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Help and info needed from US Members

By GuruOfDos ·
This is completely non-technical, but I'm having difficulty finding a straight answer, so I'm asking you guys and girls in the good ole US of A...hopefully someone CAN give me a straight answer.

The Guru Family are flying out to the US on Thursday to visit family in NY (upstate, near Binghamton). We're over for a couple of weeks and (thanks to a few 'nice little earners') can afford to rent a car and do a little touring rather than just rely on family to pick us up and drop us off.

We are planning to visit friends in TN, and so have tried to look up driving directions on both Mapquest and RandMcNally's web-site. We get two different routes! Now, our destination is Eva, TN and we were told by our friends that we need to come off at exit 126 of the I-40. That makes sense, looking at a map.

We're starting from Binghamton, NY which is on the I-81. Now both map sites give different directions and involve lots of turns on and off of different highways, and neither route seems to be consistent with MY idea of what the Interstate system is supposed to be.

Now, is there a reason why the maps and driving directions tell us to keep taking different highways or routes that I'm not understanding here? To me, an Interstate is like our motorways in the UK or Autobahns in Germany....you get on at one end, and get off at the other, or turn when the route you are on intersects with another that you want to be on. Now from what I gather, the I-81 starts at the Canadian border and ends in southern Tenessee. The I-40 starts in California and goes all the way to North Carolina. Now, the two intersect in TN, and that to me is the easiest way to go...i.e., just two roads. Start on the I-81....keep going for 800 odd miles, then turn west onto the I-40 and off at our exit. Leave out the 10 or so miles at each end as that's irrelevant.

This may sound like a stupid question, but Mrs Guru and her family aren't able to give me an answer so here goes.

Can I actually get on an Interstate and not actually get off until my intersection or exit? That is to say, are these highways actually contiguous roads. Or, as both map sites seem to imply, are they actually 'virtual' roads which ARE made up from different bits of other highways and I DO have to make all these twists and turns on and off different routes?

I always try to play it safe, and the least number of turns I have to make equals less chance of taking a wrong turn and getting lost, or ending up on the wrong road going in the wrong direction.

There is also the issue of time vs speed. In my experience, a route which is perhaps 50 miles longer in distance is faster than the route that is 50 miles shorter, because you can keep up a fairly constant speed (traffic permitting) and not have to keep negotiating exits or junctions.

In a nutshell then, can I get on the I-81 south at Binghamton, head south on just ONE road until I hit the I-40, then turn west on this second road until I get to my destination (exit 126 I-40)?!!!!

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Or....

by GuruOfDos In reply to Help and info needed from ...

Would I be better off going to Ohio then down the I-75?!!

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Cities

by TheChas In reply to Or....

Mike,

Take a look at how these highways flow through and around the cities they go through.

The one thing that the maps won't tell you is how the interchanges are configured.
(Yes, of course the standard is no standard.)

It's been several years, but I remember I80, I69 and I65 as pleasant routes when I traveled them to visit family and friends.

I75 has a lot of truck traffic in some areas.
I75 also is a main route for "snowbirds" heading to Florida.

Feel free to send me peer mail or if you still have my address, send me an email directly.

Chas

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US Interstate System

by TheChas In reply to Help and info needed from ...

Hi Guru,

Like many things in the US, the Interstate Highway system is NOT as straight-forward or easy to understand as it could be.

While conceived to be the US version of the German Autobahn, the routes are largely determined by political rather than transportation issues.

While you can easily follow some routes from beginning to end, when the route goes through a major city things can get very convoluted.

Often when 2 routes merge the through route is the one that has the exit ramp.
Of course, just as often the switch is sort of a "Y" and the route you end up on is determined by the lane you are in.

Hint number 1:
Time your trip to NOT be in any metropolitan area for morning or evening rush hour!
(5AM to 8:30AM and 3PM to 6PM)

Looking at my Rand McNally road atlas, I don't think I would follow the "easy" route of I81 to I40. It just goes through too many cities and takes what looks to be an indirect route.
Scranton PA along with Knoxville and Nashville TN look to be a real pain to just "follow" the main route through.

I would likely take:
I81 to I80
I80 to I69
I69 to I65
I65 to I40

The only problem on I80 should be traffic around Toledo Ohio.
I69 connects with I65 as part of a loop around Indianapolis.
Same with I65 and I40 in Nashville.
Even if it measures out to be a bit longer, it will be faster and less stressful.
One issue with I69 and I65, once you get out of the cities, they can get to be VERY boring.

Hint number 2:
With the exception of I80 the routes are what we refer to as limited access. You MUST exit the roadway for either fuel or food. There are rest areas along the route where you can stop to stretch your legs and take care of other needs.

I80 is a "toll" road. You get on and receive a card that identifies when and where you entered the road. When you exit the road, you pay a fee (toll) based on how many miles you drove.
All toll roads have "service plazas". In a service plaza, you can get food and fuel (both overpriced) and minor car repairs.

Hint number 3:
If you do take I80 watch the speedometer closely in Ohio! Ohio has a well earned reputation for strict speed limit enforcement. They were the first state to equip police cars with credit card processing equipment!

Tip number 4:
My best suggestion, is to see if any family member has a AAA membership.
If so, have them get you a "Trip-Tik".
A AAA Trip-Tik is a detailed route guide that includes information on construction zones and areas of zealous speed limit enforcement. Along with pointers on good places to eat and sleep.

Chas

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A couple of points

by TheChas In reply to Help and info needed from ...

On our Interstate Highway system, for the most part all you do to switch from one route to another is change lanes near the point they intersect.

