Friday, June 27, 2014

Spurs, Bypasses and Beltways: Illinois

Looking southbound onto Interstate 355 from th...
Looking southbound onto Interstate 355 from the Illinois Prairie Path. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Illinois has ten auxiliary highways for the the various interstates that cross it. The Chicago area has many interstates traveling through it. Interstate 355 is 32.5 miles long and links I-80 near New Lenox with I-290 at Exit 7. This highway runs in a north-south direction to the west of I-294 and is also known as the Veterans Memorial Highway. Interstate 190 is just three miles long and connects I-90 to the Chicago O'Hare International Airport. Next is Interstate 290 which is 30 miles long and provides a southern option to travel on I-90. I-290 begins near Rolling Meadows and travels south through Bloomingdale. This highway then turns to the east through Elmhurst and Maywood before joining I-90/I-94 near Lake Michigan. Finally, Interstate 294 leaves I-94 and journeys south for 53.42 miles to I-94 in Deerfield, Illinois.

Interstate 155 departs I-74 at Morton and travels south for just over 32 miles to join I-55 at Lincoln. Forming part of the St. Louis bypass route is Interstate 255 which begins at I-270 and runs south to the east of the Mississippi River. After turning west and crossing the river into Missouri,  this highway ends its trek of 31 miles at I-270/I-55. Providing an alternate route north of St. Louis is Interstate 270. When I-70 turns south to travel through St. Louis, I-270 continues the western path that originally belonged to I-70. It crosses the Mississippi River into Missouri north of St. Louis and rejoins I-70. Travelers who are heading west and do not want to see St. Louis should use I-270. For those wanting to use the I-44 route to I-40, use I-255 during rush hour time. If going through the city at a slow traffic time, use I-70 since it is more direct and gives the view of the Arch.

In Peoria is Interstate 474 which is 15 miles long and links I-74 in Peoria with I-74 in Morton. It runs from Exit 87 to Exit 94. Next is Interstate 180 which leaves I-80 at Exit 61 near Princeton and travels south for 13 miles to Hennepin. Finally, while I-80 provides the eastern and northern route around the Quad Cities, Interstate 280 provides the southern and western one.  It leaves I-80 near Colona, Illinois and travels 27 miles to rejoin I-80 in Davenport, Iowa.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

On the Road: Trying to Keep Food Costs Down

An example of a Trader Joe's storefront.
An example of a Trader Joe's storefront. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Vacationers will sometimes try to keep their food costs down by cooking their own food in a hotel that has facilities for that purpose. This is a great idea to save money if travelers have a large family. However, checking exactly what supplies the accommodation has is a good idea before hitting the grocery store.

In one place I stayed I had a stove, microwave and refrigerator. I had a set of dishes and some glasses. In addition, I had one very small pan and one very small skillet. I purchased some food with the intent to make a meal, but I found I was lacking the other things needed to accomplish this task. The place did not have any condiments. The can opener, which did not work well, was the only utensil other than a couple knives, forks and spoons. I did not have any plastic containers to properly store the leftovers. In some respects, I would have been wiser to just go out for dinner. However, having food in the hotel for small and simple meals is a good idea. Just remember to have all the little extra things needed for the meal so an extra trip is not necessary.

While on the road for my longer trips, my needs are simple for food and I am able to keep my food costs down by going to Target, Sam's Club and Trader Joe's. One thing people may not realize is these big national chains do a good job of keeping prices almost the same all over the country. I have seen little difference in the prices in California vs. the prices in Ohio for the food items I purchase at these three chains. Keep in mind my needs are simple. I almost never cook a compete meal while I am away from home. When I first drove to California, I thought the prices would be outrageously high. I took enough shampoo, conditioner, ZonePerfect bars, etc. to last for the entire trip. Now I realize that Target and Sam's Club will hold the line and keep those prices pretty consistent with their prices in Ohio, so I purchase those items when I arrive at my destination.

An exception can sometimes be found within certain chain stores. For example, I have found the prices for a few items at the Empire Center Target in Burbank are higher than the prices for those same items at the Target in Santa Clarita. Sometimes this cost can be at least a dollar more. If an item is found in the ad, no price difference will exist. The regional grocery stores are where I see the highest prices. If the item is not on sale, people will pay a higher price as is the case in any grocery store in any area. Travelers can also ask the hotel if farmers' markets are in the area so they can have fresh produce. If they are going to be in an area for a long period of time, travelers would be wise to research online the options available to them for their food needs.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Spurs, Bypasses and Beltways: Georgia

Atlanta Downtown Connector at night
Atlanta Downtown Connector at night (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Of the five auxiliary highways in Georgia, two of them are for Interstate 85. The largest is Interstate 285 which is the beltway around Atlanta. This highway is 64 miles long with I-75 and I-85 crossing from north to south and I-20 running east to west. Drivers coming in on I-75 will find I-285 West the shorter bypass route. Those on I-85 will find I-185 East a better option. Traffic can be a nightmare in Atlanta, but drivers will find taking either I-75 or I-85 through the city a faster option during slow traffic times. The trick is to find the slow traffic times! Next, Interstate 185 leaves I-85 at Mountville and travels 49 miles south to Columbus. Interstate 985 leaves I-85 northeast of Atlanta at Buford and travels 24 miles to SR369 near Gainsville.

