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Old 01-16-2022, 11:13 AM   #1
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Is it worthwhile to avoid the interstate across the midwest and great plains?

Fairly new RVer here. The wife and I are planning a trip from WV to WY some time this summer. I'm wondering if it is worth trying to mostly avoid the interstates. The main reasons I want to avoid interstates are:
  1. Don't like getting blown around by trucks
  2. Interstates in some midwestern states are quite rough
  3. Heavy traffic (mostly east of the Mississippi)
  4. Interstates seem windier due to large cleared right of way
  5. My rig's top speed is about 65 mph on flat ground, so I can't take advantage of 70-80 mph speed limits on the interstate. Sometimes a state/US route is more direct, so if I have to go slower anyway, why not drive fewer miles?
But I'm wondering how much of a time penalty I'm going to have to take by driving state/US highways and having to slow down for towns, curves, hills, slow pokes, etc. We limit ourselves to about 7 hour days max, so slower routes could easily add a few days to our trip, which I'd like to avoid. As we get farther west, I'm also somewhat concerned about potential lack of services along state/US routes (especially gas). When I'm towing, my rig has a safe range of only about 120-130 miles.

Question for you folks who avoid interstates: How much time does it add to your trips?

Just as an example, here are a few of the alternate routes I'm considering:
  1. Instead of US 50, US 33, and I-70 from Clarksburg, WV through Columbus to Indianapolis, take US 50 to Cincinnati and US 52 to Indianapolis
  2. Instead of I-74 and I-72 from Indianapolis to Hannibal, MO, take US 36 and I-72
  3. Instead of I-74 and I-80 from western IL across IA to the NE border, take US 34
  4. Instead of I-80 across NE, take US 34 and US 30
  5. Instead of I-90 across SD, take SD 50 and US 18

Any specific knowledge you might have about those routes would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 01-16-2022, 11:24 AM   #2
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Nope.
The only interstate I would avoid is I 80 from the Indiana border to Joliet
It’s dangerous
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Old 01-16-2022, 11:31 AM   #3
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We take them a lot. Mostly when there are no large towns. I look for the truck routes. Good quality 2 lanes with shoulders. 55/60 mph better mpg, almost always shorter distance. See a small town every 15 to 120 miles and more scenic. But you could get behind a slow poke or tractor. But we don't plan to take 2 lanes with no center lines or edge lines. Some of our trips will have more than 50% 2 lanes.

Now in the mountains it's different. 2 lanes can have very steep grades. We have seen 13+% grades. So we try to stay with interstates that never get very steep, with a max grade restriction on the system of 7.5% grade.

7.5% will slow you down or get you downshifting to slow down. 13% will bring you almost to a stop and 1 gear going down.
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Old 01-16-2022, 11:32 AM   #4
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I'm curious what your time frame is...how many days are you planning?
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Old 01-16-2022, 11:50 AM   #5
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I find it to be more relaxing to drive on a multi-lane road. No problem if I come upon a slowpoke, no pressure when I'm the slowpoke.
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Old 01-16-2022, 11:52 AM   #6
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With our 33' 5th wheel and 40' motorhome we always drove secondary highways. Of course, we were full-timers so were never on a schedule and we didn't care if it possibly took longer. We enjoy the countryside more than looking at semi trucks and billboards. Good local restaurants are hard to beat and fuel is in every town.

We were in the western mountains all the time on two-lane roads and never encountered 13% grades as stated above. Get the 'Mountain Directory for Truckers and RVers' and you won't get into trouble. If you find yourself on those kinds of roads then you haven't done your research.

You didn't say if you're retired and have the time but I'd suggest taking the backways.
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Old 01-16-2022, 01:35 PM   #7
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I'm curious what your time frame is...how many days are you planning?
Probably looking at around 3 weeks. A week each for getting out there and back, plus a week of poking around out west. We're planning on some rest days during the travel out and back, hopefully at state parks, lakes, national grasslands, or other suitably scenic sites. But we can be a little flexible with the total number of days.
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Old 01-16-2022, 01:39 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by twogypsies View Post
With our 33' 5th wheel and 40' motorhome we always drove secondary highways. Of course, we were full-timers so were never on a schedule and we didn't care if it possibly took longer. We enjoy the countryside more than looking at semi trucks and billboards. Good local restaurants are hard to beat and fuel is in every town.

