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Old 09-03-2011, 09:24 AM   #1
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Avoiding I-81 in Virginia

We are planning a trip in the spring from Altoona, PA to Bluff City, TN. We have been speaking to several people and almost all say to avoid I-81 in Virginia due to the steep grades.

I don't want to abuse my motorhome by dragging up these long grades and then needing to downshift and use my brakes alot if there is an alternate route.

I have a 2003 Pace Arrow with the 8.1 and will be towing if this helps. Any and all suggestions will be appreciated.

Thank in Advance
Ed
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Old 09-03-2011, 09:34 AM   #2
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Considering where you are traveling to and from it is pretty much unavoidable. I travel I-81 frequently and it is not that difficult. You can check the VADOT website for construction delays. It is a pretty drive.
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Old 09-03-2011, 09:53 AM   #3
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I have no idea what "these people" are talking about !! The grades on I-81 in Virginia are no worse than the grades in MD or PA interstates and in most cases not as nearly severe. Yes there are some long uphill and downhill stretches but they are not steep by any stretch of the imagination. Yes your coach may have to downshift going uphill and no you will not have to ride the brakes going down hill unless you follow too closely.
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Old 09-03-2011, 10:05 AM   #4
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I just went up I-81 to PA with a 454 35' MH and it wasn't bad. A lot of construction so be prepared. The BAD route was coming home when I decided to take I-68 and I-79. Now there are some hills!
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Old 09-03-2011, 10:08 AM   #5
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The part you have to worry about is south of Roanoke to Christiansburg. They are putting in a truck lane and doing blasting. The traffic tieups are a zoo. For an end around, although it gets plugged as well when they blast, is the 460. Take the 11/460 from Salem (I forgot the exit number, around 141 or so.) That will run you down to Christiansburg where you can rejoin the 81. If you want a scenic route with lots less traffic and heavy truck traffic, stay on the 460 through Blacksburg and on through a little corner of WV and then down to Abingdon. Very nice drive through some very pretty country. Stop at the Pocahantas Exhibition mine, Crab Orchard Museum and the arts center in Abingdon. Really nice camp ground at Lake Witten at Tazewell with full hook ups. Some easy grades but nothing nasty on either route.
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Old 09-03-2011, 11:07 AM   #6
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Any opinions/comments on the roads via the following route to get us from PA to Urbana, VA?

I- 81 south to 66 (east) to 17 south -

Looks like a direct route - are the roads okay?
Thanks...
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Old 09-03-2011, 11:14 AM   #7
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To avoid the worst construction area in the Roanoke area on I-81 try the Dixie Caverns exit, #132. Pick up the 11/460 down to Christiansburg.
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Old 09-03-2011, 11:15 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by 4Fun View Post
Any opinions/comments on the roads via the following route to get us from PA to Urbana, VA?

I- 81 south to 66 (east) to 17 south -

Looks like a direct route - are the roads okay?
Thanks...
That's a good route. 17 is at least 4 lane all the way from 66 to Fredericksburg.
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Old 09-03-2011, 11:21 AM   #9
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17 turns to 2 lane blacktop south of Fredericksburg but is not bad. Only one grade of mention at Fredericksburg. Turns back to 4 lane about 30-45 miles south of Fredericksburg. 17 is a popular road but easy on the rig.

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Old 09-03-2011, 02:07 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by 4Fun View Post
Any opinions/comments on the roads via the following route to get us from PA to Urbana, VA?

I- 81 south to 66 (east) to 17 south -

Looks like a direct route - are the roads okay?
Thanks...
I just came down that exact way yesterday. No problems what so ever. I did exit onto I-95 at Fredricksburg.
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Old 09-03-2011, 02:51 PM   #11
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Thanks so much for the replies on I-81 to 66 to 17 !
Much appreciated......
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Old 09-03-2011, 03:44 PM   #12
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Rt.17 bypass around Fredericksburg Va.

The I81S - I66E – Rt.17S to Warrenton/ Fredericksburg is a good route south toward Bethpage. Really watch the sighs around Warrenton to stay on Rt.17S, it can be a little confusing. Several miles south of Warrenton watch for the signs for Rt.17S LEFT LANE. This is at a wide spot in the road called Opal. Rt.17S to Fredericksburg is good road. Kind of hilly, but no steep grades.
When you approach Fredericksburg (watch for the big GEICO building on the right, I95/Rt.17 south is 3 miles from GEICO) on Rt.17S get in the right lane and stay right. The right lane is the ramp to I95 – RT.17S. Rt.17 follows I95S around Fredericksburg. Take I95S.

I would NOT suggest you to follow Rt.17S business. It goes through Old Town Fredericksburg and there is a fairly low clearance RR trestle on Rt17s business, at the south end of town. Remember there is a very good reason it is called “Old Town Fredericksburg”. Now if you are driving a car or pickup, and not towing, Old Town Fredericksburg is a very nice old town. I’ve lived here over 40 years and still enjoy walking Old Town. But it is tight.

Now back to the highway. You are heading down the ramp to get on I95S, this is an easy merge with a v e r y long acceleration ramp and it is downhill. You are getting on exit #133 and immediately cross the Rappahannock river, then you will get off at exit#126, Massaponax Rt.1S/Rt.17S exit.
Just a note here, this section of I95S right before exit #126, is a slight downgrade, enough so that you will try to pick up speed. DON’T, and I’d suggest you actually slow down, even below the speed limit a little before you take exit #126, Once on the exit ramp, when you are clear of the main traffic lane stay right and get on the brakes, you are heading to a fairly steep downhill with a hard right at the bottom of the hill, and you need to scrub off as much speed as you can before you hit the downhill. It may not be as bad as I make it sound, but you need to be aware and brake accordingly for your vehicle.
Stay right to make the right turn onto Rt.1S/Rt.17S at the bottom of the hill. (there is a light for people making a left, but you can make the right turn without stopping) AND to make it really easy, you have your own lane, no need to merge, YET. Now you have three lights, (you’ll turn left at the 4th light), a little less than a mile to get to the far left lane. Traffic moves kind of slow through here so it should not be too hard to get over. Turn left at the fourth light, on to Rt.17S Mills Dr. Stay in the LEFT lane, and yes you will probably make some unhappy but the LEFT lane is the through lane. The right lanes go to the shopping center and then merge into the left lane after a half mile or so.

Now you are past Fredericksburg and you will follow Rt.17S paralleling the Rappahannock river the rest of the way until you make your left on Old Virginia St. Rt.602 toward Bethpage. Now wasn’t that fun.
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Old 09-03-2011, 05:08 PM   #13
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RinkersRanch - thanks verrry much for the detailed route and warnings! Now you've got me scared to death !!

Seriously, appreciate your time very much to detail the route so thoroughly. If question - know who to ask !
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Old 09-03-2011, 05:44 PM   #14
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4Fun,
Thanks for the kind words and you are very welcome, for that and if you have a question about getting around central Virginia I may be able to help. I'll be glad to help any way I can.
One word of caution for those not use to traveling the I95 corridor, NEVER trust I95 between Fredericksburg and DC, Northbound in the am and southbound in the pm. May be great may be a parking lot. More often than not it is a parking lot. Northbound backups start as early as 5:00am Southbound can start as early as 2:00pm. Unless you are in possession of several gallons of patience avoid I95 like the plague, whenever possible.
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