15 More Things I’ve Learned From Driving Across The US 15 Times

There are affiliate links in here.  I get a small commission if you purchase through them at no extra cost to you.

Way back in October 2017 I made a list of things I learned driving across the US seven times. Well, three years later I’ve driven across the US 8ish more times (I think I counted right, but it could be short a couple times) and have new lessons to share!

If you’re new here or haven’t been here long you may be wondering why I drive so far so much. I work out west in the summer and spend most winters between Wisconsin and Florida and drive between the three 2-5 times a year.

Some of the drives are for fun (like Wisconsin to Florida via Ohio/West Virginia/Virginia/North Carolina) but most are just to get from A to B with some fun stops along the way.

Travel Services I Recommend:
AllTrails – This is my favorite hike tracking app.
America the Beautiful – The national park pass is essential.
Booking.com – This is great for finding and booking hotels.
Get Your Guide – I recommend Get Your Guide for booking tours.
National Park Obsessed – This is the best national park planner.
Skyscanner – Skyscanner is great for finding and booking flights.
Enterprise – This is my rental car recommendation.
See all my resources here.

If my math is right, just those cross country drives is almost 27,000 miles, but we also drive a lot wherever we are. After some more math, I figure we drive 25,000ish miles per year.

How, you ask? Well, when you live in the middle of nowhere and drive 225 miles just to get to town multiple times a month, it adds up. When a lot of cool places are within a six hour drive, it adds up. But more on that later.

This is just a fun post and all my own opinions. I would love to hear any lessons you’ve learned from travel or road trips, too!

Cuyahoga valley

Texas still stinks

Literally. It stinks. Not all of Texas is smelly, but usually we notice it most between Amarillo and Childress. It’s usually in the farm areas, not the cities. While the stink might not be everywhere this part is pretty unpleasant.

I also just don’t like Texas all that much, but maybe that’ll change if we do more there. It’s not the worst (keep reading) but I don’t really care for it. And it takes FOREVER to drive across! In case anyone was wondering, too, it takes 12 hours to drive from Orange to El Paso. It’s the longest route I’ve found across all of Texas.

The south route through Louisiana is better than the north route

We usually drive either through the north part of Louisiana (I20 or I20 to I49 and down across it) but this last time we took I10 across the southern part of the state and it was so much better!

We didn’t go to New Orleans, not that south, but this part was just so much more swampy and I loved it. Now to just spend some time there to explore a little (and by a little I mean a lot because all I’ve done in Louisiana is drive through it.)

The ‘I’ states are the worst (sorry ‘I’ states)

No offense to Iowa, Illinois, or Indiana (or anyone in them or that likes them) but they’re the worst. Iowa is the best of the worst as far as driving through goes, but Illinois and Indiana are terrible.

Illinois takes six to drive across, north to south, and that’s not all that bad you think, but it is. It’s all flat bad. Don’t even get me started on Indiana. That’s just the overall worst.

West Virginia is actually really pretty

Before I went to West Virginia I couldn’t have told you anything about it other than where it was and that I thought Hillbilly Elegy took place there (it doesn’t, it’s Ohio.). Turns out, it’s actually really pretty!

We only went to the New River Gorge which became an official national park just a couple months after our visit, but I really liked it! Plus, if you’re a Mothman fan, you can visit the Mothman Museum in Point Pleasant.

Sandstone falls new river gorge west virginia

“West Virginiaaaaaaaa” will be stuck in your the entire time you’re there

Speaking of West Virginia, that song will be stuck in your head while you’re in Virginia, West Virginia, basically forever because anytime someone says West Virginia, Virginia, or Shenandoah you’ll probably think of it again. Yes, it’s a good song but I never need to hear it again.

If you say Asheville someone will say “oh, I love Nashville!”

This one is really funny to me and I get why it happens but I never know what to say after. It usually happens when people are asking about travel plans or where I’d want to live eventually.

Asheville comes up a lot in both of those topics and almost every time I say it whoever I’m talking to will say “oh, I love Nashville!” and then I probably say “oh, Asheville, like, North Carolina, but I like driving through Nashville.” It can be a little awkward but it’s also funny and I laugh every time.

New Mexico isn’t actually that boring to drive through

I can’t remember if I mentioned it in any of my old New Mexico posts but in 2015 when we drove through it I thought it was SO boring. Well, some of it might be, but it’s actually not as bad as I thought!