We were in the western mountains all the time on two-lane roads and never encountered 13% grades as stated above. Get the 'Mountain Directory for Truckers and RVers' and you won't get into trouble. If you find yourself on those kinds of roads then you haven't done your research.

You didn't say if you're retired and have the time but I'd suggest taking the backways.

Yes, I neglected to mention that we are retired. As noted in the above post, we would like to take some rest days at nice areas along the way, though not too far off the path of travel. The longest trip we've done so far has been 11 nights/12 days, so this trip will be a good bit longer than that. We don't want to rush, but also don't want to be out all summer.
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Old 01-16-2022, 01:42 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by 2cyber71 View Post
Nope.
The only interstate I would avoid is I 80 from the Indiana border to Joliet
Itís dangerous
why, construction? Heading out to myrtle beach this summer, not sure if thatís on the route
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Old 01-16-2022, 01:44 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by ArtJoyce View Post
We take them a lot. Mostly when there are no large towns. I look for the truck routes. Good quality 2 lanes with shoulders. 55/60 mph better mpg, almost always shorter distance. See a small town every 15 to 120 miles and more scenic. But you could get behind a slow poke or tractor. But we don't plan to take 2 lanes with no center lines or edge lines. Some of our trips will have more than 50% 2 lanes.

Now in the mountains it's different. 2 lanes can have very steep grades. We have seen 13+% grades. So we try to stay with interstates that never get very steep, with a max grade restriction on the system of 7.5% grade.

7.5% will slow you down or get you downshifting to slow down. 13% will bring you almost to a stop and 1 gear going down.
I'm not too scared of mountains, having driven my rig on 10% winding grades a few times. Of course I'm not going to go out of my way to take a winding mountain road, either.

I think the sweet spot will be 2 lane (or 4 lane) US highways and major state routes that cut the corners off the interstate system. The wide red and yellow lines on the atlas.
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Old 01-16-2022, 01:47 PM   #11
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Nope.
The only interstate I would avoid is I 80 from the Indiana border to Joliet
Itís dangerous
Yeah, I was really hoping to avoid the interstates across OH, IN, and IL (70 and 74 to 80). We went that way in our car, without towing anything, in 2019. By the time we made it to Iowa, I could have sworn that I was an inch shorter and that all my teeth were loose.
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Old 01-16-2022, 01:55 PM   #12
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I average 50 MPH on trips using interstate highways. Your trip looks to about 4,000 miles so you are looking at 80 to 100 hours of driving time based on what highways you take.

In the summer you are going to learn to hate the sign "Road Work Ahead" as that will add a lot of travel time.

We've taken both back road trips and interstate trips...both have their advantages and disadvantages as you will soon discover.

Before we retired we limited our trips to the west coast and as far east as the Mississippi river. Just didn't have enough time to take off work for longer trips.

Have a good time and remember to notify your credit card company you are travelling out of state.
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Old 01-16-2022, 01:56 PM   #13
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I took two fairly long trips last year and both times, for a portion of the trip, I took the road less traveled.

In ND I decided to head north and take HWY 2 east all the way through MN, MI. Yes I lost time but it was a part of the country I hadn't seen and it was a pleasant drive. Would I do it again, probably not.
On the second trip I decided to drive the Natchez Trace Parkway, ~400 miles at ~50mph. I stopped and stayed at two of the campgrounds along the drive. Took about 2 days. It was a pleasant drive, not really much to see. Would I do it again, probably not.


Normally I'm a get there type of guy but I guess in my old age I'm stopping to smell the roses.
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Old 01-16-2022, 02:47 PM   #14
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I think that if Wyoming (I'm guessing Yellowstone, Grand Teton and possibly others) is your primary destination with no or very few other enroute points of interest, then you're going to wonder why you scheduled so many driving days of your 3-week timeline to get there and back driving off-interstate. I know that when my DW and I were 1st retired, 3-weeks felt like a long trip. We quickly learned that if you only allow a small percentage of that time to really explore the places you've been dreaming about for so long, you're going to feel disappointed that you didn't plan more time to enjoy them. So, if 3-weeks is a hard limit, then minimize your drive time to get there and use the interstates. If you can give yourselves another week or so, you can do both, spend more time and drive the back roads.

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