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Author Topic: 2018 Florida Trip  (Read 406 times)

vdeane

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2018 Florida Trip
« on: May 27, 2018, 12:41:27 PM »

I went down to Florida last week for my cousin's wedding in Jacksonville.  I figured I might as well "do Florida right" when I was down there and go all the way to Key West afterwards... then I figured I might as well see new roads on the way back instead of coming back the way I came, which lengthened the trip further.  Due to the date, I actually ended up combining it with my annual trip home for Memorial Day, so still not back in the Albany area.  To date, this is the longest trip I've ever taken, and my first time in Florida, Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio.  Congestion was my constant companion, which at least one portion of unexpected stop and go in every major day of driving.  I posted everything to Facebook during the trip, which I've copied below.  TravelMapping and mob-rule are already both updated (though I have a couple minor corrections that should appear on TravelMapping in the next site update; I made an error when entering DC 295 and forgot a tiny piece of I-79).  Both are linked to on my site.

Day 1
I wanted to leave around 7, but actually didn't leave until around 7:25 due to my usual lateness. That was probably my first mistake. Morning was uneventful; my objective, other than a quick clinch of NJ 184, was to get to the Baltimore area as fast as possible, so it was straight down I-87/NJ 17/GSP (insert NJ 184 clinch here)/Turnpike/I-95. Lunch was Pizza Hut Express at Chesapeake House.

Afternoon is when things got bad. My planned route was to take I-895, which was good because I-95 was completely closed in downtown Baltimore. It was also bad because everyone was diverting on that same route and those work zones on the south side can't handle the traffic. Also ended up using the express lanes to get around some congestion in White Marsh. From there, I made a quick loop to pick up MD 295 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway up from I-695 for the clinch. That was a slog. Seemed like there was an accident every two miles on one stretch.

Getting in to DC, traffic on DC 295 was VERY bad. I did spot a new DC welcome sign which I don't remember seeing in street view; unfortunately, I didn't know it was there, and my camera chose that moment to reset date and time for some reason, so I couldn't get the shot. There are exit numbers on the south end which don't correspond to the mileage, which seems to be extending I-295. The entire route in this direction is signed "TO I-295", with the exception of a lone old reassurance shield.

I headed on to I-695 for the clinch, which was also bad, then south on I-395 into VA. Took VA 110 to I-66, then turned left off exit 73 down to US 50 to claim a small missing section (or what would have become one) and I-66 in DC, with a quick loop on the E Street Expressway. Guess what was also congested? Everything? Good guess, but I was going for the Whitehurst Freeway.

Headed down US 29 and then took I-66 to clinch the small piece between exit 75 and the bridge, then took US 50 through DC, which wasn't too bad, even with lights that were clearly not timed (or timed to ensure maximum stopping?). Then I-395 south, I-695 (more congestion) to I-295 (parking lot to I-95), then I-95 south. The Beltway had a minor slowdown but was otherwise fine. Took the express lanes at first, which allowed me to bypass some congestion. That's when I hit the torrential downpour. The price to go to the southern end was nearly $20, and the free lanes seemed to be moving, so I switched over, thinking that might be merging congestion (the prices for the intermediate exits were normal). BIG mistake! It was fine for a mile or two then a parking lot all the way to Fredericksburg. I had hoped to get to the hotel around 5, take a quick loop on the northwest side of I-295, and get gas and dinner at Wawa, but that all had to be cut so I could catch Once Upon a Time, since I didn't get in until 7:30. Now I'm debating whether I need to buy breakfast for once or if I can wait until South Carolina for food.

At least I finished clinching the interstates of MD and DC, but I definitely don't want to repeat that. I hope Miami won't be similar; it's having similar rain issues.

Miles driven: 513

Day 2
Today went considerably more as planned than yesterday did. I actually managed to leave the hotel on time (at 7), and made a breakfast/gas stop at Wawa to make up for last night. I cut out the rest of I-295 since I didn't get any of it last night, which probably was time-neutral with the extra stop. It was a straight shot down I-95 over to I-295 at exit 337, then I-295 over to the hotel. Even with two miles of stop and go in South Carolina, the trip length was exactly as Google said it would be. I checked in at 4:40. Jacksonville certainly has some nice interstates! I-95 through the Carolinas is probably one of the most boring roads I've ever driven, with the exception of Santee. The pine sap all over the signs (particularly prevalent in North Carolina) is an interesting aesthetic. Tonight's the rehearsal dinner (25 minutes each way on I-295) and tomorrow's my cousin's wedding, so I don't hit the road again until Monday.

