This Friday I’m driving from Madison to Tulsa. Google tells me it’s about 13 hours. So I’m gonna leave real early and take a 2-4 hour beak somwhere along the way, 'cause I’m getting too old for these marathon drives.
Google suggests 3 routes:
Almost straight south into southern IL, crossing the border into Missouri near St Louis, and then pretty straight SW on I44 and I 40 into Tulsa.
Southwest through Dubuque to Iowa City, then straight west to Des Moines on I80, and almost straight south from there past Kansas City until hooking up with I44 in the SW corner of MO near Joplin.
Similar to #2, but head south at Iowa City. Basically instead of coming into MO from the east, come in from the north, get into Central Mo and then bear west.
Honestly, it really depends on what you want to look at while driving.
The first route offers a chance to see the St. Louis Arch.
The second route takes you through what many consider one of the premiere beef cities of the United States, Kansas City.
The third route sounds like a test of endurance. While I have no problem going off-highway if there is something to see, I don’t know if I would do 4+ hours in the middle of nowhere, especially considering you’ll be running parallel to the MS river for about 60+ miles. Something about this route is saying “Warning! Warning, Will Robinson!”. I would avoid.
Here’s what I would do: I would do the Kansas City route, research some good steak/BBQ places before I leave, and time my Tulsa arrival for between 10-11:30pm. It’s about 9 hours from Madison to KC, so leave around 7-8am, arrive at 5, eat during rush hour (you’ll likely want to find a place on the south side of the city, of course), and then push your way into Tulsa. Assuming you leave KC around 6:30pm, you’ll get into town at 11pm.
Of course, if you don’t eat meat or you have no money for food, you might want a different itinerary.
The St. Louis route has you hitting STL about halfway into your drive, meaning that when you get out of STL you’re going to have a long 6-hour haul in front of you.
The steak idea sounds real good, so long as I program a nice nap afterward. I am coming back via the KC route. I have a friend there who’ll give me an overnight crash pad. Unfortunately that offer is not an option on the way there.
Actucall, both western routes are are a little more iffy in my mind. Both have me on US 151 to start. As far as I’ve been on it, it’s 4 lane divided highway, but I haven’t taken it as far as the Iowa border before. I’ll need to do some zooming in and look at the particular roads more carefully. I do not want to be on one that slows down to 20mph every time I hit another small town.
I’ve driven most of the southern route through IL, and it’s hard to imagine a more boring ride. And St. Louis around rush hour seems a really sucky idea. But it is on interstates, almost all the way.
All 3 routes are within about 45 minutes of each other by travel time according to google.
Last time I took the option #3 - that’s exactly what it was
Once you get south of the I-39/I-90 split in Rockford, you’ll have very light traffic until reaching Bloomington/Normal. Boring drive from there to STL, but the drive down I-44 through Missouri is not bad. Rolling hills plus a higher speed limit than Illinois.
It’s been a few years since I took it, but option #3 seemed to take forever…
I’ve driven between Madison and KC several times using U.S. 151 through Dubuque and it hasn’t been a problem. If you’re directionally challenged, it can be tough to stay on 151 all the way to I-380, because you have to take a few exits and make a left at a stoplight to actually stay on 151. If it were me, though, I’d probably do the St. Louis route. It keeps you on interstates and is the most direct route.
Check for road construction detours and delays first. We took a relatively short trip a couple weeks ago, just 200 miles, on a Saturday, and ran into two detours that added a half hour to the trip. Not a big deal, but it could have been worse if there had been any traffic.
I would advise you to absolutely avoid #3. U.S. 231 and 61 are being upgraded, but they aren’t even four-lane all the way through, and won’t ever be at an Interstate level.
Ditto for #2 and U.S. 71. Plus, the scenery in western Missouri is even more boring than central Illinois.
If you want to avoid St. Louis traffic, get on I-255 South just after the I-55/70/270 junction. You’ll go south through the east side of the St. Louis metro area, cross the river, and then take I-270 North for about five miles to I-44 West.
Ok, I can do option 1 on Friday. But for my return I planned to start Sunday evening and spend the night at a friend’s house in Kansas City, and finsh the drive Monday. Any thought about the best route between Tulsa and KC that avoids US 71? Google suggests US 69N or US 169N. Are either any better?
In Iowa these are two-lane roads. This link lists some “Alerts” and construction on both those highways. I was on 69 last week at the Hwy 175 construction site and it’s just a short detour – I don’t know about the others.
They don’t explain what the Alerts are, but the state of Iowa is full of them.
I don’t know how to save Google directions and pass them on, but…
go to google maps, hit the “get directions” link, enter “Madison, WI” in the From field, and Tulsa, OK in the To field, and hit “Get Directions” below the fields. You should get three alternate sets of directions in the form of 3 links, and a blue route line will appear on the map as you move your cursor over any of the links, or click on one.
I am also interested in a route From Tulsa To Kansas City, KS. You can just change the names in the To and From fields and hit Get Directions again.
For what it’s worth, if you end up going through Iowa, I wouldn’t go through Iowa City. I travel from Des Moines to Madison frequently and I always go north to Hwy 20 and east to Dubuque. This is faster. Unless you want to hit the country’s largest truck stop of course…
This route is 4 lane highway the whole way; no little annoying towns with stop signs. You can go through at a pretty good clip except for a little bit of traffic through Dubuque (which you won’t avoid by any route if you’re going through it; the river filters traffic through a particular junction, but it’s maybe a 10 minute delay). My only caution would be that it’s not particularly interesting and there aren’t a lot of good places to stop.
Going down 35 to Oklahoma (I have relatives down there) is pretty much fine except for Kansas City, which can be a bit of a white-knuckle zone for me. Probably won’t be bad if you’re used to driving the Beltline though.
If you end up going this way and need a place to stop to eat between Ames and Des Moines, I’d be happy to make recommendations.
If you go through St.Louis via 255 on the Illinois side and hit 44 south on the Missouri side you are golden even during the afternoon rush. Any other route through St.Louis during rush 3-5:30 PM and you will hate life.