This report is from Day 1 of our 2005 Summer Vacation, on July 28, 2005.

Day 1 of the Froggie/Ladymegs 2005 Great Circle Tour (long)

The Froggie/LadyMegs 2005 Great Circle Tour, Day 1: "Where is there an available room?"

Although I had technically started my leave time two days prior by driving up to Syracuse, our "Great Circle Tour" officially began on Thursday the 28th, the first of 16 days of touring around the country.  And we certainly did tour...24 different states during this year's trip, a few of those more than once...

On with the notes:

- Left out via I-81 south, which really isn't that bad during morning rush hour so long as you're not trying to go to downtown Syracuse.

- Just south of I-481, got a good view of the overpass being rebuilt for the northbound I-81 lanes over NY 173.

- Took a side trip onto US 11 between Cortland and Marathon in order to get pictures of the existing Hoxie Gorge bridges on I-81...these steel arch bridges will be replaced starting later this year, and I wanted to get a few photos of them before the project begins.

- Used NY 26 to cut the corner from Whitney Point to Endicott (since I'd already been in Johnson City a couple weeks prior), then headed west via NY 434 instead of NY 17, in order to finish "clinching" NY 434. Spotted the NY 962J shield that's been mentioned on MTR previously. Also noted a segment of NY 434 between Apalachin and Exit 65 that is still old concrete.

- At Owego, we took a spin across a neat (and seemingly-recently-redone) bridge that NY 96 takes over NY 17 and the Susquehanna River. Stayed in Owego long enough to do a U-turn to head back across the bridge and onto NY 17 west. Noted that, according to signage, NY 96 and NY 434 end at the same intersection on the south side of NY 17.

- Took NY 17 west to Waverly, then south onto US 220. There was a section of US 220 within New Albany that was missing a centerline and other pavement striping, though to be fair it also looked like it was recently resurfaced.

- There's a TRUCK PA 42 that is cosigned with US 220 between Laporte (where PA 42 ends at US 220) and Muncy Valley (where there's a short US 220/PA 42 duplex).

- A few miles south of Laporte, there's a 3-4 mile segment of US 220 that looks like it was realigned in the not too distant past (i.e. within 5-10 years). The realigned section concides with US 220's drop into the Muncy Creek valley, and much of the realignment has a northbound truck climbing lane. A scenic overlook is signed/posted and located along old US 220 near the top of the bluff.

- Stayed on US 220 to I-180, where we turned south. I-180 was recently repaved in this was a lot smoother than I remembered it from trips past. The repaving project was still underway with lanes closed between PA 54 and I-80.

- Noticed occasional signage for an "ALTERNATE SOUTH US 15" along I-180 and I-80. Presumably to get traffic off of the bridge replacement project in Williamsport.

- Took a quick jog over on I-80 then south on US 15. I've mentioned their presence on MTR before, but I still find the C/D "lanes" on I-80 at US 15 and I-180/PA 147 to be neat and innovative.

- Though not quite as bad as Shamokin Dam, US 15 through Lewisburg is still heavily commercialized and in need of a good bypass. The project to connect the Selinsgrove bypass to PA 147 won't come soon enough...

- Popped on said bypass briefly before continuing westward on PA 35.  PA 35 lacks pavement markings through part of Freeburg. Further west, at the PA 35/PA 104 intersection (a 4-way-stop), at the "Cruiser's Cafe" is a neat old Texaco logo.

- The full Arch Rock interchange on US 22/322 has been completed since my last time through the area.

- Passed through "the Narrows" on US 22/322, noting progress on the widening/reconstruction project. About halfway through the area, we passed under what looked like a temporary overpass that was built so construction vehicles could cross over US 22/322 without having to fight traffic.

- As part of the project, the interchange at the east end of the Lewistown bypass was redone...this segment has been completed...was under reconstruction on my previous trip.

- Stayed on US 322 towards State College. Along the short US 322/522 duplex (just east of Walnut St) is an at-grade rail crossing, even though this part of US 322 is nominally freeway.

- Signage was still covered up and ramps closed at the almost-done US 22/522 part of the Lewistown bypass. When will this segment open up?

- Further north, the freeway looks like it was recently rebuilt near Milroy. Still-new-looking concrete.

- US 322 *REALLY* needs to be redone through the gap from south of Potters Mills to the start of the Mt. Nittany Expwy (State College bypass). Too much traffic for a 2-lane road. As an aside, there is a "TRUCK DETOUR" PA 144 signed along this part of US 322.

- The eastern 2 miles or so of the Mt. Nittany Expressway had lane closures for concrete pavement repairs.

- The Future I-99 bridges northeast of Port Matilda looked close to completion, though there's a long ways to go on the roadbed itself.  The bridges still have a lot of work left right on either side of Port Matilda.

- Took the Shusterway through Altoona, then west on US 22 over to US 219. The traffic lights on the south side of Ebensburg were annoying. Why didn't they just make it freeway all the way to US 219?

