For more than twenty years I’ve travelled by car from New Jersey to coastal North Carolina (and back). “Normal” routing would be to follow I-95 from the Trenton (NJ) area to somewhere in Johnston County NC to strike east to the coast.
Do it that way and you get to travel some of the most congested and accident-prone highways in the country. I’d prefer to avoid most of that.
Thus I’ve developed an alternate route – it’s a bit longer in distance, and may be an hour slower on a ‘good’ day, but it avoids virtually all the traffic choke points of Baltimore-Washington-Fredericksburg-Richmond.
A partially-annotated map of the route may be found here (Google Maps).
Some more notes, organized North-to-South:
From the Delaware Memorial Bridge to exit 1 (DE-896, start of avoidance route) is the section I think of as the Delaware Memorial Speedway. Speed limits posted here are routinely ignored; as far as I can tell the way you get pulled is for excessive lane-changes or lack of license plate. It’s not unusual to cruise at 70 MPH in the ‘slow’ lane and watch traffic buzzing by at 85+ in the fast lane… posted limit is 55.
Middletown Pizza is a good food stop for afternoon-evening trips; nice family-owned pizzeria with good salads and decent pizza. The nearby Wawa is the best bet for fuel.
Crossing in to Maryland the road goes from two lanes to four lanes; watch for at-grade crossings and periodic sightings of MD State Police. You’ll have to travel 40 miles to the “welcome” center; and it only runs on bankers hours. You’re in Perdue country – most agriculture here is poultry farms and associated feed mills – and don’t be surprised by low-flying aircraft; or geese, in season.
After the merge with US 50 (Queenstown MD) there is [overpriced] decent seafood to be had on Kent Island just before the Bay Bridge… near the marinas to the south side. As I recall the little shack in the parking lot is better than the big lodge-style restaurant.
US 50/301 in Annapolis is the Capital Area Speedway – again, speed limit signs are advisory. Enforcement appears to be completely arbitrary.
In Bowie, take US 301 south and enter the Crain Highway, also known as Red-Light-Camera-Road. Rips Country Inn (on left) is a slowly fading seafood house and a retro-style motel (decorated in the 1950s). From here to Waldorf is unremarkable except for the number of signs promoting various housing projects.
Waldorf – prior to Spiro Agnew becoming governor this was the casino heart of Maryland; sin city outside of DC. Most of the casinos are now gone but a few shells remain behind – the most notable being the former Rips restaurant/Waldorf Inn hotel complex (still standing as of May 2013 but may not last much longer). This is a shopping destination and about every chain store and restaurant is represented in the area… none remarkable.
La Plata – in 2002 a huge tornado crossed 301 headed east destroying everything in its path; see historical markers in the area. Of note also is the Thomas Stone National Historic Site, a few miles to the west of town. Stone was a signatory of the Declaration of Independence.
Approaching the Harry Nice bridge is the worst Speed Trap of the trip – a 20-MPH radar-enforced area. Given the $6.00 toll I think the bridge isn’t quite Nice enough, but in a dozen years or so there will be a parallel crossing to improve capacity.
Virginia notes will be in a separate post.