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 got a mid-morning start from our accommodations in Philadelphia. In packing everything up and getting ready, we hadn’t gotten around to eating breakfast.
That was OK. We just had to get a cheesesteak while we were in town.
It was nearly 11:00 before we hit the road. We didn’t hit Geno’s or Pat’s. From what I’ve heard, these are the “tourist-y” places to get a cheesesteak.
We stopped at Dalessandro’s Steaks which was easy to get to. We got in before the start of the lunch rush. Our order was completed in just 3-4 minutes. The sandwich was delicious. A good helping of steak, provolone cheese mixed perfectly, and mushrooms, on a nice fresh Amoroso roll.
By 11:30 we were back on the road, winding through different Philadelphia neighborhoods.
The areas near the Schuylkill River are very green, lots of park space. Much more scenic than I expected. The street level thoroughfares are often pretty narrow, turn lanes are lacking at many intersections.
The Schuylkill Expressway through downtown shows a lot of age. Not a modern highway like you’d see in a lot of cities. A reminder of yesteryear’s interstates in northeastern cities. Short “merge or die” ramps are still aplenty.
We stayed on Interstate 95 for another 11 or 12 miles until we entered the State of Delaware. 95 on the south side of Philadelphia was a much nicer highway than the Schuylkill Expressway. 95 was redeveloped with more lanes, smoother surfaces, and longer high-speed on-ramps.
We opted to take Interstate 95 instead, which travels just west of downtown. This turned out to be a good decision, as it took just a few minutes to get through the in-town areas.
At exit 1, Interstate 95 becomes a toll road, as part of the Delaware Turnpike. The last free exit is Highway 896, which goes to the city of Glasgow.
We opted to save the $4 to take the toll road and took 896 south.
Glasgow is the northern terminus for US Highway 301. 896 becomes 301 at the intersection of US Highway 40.
For the next several miles, 301 winds through a suburban setting with quite a few newer stores and restaurants. A widening project is still going on. Subdivisions with McMansions lined both sides of the road on what was farmland. Traffic was somewhat heavy through Glasgow and the surrounding areas until we crossed Back Creek to the south of town.
Middletown was another tight spot traffic-wise, much like Glasgow. There appears to be a new highway, perhaps a re-route of US Highway 301 around the west side of Middletown. The roadwork continued until we got to the Maryland state line.
301 in Maryland starts out very rural. Farmland and farming implements are everywhere.
301 is mostly limited-access, with on- and off-ramps to and from local roads and state highways.
Near the town of Price is the Bay Country rest area, situated between the northbound and southbound lanes of 301.
The scenery continued to be mostly farmland for several more miles.
Queenstown is when we started to hit a little more traffic. Stores, gas stations, and restaurants gradually began to increase. Signs warning us of the upcoming Chesapeake Bay Bridge had been present for several miles before Queenstown. 301 also begins a concurrency with US Highway 50 in Queenstown.
Signs continued to warn us as we went through Chester, Stevensville, and a few other towns.
Chesapeake Bay Bridge
Finally we made it to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. The bridge was about 150′ high for what seemed like its whole span. There wasn’t a significant incline and decline. The right lane was also closed for its whole length, marked with a red “X” from an overhead gantry.
The lanes were divided by both yellow and white lines, making for allowing traffic in both directions in case of emergency or heavy traffic.
The westbound span we crossed was built in 1973 and had no emergency lanes.
The DC Metropolitan Area
The western shore of Chesapeake Bay begins the DC area.
After breaking off from US Highway 301 in Bowie, we continued along a seemingly endless suburban US Highway 50 until hitting the Washington Beltway (Interstate 95/495) in Landover.
The Beltway this time moved better than it did on day two. The weather was much nicer–sunny, upper 70s. Washington drivers are still quite aggressive, but their idiocy is hidden a bit more in fair weather. Through numerous suburbs, over the Potomac River, and into Virginia, moderate-to-heavy traffic was the norm.
Off the Beltway, more of the same. This same stretch southbound on day two was stopped, including the express lanes. The express lanes were moving above the posted the speed limit. We were, at best, at the posted speed limit, but usually well below on the mainline freeway.
Interstate 95 was moving nicely again near Strafford, a few miles south of the end of the Express lanes. Near the end of the line for the DC area.
We stopped for a few supplies at a Target in Fredericksburg. Signs were around the parking lot warning people against using the lot for carpooling. There is a dedicated park-and-ride lot down the street from Target, although not as convenient to the interstate as Target.
From Fredericksburg to Richmond, traffic moved pretty smoothly.
Richmond and Petersburg
We decided against the 295 bypass this time, instead taking 95 straight through Richmond. It was rush hour in Richmond, traffic did get snarled up at times in downtown and through to Petersburg. Overall, taking the straight shot through Richmond was worth it.
Like with a lot of northeastern cities, the interstate slices right through the old part of Richmond, and runs very close to a number of old buildings.
Outside of Petersburg, the interstate continued to flow smoothly as we made our way southbound.
We ran into another stretch without quality gas stations. A Flying J with good prices was available with about 90 more miles on the range.
We didn’t pass much of anything until the fuel light came on. We had to settle for a gas stop near the town of Whitakers, where we had to pay about 10 cents per gallon more than I’d wanted. Gas is at a premium due to the lack of stations around.
From the gas station in Whitakers, we traveled the final 100 miles to Fayetteville.
We exited onto Business 95 north of Fayetteville which became a surface street near downtown. This route was built in 1978 to fill a gap in Interstate 95 that was completed in 1983. The signage and designation for Business 95 remains today.
Our Last Night on the Road
We checked into the Ambassador Inn right around dusk. The lady at the front desk was pleasant, helpful, and even made a recommendation on dinner.
Her recommendation was for the Cook Out, a few blocks down the street.
It’s a Carolinas-based burger joint with a dual drive-thru system. A burger platter with two sides and a drink was just $5. The portions were huge and the burger was very good.
The room itself was nice and clean, but old fashioned. The beds were comfy and the hotel facility was nice. We parked for the night right in front of our front door.
Day Six: Our last day on the road.
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