Thursday, December 20, 2012

Holiday Travel: Christmas 2012 Edition

It's time to hit the road again! (Well, almost. We're leaving Saturday.)

Each of the last five years, Amber and I have visited either Jacksonville or Toledo for Christmas weekend, and then turned around and visited either Toledo or Jacksonville for New Year's weekend. When it was just the two of us, no problem! One year, we even went to Mammoth Cave and Mississippi in between.

But now, with Marla, road trips on back to back weekends in opposite directions is a little too much. We're still going to Toledo for Christmas, but New Year's will be spent in Durham.

So, let's talk road trip stuff, because, well, that's what I do. You may have heard that last week, there was a a natural gas explosion on I-77 in West Virginia. Hey, that's right along our route! (Well, depends.) They've since re-opened I-77, though, which is good, because we'll be going that way so I can check out...

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...the US-33 bypass of Nelsonville, Ohio (the last remaining bottleneck between Columbus and Athens). It's only partially open, but not the section that actually bypasses Nelsonville. Still worth checking out, though, because I think it's kind of neat to see these things open in steps, rather than come back one day and see the whole thing finished already. Next time we head up this way (depending on when that is), the whole thing could be open, and that would save us upwards of five minutes, making the US-33 via Athens route once again the uncontested "fastest route to Toledo" ahead of US-35/US-23 via Chillicothe. That is, until they complete the new US-35 expressway in West Virginia, which will probably pull the Chillicothe route back even again. (But that won't be for a while, so I've heard.)

Another thing that isn't finished this time, but should be for the next trip to Toledo: E-ZPass/NC Quick Pass integration. According to the News and Observer, our Quick Pass hardcase transponders will be operational on E-ZPass roads, such as the West Virginia Turnpike, starting as early as January 2, apparently. Or, a week too late to be of any use for us on this trip. Maybe next time. (The article suggests that January 2 is the best case scenario.)

Any new counties on this trip? ... Depends. I have a route picked out that will get me four new counties west of Columbus, and a different route that would get me three more in southern Ohio / eastern Kentucky on the return, but whether we actually take those routes will depend on how Marla behaves in the car. (She doesn't get as excited about visiting new counties as I do. Maybe that's because she's already visited over 60% of Ohio.)

Also, we're spending an extra day in Toledo, which we may use - or, I may use by myself while Amber spends more time with her family - to drive into Michigan. Michigan has a lot of potential for new counties once I get north and west of I-69 - our honeymoon is pretty much the only time I've ever gone past Flint or Lansing. If I'm ambitious enough, and isn't snowing up there that day, it's actually not outside the realm of possibility that I'll have 1,500 counties visited by the end of the trip. (I'm currently at 1,481.) That, and I like Michigan. I want to do more drives there. Yeah! (Kentucky is another relatively nearby state that I want to do more drives in.)

Any traffic concerns? ... Saturday is technically the start of Christmas weekend, and so I expect it to be busier than a typical Saturday, but not "Wednesday before Thanksgiving" busy. Either way, we're leaving at 4 AM, and any traffic problems we occur going to/from Toledo almost always happen from West Virginia south, so we should be fine on Saturday. Our return drive on Thursday is a little more of a wild card, but I don't expect serious traffic problems, at least.

Merry Christmas and whatnot!

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