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N. Idaho -> State College PA

N. Idaho
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N. Idaho -> State College PA

Ok, my friends. A friend's daughter has been accepted at Penn State and will start in August. I am helping her plan the road trip to get the daughter and the daughter's car there, with my friend flying back home. They would like to go thru Elgin IL as her parents met there, otherwise they would pretty much like to avoid big cities. They will do minimal sightseeing on the way as they need to get there, get daughter settled and my friend needs to be back to Idaho Sat 8/17. I have suggested Devil's Tower, Rushmore and a quick drive thru Badlands.

They will be leaving Thursday afternoon 8/8, so that will also put them going thru the SD area during Sturgis time. They think they can do some long drives without a problem.

Here's what I've got so far:

August 8: Drive to Butte MT for an overnight. They are leaving after work, about 2PM, so Butte is a 6 hr drive from where we are. 350 miles/6 hours

August 9: Butte -> Rapid City SD. I thought they might have a quick diversion to Devil's Tower. 598 miles/8:29

August 10: Rapid City SD -> Albert Lea MN I thought they could drop down off I90 and do the drive thru the Badlands, so I didn't make this day as many miles. I only picked Albert Lea because I know it is a crossroads and there are lots of services there. Any other suggestion would be great. 515 miles/7:27

August 11: Albert Lea MN ->

OK, here is where I'm lost. They just want to stop by Elgin, not spend any real time there, so not sure where they should head for the night and what the best routing from here on should be. I am concerned about rush hour traffic on Monday morning, because basically rush hour in our town is 3 cars and a loaded log truck, lol! Thanks to other RT regulars I have told them not to stop in Gary, IN!

Thanks for your thoughts!

Pam

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1. Re: N. Idaho -> State College PA

Gee, Pam, could be something of an ordeal. Not an route I know at all, apart from Butte, MT (and we preferred Anaconda for spending the night, but not helpful in this case), but I'd not want to be plowing thru SD while Sturgis is taking place, unless you are involved.

Good luck to them and hope folk come up with the answers. I assume you've also posted on the local forums where the likely problems might be.

SWT

N. Idaho
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2. Re: N. Idaho -> State College PA

No, just posted here to begin with...Yeah, a couple of years ago we were in Yellowstone/Butte areas the week before Sturgis and it was annoying. The Interstate wasn't bad, but the back roads were!

Pam

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3. Re: N. Idaho -> State College PA

Hi Pam,

Your friends will pass by Blue Earth, MN on their way to Albert Lea, and they can stop for a 20 minute stretch your legs break at the 54-foot tall statue of the Jolly Green Giant:

http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/2127

If your friends are driving to Elgin, I see two options for them.

The first would be to actually spend the night in Elgin. It will be about a 6.5 hour drive from Albert Lea, so it will allow them time to do a little exploring. The next morning they could head off and perhaps spend the next night around Sandusky / Cedar Point / Put-In-Bay Ohio. You're right, though, that rush hour traffic would be an issue that Monday morning.

The second option would be to drive the 6.5 hours to Elgin, spend 2-4 hours driving around Elgin, and then hit the road to get out of the Chicago / Gary / Hammond area and perhaps spend the night in South Bend, IN (Notre Dame). That would make for a very long day, but at least they'd be out of the Chicago greater metro area that Sunday night. From South Bend to Penn State, it would be a 8-9 hour day the following day.

In either case, they should probably take the I-355 Veterans Memorial Tollway around the west side of the Chicago metro area to drop down to I-80. It will cost about $24 in tolls, but may well be worth it to avoid going into the city. Or they could go a little further toward the city and take the I-294 Tri-State Tollway to save about $5 in tolls and pass through my hometown. :-)

http://goo.gl/maps/2ku6J

The Tollway system in Illinois still allows for cash payment at either manned or unmanned toll booths. At the manned booths, they'll accept bills. At the unmanned booths, you can only use coins so it may be worthwhile to buy a roll of quarters (or raid the piggy bank) before leaving. Here are the toll rates by tollway:

illinoistollway.com/tolls-and-i-pass/toll-in…

If they're considering spending a night in Chicago, the downtown area is great with tons to offer and an amazing lakefront.

Downtown Chicago is generally quite safe, but, sadly, not far out of downtown there are some neighborhoods that are quite sketchy and they should be quite selective in where they stay. While things seem to be improving this year, last year there was a lot of violence and murders in the city last year. The Chicago Sun-Times put together this map of where shootings and murders took place in 2012:

www.suntimes.com/news/violence/index.html

While I hate to generalize because there are pockets of good in with the bad, that map lets the facts do the speaking and gives you a good insight into the crime density in certain areas of town.

The Sandusky area has a lot to offer, and they shouldn't forget about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

I hope that helps.

