This report is from Day 5 of my return trip back east on July 2, 2004, during my 2004 summer vacation.

Froggie's 2004 Summer Vacation, Return Day 5:  Meaghan's Last Leg

After spending a night in my own bed (first time in 2.5 weeks), this day was punctuated by being Meaghan's last day of vacation (she had to work the 4th of July weekend). Pretty much headed north, though not the straight shot.  Detoured through the Northern Neck to get Meaghan some Virginia counties, and a stop in Dahlgren, VA to visit a friend.

- Left out via US 13 and I-64 West. Was early during morning rush hour, but except for traffic going to the Norfolk Navy base, I-64 west through Norfolk usually isn't that bad, nor is the westbound run through the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel (unless there's been an accident or a "truck stoppage").

- Don't remember if I've reported this before, but permanent BGS have been installed for the Mercury Blvd interchange, and later Magruder Blvd. Control Cities for US 258/Mercury Blvd are Hampton Coliseum and James River Br.

- Once past the construction zone (ends near Hampton Roads Center Pkwy), traffic on I-64 was very free-flowing, even for the middle of rush hour. Kinda made me wonder why VDOT made the WB HOV lane HOV-2 in the morning (in addition to the usual afternoon hours), though what I saw that morning might have been the exception rather than the rule.

- Going up to the Northern Neck, I've found that (barring accidents on I-64) taking an I-64/VA 105 routing is faster than taking US 17 through York County.  US 17 through York County is busy, occasionally congested, and is "stoplight city", though once you're north of VA 105 there are only 3 more signals before the Coleman Bridge.

- Some months back, an overheight truck took out the southbound span of a National Park overpass over US 17, south of VA 238. The span has since been replaced.

- Although traffic wasn't bad crossing the Coleman and going through the toll booth, it would've been so much nicer to use the express lane if SmartTag was compatible with EZPass. Ah well, only a few more months to wait...

- Took US 17 up to Gloucester, then opted for VA 14/VA 3 out of town. VA 14/3 is 4-lanes from Gloucester up to where the two routes split. At that split, we stayed on VA 3, and stayed along VA 3 through duplexes with both VA 198 and VA 33.

- One of these days, I'll have to post my prior video (early 2002) of the VA 3 Rappahannock River Bridge (officially the Robert O Norris Jr Bridge) online. It is truly an impressive bridge crossing, albeit a little narrow. It is one of only 3 crossings of the river south of Fredericksburg (the other two being US 301 at Port Royal and US 360 at Tappahannock).

- North of the Rappahannock, and once past White Stone, there are a couple of 4-lane divided segments on VA 3, one between White Stone and Kilmarnock, the other between Kilmarnock and about 4-5 miles north (but none through Kilmarnock itself). North of VA 201, we sidetripped off of VA 3 onto some secondary routes to nip the corner of Northumberland County.

- Back on VA 3, another 4-lane segment begins at SR 614, a few miles southeast of Warsaw. This segment ties into a relatively new VA 3 bypass of Warsaw, opened sometime within the last 5-6 years. Just north of the end of the bypass, VA 3 goes back to 2 lanes. The last 4-lane segment of VA 3 (south of US 301 anyway) begins just south of VA 202, where the VA 3/VA 202 intersection was reconfigured for the 4-laning, and what-might-be-former-VA 202Y no longer intersects VA 3 (ending at a cul-de-sac instead). This 4-lane segment runs into Montross. West of Montross, VA 3 is 2-lanes with an occasional turn lane until you get to US 301.

- We turned off at VA 205, though, so I could check out VA 205Y, which is a spur off of VA 205 running into Colonial Beach, and in fact runs right up to the Potomac. No reassurance shields or small white rectangles delineating the street as VA 205Y...only a set of trailblazer shields on VA 205.

- A couple more brief sidetrips, one up VA 218 (which makes a left turn onto itself north of VA 205), and another on VA 206 into Dahlgren to visit our friend (who works at the base there), then it was on to US 301 and north into Maryland.

- A side note about the US 301 "Nice Bridge" over the Potomac: I personally wouldn't mind paying the toll going both directions if it means they'd build a parallel span. Traffic on the existing span is heavy and starting to be a bit much for a 2-lane/2-way bridge, especially as narrow as that one is. Such a project could incorporate medium-speed or even high-speed EZPass lanes into a redesigned toll plaza.

- Took US 301 north through Charles County. Pointed out to Meaghan where the F4 LaPlata tornado of a few years ago crossed through town. The usual heavy traffic began as normal around St. Charles. At the US 301/MD 5 split, we opted for MD 5, as I'm not a big fan of the signals along US 301, and the radio wasn't reporting anything bad about traffic on the Beltway.

- Noted that neither the MD SHA nor commercial maps show MD 5 as a freeway between MD 223 and I-95/495.

- Took the Outer Beltway up and around to the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. I-95/495 was its usual dragstrip self.

