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Old 05-31-2009, 07:02 PM
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I will be driving alone from Houston to Philadelphia, so I'm not all that keen on the most scenic route, as this is not a road trip, and prefer the "safest" route. (I know safe is a relative term.) I'd like the quickest route without have to go through or around mountains/hills that won't put a whole lot of extra time to the total driving time.

Using google maps and AAA, the shortest route is going through Mississippi through Chattanooga, TN and from there on I-81 to Philly. I heard, though, that this is a very mountainous drive. I'd stop to sleep overnight in Chattanooga after a 12-hour drive.

The other option is to go through Atlanta through South Carolina, North Carolina and onward through D.C. This route's main highway will be I-85 and will tag on an additional 1 hour. It seems like it's going through bigger cities but less mountain terrain. I'd stop to sleep overnight in Atlanta after a 12-hour drive.

If someone who has taken these routes to nearby city destinations would give me your advice on the best route to take, I'd be very grateful. It is a little daunting to take a 24 drive by oneself.

Thanks for any help you can give me.
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Old 05-31-2009, 08:15 PM
Location: Sanford, FL
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It is mountainous but I-81 is not what you might expect for that kind of terrain. It's built along ridge line and does not feature the kinds of turns and terrain changes that you see further west in the Rockies for example. You're at a higher altitude but it seems more hill-like versus dramatic altitude changes, so it's more a gradual rolling terrain. You'll be fine and won't feel threatened I can assure you.
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Old 05-31-2009, 10:18 PM
Location: Greater Houston
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Passed through Philadelphia for a few hours before continuing on to Washington from NYC and then back home to Houston--do not pass through Atlanta for any reason. When I arrived in Atlanta at 3 EDT that day, I got stuck in a traffic jam on rural-configured four-lane I-85 near Discover Mills in Duluth. I had to go around the city on its winding side roads when WSB radio announced the closure of I-20 for road work from the Alabama state line to the city. I ended up going up I-75 to Chattanooga and back down I-59 to Birmingham to catch I-20 again.

From that detour, I learned not to go through Atlanta ever again and Chattanooga is a beautiful place in Appalachia.
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Old 06-01-2009, 09:01 AM
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I-81 runs along the valley bottom south of Harrisburg, PA. About the only curves with appreciable grades on that stretch are between Christiansburg and Roanoke, VA where the valley transitions over from Ohio River to Atlantic Ocean drainage. The ridgetop section is north of Harrisburg heading towards Scranton. You'll see plenty of trucks and truck terminals.

Traffic on your alternative route is much worse around DC, Atlanta, and even Richmond than elsewhere. Harrisburg has its moments. Since I-81 doesn't go to Philly I'm guessing it has you transition from I-81 to I-76/PA Turnpike at Carlisle, PA which is not a direct interchange. Usually the Turnpike is a reliable bypass of Harrisburg traffic. If you are used to Texas interstates, then the PA Turnpike, "America's First Superhighway" with sharp curves, shorter signt lines, and concrete median barrier will probably feel a bit uncomfortable (and expensive). I-70 east from Hagerstown, MD to around the Baltimore Beltway and up I-95 from there could be an option too, Balto. traffic is nothing compared to the DC Beltway.
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Old 06-02-2009, 12:52 PM
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Thank you to everyone for providing me with information and giving me your advice. I very much appreciate it.

It looks like the I-81 going through Chattanooga is the way to go. I was concerned that it would be a strain on the car to keep having to go up and over and down and then repeat. If I were in a big rental truck, I probably wouldn't go this route as a friend who did this did say that it was pretty scary.

Does anyone have suggestions on stops or places that I should avoid along the way? For the most part, I'm just going to try to stop only to refill on gas (except for stopping at a hotel to sleep overnight.)

Again, thank you for the help y'all have given me.
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Old 06-03-2009, 05:33 AM
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I used to drive things like 3 cylinder Geo Metros as rental cars around Chattanooga. The most worrisome area to me was a part of I-24 between Nashville and Chattanooga (I've heard the area called Monteagle Mountain) - but you wouldn't be coming that way.

Usually for long Interstate drives I look for Flying J or Pilot Travel Centers LLC to stop at. From Chattanooga north, maybe there is one or two, but I can't think of a single exit that drops you right in a ghetto or anything like that. Certainly the Flying J won't be at exits like that.
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Old 06-05-2009, 10:31 PM
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Thanks Ki0eh for your help! I very much appreciate it. I'll remember to look for those places at which to stop.
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Old 06-06-2009, 06:17 AM
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You're in for a treat! The drive from Chattanooga all the way up into Pennsylvania is gorgeous, particularly I-81 through the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. And I agree with the others, I would NOT take the route through Atlanta; avoid driving through Atlanta at all cost!

I hope you're making this trip after June 12. I-40 through downtown Knoxville has been closed for the last 14 months and won't reopen until June 12. It'll make your drive through Knoxville much more pleasant if you can wait until I-40 reopens.

Here's a stretch of I-24 in Chattanooga you'll be driving on:

I-75 between Chattanooga and Knoxville:

I-81 in Virginia:

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Old 06-10-2009, 11:20 AM
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Thank you very much, JMT, for posting those photos! The drive does look nice. I am indeed making the trip after June 12, so it should be all right. I am going to avoid driving through Atlanta as you and the others have advised. I just have to go through Mississippi now...

Thank you again to all of you who have helped me with this. I very much appreciate it.
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Old 06-10-2009, 12:53 PM
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We've done the I-81 part of that drive a couple of times, part of it with a moving truck, once just with a rental car filled to the brim with stuff. I was the passenger, not the driver, but don't remember it being particularly bad. And you're in luck because it's both direct and scenic! (and I think we did the route recommended by ki0eh above, skipping the DC beltway and going to Baltimore and up the 95 to the Philly area.)
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