- South on US 219 towards Johnstown, with a side-trip up to view the Johnstown Flood National Memorial. Took me a moment to realize that the US 219 bridges over South Laurel Run sit immediately downstream of where the dam broke all those years ago. Some of the dam embankment still exists.

- Back on US 219 South, with a side trip down PA 56 and a long almost-6-mile-long downgrade into Johnstown. PA 56 is freeway between US 219 and downtown Johnstown, with the freeway ending at a 25 MPH reverse-S-curve and a traffic light at Napoleon St (PA 403). Two blocks further down is the "World's Steepest Vehicular Inclined Plane".

- Back up PA 56 and on to US 219 South again. US 219 has 4 somewhat closely spaced interchanges in this area through one of the main commercial districts in greater Johnstown, though to help mitigate traffic there were auxiliary lanes between the interchanges on US 219.

- Approaching the US 219/US 30 interchange, there were signs warning trucks to "Avoid US 30 West" due to "steep hills" and "sharp curves" and to instead use the Turnpike.

- Between PA 281 and the end of the freeway southeast of Somerset, there was 2-lane/2-way traffic using the northbound lanes, for some sort of southbound reconstruction project. A freeway stub lies dormant there, waiting for an extension towards Meyersdale.

- Were done with US 219 at this point, and took secondary roads to connet with PA 281 near New Centerville. One of these secondary roads had a one-lane steel-overhead-truss bridge.

- PA 281 has *A LOT* of ups-and-downs and lefts-and-rights. Not a good road when hauling a lot of boxes and two bikes with a Corolla.

- Bailed off of PA 281 at Markleysburg onto SR 2013 (which turns into MD 42) so that Meaghan could get Garrett County, MD. The intention was to find the first paved road west and get over to WV 26...and the way the roads were shown in the PA DeLorme, it looked like there was a way to do that. The Maryland part was just fine...until we hit the state line, saw a yellow diamond warning sign that said "END GARRETT CO MAINT", and immediately hit gravel. The next 15 minutes was spent trying to find the best way through gravel and even rock roads to get to WV 26. Were eventually successful, but was very worried about the underside of my car for a time.

- Made it back to WV 26, then onto I-68 and eventually I-79 South.  There's a new steel-arch overpass being built over I-79, a little south of WV 310 near Fairmont. An impressive amount of rock cut has also been done for the future interchange ramps that will connect to this overpass. Based on the location, this will probably be a future Exit 136, but I'm not sure what the cross-street/route will be.

- Further south, towards Bridgeport, was surprised to see a 6-lane section along I-79. This section runs from near WV 279 (Exit 124) down to CR 24 (Exit 121). Seems odd to have such an isolated 6-lane segment, though I noticed on WVDOT's 2002 traffic count maps (recently made available online) that this segment has almost 40K ADT.  Oddly, the next segment south, between CR 24 and US 50, has 45K ADT, but is still 4 lanes, though the bridges along this segment were widened to accommodate an eventual 3rd lane in each direction.

- Given that US 50 is a freeway through Clarksburg, was disappointed to see that the I-79/US 50 interchange is not a freeway-to-freeway, but instead is a 5-ramp par-clo. That said, WVDOT did a pretty good job at threading a US 50 freeway through Clarksburg. The freeway section ends just west of US 19/WV 20, and transitions into WVDOT's usual high-quality at-grade expressway for the rest of the run over to Parkersburg.

- At Parkersburg, we opted to stay on US 50 long enough to check out what's been completed of the Parkersburg bypass. As with at I-79, there are traffic signals on US 50 at I-77, then the freeway begins, and is currently open out to WV 14, with interchanges at WV 618 and at WV 47 in the meantime.

- Back out to I-77 then south...there's a median barrier project and what looked like an associated widening project along this segment of I-77. Not sure how north it went, but the southern terminus for the project was at WV 47/Exit 174.

- Instead of replacing the guide signage at Exit 146 to include the rerouted US 33, WVDOT instead simply added US 33 shields underneath the bottom left corner of the advance guide signs (which are still button-copy).

- Approaching Charleston, 0.2 milemarkers began near milemarker 107.

- Ran into a bit of a traffic jam at the I-64/I-77 junction in Charleston. Some sort of bridge repair project had the two left lanes closed on the WB I-64 crossing of the Kanawha River between US 119 and downtown. As a result, we had 4 lanes of traffic plus a local-access on-ramp merging all into a single through lane on the bridge. Though noticeable, the delay wasn't significant...about 10 minutes...but it's not something one expects at 9:30pm at night.

- Construction underway on widening the I-64 river crossing between South Charleston and Dunbar, in order to connect 6-lane segments on either side of the river.

- The last part of the night involved trying to find a hotel room to stay in. My original intention was to find a room in Nitro or Hurricane. Unfortunately, every decent-looking place we stopped was booked solid...I had no idea why, but we kept getting turned away due to no available rooms. Eventually found a room in Barboursville on the 4th attempt.

Next up: Froggie invades the backhills of Kentucky then pays a house visit on Nashville...

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