Driving MA >> AZ by myself next month

If her mom is paying for tolls, I’d skip the bolded part, go west on the N.Y. Thruway (I-90) and pick up I-71 south of Cleveland to go to I-70 in Columbus. The Thruway is generally both in better condition and more truck-free. Both make for faster travel.

I would suggest going straight through Indy. There are two miles or so of very tight traffic where three interstates come together downtown, but the rest of I-70 through town is fairly open, and barring accidents will be much faster than taking the bypass.

Agreed on St. Louis. She could skip off on the 270 bypass, but than has to go 3/4 of the way around the city to get to I-44, and in rush hour, it will be just as bad as going through the city. Could maybe peel off on 255 (which is after the 270 intersection, and is mostly in Illinois, but hits the south end of 270 in Missouri) but I’ve no idea what traffic is like on that.

Indeed. (It might help if I’d take a bit more time to thoroughly read the OP.)

I missed it too, and somehow I also missed Tucson.

Can’t help then. It’s been decades since I have been on the 40, 30, 20, 10 route.

And no, my mom isn’t paying for tolls–she’s paying me a flat amount that is what the shipping company would have charged her. All my other costs are my own.

Yeah, I always have gum and trail mix, just for this reason.

ETA: Not at the same time, though. Ick.

I’m envious. I love road trips, even solo ones. GPS is a lifesaver, both for directions and for getting phone numbers from places to stay. I was another person who was traveling from points west and ended up in Rapid City at 7 p.m. one fine August eve, unaware that the bike rally had eaten up all lodging in the city. I sat with my GPS and cell phone in a hotel parking lot and called every lodging place that popped up on the screen. No vacancy anywhere. I was hungry, I was tired, and I didn’t want to drive anymore. I ended up in a very dodgy roadside place about 50 miles out of town. Cheap, but scary. I was too tired to even go find dinner. Plus, it was in the middle of nowhere so there wasn’t anyplace to find dinner.

I was happy to have my sleeping bag along in that place. No way did I want to sleep directly on the bedding. The ceiling had water stains and the place had a musty smell. Not very clean but I didn’t have the energy to move on.

It also seems to me that if you come off the Interstates that it will always be $100 per room at normal places. That seems to be the standard rate for travelers with no reservations. They probably figure you aren’t in a position to argue or shop around. You might be able to negotiate a lower rate; I’m usually too tired and just want to sleep.

I tend to stick to the interstates unless I have a particular reason to detour. The services are more consistent. I know there will be a clean place to sleep (barring motorcycle rallies and such). I won’t have to stop at scary gas stations to pee on the interstates; there are usually nice rest areas with free coffee, wifi, and grandmotherly women who love to chat manning the information desks.

Have fun!