Still, on any vacation getaway in any direction, for Memorial Day weekend or the summer travel season, long-distance driving is no dream. Here are some tips I’ve collected from travelers who make these drives.
●Classic route: Interstate 95 to I-295, across the Delaware Memorial Bridge to the New Jersey Turnpike to northern New Jersey approaches to New York (about 227 miles).
●Alternatives: Consider I-95 to I-695, just before Baltimore, to I-83 to York and Harrisburg, Pa., then I-81 to I-78. Options include staying on I-78 across New Jersey toward New York City, or taking a more northerly course, following Route 22 just before Allentown, Pa., to Route 33 to I-80 across the top of New Jersey.
Or take Route 50 across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, to Route 301 to State Road 896 (Churchtown/Boyds Corner Road) to Route 1 and Route 13. From there, drivers can reach I-295 and the Delaware Memorial Bridge. For those who want to vacation while they travel, consider driving about 120 miles from the District to take the 80-minute ferry ride from Lewes, Del., to Cape May, N.J. Reservations recommended: 800-643-3779 or www.capemaylewesferry.com.
Approaching the Newark, Del., toll plaza, the two left lanes will take you to the highway speed E-ZPass toll readers. Those lanes put the easy in E-ZPass, but Delaware still can be nasty at peak periods, especially around the exits for routes 1 and 7.
As you approach the toll plaza, tune your radio to WTMC (1380 AM) for traffic reports. Before starting your trip, check the Delaware Department of Transportation Web site at www.deldot.gov for traffic conditions.
But my new nominee for trouble spot on the northeast route is the midsection of the New Jersey Turnpike, which is being widened between exits 6 and 9. Although all lanes are open at peak periods, they narrow and shift, as in Virginia’s 495 Express Lanes work zone. The speed limit drops to 55 mph. Tune to WKXW (101.5 FM) for New Jersey traffic reports.
Deep Creek Lake
●Classic route: I-270 to I-70 west to I-68 west to Exit 14A at Keysers Ridge and follow Route 219 south (about 180 miles).
●Alternatives: Between Frederick and Route 219, try portions of Route 144 and Alternate 40, which weave along with the interstates. Much of that route is the Historic National Road, gateway to the West during the nation’s early days, when travelers moved along it at about 10 mph. Take it to enjoy a different drive to Western Maryland rather than to save time. Maryland travel maps, including a map of scenic byways, are available at www.marylandroads.com.
●Travel tips: Maryland’s major roads, including I-270, I-70 and routes 15 and 40, pass through a bottleneck at Frederick. As elsewhere, picking a route is only part of the job. Try to avoid starting your trip between 1 and 8 p.m. Fridays, have a map to review options on detours and be patient.