So, we made the trip North to Ohio, and since we survived, we will repeat it this summer. I still think this drive would be a good RV run, but with rental costs where they are, it’s cheaper to drive and stay in a hotel (which pains me.)
Once you’ve decided not to fly, and discovered you can’t take the train, there are still many routes to Ohio. They all have their quirks. We had done much of the “standard” (various online map-suggested) way (Texas through Arkansas and Tennessee, then north) when we were driving my mother-in-law back and forth to New Jersey years ago (she refused to fly, and my wife refused to drug her.) So, we would take I-30 to I-40 to I-81 to I-78 and onto New Jersey roads from there. To go to Ohio, you just head north in Nashville on I-65, instead of going east past Knoxville to I-81.
We decided to try a new way North – across Arkansas, but then, instead of going west through Tennessee, head north just before the Arkansas-Tennessee border, and avoid the mountains (hills?) of Tennessee.
I wanted to avoid Tennessee because the hills are very pretty, but only when you can see them. Invariably, we went through in fog or torrential rain. Plus, that section of I-40 is very popular with truckers, so you are dodging 18-wheelers in torrential rain or fog.
So, I looked at the map, and I-55 heads north just before the AR-TN line, and puts you on I-69. It turns out I-69 is still in the planning stages in some areas of Kentucky, but the existing parkways that will eventually be upgraded to Interstate are gorgeous, and there’s not much traffic. You do pass through towns instead of around them, but it wasn’t bad. Eventually, you end up on I-65 (where you would have been from Nashville) which takes you to I-75 which takes you to I-70. Cedarville is between Dayton and Columbus, east of I-70. (Dayton and Columbus are your two main choices , if you decide to fly.)
There are probably better (faster) routes through Ohio, but it was getting dark by the time we crossed the border, so we just followed the GPS’ advice.
This turned out to be a very pretty route, through Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee and Kentucky and on into Ohio. We will use this route Southbound next time, so we can visit some distilleries, and possibly sidetrack to see the Ark (not Arkansas, Noah’s Ark).
Heading home, we just drove west on I-70 out of Ohio, through Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Oklahoma. This has pretty hills in Missouri (and some interesting stops), and when you enter Texas from Oklahoma, you’re almost home. There’s probably the least amount of different highways, as I-70 takes you to St Louis, and I-44 takes you to Oklahoma. We took a “short cut” in Oklahoma and took one of their toll roads (very nice, and our TollTag from home works in the toll booths) to US-69 (very small) which merges eventually into US-75. US-75 becomes Central Expressway in the northern suburbs before you hit Dallas.
All these routes are mapped on my Texas & New Jersey railroad site, as the extension railroad – the Texas & Ohio. The Northern route home from Ohio is actually part of the last route we took home from New Jersey on one of my mother-in-law’s repositioning cruises. So, we had been past the kids’ house before they were ever there.
The lessons learned were mostly past lessons relearned: don’t drive through major cities during rush hour, driving through towns is quaint, but kills a schedule, arriving after dark on a new route is not always fun, and don’t drive a new way with new things to see when on a strict schedule. Also, on a two-day trip, go beyond halfway the first day, and drive the non-scenic route home (it’s faster.)
We drove from Dallas to Blytheville, AK the first day, which seemed an easy drive. (Your first day should not seem easy.) Blytheville to Cedarville, OH the second day was a bit too long for one day but too short for two, especially since you deal with Louisville and Cincinnati either late afternoon or early evening. We had told the kids we wouldn’t see them that night, which was correct, we got in well after the grandkids’ bedtimes.
Going home, we went from Cedarville to Lebanon, MO, which was not a bad drive, except for missing an exit and touring part of the outskirts of St Louis, and then onto Dallas the second day. The drive home the second day would probably be faster on the Interstates, even though it looks further. You can do 70 on the Interstates, but on the US highways, it’s still 65 or 55 (and slower through the many small towns.) You would miss Muskogee, but now we’ve been there.
Financially, an RV rental would have replaced our hotels (one night up, five nights there, one night back), but we spent just over $1000 on hotels. We would spend significantly less in an RV park. The gas would have been more expensive (as our Escape gets better mileage than an RV), and the food would have been the same. (Also, the hotel is maybe five minutes from our kids, so you also have to factor in convenience. There isn’t an RV Park that close, and I’m not dry-camping in their yard, although they’ve offered.)
So, a $1500 RV rental seems pretty expensive compared to just driving our car and sleeping in hotels for a vacation.
I’m hoping someone can correct my math.