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NYC to FLA Road Trip..stopovers (I-81) in Virginia and Sea Islands?

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Oct 7th, 2012, 08:33 AM
  #1
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NYC to FLA Road Trip..stopovers (I-81) in Virginia and Sea Islands?

Two of us will be embarking on a road trip in mid December. The final destination is in the Delray Beach area of SE Florida. We plan on spending 3-4 nights on the road. One of those nights, probably the second, will be at the home of friends in Winston Salem. After that, I am considering two nights on the Georgia Coast before making the final drive to our destination.

It's been decades since I've attempted this drive and I have a few questions.

1. We are fairly flexible about dates and can set off anytime from about the 10th to the 16th of the month. Does it make sense to leave NYC on a Saturday, to avoid traffic? If we do this, and spend a night in Virginia en route, are there hotbeds of college football that will mean fully booked hotels?

2. I would like recommendations on where to stop the first night. I would love a hotel with an indoor swimming pool. Hopefully something more interesting than the typical highway hotel/motels that I remember from the last time I took this drive. The corridor from Harrisonburg, Lexington, Staunton looks like a likely first stop, right? (We are willing to drive 30 minutes or so off the main road) What about Charlottesville? I don't mind booking in advance, but would like to be able to cancel up to a day or two in advance in case of heavy snow.

3. Anything else I need to consider when deciding which day of the week to leave NYC?

3. From Winston, we will drive toward the Coast and eventually meet up with I-95. I'm considering the Jekyll, St. Simons area but I've not researched this yet. (Savannah also a possibility). Any ideas on this would be most welcome!

4. Also, we are always looking for tempting places to eat.

The focus here would be on local specialties, not fancy restaurants, so any good regional BBQ, Low Country cooking, local shrimp, oysters, etc (I already have the North Carolina BBQ Society Trail map: http://www.ncbbqsociety.com/bbqmap/trail_map.html )



Please share any tips so I can make this drive more of an adventure than a boring chore!
Anything to need to pack/have handy in the car for the drive?

Also, do I have to unpack the car each time we stop at a hotel? What about theft from the parking lots?
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Oct 7th, 2012, 09:44 AM
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EKS, I would leave NY on Saturday if I could, but that time of year weather has to be the main consideration.

I love the Clifton Inn in Charlottsville, which has a beautiful but unfortunately outdoor pool.

off topic: eagerly awaiting latest Puglia trip report.
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Oct 7th, 2012, 09:49 AM
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EKS, if you like history Google Abingdon, VA. Several inns and historic properties. Plus Barter Theatre.
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Oct 7th, 2012, 09:54 AM
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All the places you mention on I-81 are college towns that have the possibility of football games. How about the Homestead or Greenbriar for a night of luxury?

St Simons is a really nice place; try to stay in the village. Good golfing weather, not swimming in December. Jekyll is _much_ quieter, though historic.

I would not leave anything I cared a lot about in a car trunk. We take in the good clothes, the computers, phones, and cameras.
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Oct 7th, 2012, 10:48 AM
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Thanks, all!

I did consider The Homestead (indoor pool looks gorgeous!!) but it is an hour and a half from the highway according to Google maps, and I just did not want to add an extra three hours ofo driving time to the trip, considering that we would stay only one night.


Jubilada, we had an absolutely smashing trip. I will try to put together a report but in the meantime, I am more than happy to answer any and all questions. That area really does it for me. i forget your time frame..is it next spring??
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Oct 7th, 2012, 11:26 AM
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Charlottesville is lovely, check the UVA football schedule to see if they are playing a home game or away that weekend.
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Oct 7th, 2012, 01:00 PM
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we hope for next fall, eks.

I bring in electronics and jewelery if I'm traveling with it but otherwise if I am staying at a reputable property I park under a streetlight, set the alarm and leave most of my stuff in the trunk of the car. Likewise, I have never had a problem cancelling hotels due to severe snow.
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Oct 7th, 2012, 01:01 PM
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A word about I-81. When the subject last came up I was shouted down by many but I still feel you should be aware that there is a great deal of semi traffic on I-81. The road has been improved in several places over the past year and there are stretches with a 70 MPH speed limit which is basically good.

If you are going to stop off in Abingdon then "The Martha" (as in the Martha Washington Hotel) might interest you a bit even if not overnighting.

