If you landed on this page first you missed the first page about the beginning of our driving journey to Florida which took place in November 2021. This page is entitled from Pennsylvania on to Florida and continues to relate the story of our recent drive from the 1000 Islands to Florida. If you wish to follow the drive from the start, here’s page one.
We’re well into Pennsylvania now. And yes, though the roads are mostly fine as it pertains to absence of snow, it’s a lot of climbing hills and speeding down mountains as we continue through the Appalachians. Some years the drive through was treacherous due to winter conditions, thankfully this year the “snow beasts” haven’t landed on the highway…yet
On this eautiful late fall day with the sun shining down on the slopes of the Appalachians, it’s downright beautiful.
Watch for, and I hope you enjoy, the sharp rock passes with their cascades of water, or their clothing of ice if the weather has frozen the flows into immobility. That little sunlight penetrates fully, they often stay frozen for the winter once freezup takes place.
TIP: Did I say we keep winter coats, hats and gloves handy on top of gear in the back seat in the event we have a snow emergency? You might consider doing so too, just in case!
Though it’s only been 3.25 hours in terms of actual driving time, we’ve now spent upwards of 5 hours on the road.
Years and years ago I made the trek from Canada to Florida in a single 24 hour stretch, with a buddy as my co-driver.
Now that we are well into our senior years, we’re wondering already where we will ‘call it a day’ as this time of year, darkness comes early, and our eyes don’t like driving at night any more.
Selecting hotels / motels while enroute to Florida
If you recall the TIP from the first page, we did stop at the Pennsylvania welcome centre on the way into Penn, and did have a break and pick up the travel coupon books found there.
I don’t think these books don’t show all the hotels at a given exit but presumably only those that pay to promote themselves there. Nevertheless, the coupon books offer a good cross section of lodgings at various exits, a range of pricing pretty much to suit almost all budgets. Mom & Pop hotels are usually the least expensive (and offer various levels of, and sometimes absolutely horrid cleanliness and amenities) up to the mid-to-upper level of commuter hotels and motels.
For us, the person not driving typically chooses the lodging for the night while the driver pays close attention to the being safe on the highway.
Using the hotel coupon books as a guide, we estimate the drive time to various exits and hotels that were within our budget, and we then relate the expected driving distance to that hotel to determine whether or not we can make it on that day from where we on the highway at the time.
We try to get past the snow areas on day 1
On the first day of our drive to Florida, we always try to get as far south as we can, at least past the Mason / Dixon line if possible, which typically defines where a traveler will leave the liklihood of heavy snow and enter an area where any snow falls would be fairly light. At least, that’s always the plan.
Sometimes it doesn’t work out.One year we had heavy snow and sub-freezing temperatures all the way to the Florida border. Brrrrr, don’t even like remembering that drive from hades.
On to Maryland then West Virginia, and then to Virginia
As can be seen from the hotel photo way above we opted to get to a Winchester, West Virginia hotel at the end of day one of our drive. We covered a driving distance of 700 km (435 miles) traveled in the U.S. from the 1000 Islands, a good days drive for us, particularly considering the time we spent driving on this day before getting to the 1000 Islands crossing to the U.S. where this story picks up the trip.
To get to our hotel of choice for day one, I-81 took us through a small slice of Maryland, and then on into West Virginia. It’s not far through Maryland, about 30 km (20 miles) or so.
We arrived at our hotel about 45 minutes after dark, a bit late for us, but reasonably OK due to good, snow free roads. It was well over freezing when we got there which was a great sign and a blessing.
A bit about crossing over to I-95 from I-81
Not too far south of Winchester, 32 km (20 miles) is the junction of I-81 and highway 66. Highway 66 is how we begin our hop over to I-95 from I-81.
I-95 is the route we take to get to I-4 in Florida.
That’s the way to our digs. The location where you stay in Florida will have an impact on where you drive from I-81 or whether even driving over to I-95 is the best route for you. For folks heading to the east cost of Florida, or as in our case, south central Florida, down I-95 seems to be he best route.
Everyone that drives south to Florida has their favourite route to cross over to I-95, and there are travellers that don’t cross over at all and choose to drive on south on I-81 until that highway takes them too far west, and then they take an alternate routes to get to Florida.
Over the years, we’ve done many routes to get from I-81 to I-95, to Florida. So far, the following route is the way we go most often now and is the least stressful and least amount of driving for us.
Use any route you like, enjoy the trip, wander the backroads, maybe see sights you may not have seen before. Make the journey part of the enjoyment of your trip as with any luck you’ve left the snow behind now.
On to I-66 and then to Frdericksburg VA and still in Virginia
Next morning we exited our hotel, and travelled another 80 km (50 miles) or so south on I-81 to where I-66 exited towards Washington DC.
Taking I-66 and driving on it right to the 495 bypass in Washington, and then south from there, looks like the easiest route, and although I-66 heads north a bit about half-way along from I-81, it appears to be the fastest way to go. Our advice is… don’t do it! Unless you like perpetual traffic congestion and the aggro of non-stop, stop and go extending through and out of Washington D.C., that is.
What we do instead is watch for US highway 17, and exit from I-66 about a third of the way to Washington, before I-66 starts to drift northward again.
We recommend that you take the exit towards Warrenton, and carry on down U.S. 17, bypassing Warrenton, and on to Fredericksburge Va.
Once on I-66 from I-81, it’s about 200 km (120 miles) to I-95 using the U.S. 17 route. Yes, it slower on the secondary highways than the interstate but… we like this part of the drive the best. Lots to see and it’s the scenery is second only to some of the gorgeous views in PA.
By now, typically the late morning temperatures will be upwards of 10C (50F) and should only get warmer. Plus, much of the drive is through Virginia horse country, with some spectacular horse ranches/estates to be seen on the drive through some of the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains.
If you have the time, the weather is nice and you don’t mind the toll, the skyline drive along the heights of the Blue Ridge Mountains is worthwhile. Check it out via your browser for access and pricing… assuming the weather or the season hasn’t closed it.
Us, we’re Florida bound and won’t take time for it on this trip.