Miles driven: 683

Day 2A
So I wasn't planning on any driving today. My parents and I had a nice breakfast at Grumpy's in Orange Park and then I went to get caught up on Facebook and AARoads. Turns out I must be getting pretty good a speed checking them, because then I was bored around 1. So what to do? If you think like me, the answer is to clinch I-295. I headed north on the West Beltway and crossed over the bridge on the East Beltway. Jacksonville certainly has some impressive bridges, though the other one on I-295 near Orange Park is still my favorite. This brought me to the part that I saw yesterday evening, so I used FL 202 to jump over to I-95 and headed north to I-10. Drove a part of that, giving me part of every east-west transcontinental except I-30, and took US 17 back to the hotel.

Miles driven to/from rehearsal dinner: 52
Miles driven on impromptu clinching: 67

Day 3
I think Google miscalculated again. I got to the hotel over an hour later than I aimed to, and that aiming even had some room for delays. I took I-295, which was stop and go most of the way, over to I-95, and then I-95 south. Had to get off and do a loop with I-95 north near Daytona Beach due to an accident blocking all lanes of traffic (or so the VMS sign said... looks like cars were still getting through, though). Lunch at Wawa near West Palm Beach. I did a couple loops to clinch I-195 and I-395, and then finished my clinch of the southern I-95. I then took US 1 south to my hotel in Lower Sugarloaf Key (Key West is twice as expensive). It's certainly slow going through Miami's exurbs!

It was a torrential downpour when I checked in, so unfortunately my clothes are soaked, and I'm not sure if they're going to dry out before I leave tomorrow. After watching the news (and changing into tomorrow's clothes, since I only have so many), I went the rest of the way down to Key West. I then looped back over Duval Street to go past the southernmost point monument (which really is the southernmost point if you qualify that it's the southernmost publically and easily accessible location). Then it was back up US 1 and FL A1A to the hotel, with dinner at Miami Subs Grill.

Miles driven to hotel: 516
Miles driven to/from Key West: 36

Day 4
Well, things just keep getting worse and worse. I wake up this morning to a ton of bedbug bites. I don't even know how I'm going to resolve this dilemma. Why does my luck this month have to be so bad? Why can't I turn it around? Anyways, I was stuck wearing my shorts and flats from yesterday because they were still wet. Shorts are now dry, flats are STILL damp, even as I type this. Anyways, I took US 1 north, making an obligatory Krispy Kreme stop just past the Turnpike. Had lunch (well, breakfast, really, but barely) at subway just before getting on the freeway. I took FL 826 north to I-75, and then it was straight up I-75 to my hotel (off FL 40 in Ocala) with the exception of a diversion to clinch I-595. At least Alligator Alley is a bit more interesting than I would have thought it would be. The part of I-75 right before Alligator Alley with the Everglades on one side and dense suburban development on the other is eerie. Got gas at the travel plaza on Alligator Alley, and it was on and off rain (and congestion, mostly near Sarasota and Tampa) the rest of the way.

Dinner was supposed to be Cici's, but the time that I was to be calling for, getting, and eating takeout was instead dominated by a call to Cricket customer support since apparently my voicemail doesn't work any more. That's another saga though (spoiler alert: they made the situation worse). As a result, no dinner for me, just a bag of leftover potato chips from the bags that everyone got at the hotel for my cousin's wedding.

Miles driven: 522

Day 5
Today I left Florida. I headed up I-75 north into Georgia, where I learned multiple things: traffic flows MUCH better in Georgia than Florida, Georgia cops patrol the road a pull people over with such frequency that they put even New York to shame, and after a while, you get used to Florida. I realize now how spoiled I was with three lanes each way (before I crossed into TN), how much I miss the sound of going over the reflectors when changing lanes and the Florida bridge sound (which helped keep the roads from getting too boring), how hills now seem hillier, and how much I had forgotten that rocks exist. Had lunch at Panera Bread in Macon.

After crossing into Tennessee, I headed west on I-24, with a brief loop to clinch I-124 (finally making up for a cut piece of my trip to Birmingham). I-24 is certainly much more interesting than I-75 was. I got off at TN 255 for my hotel.

