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Itinerary for "road trip" from Madrid to Barcelona

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Hello everybody,

I'm looking for some input for a little road trip from Madrid to Barcelona, planned for mid-September.
I know that there is a much more sensible and faster way to get from M to B by AVE, but I will have two friends in tow who have seen nothing of the countryside in Spain so far, and wish to do so.
Besides this rather vague interest, they are as enthusiastic or willing to contribute to itinerary planning or selection of sights as a pair of grumpy teenagers.
I'm aware that the vegetation and countryside will be more brown and sunburnt at that time of year than lush green, but that's fine. I like that, actually.

Madrid and Barcelona are fixed with a certain amount of days to spend in either city (maybe 4-5 nights in Madrid, 8 in Barcelona), and the sights in the Madrid region will be visited by public transport.
I'll drag them to Toledo, the Escorial, and possibly Aranjuez.
They have identified the museums in Madrid as "not too interesting" as there were only a few paintings of interest and that would not require to waste that much time (Good grief, but least something to work with.).
Given their non-existent interest in most cultural activities, we shall probably focus on walks in the old town, along Gran Vía, into Chueca, a visit to the Palacio Real, and the aforementioned day trips.

So there is only one thing left to do, which is finding a nice route from Madrid to Barcelona.
So far I have excluded the "motorway-only" options via Zaragoza or Valencia.

What looks more interesting is this route:
Day 1: Madrid to Cuenca (visit town & overnight) = 170kms
Day 2: Cuenca to Morella (via Albarracín, Teruel) = 283kms
Day 3: Morella to Barcelona = 270kms

While Madrid to Cuenca should be a breeze on the autovias, I am a bit sceptical about Day 2 as those 280kms will be on secondary provincial roads only.
Even though we will be three people, it will be only me doing the driving as one of my friends can't drive and the other one.. well... is probably the worst and clueless and disoriented driver on this planet. He gets lost at intersections where both a billboard-size sign and his GPS tell him to make a turn - but he won't. And during the last 5 years he has only been driving on the left side of the road, so I definetely don't want to be in the passenger seat while he tries to navigate mountain roads in rural Spain.
Day 3 should again be okay, as I know the area quite well, and know the 3-4 sights I want to show my friends.

My questions would be as follows (but feel free to throw in any advice you wish to share):

Q1: Is there a better option for seperating the driving on Days 1 and 2 into two more even "halves", even if that meant that we'd have to leave Cuenca already by afternoon to drive somewhere else? Or would you suggest to spend the night in Cuenca?

Q2: Would you know any sights, nice towns or villages or castles or anything else to visit in between Cuenca and Morella?
So far I have identified Albarracín as a place I want to see. And have found a lot to see in Cuenca (at least on the web). Morella got lots of praise from one or two posters here, and it looks very nice from what I can see on the web.

Thanks for enduring this much-too-long post and for any advice.

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