Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Motorcycle ride planning focusing more on avoiding traffic than on the ride...sad

The last two weekends, we took a trip down to Yorktown to visit ailing family members. Two Saturdays ago, we drove our car down south because of traffic issues on I-95 and the threat of rain. This last Saturday, we rode our motorcycles down south in spite of the traffic issues on I-95 and the threat of rain. (Yes, we got wet...a common occurrence this summer :)

I've lived in the Washington metro area now for 29 years. During that time, the traffic has always been bad. Initially horrible during the typical morning and evening rush hours during the weekdays, certain roads now are in a perpetual traffic jam no matter the time or day. At least one local radio station issues traffic reports every 10-min. And on any given day, somewhere in the area is a traffic jam of monumental proportions. This is such a routine occurrence, it has become the norm. Sad.

Even sadder is that there is no respite during the weekend when traffic is often as congested but going in the other direction. Routes out of the WMA are jammed beyond belief starting Friday evenings and often through Saturday morning with everyone returning Sunday. During summer weekends that promise nice beach weather, the roads appear to be so congested it is unclear to me that anyone makes it to their destination. I fully expect traffic cams to show folks sun bathing on top of their cars while puttering down the road at a blazing 1.3 mph.

I've studied maps, Google maps, Google Earth, and myriad other mapping programs to find southbound routes that allow us to avoid I-95. There are few options. None are great.

As with everything else in life, nothing is truly free and the cost of my "avoidance routes" is time or distance or both. The most straightforward route to my in-laws is south on I-95, loop around Richmond on I-295, and then head east on I-64. Door-to-door this route is 159 miles and takes 2 hours and 30 minutes observing all legal speed limits, which of course, I always do. (It's possible to make the trip in less time by traveling at the same speed as the traffic; we've made it as quick as just over 2 hours.)

A more typical route for us is to take I-95 to just south of Fredericksburg and then travel Rte 17 south to Yorktown. The distance is the same at 159 miles, but the slower posted speed limits, occasional stop lights, and travel through towns adds 30 minutes to the trip. Avoiding a majority of the interstates, even at the cost of 30 additional minutes, is worth the extra time.

I have found an alternative route that avoids the interstate route all together; the closest approach is crossing over I-95. Alas, this route adds 22 miles to the trip and a theoretical 1 hour and 15 minutes over the interstate only route. In many cases, the 3 hours and 45 minutes comes closer to 4 hours when its all over and done with. I'll never get this time back...somebody help!

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