Even in Atlanta, congestion is much briefer and more manageable than what I was encountering in Florida, even on the I-75/I-85 overlap. Chattanooga wasn't fun, but much better than when I went to Birmingham. Nonetheless, I think I'll be avoiding the area in the future, especially since I've now clinched all the interstates in the area.

Unfortunately, it seems like my car is using up oil faster than I thought it would. It was at 40% oil life when I started my trip, 30% as recently as yesterday morning, 20% this morning, and now down to 15%. I hope that will at least get me to Rochester, though I'm not 100% sure - tomorrow's a long day, but the temperature shouldn't be as high as today, I'm hoping there will be less congestion in the rust belt, and the second half of Day 7 should be easier on the engine. I didn't really plan on time for an oil change mid-trip. I figured I'd have enough and do it when I got home (and use up the last free one I was given when I first got the car in 2014 - looks like I won't be able to do that).

Today also marks when this trip set the record for my longest.

Miles driven: 614

Day 6
Today I experienced two things that HB hates: Central Time and Louisville. I left bright and early at "7" (really 6, but I never actually bothered to switch time zones when I passed through) and headed down I-24 and clinched Nashville's downtown loop. Only some minor congestion approaching I-40 at that hour. From there I took I-65 north into Kentucky and did a loop with I-265 and I-64 since I'd never been to Indiana before either. From there I took I-71 north, encouraging some stop and go congestion leaving Louisville, which seems to be a theme of this trip (this also happened a few more times around Cincinnati). I got lunch at Panera Bread near Florence.

From there I headed into the "good morning state" (Ohio, for those who don't watch anime and therefore wouldn't get the bilingual pun). Ohio seemed more interesting than I would have thought, but that could have just been because the rolling open farms are so different from anything else I've seen on this trip. I took I-76 into PA and got off at US 19 for my hotel and gas/dinner at Sheetz. My look at the gas prices had me go "holy f***". Clearly I've been spoiled by the South. It actually feels pretty weird to be back in range of upstate NY.

Miles driven: 628

Day 7
Today was my final day of driving. It was also only the second (the other one was day 2) to take approximately the length of time that I assumed it would when I was planning the trip (the others all ranged from a little to a lot longer). This is actually weird in and of itself, since in my experience Google usually underestimates Pennsylvania, and Shamokin Dam was pretty congested.

I headed east on I-76, finally clinching the mainline PA Turnpike. I got off at Carlile and headed north on US 11. Lunch was at Wegmans (I really should start doing this more often, but I'm most likely to encounter a Wegmans in places that have either a Panera or a Wawa, both of which are also top priorities). I continued on US 11 and US 15, filling in a gap from PA 581 to US 22. Around Lewisburg, I turned onto PA 45 and then PA 405, filling in a gap from the CSVT meet, and took PA 147 and I-180 back to US 15.

I took US 15 north, getting photos of the new exit numbers. I did a couple loops in Mansfield and Tioga/Lawrenceville to clinch Business US 15 and a piece of PA 287 that was cut from the Corning meet. After that, my roadgeeking was done, and it was I-86/I-390/I-590 to the diverging diamond to head to my parents for Memorial Day.

Honestly, it still feels kinda strange to be back in NY. I have to get used to things like sequential exit numbers, holding the gas pump the whole time, not being able to legally go faster than 65, and higher gas prices compared to the South all over again.

This trip certainly made for a good prototype for other long trips. Lessons were learned. For example, a wedding cannot be planned around in the exact same manner as a roadmeet can be. Assume Google underestimates even more than you thought it did. Green does not mean free flow, yellow does not mean only minor slowing, and red does not mean still moving (all of the Google Maps traffic levels with the exception of mauve actually mean the level below what I thought they meant). Have 8 hours as the ceiling and 7 as the target, rather than 9.5 as the ceiling and 8 as the target; I was constantly antsy about time because of this, especially since I like to clinch local TV news markets too, and there were definitely days where it felt like I bit off more than I could chew, even though Day 1 was the only day where this became a huge problem, and I-295 and Richmond's local news (which I had thankfully already seen on the way back from Birmingham) were the only things actually cut (OK, and dinner two days, though one of those was the fault of Cricket and had little to do with my trip). Waking up at 5 and going to bed at 10 with only limited time for Facebook and AARoads is easier to adapt to than I thought, at least for roadtrips.