Near Macon, Interstate 475 leaves I-75 at Exit 177 and travels west of I-75 for nearly 16 miles. I-475 provides a bypass for Macon and rejoins I-75 at Exit 156. Interstate 575 begins near Nelson which is north of Atlanta. It journeys south for 31 miles to I-75 at Kennesaw. Also in Atlanta is Interstate 675 whose length of 11 miles joins I-75 to I-285.

In Savannah Interstate 516 runs for almost seven miles as an auxiliary of I-16. It travels north toward Garden City. Interstate 520 in Augusta provides 17 miles of access to the city. It begins at Exit 196 of Interstate 20 in Georgia and make a half circle around the city before rejoining I-20 in South Carolina.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

On the Road: Highway Construction

D5378_CM-40
D5378_CM-40 (Photo credit: MoDOT Photos)
Any driver who has ever been in the unfortunate situation of having to pull over to the side of the road for an emergency, knows what it feels like to have cars speeding by him as he walks around his car. Imagine working in those conditions everyday for a living. I always pay attention to speed limits when I am driving through a construction zone. Sometimes in these zones, lanes have been moved to direct traffic away from the construction area. The sections of road do not always join smoothly and if drivers are traveling at a high rate of speed, they can hit one of these junctures and have their vehicle go off in an unintended direction.

The people who are in these construction zones are working to make sure future travel will be easier than it is now. I respect this and follow the speed limits for their protection. Not everyone does this and some drivers will tailgate me in an effort to make me drive faster through these areas. I do not allow myself to be bullied to increase my speed!! Drivers who exceed the speed limit in work zones will be subjected to double the fines. Some states issue the double fines in addition to jail time.

What some states are kind enough to do for motorists is place signs that flash when construction workers are in the area. That makes the situation very clear. Some states use a sense of humor to make their point as is seen in the photo. Since this is summer construction time, I was to stress again to be careful in these areas for the sake of the workers. Dealing with construction areas can be frustrating, but if the roads are not fixed, the future journeys of millions of travelers will become even more dangerous.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Spurs, Bypasses and Beltways: Florida


Interstate 95 in Florida has four auxiliary highways. The first is Interstate 195 which is just over four miles long and links I-95 with Miami Beach. Most of this road is know as the Julia Tuttle Causeway. Interstate 295 is the beltway around Jacksonville and is nearly 61 miles long. The east beltway of I-295 is the shorter side and is near beaches such as Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach and Jacksonville Beach. Traveling to the west of the St. John's River is the west beltway. It curves back to the east and crosses the Buckman Bridge. I-95 runs north to south through this beltway and I-10 is east to west before joining I-95. Taking the beltway during rush hour is a good idea. During slower traffic time, I-95 provides the faster route. The third route is Interstate 395 which runs parallel to I-195, but to its south. This one and a half mile road connects to the MacArthur Causeway, which links I-95 to Miami Beach. In Weston, Interstate 75 takes a turn south.  The highway that continues east in its place is Interstate 595, which begins at I-75 and continues 12.86 miles east to US 1 in Fort Lauderdale.

The three auxiliary highways of Interstate 75 are located in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area. Two of them are less than two miles each. Interstate 175 leaves I-275 in St. Petersburg to join SR 687. Also in that city is Interstate 375 which is north of I-175 and joins I-275 to US 92. The longest is Interstate 275 which leaves I-75 at Exit 274 and rejoins it at Exit 228. This highway of just over 63 miles travels to the west of I-75 and crosses both the Howard Franklin Bridge and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in its journey to St. Petersburg.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Travel Tales: LA to Akron 2014 - Day Three

I had an amazing room at the hotel. Since the number of people who were staying in Effingham was smaller than usual that night, the clerk gave me a suite for the same price as a regular room. If I had to stay for a couple days, at least I would have wonderful accommodations. After a exhausting day of driving in the rain, I slept well and did not hear the storm when it hit.

Most of the rain from the first storm system came during the night. I had six hours to go, so I had the time to wait at the hotel until the rain moved northeast. However, I could not wait too long. News reports warned that another weather system that was even more severe was on its way east and would be in the area in the early afternoon.