- Where exactly does the Baltimore Washington Parkway become MD 295? I missed it again this trip.

- The ramp from NB BWP to EB MD 32 was closed for some sort of construction project on MD 32 East.

- Noted that MD 295 becomes 6 lanes (or at least 3 northbound lanes) at the I-695 interchange. This continues up to I-95. Speaking of I-95, I found out the hard way that there is no connection from NB MD 295 to I-395 via I-95.  Fortunately, I was able to exit onto MD 2 South and make a a jughandle no less. The on-ramp from NB MD 2 to SB I-95 becomes an exit only lane for the exit to I-395 North.

- Stayed on I-395 instead of taking M.L.K. Jr Blvd, thereby "clinching" I-395 (such as it is). Took a trip through the south end of downtown Baltimore enroute to I-83: Conway St, MD 2, Pratt St, and President St.

- Your indication that you're going onto I-83: An "I-83 North, EXPRESSWAY, ONLY" overhead sign. The first couple miles of I-83 had lane closures and a couple lane shifts for some sort of resurfacing or reconditioning project.  North of that things opened up, though traffic was a bit thick (but nothing I wasn't used to). Rolled through the I-83/695 duplex and continued north on I-83.

- Most (but not all) of the I-83 bridges in northern Baltimore County are wide enough to accommodate 3 lanes each way. This is north of where the 3rd lane ends at Exit 20.

- Still a lot of construction underway for the I-83 interchange at Exit 15 (south end of York). Any word on when this will be finished?

- A side trip to a Friendly's on US 30 brought the discovery that there is no direct ramp from EB US 30 to NB I-83. One must turn onto PA 181 North to make the connection back to NB I-83.

- Stayed on I-83 through Harrisburg, then north on I-81, stopping for gas at my usual stop at Exit 77 (PA 39). In retrospect, I should've taken an alternative route from here, as I knew of the construction on I-81 at and just north of the I-78 split, but the connection between that and it being a holiday weekend didn't click. As a result...

- The brake lights started just east of Exit 81. The next 10 miles and hour-fifteen-minutes were punctuated by a lot of stop-and-go...more stop than go. My last chance for salvation was to follow a VMS that stated:

& RT. 22 EAST

Could've done that, then headed up PA 645 to catch I-81 near Pine Grove, but a combination of the stop-and-go traffic plus us being stuck in the left lane kept us from exiting off. In the end, it took us over 1:15 to go the 10 miles from the start of the backup up to north of the Swatara Creek bridge, where things finally started moving.

- Speaking of the construction zone, the northbound lanes are completely ripped up...right down to the sub-base. PennDOT is doing a full rebuild on this one, including completely replacing the northbound bridge over Swatara Creek.  Temporary ramps were open to/from PA 72, and one guy who had cut right in front of me at the last second at the 81/78 split tried racing up the on-ramp and a remaining bit of pavement to the on-ramp, but got stuck behind about 5-6 vehicles waiting on the on-ramp (which has a stop sign at the end). Served him right.

- Starting up the hill along the north edge of Blue Mountain, a 2nd northbound lane was created by eliminating the shoulder on both sides. This continued to the end of the construction zone, where northbound traffic switched back to its own side, somewhere near the Lebanon/Schuylkill County line.

- Radio reports out of Scranton were warning of a 4-mile traffic backup on northbound I-81 due to an accident near Montage Mountain. To bypass this, we exited at Exit 175 and cut over to I-476. Minimal traffic along I-476, and even with the two coin toll stops, I might consider using this instead of I-81 in the future, as it's a 65 MPH speed limit, very little traffic, and is about 3 miles shorter than using I-81.

- Got back on I-81 north at Clarks Summit. In my first roadtrip report, I noted that my digital camera had broke. It was around this point...just north of Clarks Summit on I-81, that it finally did so (thankfully after most of the vacation was over). My digital camera is a Sony Mavica series, the MVC-CD500 model. What happened was, either through temperature changes (air-conditioning to summer heat and vice versa) or heavy use (I *DID* take over 1700 photos over the previous 3 weeks, requiring a lot of CD changes), the piece that holds the CD in place finally gave way and broke off. Needless to say, I was not happy, and was cameraless for the rest of the trip up to Syracuse. Fortunately, it was covered under warranty, so once I got back to Virginia Beach, I stopped at Best Buy (where I bought it) and had it sent off. What they said might take a month took less than 2 it back on Friday.

- Except for a BGS noting that the ramp from NB 81 to WB 690 would be closed 7/9-7/19, the rest of the trip home to Liverpool was busy (busier than I-81 usually is when I head north) but uneventful. The TV news the next day was talking about heavy police presence on I-81 due to the holiday weekend, but we saw only one cop the entire way from Scranton to Syracuse.

Next up: The Final Chapter: Froggie's Last Leg.

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