The north part is definitely better, but the mountains near White Sands were super pretty! Then the drive from there up to Santa Fe was really nice, too. Is it the best state ever to drive through? No, but it’s better than Texas and all the ‘I’ states, for sure.

The north part is definitely better, but the mountains near White Sands were super pretty! Then the drive from there up to Santa Fe was really nice, too. Is it the best state ever to drive through? No, but it’s better than Texas and all the ‘I’ states, for sure.

Utah is better than Arizona

I know a looooot of people love Arizona but Utah is way better, at least as far as scenery goes. To be fair, we haven’t done that many hikes in Arizona yet (basically none) and it hasn’t gotten it’s fair shot yet, but still. It’s not bad but I wouldn’t say the race with Utah is neck and neck.

It does have saguaro cactus though and I LOVED seeing those a lot and I did love Wupatki and Sunset Crater Volcano. But I also think Sedona is over rated, Phoenix wasn’t great, and Page sucks.

If you have any suggestions on hikes, drives, or anything else you think may make me like Arizona more, I’d love to hear them in the comments!

Florida is actually amazing

2020 and politics aside, I love Florida! I feel like when a lot of people think of visiting Florida, they just think of Disney, Miami, and spring break, but those aren’t it. I love the beaches, the springs, the swamps, the woods, the shelling, basically all the nature.

People are always surprised when I say I love Florida, but I do! We have an annual Big Cypress trip, get to explore Gainesville and the springs whenever we want, are close to St. Augustine, and got to enjoy Cape San Blas in the panhandle.

I still love driving through Tennessee and Kentucky

Way back in, uhh, 2012, maybe? I drove to Georgia with my parents and I got to drive through Kentucky and Tennessee. Well, we do this drive all the time now and this is still my favorite part! I like driving through Nashville and just love how hilly the west sides of both states are.

Burr Trail Utah
Thanks father!

Burr Trail is still the best

Most of the scenic drives I’ve done in the US are in Utah so this may not be totally fair yet, but still. Burr Trail is best. Though North Carolina does have some pretty good contenders.

I would also say the Blue Ridge Parkway is up there, but mile for mile, Burr Trail wins. It’s got the best views, a lot less people, and plenty of hiking opportunities. I just love it!

West Texas isn’t all it’s hyped up to be

You already know I think Texas stinks, but I also think it’s just ok. A lot of people say West Texas is best Texas (but in a different way) and I agree, but New Mexico is waaaaay better.

Yeah, Guadalupe Mountains and Big Bend are great, but driving between them is awful. The drive to Big Bend isn’t bad, but from Fort Stockton (the town we stayed in by Big Bend) to Guadalupe Mountains was so bad. It was just flat, oil rigs, and construction.

I’ll go back because I need to see Prada Marfa (Marfa in general) and want to do more in both parks, but the rest of West Texas was quite underwhelming.

Like Arizona, I’d love any recommendations on cool hikes or parks in West Texas and between Dallas/Amarillo/New Mexico.

Two hours is nothing

At home in Wisconsin, a trip to Madison, almost a three hour drive, was a big deal. Doing that in one day was wild and it’s much better suited for a weekend trip. Well, that’s just silly to me now.

Now, Bullfrog is the definition of middle of nowhere and the closest small two was an hour away. The next closest with grocery stores were both two-ish hours away and they aren’t good grocery stores. The first closest small city (Grand Junction) was three and a half hours away.

So, from Bullfrog, a 3.5 hour drive, one-way, was best suited as a weekend trip, but was also something that most people wouldn’t bat an eye at doing in one day. That’s seven hours total. To go to the store.

Now, working just outside of Page, people come into the office and complain about having to drive all the way to town! to pick up a boat part. That’s a 14 minute drive, in case you were wondering.

This part has gotten a little rambly, but it’s so funny to me now to hear people complain about driving 30 minutes to get something because I’ve gotten used to driving hours to get to things.

I will say though, when we’re in Florida, I do also complain about driving a half hour to town, but out west that’s nothing.

The Toadstool Trail in Kanab is the worst trail ever

We all have a worst trail ever and the Toadstool Trail is mine. I won’t go into all the details here, you can find them in my Toadstool Trail post, but it was such a baffling trail to both of us.

It was boring, boring, and boring. But I still think you should do it because a lot of people love it (it has a shocking 4.2 stars on AllTrails.)

