In a six-part series, Take The Highway takes to the highway on a six day roadtrip through the southeast, mid-Atlantic, and northeastern United States.
We woke up in Florence, South Carolina to dreary overcast skies. Their air felt nice, about 66°. We ate our hotel breakfast, which included a gigantic waffle, cereal, yogurt, coffee, and orange juice. Buyer beware, though: You may hear casual talk of mayo and banana sandwiches down in the breakfast bar, so be careful.
After eating, getting ready, and topping off our gas at a nearby TA Travel Stop, we got on Interstate 95 and headed north.
Roadtrippin’ Turns Wet
Not long after getting on the interstate, here came the rain. The rain stayed with us practically the entire day. Temperatures also slowly dropped throughout the day. We never made it out of the mid 60s and ended up near 50° at day’s end.
Turns out South Carolina is a large state as far as Interstate 95 goes. Seemingly every interchange and overpass is named after someone. Near Dillon, South Carolina at Exit No. 193 sits “The Ben Bernanke Interchange.”
Yes. That Ben Bernanke. Bernanke was born in Augusta, Georgia, and raised in Dillon, South Carolina, where his father was a pharmacist, his mother a school teacher.
Another fun feature of South Carolina is the constant presence of signs for South of the Border, a Mexico-themed and hotel and amusement park in Dillon. A cartoon character named Pedro adorns the signs and asks you, in a Mexican accent, to stop by.
— Take the Highway (@takethehwy) May 16, 2017
Immediately after passing Pedro and South of the Border, we crossed into North Carolina.
We stopped at the North Carolina Welcome Station in Rowland. We had gotten there as some drink and food vendors were setting up for something later in the day. Two nice ladies behind the counter welcomed us as soon as we walked in the door, and were helpful in providing information. An Econo Lodge sales rep stopped in to drop off literature on his hotel chain.
We took off, and the temperatures were dropping into the 50s.
The rest of North Carolina was a pretty decent drive, just rainy. The terrain definitely changed from the low country of South Carolina and Georgia.
We needed to stop at a store, so we got off at US Highway 64 in Rocky Mount. This turned out to be a limited-access highway. We had to drive another mile, get off at another ramp, then go to a Speedway store. Stinks to have to go to a store that can’t be seen from the interstate.
With the rain going steady, we ended up in the State of Virginia. Their state slogan is “Virginia is for Lovers.”
There are really two parts of Virginia along Interstate 95.
The part south of Fredericksburg is more rural, more southern. A nicer drive.
This includes a bypass around the cities of Petersburg and Richmond along Interstate 295. It was along 295 we began to realize the generally horrible state of northeastern and mid-Atlantic highways. Minefields with potholes that are quite common. In Florida, we are spoiled by our roads.
The highlight of Interstate 295 was the Varina-Enon Bridge. This is the United States’ second cable-stayed bridge, built in 1990. The bridge is smaller than, but very similar in appearance to Florida’s Sunshine Skyway Bridge, built three years earlier.
North of Fredericksburg things change drastically.
Express lanes start to appear. The lanes paralleling I-95 carry inbound traffic in the morning, and outbound traffic in the afternoon.
At Dale City we began to experience stop-and-go traffic. The Dale City rest area had a small restroom and looked a bit run down.
For the next 14 miles, traffic was very slow in both directions, including the express HOV lanes carrying outbound traffic.
The DC Beltway
The first few miles moved along smoothly. Around Falls Church, that all changed.
Traffic stopped. We began to see the horrible nature of Washington DC drivers. The constant and aggressive lane changes in the rain. Driving in the shoulder, sometimes up to 10 cars at a time, creating difficult situations with merging traffic.
All in all, we spent three hours battling DC traffic. Stop and go, stop and go, stop and go. Rude drivers who won’t let you over. Drivers drive down the median, cut your off. They won’t let you over, but they’ll cut you off.
Avoid DC at all costs.
— Take the Highway (@takethehwy) May 12, 2017
Things finally started to clear up on Interstate 270 approaching Frederick. 270 features a bluff, where you can see the city of Frederick down below.
The scenery in Maryland continued to be rolling farm country.
The rolling hills continued into Pennsylvania along US Highway 15. The drive was mainly rural until we arrived in Harrisburg near sundown. We didn’t get to see much, other than dinner at Friendly’s. It was my first visit to Friendly’s, known for its ice cream and standard American food.
All in all a difficult day with the less-than-ideal driving conditions, made well by the hospitality of our friend, Tracy. Many thanks, Tracy!
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