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Author Topic: Chicago and points east  (Read 5013 times)

CtrlAltDel

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Chicago and points east
« on: June 25, 2014, 06:34:17 PM »

I am planning a trip to the East Coast from Chicago in the first week of September or so. The purpose of the rip is to attend the wedding of a friend of mine, but I also want to use the time to get closer to attaining my goal of visiting all of the states. My rule for visiting a state is that I have to do or visit something relatively unique in that state. And that is what I’m writing about.

My basic route is indicated on this map.


Very little of the route is set in stone, though, except that it must start and stop in Chicago, hit Newark, New Jersey, and pass through New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana. I could use some advice for the routing. I know traffic will be much more of a concern that it is elsewhere. As a general rule I prefer to avoid tollways, but that may not be wise. I’m also not sure about Canada.

Primarily, though, what I’m looking for is activities to do along the way, most of which take about an hour to an hour and a half that are fairly unique for the state but not too obscure. I’m willing to a go a bit out of the way if it’s for something that’s pretty interesting for me, but for the most part I’d like to stay within about 40 miles or so. I need activities for these states: Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and West Virginia. But, if there’s anything in the states I’ve already visited, please let me know.

Thanks in advance for your help.


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Re: Chicago and points east
« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2014, 08:11:25 PM »

Since it looks like you're taking I-88, go to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
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hbelkins

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Re: Chicago and points east
« Reply #2 on: June 25, 2014, 08:54:41 PM »

If you're going through Wheeling, WV, which it appears you are, the suspension bridge there.
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froggie

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Re: Chicago and points east
« Reply #3 on: June 25, 2014, 10:53:45 PM »

Of note:  the Blue Water Bridge (on I-69/I-94 crossing into Ontario) is a toll bridge.

Your route across southern Ontario, using the Alexander Pkwy and Red Hill Valley Pkwy through Hamilton (both freeways connecting ON 403 to the QEW) should be fine…I did a very similar route in early April and easily made it across in about 3 hours.  I'd suggest getting gas while still in Michigan, though.

Since you're going near Niagara Falls, might as well pop down.  It's $15 to park on the Canada side, but it's a much better view than the New York side.

Unless you have a dire or compelling reason to swing south through Binghamton, NY and along NY 17 and I-88 OTHER than toll diversion, there are plenty of routes that parallel the NYS Thruway that don't involve tolls or such a lengthy diversion.  In particular, you could take the completed segments of the Lake Ontario State Pkwy between Niagara Falls and Rochester, I-490 through Rochester, I-690 through Syracuse, NY 365 to NY 49 via Rome and to Utica, or NY 5S between Utica and Herkimer.

If you don't mind swinging north for a bit through Vermont, there's a toll road to the top of Mt. Equinox near Manchester.  And *VERY GOOD* gouda cheese at Taylor Farm right on VT 11 just west of Londonderry.

As you're going through Concord, NH, you could stop at the NH state capitol building.

For Rhode Island, I'd detour through Newport (MA 24 to RI 24 to RI 138).  VERY neat coastal town with lots of history.  Be sure to drive Ocean Ave and grab a lobster roll from Flo's Clam Shack.

The Baltimore Inner Harbor is pretty neat.

Within the Northern Virginia sprawl near Dulles Airport is the Manassas battlefield (Civil War).

Two of my favorite scenery drives in Northern Virginia are along SR 601 from the US 15/VA 234 intersection (north of Haymarket) to The Plains, and along SR 734 in Loudoun County, from US 50 Aldie to VA 7 Bluemont.  The former is not too far off I-66, while the latter is a leisurely slant up to the VA 7 corridor, which is a 4-lane corridor from Leesburg over to Winchester.

If you have time and don't mind a slight detour, an even better scenic drive is along SR 635 across western Fauquier County.  Take I-66 to Exit 27 Marshall and turn left, then take SR 647 down to SR 635.  SR 635 ends at US 522, which you can then take north through Front Royal and back to I-66, or you could continue north on US 522 to Winchester.

From Winchester, an alternative to I-81/I-70 is to take US 522 to Hancock, MD.  It's more direct and is a 4-lane road in Virginia with the only real slowdown being Berkeley Springs, WV.

West of Hancock, you can stop at Sideling Hill on I-68 in the middle of a VERY impressive rock cut.
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briantroutman

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Re: Chicago and points east
« Reply #4 on: June 25, 2014, 11:52:00 PM »

You’re barely cutting through a corner of Pennsylvania—and not the most uniquely “Pennsylvanian” corner of the state, either. Basically, the only city on your PA itinerary is Washington, and apparently the only attraction in town is a Trolley Museum, which I’ve not seen. TripAdvisor’s #2-ranked attraction in Washington (Pa) is a Tanger Outlet mall—which doesn’t bode well for Washington's cultural scene.

