Need some new ideas for a drive from Madison, WI to DC and back

I’ve done this drive a bunch of times, so I’m looking for some new ideas about which way to go or what to see along the way.

First a practical question – I used to drive on I-80 rather thah I-70 because the tollway was supposedly kept in better shape – the fees went into road maintenance. Is this the case anymore, or are the fees siphoned off into general revenue? More specifically, has anyone been on both of these roads relatively recently, and is one or the other distinctly in better or worse shape?

I have driven both 70 and 80, and the only thing I’ve done before on the way was stopping and wandering trough the Air Force Museum in Dayton, which was excellent, BTW. What other side trips (along 70 or 80) would be good for relatively brief stops. The rules – from exiting the hightway to seeing the sight (or eating the meal maybe?) to getting back on the road should be no longer than 3 hours total.

I’m planning on doing this as a straight drive with breaks, so no overnight stays. If I can do one thing on the way out and another on the way back, that would be perfect.

Or fly and save yourself a day.



You’ll be passing near the Antietam Battlefield.

I-80 in Indiana is now privately owned. I don’t know whether they’ve skimped on maintenance or not, but the state of Indiana has put a LOT of money into upgrading I-70. Unfortunately, I-70 in Indiana and Ohio continues to be one continuous construction zone from April to October every year, and you’ll still have heavy traffic around Indianapolis, Dayton and Columbus.

About the only new idea is to drive to Milwaukee, take the ferry across Lake Michigan, head east on I-69 to Canada, then follow 402 to Niagara Falls and south to DC.

It would be a marathon (although you wouldn’t be driving while on the ferry.) Stock up on Depends.

We drove to/from Chicago last summer - turnpikes the whole way - and the PA stretch was pretty miserable with tons of construction each way. The other states were fine - just boring as hell.

Doing it all one way in a single day wouldn’t seem to leave much time for anything on the side, as it’s about 850 miles one way!

An alternate route out from DC would be to stay on I-70 to where it picks up I-68. Then you could either take US-40 up to Washington PA (south of PIttsburgh), or stay on 68 over to I-79 up to Washington PA - then get back on I-70 and go by Columbus OH and Indianapolis, OH. Seems to be 50ish miles longer that way but there’s some variety at least.

Ooh - another alternative, though it adds distance, would be to go up I-270, then US 15, toward Harrisburg. You’ll pass right by Gettysburg (lots a history there), and Hershey PA is not far out of your way (no time for the park, but Chocolate World is fun and free).