I was lucky that I was able to use I-70 instead of the bypass to get through Indianapolis since morning rush hour had ended. The next major city was Columbus and I would reach it before the evening rush hour. The day was dismal, but not as challenging to drive as the previous day's stretch had been.

One thing I noticed when I was driving east was the change in gas prices. Of course, California has the highest prices and I get used to those prices when I stay there. What else am I going to do? As I drove east, I watched the prices get lower and lower. The lowest price as always was in Joplin, Missouri. Then the prices went up again as I continued to drive east. What has been amazing to me every year is to find the highest gas prices outside California are in Northeast Ohio.

Welcome Home

I arrived at my house at 4:00 in the afternoon. I like to have an arrival time during the day so if something is wrong in the house, I can make some phone calls about it. I picked up some food so I would have something to eat. My neighbors saw me pull in the garage, but they knew I had said I wanted a few days to rest before anyone knew I was home. An hour after my arrival the stormy weather started, but I did not care. I was safely back in my house. I am always so relieved to complete my entire journey and pull the car back into the garage. Since this trip was a physical challenge on both segments,  I was happy to be home to let my body heal from my injuries.
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Friday, June 6, 2014

Spurs, Bypasses and Beltways: Colorado, Connecticut and Delaware

The James Peak group sits on the Continental D...
The James Peak group sits on the Continental Divide, just NE of Berthoud Pass. Photo taken from the Genesee Park bridge over I-70 (Exit 254), 20 miles west of downtown Denver. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Colorado has two auxiliary interstates which are both in the Denver area. Interstate 225 is 12 miles long and connects I-70 and I-25. This highway starts its journey south at Exit 282 of I-70. I-225 goes south through Aurora and then joins I-25 at Exit 200. Interstate 270, a short highway of five and a half miles, begins at Exit 217 of Interstate 25 and ends at Exit 279 of Interstate 70.

In Connecticut Interstate 384 leaves I-84 and travels east for eight and a half miles to US 44 near Bolton. Interstate 291, which begins its journey from I-91 at Exit 35,  joins I-84 at Exit 61 after 6.40 miles. Interstate 691 leaves I-84 at Exit 27 and travels east for almost 9 miles crossing I-91 and ending in Meriden. Finally, Interstate 395 uses its 67 miles to link I-90 at Auburn, Massachusetts with I-95 in East Lyme, Connecticut.

Interstate 95 has two auxiliary highways in the Wilmington, Delaware area. Interstate 295 comes into Delaware from the east where it is a toll road known as the New Jersey Turnpike. After crossing the Delaware River it maintains the toll status for one exit, but the last two exits before it joins I-95 are toll-free. Interstate 495 is just over 11 miles long and connects I-95 in Newport with I-95 in Claymont. This highway runs to the east of I-95  and travels along the Delaware River for a while.
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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Travel Tales: LA to Akron 2014 - Day Two

A night time view looking across the Mississip...
A night time view looking across the Mississippi River of the St. Louis Arch and city skyline. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I had a great night's sleep and left Amarillo later than I normally would have done. I fully intended to take it slowly for the next two or three days. I had not recovered from my injuries and I did not want to push as hard as I had the previous day. However, the Weather Channel had a surprise for me. I would encounter severe weather and possibly tornadoes on the third day. My entire route would be in the danger zone. My objective was to get as close as I could to the eastern outer edge of that zone on the second day. That way I could run ahead of the storms on the third day.

I had a good reason for pressing on with my trip instead of waiting it out in a hotel. One year I was traveling west in Texas and was planning on staying in Amarillo. As I was driving I noticed how two weather systems seemed to be moving towards each other. I decided to drive out of the area. Later that night a tornado and large hail damaged homes and vehicles in Amarillo. I did not want to be in a similar situation where my car could be damaged in a storm, so I kept driving.

After an hour on the road the rain started and it poured. Rain is always worse when drivers are traveling on the interstate. Every time I had to pass a truck I got a huge backwash from the truck's tires. My first instinct was to brake, but then I realized I had to power forward to get clear of the water. When I would pass the truck, I would get hit with a huge blast of wind. This went on for my entire time in Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri. The day was absolutely miserable, so I did not take any photos.

I was able to drive straight through St. Louis since it was after rush hour. I was happy about that since I do not like to take the bypass. The Arch is always so beautiful at night and I was able to see it during a lull in the rain.

I reached my goal that day which was to drive to Effingham, Illinois. This city was on the very edge of the severe weather zone for the next day. I needed to evaluate my situation the next morning to see if I would stay in Effingham during the storm or try to make it home.
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