Some interchanges do require you to slow down to 25MPH. But, for the most part when you change routes you just merge off of one highway and onto another.

Looking at how I81 goes through the cities you would be traveling through, you will be changing highways at least 3 times in both Scranton and Knoxville.

There is NO good way to follow I40 through Nashville.

Chas

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Whew!

by GuruOfDos In reply to A couple of points

Thanks for all the info....yes Scranton should be avoided, and there IS a set of steps on the instructions that bypass Scranton coming off the I-81 and using US-11 but getting on again somewhere near Wilkes-Barre. When you live in the UK and regularly get stuck on the M25 round London or hit the 20 mile tailbacks on the M42 round Birmingham, a bit of congestion near a major town or city is not an issue!

The instructions I have imply that I HAVE to get off the I-81...do the detour on US-11 and then get back on it again a few miles further south. My question should have read 'can I actually physically stay on an Interstate even if directions offer an alternative'.

One major reason is I shall be travelling mostly by night (hopefully when the roads are clearer) leaving Bingo at about 9pm and aiming to get to Eva by early afternoon next day. This is to cover as much mileage as possible while Guru Jr is asleep! A thousand miles of screaming restless baby is NOT my idea of fun. She WILL sleep through from 8pm to 8am even in a car travelling at 70mph, but from 8am to 8pm I'm limited to about 100 miles at a time with pee breaks, diaper-change breaks, feeding breaks and smoke breaks (not Jr...me and the Mrs!).

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Another route

by TheChas In reply to Whew!

Mike,

Night travel is how my dad used to travel from Michigan to New Jersey once a year to visit my mothers sister.

I would avoid any route that is a construction zone bypass.

I fired up my DeLorme "Map and Go"

The route it details as the "quickest" takes:
State Route 17 West out of Binghamton.
I90
I271
I71
I264
I65
I24/65
I265
I40

I271 and I71 are around Cleveland.

The I264 - I40 is just how you have to navigate around Nashville.

Chas

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Okay..

by maecuff In reply to Another route

Correct me if I'm wrong, but this would be I-71 going South, to I-264 to I-65. I', familiar with that route, but you have to remember that I-71 morphs into I-75 right around Cincinnati. You'll pick I-71 up again just outside of Florence, KY.

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Well...

by GuruOfDos In reply to Another route

Thats the gist of the Rand McNally directions, give or take a few minor roads here and there. Basically, leave Bingo heading west, hit Lake Erie then drop south towards Nashville then across again. The Mapquest solution seems to say drop south across PA and then head west, probably to avoid Ohio as much as possible! Now the Mapquest solition makes it out to be about 993 miles, and the Ohio route (RM) seems to be 1063 miles or thereabouts.

By setting a 'waypoint', i.e. breaking the journey into two and defining the break at the intersection of the I-81 and I-40 and then plotting both halves, the I-81/I-40 route is 996 miles, with the only 'double dogleg' being around Scranton on the US-11 towards Wilkes-Barre, PA.

Other than that, using a town on the I-81 just outside Roanoke VA as my false 'destination' for the first half and false 'start' for the second half, the directions say Interstate all the way!

I have until Saturday 9pm EST to decide....until then, the jury is still out!!

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Check which one of your Auto Associations has reciprocal agreement with AAA

by sleepin'dawg In reply to Help and info needed from ...

It's been almost 30yrs but at one time I think it was the RAC that had reciprocal agreements with the AAA and the CAA. Here in Canada we constantly order up Trip Tiks through the CAA for points in the US and AAA members could get the same for Canada and when I was in the UK for 8 months I was able to call on the RAC(I think) for the services I normally got from the CAA. Chas is correct about the excitement factor of I-81 but it does have the advantage of staying out of Ohio which is getting a reputation of being worse than the Carolinas for speed traps. Most states will let you get away with 10mph over the limit but in Ohio you will be lucky to get more than 1-2mph over the limit and the fact you are not only from out of state but out of country will cost you dearly if you tempt fate by excessive speed. While the Interstate System has certain peculiarities at odd spots it's pretty straight forward and easy to use. The only thing I would advise is to keep an eye out for your route number around larger population centers and any indications of the lane you should be in. Other than that set the cruise control and enjoy your trip. The one thing you might not be used to is Americans and Canadians think nothing of knocking off 6-800 miles per day. I remember my relatives trying to decide whether London to Glasgow was feasible as a day trip and were shocked when I told them Iwas leaving London by 6:00AM and fully expected to have Lunch in Glasgow. Americans and Canadians tend to drive intil they have to stop, like for fuel at which point they'll grab a bite to eat often taking it in the car with them. I don't know how it is now but I can remember living over there and while the drivers were fast they didn't seem inclined to go at it for extended periods. Anyway I hope you enjoy your trip.

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Thanks Dawg

by GuruOfDos In reply to Check which one of your A ...

Well, at the last count, the UK from top to bottom is only some 600 miles or so, so each way to Eva from Endicott and back is the equivalent of leaving the south of England, driving all the way to John O'Groats right at the tip of Scotland, and half way back home again!! Well, we can theoretically do 70mph on the motorways here, but that isn't sustainable thanks to roadworks and congestion....I'd allow at least 8 hours from London to Glasgow!!

Whether our 'Sub Compact Economy' rental will have cruise control or not is an issue yet to be determined, but as I'm used to commuting from home to Munich in Germany by car in a day (800 miles or so, plus 90 minutes on a cross Channel ferry), long distances at reasonable speeds and the odd snarl up in traffic aren't a complete unknown to me!

Cheers mate!

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