If you were willing to make a modest detour, you could take I-79 North and I-376 East to Pittsburgh—which is surprisingly dynamic and striking city if you’ve never seen it. Just coming through the Fort Pitt Tunnel and Bridge on I-376 is an attraction in itself and the best approach to the city. If your schedule allows for more of the city, there’s no shortage of things to see and places to spend a couple of hours.

I see you’re routed over I-79 and I-68 to avoid tolls on the PA Turnpike, but if you’re a roadgeek (and if you’re on this site, I would assume you are), I think the Pennsylvania Turnpike’s historical importance might justify the toll, particularly if you rarely (if ever) get to drive it. If you still plan continue south on I-70 into Maryland, you have the perfect opportunity to stop in Breezewood and see the abandoned section of the Turnpike—if that’s of interest to you.

Of course taking the PA Turnpike also means you’ll have to suffer through one of the worst stretches of Interstate in the entire country, I-70 between Washington and New Stanton, but this is an adventure—right?

And if neither Pittsburgh nor the Abandoned Turnpike interest you, you could always divert from your route in Delaware, head north on I-95, and make a quick stop in Philadelphia. Just a few blocks from I-95 are Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, the Ben Franklin Museum, the Betsy Ross House, and numerous other historical landmarks that are definitely unique to the Commonwealth.
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Re: Chicago and points east
« Reply #5 on: June 26, 2014, 06:37:43 PM »

Thanks for the ideas so far. I’m especially glad to have found out about the suspension bridge and the Skyline Drive Toll Road. I also appreciate the scenic drives. I will probably do one or two of them.

I’ve been looking around for activities, and so far I have a few interesting ideas except for Maine, Connecticut and New Jersey. Someone suggested the capital of New Hampshire, but I do try to shy away from political stuff. Still the city itself does seem interesting.

As for Pennsylvania, I’ve driven through it many times, but I haven’t spent too much time in western Maryland, so I thought I’d take a more southerly route. On the one hand, that keeps me from experiencing Breezewood, which would be interesting, if only for recreational outrage. On the other hand, western Maryland doesn’t seem to have anything particularly noteworthy in it either, so I may spend more time in Pennsylvania.

I’m also wondering about taking a more northerly route across Vermont and New Hampshire. There seems to be more interesting stuff up that way. If I did that, I would then probably stay north of the Thruway rather than going down to I-88 and I-86. 
« Last Edit: June 26, 2014, 07:08:46 PM by CtrlAltDel »
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Zeffy

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Re: Chicago and points east
« Reply #6 on: June 26, 2014, 07:06:52 PM »

For New Jersey, you can always ride the Turnpike.  ;-) If you are into historic stuff, then you can make a quick stop in Trenton. While the public perception of Trenton is extremely negative, having been there multiple times I can assure you the downtown area is fine during the daylight. You can tour the Capitol Complex or visit the State Museum, both offering historical insights to the state of New Jersey.

As for Newark... I admit I haven't been there yet. I know the Ironbound district is a cool place apparently, as is Downtown.
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hbelkins

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Re: Chicago and points east
« Reply #7 on: June 26, 2014, 09:10:29 PM »

On the other hand, western Maryland doesn’t seem to have anything particularly noteworthy in it either

Try the old Humpback Bridge over the Casselman River. From the right vantage point you can see the old stone arch bridge, the US 40 bridge and the I-68 bridge all at the same time.
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Re: Chicago and points east
« Reply #8 on: June 27, 2014, 02:29:27 PM »

On the other hand, western Maryland doesn’t seem to have anything particularly noteworthy in it either, so I may spend more time in Pennsylvania.

If you have the time and the budget, the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, which departs from Cumberland, is quite enjoyable. The major issue there is that it only runs once a day (and only Thurs-Mon, I think) at 11:30 a.m., so it might be a little too much of a time commitment.

There's also Fallingwater in Fayette County in SWPA, which is absolutely stunning. You would need to get a ticket in advance, but they offer tour slots all day so you'd have some more flexibility in choosing when you would be able to do it.

For a cheaper, less time-intensive idea, you could stop at Ohiopyle and just hike around for a bit.

Closer to the DC metroplex, there's of course Harper's Ferry which is quite fascinating.
« Last Edit: June 27, 2014, 02:31:49 PM by wphiii »
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Re: Chicago and points east
« Reply #9 on: June 27, 2014, 05:40:41 PM »

Quote
On the other hand, western Maryland doesn’t seem to have anything particularly noteworthy in it either, so I may spend more time in Pennsylvania.