Zed

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4. Re: N. Idaho -> State College PA

Zed, wonderful suggestions! I do not think they want to stay in Chicago, and would want to bypass the city as much as possible, so the more expensive toll route sounds good with the stay in South Bend. That gives them a shorter day's drive the next day to get in to State College altho if they do the overnight in Elgin, they could do that 600 miles in a long day.

Thank you for the info on the tolls. Very funny because my nephew (age 20, always lived in Idaho where we have no tolls), drove with a friend down to AZ for spring break. They changed plans mid-stream and came home thru CA (what??). They got to the unmanned, no debit card toll booths in CA and didn't know what to do (and they said they wondered if it applied to them!! again, what!?!), had no cash, finally ran it, then scraped up change off the floor for the 2nd one. His Dad and I were in the Orlando area last week, and laughed ourselves silly at the first toll booth. Yes, we had change. Yes, I had checked ahead of time! Anyway, I will make sure my friend is supplied with dollar bills and rolls of quarters!

Wish they had time for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! It's on my list!

The shooting/homicide map is an eye opener.

This should be very helpful for their planning. I'm voting for a Jolly Green Giant stop as well! Again, thanks loads.

Pam

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5. Re: N. Idaho -> State College PA

Glad to help out, Pam.

Yeah, that map is an eye-opener. I'm usually reluctant to bring it up but sometimes when we give advice in these forums, we forget that, in some cases, it's just as important to let people know where NOT to go.

Here's a possible route for their return trip that has quite a bit to offer:

http://goo.gl/maps/UuB0Y

I think that route adds about 230 miles versus the "straight shot" route. Not too excessive.

Near Pittsburgh in Mill Run, PA there's Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpiece home, "Fallingwater." If they do go, make reservations in advance on their website.

http://www.fallingwater.org/

Pittsburgh has really cleaned itself up and its downtown area is pretty vibrant.

http://www.visitpittsburgh.com/

In eastern Ohio, there's a large Amish presence and, near Dayton, there's the Air Force Museum.

http://www.visitamishcountry.com/index.php

http://www.nps.gov/daav/index.htm

http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/

Between Dayton and Indianapolis along US 40 (that parallels I-70), there are tons of antique shops in towns like Richmond, IN and other small towns.

http://www.visitrichmond.org/antique.cfm

Indianapolis, too, has cleaned itself up and has quite the vibrant downtown scene. Of course, there's the Motor Speedway, but there's also the NCAA Hall of Champions and the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indian and Western Art, a "must see" in my view. The Indianapolis Museum of Art and Oldfield-Lilly House are impressive, too.

http://visitindy.com/

http://www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com/

http://www.eiteljorg.org/

http://www.imamuseum.org/

In eastern Iowa, you'll pass by the Amana Colonies and you can pick up some Maytag Blue Cheese in Newton. You could also stop at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines (8-18 August).

http://amanacolonies.com/

http://store.maytagdairyfarms.com/

http://www.iowastatefair.org/

Of course, the route also takes you by the Black Hills, Mount Rushmore, and Devils Tower.

With so much to see and do on the return, I hope your friends don't take the foot off the accelerator, open the door, and push their daughter out on the fly at Penn State as they turn around and head west again. :-)

Okay. Just being silly there...

I know that they can't see or do but maybe 10% of that given their timing and the long driving days, but maybe if they just picked one or two, they'd have something to look forward to.

Zed

(Can you tell I'm a Midwesterner by nature? Born in Chicago area; college in Ames, IA and Champaign, IL; and lived 17 years in SE Indiana.)

Edited: 30 April 2013, 23:33
N. Idaho
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6. Re: N. Idaho -> State College PA

Well, my friend is going to fly back, but she is hoping they will road trip back there next summer, so these will be great suggestions for them then. I had forgotten about FallingWater and where it was located. She is interested in things to see so this will be great.

Yes, I hate to see those stats, but you are right, sometimes it is vital to know where not to go.

I'm saving your posts too for my *Big Trip*. I want to do Amana Colonies and some of the Midwestern things I have missed. Have done Chicago but not been to Ohio/Indiana/Iowa except to drive thru, so will take your recommendations under consideration as well.

Many, many thanks!

Pam

(Southerner by birth, Idahoan by choice, lol!)

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7. Re: N. Idaho -> State College PA

Your friend and her daughter might want to do some back-to-school shopping at the Grove City Premium Outlets near the intersection of I-79 and I-80. Pennsylvania has no sales tax on clothing or footwear. It would be a good stop to break up the drive between South Bend and State College.

N. Idaho
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8. Re: N. Idaho -> State College PA

Terrific suggestion TrancendentalEye. The daughter is actually going to grad school so might not need as much, but a stretch break at a mall is always a good idea in my mind!

Pam

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9. Re: N. Idaho -> State College PA

Wow, some amazing info here. Fallingwater has been on my USA bucket list for years, just never gotten anywhere near yet. Pam, please may i join you on that BIG road trip?!

SWT

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10. Re: N. Idaho -> State College PA

Yes! Shall I swing by and pick you up?

Pam