Trailering Magazine Archives - Featured Articles
Hitting the Road
For some, it's a biannual event: hooking the boat trailer to the tow vehicle and pulling away from a frozen driveway, getting on the interstate and traveling hundreds of miles south to another driveway where the boat is launched for a few months until it's time to get back on the interstate and drive north. For others it's done in just a week. And for others, it's never been done before ...until now.
Hooking the boat trailer to the tow vehicle and pulling away from a frozen driveway ... getting on the interstate and traveling hundreds of miles south ... launching the boat in warm weather for a few months until it's time to get on the interstate and head back north-for some, it's an annual event. Those who have resisted the urge, dreading the long drive, may just find that hitting the road is as much fun as hitting the water.
A major deterrent for would-be road travelers has been the price of gas, a main topic of conversation this year among people who intend to get on the interstate highway with boat trailer in tow. The good news is while prices are higher than a year ago, they have actually come down since reaching an all-time high in August. And because of ample supplies and fewer hurricanes coming into the Gulf of Mexico (where many oil rigs are located), indications point to a possible further decline in prices from where they are right now. In fact, Fred Rozell of the Oil Price Information Service says prices will be closer to $2/gallon than $3/ gallon by Thanksgiving. Those with plans to pull their boats north or south on an interstate in the next few months are glad to hear this.
Then and NowFifty years ago, President Eisenhower set aside $34 billion over 13 years to be used for connecting East and West and North and South with 47,000 miles of roads when he signed the Federal Highway Act into law. As the project began to take shape, the idea of an interstate highway brought about concerns, among them from novelist John Steinbeck who would pen his bestseller Travels With Charley six years later about driving 10,000 miles with his dog:
"When we get these thruways across the whole country, as we will and must, it will be possible to drive from New York to California without seeing a single thing."
Steinbeck need not have worried. With numerous websites offering tourist rarities (www.roadsideamerica.com) including the huge sign of Pedro along Interstate 95 at South of the Border (on the South Carolina/Georgia border with its own exit) or the 100-foot-tall cigarette near Richmond, Virginia, or the Ava Gardner Museum in North Carolina, there is still a lot to be seen. But if you just want to get there, well, that's possible too.
"At 1,907 miles and running from Miami to Houghton, Maine, I-95 is a pretty long road," says Tom Gilligan, publisher of the I-95 Exit Information Guide (www.I95exitguide.com), "I've been driving on it since I was just a kid and now that I'm in my 50's, there are some parts that never change at all as if they are lost in time. And yet there are parts of I-95 that are in constant change."
Change?Gilligan says there are going to be a number of changes along I-95 for travelers this year, the most major being a revamping of how exists are numbered, already underway in a few states (Maine and Florida). But the change comes with a caveat: Not all states are making this change-which creates the potential for confusion.
"For example, if you are driving from Florida to Maine on I-95, when you enter Georgia, the mile markers begin counting as you travel north until you enter South Carolina where the count begins again," he says. "Knowing exactly where you are with reference to a mile marker can be a big help when planning your next stop or asking for roadside assistance in an emergency."
Note that exit numbers use a different logic: For example, when traveling northbound on I-95, the first exit you come to upon entering Virginia is Exit 4 (VA 629 - Skippers), which is four miles from the border. The second exit is Exit 8 (US 301 - Emporia), which is eight miles from the border.
And Interstate 75, which runs 1,786 miles from Hialeah, Florida to Sault Ste. Marie in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, marks exits by mileage driven rather than in sequence.
Getting traffic information is getting easier and easier. Local news radio stations feature "traffic on the 8's" (Washington, DC) and now it can be accessed on a cell phone (let your passenger do this, many jurisdictions will write a ticket if you are driving and talking on a cell phone that isn't hands-free). Punch in the numbers "511" and the phone will be connected to the nearest traffic report.
If you bring your laptop along, the "511" address can be used to check road conditions before leaving home or your hotel. Just type in "www.511" and the two-letter state abbreviation you are interested in (i.e., VA, DE, FL, NH) plus ".com" for current traffic advisories (for example, www.511FL.com will show traffic in Florida).
"More and more we'll also be seeing low-power radio stations providing traffic reports along the interstate," observes Gilligan. " It's similar to what you have available now when driving to an airport and there's a radio frequency to tune in for parking updates and information."
FoodPart of on-the-road travel involves food and while John Steinbeck worried about these concrete pathways keeping travelers away from Main Street America, many exits on both I-95 and I-75 have family-owned businesses interspersed between the fast-food chains.
"I have always enjoyed the personality of I-95 and you'll see it through the food that can be found along the exits," Gilligan says. "I can't explain why but I am a freak for Popeye's fried chicken, probably because you can't get it in New Hampshire where I live. So from personal experience, you aren't going to see Popeye's on a regular basis until you get to Virginia."
Food recommendations from both seasoned and novice travelers are found on the I-95 Exit Guide, ranging from the best barbeque to the best coffee shop to the best Italian cuisine.
