Out of time and planning to do I-95 anyway? Or just looking for a more 'direct' path to the 2023 BMW MOA Rally that avoids I-95? Let us talk you through some routes and tips passed on to us by locals.
Toll roads and bridge tolls are a big thing along the northeast corridor around I-95. From Washington DC to Boston, you'll find a tollway at every nice and convenient place to get over, or under, a body or water or quickly through or around a major municipality. Going through Jersey? The New Jersey Turnpike is a good option, especially if you're trying to avoid the Philly traffic on I-95. The catch, lots of tolls. But, Delaware? Gotcha again. Toll across there on I-95 as well. What to do?
If you have an EZ-Pass, make sure to mount it on your bike, no matter which state your EZ-Pass was registered in. If you have a toll pass from another system like TxTag (Texas), TollTag (Texas), EZ Tag (Texas), K-Tag (Kansas) or PikePass (Oklahoma), it will not work with EZ-Pass toll roads and systems.
If you don't have an EZ-Pass transponder, always stop at the tool booth and the cash/credit cards lanes if there is one. While some systems are moving to cash less tolling where they send you the bill in the mail. However, run one that doesn't do that, the fee for not stopping might be more than the toll itself.
I-95 NE Corridor
Coming in from the north east, Maryland has tolls over the two of the three Susquehanna River crossings. Only US 1 at the Conowingo dam does not charge a toll. Baltimore has four options for getting through the area. Only the I-270 loop around the north side of the city does not charge a toll, but it really takes you a long time to get around to the other side. Either tunnel under the Baltimore harbor is good. Same with the Francis Scott Key Bridge. If the weather is nice and clear, the Francis Scott Key bridge offers some fantastic views of the Chesapeake Bay, the harbor, and Baltimore.
The Francis Scott Key Bridge and Baltimore Harbor Tunnel both offer a chance to parallel I-95 and set up a potentially nice visit to Bob’s BMW and Ducati and Bob’s new motorcycle museum in Jessup, MD. Find MD 295 which is the Baltimore Washington Parkway. On weekends, this road is empty. During the week, it is fairly active, but an absolute zoo during rush hour. MD 295 will drop you into the east side of the DC metro allowing you to take the eastern side of the I-495 loop around Washington.
In the event you have to travel through the DC metro area around the west side during high traffic hours, there are a few things to be aware of. The Virginia side of the DC metro has a large number of express lanes. Because of the HOV rules, motorcycles are included in their list of approved HOV vehicles. That also means all Virginia express lanes are free for motorcycle travel, with one notable exception. If you happen to find yourself heading to Dulles International airport on I-66, you could be charged. But what do you need an airport for when you have a motorcycle?
So, the thought of traveling I-95 through Philadelphia, Baltimore and the DC metro areas during high peak times still gives you an uneasy feeling? We understand. So let’s talk about some options.
The long way around is to find your way to I-81 and bypass all of it. Then you could take scenic Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park and either run it to the Blue Ridge Parkway at I-64 then back into Richmond. Or get off Skyline Drive early at US 33 and follow our route from the west into The Meadow Event Park.
Still too much interstate? US 15 out of Harrisburg, PA is also an option. At not peak times, US 15 moves quite well and offers opportunities to visit Gettysburg and some other Civil War era historic sites and battlefields in the region. Then follow US 340 into Front Royal, VA and find your way to Skyline drive. Next, get off Skyline Drive at US-33 and follow our route from the northwest into The Meadow Event Park.
Personally, US 301 is my choice. This is your best avenue to side step the white knuckle I-95 corridor. It by-passes Baltimore. It skirts the DC metro area. With limited access, it varies in number of lanes, but usually two in the same direction of travel. You can catch US 301 just outside of Wilmington, DE. If coming from the New York or New England metro areas, there are options to connection through the New Jersey turnpike system without having to go through the Philadelphia metro area.
There are a couple of tolls on US 301. The most expensive toll is the one over the bridge between Maryland and Virginia at the Potomac River crossing. The other is the Bay Bridge over the Chesapeake Bay near Annapolis. Only eastbound traffic over US 50/301 at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge is charged a toll. So coming to the rally will be free across the Chesapeake Bay. Going home across the Chesapeake Bay will incur an expense. However, keep in mind, you’ll also be charged to get back through Baltimore and over the Susquehanna River on I-95, not to mention I-95 tolls in northern Delaware as well. All of which can be more than these two bridges.
The nice part of US 301, as long as you are aware of the lanes you need to be in at interchanges, US 301 will take you within a few miles east of The Meadow Event Park where the rally is. You can also pick up US 301 easily from Bob’s BMW and Ducati and visit his museum in Jessup, MD.
From the South
Coming up from the south on I-95. Richmond isn’t nearly as bad as the Baltimore and DC metro areas. But at the wrong time, it can be a bad case of the stop’n’go or the moving parking lot situation. Many locals have all swore upon their most beloved motorcycle that taking the I-295 by-pass before Petersburg,VA and following it up and around the east side of Richmond is the best option anytime of day. And like the alternate northern route, you have an option to finish the ride in by taking US 301 to end up a few miles east of The Meadow Event Park.
Using Ride with GPS
Ride with GPS is a great way for the MOA to share and distribute maps, GPS routes, and turn-by-turn instructions. As with any great service, some best practices in the form of tips and tricks are in order.
- Each route in Ride with GPS is equivalent to a track in the world of Garmin GPS’s and BaseCamp. So for all the routes, make sure you get the entire collection of routes in Ride with GPS.
- Ride with GPS allows you to download many different GPS files types including GPX for the BMW Navigator series and other Garmin products
- When downloading GPX files, only download the ‘GPX Track’ version
- The ‘GPX Route’ version will leave you at the mercy of the settings on your Garmin GPS, and will take you off the planned route and maybe to unexpected places and road conditions
- Once you have the ‘GPX Track’ version loaded on your device and want turn-by-turn navigation, convert the ‘track’ on your Garmin GPS to a ‘trip’
- If you don’t have a dedicated GPS device and use your phone for navigation, Ride with GPS also has a number of file formats to work with various navigation apps for phones
- Ride with GPS also has its own phone app that will also help guide you