Be aware of local law enforcement officers generating revenue through speeding tickets on sections of 81 especially in southwestern VA.
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Oct 7th, 2012, 02:32 PM
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Dukey, many thanks. I did read several threads about I-81 here and do recall reading about the trucks, and the speed traps. The trucks were one reason that I thought perhaps leaving on Saturday would be a good bet, but maybe they are on the road every day (??) Do you think that the day of the week makes a big difference??
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Oct 7th, 2012, 03:21 PM
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There are trucks everyday. One of my best friends is a truck driver; when she travels for leisure she either drives the back roads or drives at night to avoid them.
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Oct 7th, 2012, 05:33 PM
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Having recently traveled in the western Virginia area and used I - 81 to get to and from Boston I'd recommend the Stonewall Jackson Hotel in Staunton, VA. We spent 2 nights there, between coming and going, it's about 2 miles off the highway and got a good clean room each time. There's a good restaurant about 200 yards from the hotel on Mill St. And in our case the price was right, less than $70 each time.
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Oct 7th, 2012, 05:46 PM
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Agree with Dukey re: I-81. It can be a nightmare because of the truckers.

We recently stayed and The Martha and were underwhelmed. It's far too expensive for what you get. The rooms are old and tired. At 63 & 48 my husband and I were the only people there who could not remember WWII ;-)

Charlottesville is not off I-81 and would be out of your way.
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Oct 8th, 2012, 12:26 PM
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The Stonewall Jackson in Staunton looked good to me during my hours-long browse of TripAdvisor yesterday. Staunton seemed like an interesting town, too.....good to read a positive comment on the hotel here. I will forget the idea of Charlottesville for this trip; no sense in traveling out of the way if I will have little time for sightseeing.

There seem to be several routes to Winston Salem from I-81..anyone have an idea of which would be best? (I will also ask the friends that live there, but would love opinions from you all as well!!)

Please keep the ideas coming!
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Oct 8th, 2012, 08:34 PM
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Yes, the truck traffic on I-81 can be heavy at times, but if you're patient, you eventually get past the clusters that cause the slowdowns, and you really don't lose that much time.
I find the 81 corridor college students who park themselves in the left lane more annoying the then the semis.
And, living off exit 283 in VA the last thirteen years, I've spent a lot of time on it.
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Oct 9th, 2012, 03:31 AM
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I hate I95 more than I hate I 81. Ekes, if you consider the barrier islands around Charleston you can take a back way from Winston, go to the NC Zoo, stop by the potteries at Seagrove and snag some excellent barbecue. Email me if you want the details. Address on my profile.
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Oct 10th, 2012, 09:45 AM
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Sue, thanks so much. Our friends in Winston have promised to take us to eat barbecue in Lexington, but I will also be looking for tips on where to eat between Winston and the coast....so will contact you in the weeks before our departure..
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Oct 10th, 2012, 10:23 AM
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ekscrunchy,

For openers, let me say I have enjoyed your many postings on the Spain board.

As I understand it, you've 3-4 days to get to Del Rey. I'd use them all.
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Oct 10th, 2012, 10:36 AM
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Don't know I managed to transmit my partial posting immediately above. I apologize.

The stretch of coast from Charleston to Jacksonville is very interesting and picturesque. IMO, the highlights of the area are Charleston, Savannah, and Beaufort SC. I'd put the Sea Island area #4. I'd overnite [maybe 2 in Charleston], and work my way via Beaufort and Savannah to Sea Island.

One final suggestion: Rely on Suewoo for Charleston knowledge.
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Oct 10th, 2012, 01:49 PM
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Aw. That's so nice. Thanks weber6560.

Lexington barbecue is a big favorite of mine. I hope you like it.
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Oct 12th, 2012, 04:31 AM
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Trucks increasingly park during the day and drive after 7 PM on these trunk routes. You will see dozens (many dozens) of them at all the rest areas outside Boston waiting for rush hour to be over.

The truck traffic on 81 isn't bad, but it is a very hilly route, and the trucks can't make some of the grades (e.g., New River area) at speed. This is fine if they stay in the right lane, not so hot if they try to pass each other. Then you need to stay in the right lane on the downhill leg or it feels as if they will drive up your tailpipe.
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