As for when I'll actually do another trip of this length, who knows. There was talk of a Memphis meet, so that's a possibility. Also talk of a Newfoundland meet, though that might be a bit bigger, especially with the ferry, and not something to think about right now (maybe do Les Īles de la Madeleine first? They'd have similar challenges while not being quite so far or as big). And, of course, Alaska (the potential 2020/2021 one, not this year's meet), though that's really a separate category, both due to length and due to being a carpool with other roadgeeks.

While I'm still not back in Albany, this pretty much does it for my Florida trip. The remainder is basically the Memorial Day trip I do every year; return is I-590/I-490/I-90/I-87 like for every family gathering, though I'm planning to loop around Utica and maybe Rome too to get pictures of the new signs on I-790. Speaking of new signs though: I like the new guide and gore signs Region 4 just put up in the last month, but the new interstate shields are yuck. 18 inch numerals are an aesthetic abomination. Please don't import them here! They're one of my least favorite things about traveling out of state and to see them invading my hometown sucks.

Miles driven from Cranberry Township to Rochester: 508
Total miles driven from Albany to Florida to Rochester: 4,090

My car's oil level is just enough to scrape by to Albany.  It hit the 5% mark at Cohocton.  Gonna have to take care of that Tuesday.
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oscar

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Re: 2018 Florida Trip
« Reply #1 on: May 27, 2018, 01:24:22 PM »

Lunch at Wawa near West Palm Beach.

When I was down there, I was pleased to stumble upon the Wawa on US 1 in Pompano Beach, and saw some others along I-95 south of Orlando not there during my previous visit.

Quote
My car's oil level is just enough to scrape by to Albany.  It hit the 5% mark at Cohocton.  Gonna have to take care of that Tuesday.

My 2008 Prius burns oil, too, about a quart every 1000 miles (didn't realize that until the Toyota dealer in Regina SK told me I had almost no oil in my crankcase). Now I always check my dipstick every fillup or two, have a quart or two in my trunk to put in the engine as needed, and restock at Walmart. It sounds like your car lets you check oil level without going under the hood, but mine is too old for that feature.
« Last Edit: May 28, 2018, 05:50:20 PM by oscar »
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: 2018 Florida Trip
« Reply #2 on: May 27, 2018, 02:28:51 PM »

I take it you stayed at the Sugarloaf Lodge?  Technically the Southernmost Point was accurate until the Naval Air Station expanses Truman Annex with landfill. 

webny99

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Re: 2018 Florida Trip
« Reply #3 on: May 28, 2018, 04:53:59 PM »

What new gore and guide signs are you referring to?
I don't recall any super-new installs in Region 4.
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vdeane

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Re: 2018 Florida Trip
« Reply #4 on: May 28, 2018, 07:24:13 PM »

My 2008 Prius burns oil, too, about a quart every 1000 miles (didn't realize that until the Toyota dealer in Regina SK told me I had almost no oil in my crankcase). Now I always check my dipstick every fillup or two, have a quart or two in my trunk to put in the engine as needed, and restock at Walmart. It sounds like your car lets you check oil level without going under the hood, but mine is too old for that feature.
I'm not aware of it burning oil, so much as needing an oil change.  It's the computerized maintenance minder.  My 2014 Civic doesn't even have a mileage schedule oil change interval!  It's when the computer says it needs to be changed.  In this case, protracted driving on roads with speed limits of 70, combined with the heat and persistent congestion are probably what did it in.  In any case, future trips will need to have better means of predicting oil change needs.

I take it you stayed at the Sugarloaf Lodge?  Technically the Southernmost Point was accurate until the Naval Air Station expanses Truman Annex with landfill. 
Yep, that's the one.

Still a ton a qualifiers on Southernmost Point, though.  There's an island wildlife refuge just to the west with points further south.  Even within Key West, there are private properties just to the east with land (barely) further south.  Regardless, it's still the southernmost spot the general public can drive to and access.

What new gore and guide signs are you referring to?
I don't recall any super-new installs in Region 4.
Everything on I-390 between exits 7 and 8 is new.  Mile markers, guide signs, gore signs, reassurance shields, everything.  Also new guide signs for exit 1 on I-590 north, and a new gore sign at exit 4 (possibly exit 3 too, but that one was knocked down so I couldn't see it), as well as new reassurance shields both directions between 3 and 4.  Fortunately, Monroe County still installs traditional 15'' series D (as seen on Elmwood Ave).
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