"Interstate exits and stops are always part of the plan for those who make the trip on a regular basis, be it every few months or once a year," observes Gilligan. "And these places are passed on to younger travelers-new I-95 travelers who will make them part of the schedule. I know people who, once a year, go to the same place, order the same thing, sit at the same table and do it at the same time they did it a year earlier. For many, the journey is a scripted routine."
More "Change"While it hasn't happened everywhere yet, pulling the boat on an interstate may involve tolls and we're not talking about bridges (i.e., the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan, or the Sunshine Skyway Bridge across Tampa Bay in Florida on I-75, or the George Washington Bridge between New Jersey and Manhattan, or Baltimore's Ft. McHenry Tunnel on I-95) but the actual roadway. In Maine, there's a toll on the Turnpike (I-95) between Augusta and York, and there's a toll on the New Jersey Turnpike (also part of I-95). This may be just the beginning.
Discussions are underway about building toll lanes on I-75 as it goes through Collier and Lee Counties in Florida for drivers with the money but not the patience to wait in traffic jams. A similar discussion is taking place about setting in place tolls for drivers wanting to get through Atlanta on I-95 at a quicker pace. Already the Indiana toll road has been leased to a private company that will maintain the roadway and set its own fare structure, and the same is taking place on the Chicago Skyway. All of this is occurring because the federal gas tax (now 18.4 cents/gallon) hasn't had the political pull to be increased, although former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Minetta has said such a hike, combined with private involvement, may be the way roads are funded in the future.
The cheapest gas prices continue to be in Georgia so many I-75 travelers will drive on fumes and then fill up before hitting the Florida state line. The most expensive gas continues to be in Connecticut as a result of its 25 cents/gallon state tax (the highest state tax on a gallon of gas continues to be in Wisconsin at 31.1 cents/gallon-the lowest in Wyoming at 15 cents/gallon).
"September 11th changed people's perception of air travel," notes Tom Gilligan. "I think it directed many folks to getting on the highway in their car or RV with a boat in tow because it's a way families can spend time together rather than go through countless searches at security checkpoints in airports and then fly to their destination. On the interstate, you're in total control. People want that."
Favorites (courtesy of www.roadfood.com):
I-75*Knoxville, TN, Littons in the "Fountain City" part of town, just off the interstate. Known for huge portions, great chili dogs and cheeseburgers. There's always a wait at lunch.
*Dayton, OH, Breakfast Club. This is where the locals gather for breakfast.
*Macon, GA, Bears Den. Open for lunch, this cafeteria near Mercer University exudes Southern cuisine: fried chicken, butter beans and chocolate cake with strawberry icing.
*Miami, FL, Wolfie Cohen's Rascal House. The huge sign was lost in a hurricane but the New York deli atmosphere is fine inside.
I-95*Brunswick, GA, The Georgia Pig (take the Jekyll Island Exit 29). The BBQ is why people come from miles (in the case of nearby I-95-hundreds of miles) but the building that is home to the Georgia Pig is a good reason too. It's old and a wonderful oddity in the middle of fast-food places.
*Glens Falls, NY, New Way Lunch. This diner on South Street is known for its hot dogs and chili dogs as well as fountain drinks.
*Bridgeport, CT, Merrill Canteen. It's been on Main Street since 1942 and continues to serve those famous chili dogs, bacon dogs, burgers and sandwiches.
*Weldon, NC (Exit 173-Roanoke Rapids), Ralph's BBQ. It's an all-you-can-eat buffet that continues to garner rave reviews from I-95 travelers. Cash only.
Boat Trailers and Interstates:*If you are pulling a boat wider than 8 feet, 6 inches, a special permit is required for each state through which you travel. Permits are available through state departments of transportation listed on www.takemefishing.org, or a company called Comdata (800-749-7138)[pls. check phone number] can obtain all the paperwork for you at a cost. Some states permit a boat to be pulled only between certain hours and/or during certain kinds of weather conditions.
*As a BoatU.S. Trailering Club Member, you have Trailering Roadside Assistance. In the event of a breakdown, you are covered for the first $150 of repairs. Be sure to call the BoatU.S. Dispatch Center (800-391-4869) and we will send the closest service provider to you.
*The most common services BoatU.S. Trailering Roadside Assistance provides are flat tires (48% of all calls) and bearings (21%). Interstate Trailering Roadside Assistance calls account for about 40% of total requests.
Interstate Facts:*Mile markers decline as you head south and west.
*Even-number interstates run east and west while odd-number interstates run north and south.
*On I-95, 95% of the country is to the west. On I-5, 5% of the country is to the west.
*If the exit number is on the right of the exit sign, that exit will be to the right. If it's on the left of the exit sign, the exit will be to the left.
*Bypasses that end in an odd number will not reconnect to the same interstate. If they end in an even number, they will loop back to the same interstate.
*Average mileage driven/year: 1970 - 10,000 miles 2006 - 13,000 miles