Florida. Our route was down US-29 to Greensboro, I-85 to Charlotte, I-77 to Columbia, SC-277 to cut the corner, I-20 west to the second I-520 junction, I-520 to US-1, and then as just described. We stopped for the night at a Hampton Inn a short distance north of the I-75/I-16 junction; lots of hotels and restaurants around. I could find the exit number tonight if someone cares. It took us almost exactly 12 hours to make this drive. I don't remember the mileage and cannot at this moment look it up on Google Maps to find out, but it doesn't really matter either unless you're coming from our same starting point. Then the next day was a straight shot down I-75.

This summer, coming north on I-75 to avoid I-95 beach traffic, I was going to go up to I-675, bypass Atlanta to the east on I-285, and then take I-85. We bailed off early at Exit 198 due to a traffic jam and my sat-nav had us take GA-36 to Jackson, then GA-16 east to Eatonton (not Edenton, which is in eastern North Carolina), then US-441 north past Athens back to I-85. Under the circumstances it would have been significantly faster just to have exited back near Macon onto US-441129, but who knew, and this way I checked off I-475 too. US-441 was a pretty good road. Fair amount of two-lane segments, but it also had a decent number of three-lane areas to facilitate passing. GA-16 was a two-lane road but there wasn't much traffic on it. I kept it to 60 mph on Route 16 because I didn't know the road and because it started raining. I kind of wish we'd had more time to stop in Eatonton because I found out there's an Uncle Remus Museum there. Song of the South is one of my favorite Disney movies and I loved the Uncle Remus stories when I was a kid.

Between those two routes I think I might prefer the Fall Line Expressway route simply because I-85 northeast of Atlanta is so busy. In South Carolina they've widened a good portion of it (although the pavement was still crappy in spots), but Georgia's portion had very heavy traffic on a Saturday afternoon in July. What I have not yet tried is one of the US highways cutting southwest from Augusta towards Valdosta or somewhere along I-75. Don't know whether I ever will. The two issues are the annoyance of passing through small towns and the possibility of not finding convenient overnight lodging, given the time of day it would be when we'd hit that area driving south. Maybe the answer is to try it northbound instead.

I asked on the forum about US-321 south from Columbia to Hardeeville and got generally negative reviews, so I've scratched that one off my list of possibilities.
Title: Re: From the Mountains to the Gulf (or, You Can't Get Here from There)
Post by: VTGoose on August 21, 2016, 02:29:58 PM
I've faced the same conundrum about getting south from Columbia to Florida. Two years ago, at Mapmikey's suggestion, I tried Georgia's Fall Line Expressway from Augusta to Macon. (Georgia actually calls it the "Fall Line Freeway," but it's not a freeway.) Take I-520 to US-1 on the west side of Augusta, follow US-1 down to Wrens, and then turn west on GA-88. It's a four-lane divided highway with a 65-mph speed limit and absolutely nobody on the road. Emptiest road I've ever driven in the USA. Somewhere between Sandersville and Milledgeville the four-lane portion abruptly ends (it isn't finished yet) and dumps you onto two-lane GA-24. You just follow that to Milledgeville and keep straight onto GA-49. It brings you down to Macon near the junction of I-16 and I-75. As I say, we used this route in June 2014 en route from home to Venice, Florida. Our route was down US-29 to Greensboro, I-85 to Charlotte, I-77 to Columbia, SC-277 to cut the corner, I-20 west to the second I-520 junction, I-520 to US-1, and then as just described. We stopped for the night at a Hampton Inn a short distance north of the I-75/I-16 junction; lots of hotels and restaurants around. I could find the exit number tonight if someone cares. It took us almost exactly 12 hours to make this drive. I don't remember the mileage and cannot at this moment look it up on Google Maps to find out, but it doesn't really matter either unless you're coming from our same starting point. Then the next day was a straight shot down I-75.

Next trip to Florida I'll have to check that out. We came back the usual way -- Up I-75, cut up U.S. 301 to Jacksonville, then I-95, I-26, and I-77 to I-81 and home. We actually made the trip in just over 12 hours since most traffic was behaving (except in Charlotte where an accident slowed things down, plus lots of congestion heading north out of the city).

Based on a check of the satellite view of the Fall Line Expressway, there is a lot of construction going on west of Sanderville. The expressway follows Ga. 24, but where 24 heads north into Milledgeville, there is a route 540 that turns southwest to an interchange with U.S. 441 then continues to a junction with Ga. 243. Google tags it the Fall Line Freeway as it continues around Gordon, next becoming Ga. 57 to a junction with U.S. 80, then U.S. 23 into Macon. From the satellite view, it looks like the section of 540 between 24 and 441 is still under construction, but the rest is all four-lane divided highway almost to Macon. This could be a viable alternative to the I-26/I-95/cross-country run to get from Columbia to the west side of Florida.

Bruce in Blacksburg