This report is from Day 1 of my 2004 summer vacation, on June 16, 2006.  This first day wasn't vacation per se, as it involved me getting up to Syracuse, NY to pick up Meaghan.

Froggie's 2004 Summer Vacation Day Day 1 (VA-NY)

As some of you know, my S.O. and I recently took a few weeks off for vacation and a long roadtrip out to Minnesota nad back, stopping at many other locations along the way. While my other half's vacation is over, mine isn't quite done yet...that comes tomorrow when I drive back to Virginia Beach. In the meantime, this post will be the first in a series of roadtrip reports going back over the last couple weeks.

To begin, some basic numbers from our trip:

Total mileage (Syracuse-Syracuse): 6078.6 miles

Total mileage (Virginia Beach-Virginia Beach, assuming I drive straight back on Monday): About 7120 miles.

Number of states visited: 20 (a few of them more than once)

Number of new states for Meaghan: 13

Counties Added for Froggie: 51 (bringing my total to 1547)

Counties Added for Meaghan: 229 (total now at 426)

Cheapest Gas (87 octane): $1.679 in Lakeville, MN on 6/19

Most Expensive Gas (87 octane): $2.069 in Liverpool, NY on 6/17

Number of photos taken: 1,721 (before the camera broke...more on that later)

Day 1: Getting started (VA-NY)

Left Virginia Beach on 6/16, with the goal of the day being simply to get up to Syracuse, since Meaghan had to work that day (she took a few days less off than I did). Was primarily interested in getting up north quickly, so went the direct route: US 13/US 113/DE 1/US 13/I-495/I-95/I-476/I-81.

- Not much of note, except that I had my first time through the new high-speed EZPass lanes on DE 1 at the Dover tollbooth. Very nicely done, with two high-speed lanes in each direction and an easy merge afterwards. The high-speed lanes are on the inside, and there were 3 or 4 regular tollbooth lanes remaining. The BGS approaching the split listed this for the regular lanes:

Toll Plaza

Guessing the HOV gets use mainly during the summer weekends.

- Traffic was thankfully tranquil going around Philly.

- Up near Scranton, I'll usually exit I-476 at Exit 105 and use PA 115 to get down to I-81, minimizing toll charges. On occasion, I'll take I-476 all the way to Clarks Summit, though I don't like that the two coin-drop barriers around Scranton don't have EZPass. Today, for the first time, I left I-476 at Exit 115 and used the short hop on PA 315 to get to I-81. A couple tight 20-25 MPH curves coming off I-476, first at the off-ramp from I-476, then on the ramp to PA 315 North. The end of that ramp has a stop sign. Beyond that, there is only an entrance to some sort of PennDOT maintenance garage/parking lot before one gets to the ramp to NB I-81.

- While I've been on northbound I-81 through Scranton often before, this was my first time taking it during daylight hours, along with the associated photo opportunity. Exit 185 to the Central Scranton Expressway (CSE) is a left exit with a tight 20 MPH curve after the exit. Also at Exit 185, the NB on-ramp from the CSE forms a third lane that stays for the 2 miles or so down to the split between NB I-81 and the ramps to US 6 and I-84/380. A fourth lane forms just before the split, with 2 lanes continuing on NB I-81 and 3 lanes continuing on to US 6 and I-84/380.

- Compared with the rest of I-81 in the area, the interchanges at US 6 East, I-84/380, and PA 347 are of recent vintage, and are quite nice. Once north of PA 347, I-81 narrows considerably, lacking a left shoulder (with only a Jersey barrier) in some segments, and with a narrow right shoulder and lots of tight on- and off-ramps. Things start opening up to a more "normal" Interstate standard once north of the Clarks Summit interchange.

- As mentioned previously on MTR, the 65 MPH zone on I-81 continues a few miles farther now. Where it used to go to 55 MPH just past the NY 17 East interchange, it now stays 65 MPH up to the Binghamton city limits.

- I'll somewhat echo Dylan's complaints about the I-81/NY 7 interchange in Binghamton. The NB approach is 3 lanes, with the rightmost lane becoming exit-only and forming a C/D road at the interchange. The on-ramp reforms the third lane just before one starts crossing the Chenango River. Just after crossing the river, the 3 lanes split, with 2 lanes (to the left) following WB NY 17, and 2 lanes (to the right) continuing on I-81. Where the problem comes in is that NB I-81 through traffic must all squeeze into the right lane (of 2 total) while going through the NY 7 interchange, and this traffic has a nasty weave with traffic coming from NY 7 and wanting to go on WB NY 17.

A Terraserver image of the situation:

While I think NYSDOT did fairly good given what they had available, the area could certainly use some improvement. Unfortunately, any decent improvement would require a lot of cash and ROW takings.

- Found out the hard way that NYSDOT is doing some bridge rehabilitation work at and around the I-81/I-690 interchange. On this day, bridge work at the Salina St underpass had traffic down to a single lane, and traffic was backed up to a point before the Adams St/Harrison St exit (and before the downtown viaduct).  Fortunately, I know my way well enough around Syracuse to where I could exit at Adams/Harrison, take side streets through downtown, and pick I-81 back up just north of I-690. Got to the house less than 15 minutes later.

Next up: the vacation begins.

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(C) 2007, Adam Froehlig