Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Travelogue: 7/4-7/8/12

The days of crazy long road trips are over, at least for the time being. It could be years before we even cross the Mississippi River again, let alone reach the Pacific Ocean. So when it comes to visiting (or at least driving through) new and exciting places, our best bet of late has been to take some rather creative routes to and from the places we visit for family reasons, such as Toledo, or last weekend's trip to Warren County, Pennsylvania. It may not be the same as driving to Utah, but it's something!

And, yes, there are also my various "roadgeek" quests, such as visiting as many counties as I can, and driving as many miles of interstate as I can. The nice thing is that "visiting new and exciting places" and my roadgeek quests tend to go hand-in-hand. (That's how I justify it, anyway.)

Let's start with the July 4th drive up to Pennsylvania. Business as usual until we get to Charleston...

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Taking I-77 to I-79 via Charleston (instead of US-19 via Summersville) is 40 minutes longer, and is $3.60 more expensive in terms of tolls. But we've never done it before, and it accomplished two of those afore-mentioned "roadgeek quests": 1) Two new counties! And a third, too (Calhoun County), which required getting off at Exit 40, driving a rather pleasant five miles north on WV-16 to the Calhoun County line (point C on the map), and then turning around and heading back to the interstate. 2) If I followed I-79 all the way to I-80 in Pennsylvania (which we did), then that would make I-79 my 12th completely clinched interstate. Done and done.

The I-70/I-79 junction in Washington, PA, is always under construction, it seems. I don't think I've ever seen it not in construction, and when I was a kid, we made this drive every year! According to my uncle, apparently there's some kind of underground mine in the area which causes subsidence and forces the intersection to be perpetually under construction, or something along those lines.

I was curious how much traffic there would be on the 4th. As a holiday Wednesday, which could serve as either the first or last day of a long weekend, would it be a big travel day? ... I'd have to say, not really. Most people who are traveling this week probably just took the entire week off, I guess. It also helped that we left home at 4 AM that morning. (The full drive took 12:31 total, including 10:30 of driving time, which is pretty much the maximum we can reasonably do in one day these days.) As expected, traffic volumes were much higher on the Sunday return.

We decided to split the return trip up into two days. Here's what Day 1 (Saturday) of the return trip looked like:

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This ended up being a bit more complicated than originally planned, and we can blame my roadgeek quests for that. (Specifically, I decided to add Columbiana County, Ohio, on top of the many other new counties I would be getting along the way. Might as well get as many as possible now, right?)

Here's a roadgeek curiosity of sorts that we discovered: multiplexed routes that are consecutively numbered (in this case, 6 and 7)! I-73/74 in North Carolina is the only other such instance of this I can think of, although I'm sure there are many more out there.

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The Ohio River Valley between Parkersburg and Wheeling was a gaping hole in my county map, and I devised a way to get all of the counties on either side of the river. Basically, it involved crossing the Ohio River FIVE times.* This works because there's a road closely paralleling the river on both sides, so you can switch back and forth with relative ease. I think the Ohio side (OH-7) makes for a better drive than the West Virginia side (WV-2), by the way, because the Ohio side has fewer towns, less traffic, and better views of the river. (But there aren't as many counties on the Ohio side...)

(* - We actually crossed the Ohio River a total of NINE times between Saturday and Sunday. On top of the afore-mentioned five, we crossed the main channel twice more while touring Wheeling, and two more times on top of that due to our hotel being back on the Ohio side of the river in Marietta. We would have preferred a hotel on the West Virginia side, but every Parkersburg hotel we called was full, and the Marietta hotel also filled up after we got in. Holiday weekend demand, I suppose?)

But I wasn't done with counties even after that; on Sunday morning, we took a little detour through Wirt County.

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The nice thing about West Virginia roads is that, if you like what we like, you really can't go wrong. Almost all of them are pleasant. It'll be a shame once I'll have visited every county in West Virginia, and since I only have four counties to go, that might come sooner rather than later. Then what will we do? (Answer: Kentucky!)

Here's the total roadgeek quest damage from the weekend:
- 16 new counties visited, including 11 in West Virginia. I now only have four counties in West Virginia, and three counties in Pennsylvania, remaining. (And yeah, I've already started thinking about the best ways to get them. Tucker County, WV, is going to be a tough one.)
- 283 new interstate miles, giving me all of I-79, plus all of West Virginia.

Oh yeah, and there's Marla, too! Marla is just along for the ride, of course, but all of the county craziness I've been doing as of late has already given Marla 226 counties and 13 states, all before her first birthday. That's a lot more than I thought she would have at this point. But that should be it for Year 1; county #227 will likely come after her first birthday.

Oh yeah, and there's my car, too! During this trip, my 2008 Honda Civic surpassed my old 1998 Saturn SC2 in terms of counties visited. It took 4 years, 8 months, for the Civic (now at 539 counties) to pass the Saturn (522 counties), which I had for about 5½ years. The Saturn still leads the Honda in terms of states visited, however (24 to 21, not counting DC).

We're getting better at this "road tripping with Marla" thing. Amber may disagree, but now that we know what to expect, it doesn't even seem like that big a deal anymore. This is what we do. I'll gladly go on another long road trip...eventually. I need a nice long nap first.


James Allen said...

Subsidence, you say?

Adam said...

the 70-79 junction is also being redesigned. It will no longer be the tight outdated trumpet interchange. They are, in time, building a fully modern Y interchange. But are only building the flyover from 79 North to 70 West at this time.