Besides the Casselman Bridge and the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad already mentioned, there's a decent hike opportunity in far western MD.  The tallest point in the state, on Backbone Mountain, is barley a 200ft hike from the #3 survey marker on the MD/WV border, which itself is only about a mile hike from US 219 just south of Silver Lake, WV.

On that note, Silver Lake, WV boasts the "smallest chapel in the lower 48".  And a few miles further south, on a side road off US 219, you can reach the Fairfax Stone, commissioned by Lord Fairfax to determine the extent of his lands (his charter was for all the land between the Rappahannock and the Potomac).  The Fairfax Stone marks the headwaters of the Potomac River and also the westernmost boundary of Maryland (as the southern MD boundary is tied to the river).  It also happens to be where the Preston, Grant, and Tucker County lines all come together.

Quote
I’m also wondering about taking a more northerly route across Vermont and New Hampshire.

If you do, there's a couple things of note on US 4:  Woodstock is a quaint town that has a couple old cast-iron distance signs on a couple of street corners, and on US 4 proper is an old (ca. 1908) iron under-truss bridge over the Quechee Gorge, which also is a pretty spectacular view.
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Re: Chicago and points east
« Reply #10 on: June 30, 2014, 02:43:48 PM »

It's somewhat off your route, but there's a covered bridge in Philippi, West Virginia, that could make for an interesting detour. I'd do Fallingwater instead if you've never been there, though. Really interesting place to visit and worth the admission fee.
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Re: Chicago and points east
« Reply #11 on: July 26, 2014, 01:10:30 AM »

I’ve been planning my trip to the east coast for the past month or so, and I have come up with an itinerary that am very happy with. A much much much less preliminary routing is shown in the map. The trip will take nine days overall. As you can see, my route through Vermont and New Hampshire goes much farther north than before.



My nightly stops are marked with black circles. Red circles mark the locations of the cultural or recreational activities that I have chosen to do, while brown circles show curiosities of the roads themselves.

In case you were curious, they are the following, listed in order counterclockwise from my start point in Chicago. Red circles are in roman, brown circles in italic. 

West Virginia Independence Hall / Wheeling Suspension Bridge (WV)
Breezewood (PA)
Rock Creek Park (DC)
National Cryptologic Museum (MD)
Interstate 70 Eastern Terminus / Fort McHenry Tunnel (MD)
New Castle Court House Museum (DE)
Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park (NJ)
George Washington Bridge (NJ/NY)
Mystic Seaport (CT)
Fort Adams / Newport Cliff Walk (RI)
Portland Observatory (ME)
Kancamagus Highway (NH)
Covered Bridges of Northfield (VT)
Ben and Jerry’s Factory (VT)
Charlotte–Essex Ferry (VT/NY)
Niagara Falls (NY/ON)

I am, as always, interested in any suggestions you might have about my routing or potential things to see along the way that I may have missed. Thanks for all your suggestions. They’ve helped make this trip what it will be.
« Last Edit: July 26, 2014, 01:13:00 AM by CtrlAltDel »
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Re: Chicago and points east
« Reply #12 on: July 26, 2014, 09:11:54 AM »

A couple further suggestions in northern Vermont/New Hampshire:

- After the Kancamagus Highway, take I-93 north.  You'll go through Franconia Notch, see the old Man Of The Mountain site, and take the Super-2 section of I-93/US 3 through the Notch area.

- Littleton claims to have the "worlds longest candy counter" at Chutter's.  They also have every conceivable color of M&Ms possible.

- If you're interested in covered bridges, Lyndonville has three...one is sort of a commercial space now, while another is a 1-lane covered bridge along a former VT 122 alignment.

- Not too terribly far off of US 2 in Cabot is the Cabot Creamery, which does guided tours.

- If the timing allows (Thursday-Sunday lunch), Prohibition Pig in Waterbury has great eats.  It's Eastern Carolina-style BBQ.
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Re: Chicago and points east
« Reply #13 on: July 27, 2014, 08:23:40 AM »

Niagara Falls (NY/ON)

I am, as always, interested in any suggestions you might have about my routing or potential things to see along the way that I may have missed. Thanks for all your suggestions. They’ve helped make this trip what it will be.

In the Saint Catherines, Ontario area, just off the QEW, there is the Welland Canal and locks for ships to pass between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.  One of my favorite parts of the canal area was going through the Thorold Stone Road tunnel (Hwy 58) -- one of three tunnels which lie between the QEW & the 406.  There is also the Main Street Tunnel and the Townline Tunnel.
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Re: Chicago and points east
« Reply #14 on: August 03, 2014, 10:53:31 PM »

If you like historic mansions, do one of the tours when you stop in Newport, RI. I did the Breakers.
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