The Grand Canyon is still just fine

My first visit to the Grand Canyon was in 2015 and I was sufficiently underwhelmed. I went back this summer and was just as underwhelmed. I was SO excited to go back, hoping it would be way better, but it just wasn’t.

I do think I need to go back and actually hike into the canyon and I would also like to visit the North Rim this summer, both bucket list activities that a lot of people skip. But as of right now, I don’t care about it very much.

What do you think of these things? What have you learned from your travels? Any Texas or Arizona recommendations?

14 thoughts on “15 More Things I’ve Learned From Driving Across The US 15 Times

  1. Utah is a great state, but I think you’re underestimating Arizona, especially the Tucson area. Because it’s higher than Phoenix it has better weather, and the surrounding mountains mean a great variety of vegetation within the space of a few miles. I highly recommend both Sabino Canyon National Recreation Area (NE Tucson) and Chiricahua National Monument (closer to Douglas).

    While I like the landscapes of Utah, I like the cities of Arizona better. You can’t go wrong with either.

    1. I definitely have to see more of Arizona! We’re hoping to on our way back out there for work this summer. I’ll add both of those to our list! I know saguaro, organ pipe cactus, and petrified forest are on it for the drive but also open to other suggestions in addition to those and the two above!

  2. You have NO IDEA what you are talking about! I have driven coast to coast & everywhere in between literally hundreds of times (closer to 1000) both for business as well as pleasure. You are a novice with flawed opinions. So find something you actually know about before spamming my email.

    1. Thank you! I really appreciate your comment but you may have missed the part where it’s all my opinion. I’d love to hear some things you disagree with and that you’ve learned from your 1000 cross country drives though! 🙂

  3. I attended college in West Virginia and since have had a very different opinion of the state. It’s not the scenery or topography of the area, being born and raised in New York City, it is the people who live in West Virginia who cause me to have a poor outlook of the place.

    1. That’s totally valid! We were only there for a couple of days and didn’t interact with many people so I can’t speak on that part but totally understand.

  4. Enjoyed this read! I agree, Utah is pretty awesome and I hated the Toadstool Trail. 😂 Would love to explore New Mexico more and heck even make my way to the East coast one day!

    1. Thank you! That makes at least three of us that hated it then 😂 I also want to see more of New Mexico and the east coast!

  5. I drove from New York to cape cod, New Hampshire, Vermont and the a train to Canada last year. It was very interesting for my first trip to the USA. Things I learnt were some traffic lights seem to be optional which is very different to the UK. Speed limits on motorways are much slower. Turkeys cross the road in front of you and don’t seem to be able to fly. Roads can have pot holes as big as the Grand Canyon. It may be faster to cycle than catch the train 😀 Really enjoyed the trip though, beautiful scenery. In India and Vietnam I learned that one way streets are optional, pavements are optional, pedestrian crossings are to be ignored and when crossing the road look oncoming drivers in the eye and walk slowly across making no sudden movements whilst they weave around you. You can fit a whole family and a goldfish on a moped and you can go both ways round a roundabout in India if the traffic is slow enough, there you would also notice that pavements can be a foot off the ground because of monsoon but you can’t walk on the pavements because of the mopeds and the traders stalls anyway 😀 Can’t wait until travel is allowed again!

    1. That sounds like an awesome trip! That’s a little scary about the traffic lights (I haven’t experience much of that, though I guess I have seen people run them so maybe I have) but can definitely get the pot holes 😂 I noticed some of those things like India in Central America, especially the mopeds with entire families and pets on them 😂 I’ve really enjoyed this comment and can’t wait to travel abroad again too (though I will)

      1. I think the thing with the traffic lights is you can turn right on a red which you can’t here and there are those single lights that flash in the middle of the road that mean go if clear which again we don’t have. In the UK red is stop….no alternatives.

  6. Alright, I gotta get in on this. I grew up in northern Indiana and it isn’t THAT bad! 🙂 The sunsets are absolutely BEAUTIFUL! It’s got some fun weather too, especially if you want to storm chase! 🙂 It can be boring, but there is a beauty in driving through the miles of tall, green cornfields in the summer. Also, check out the more southern portions, they’re prettier/more interesting. There’s actually hills in Indiana! Turkey Run State Park is one great place to visit. So is Hoosier National Forest and Brown County State Park. Indianapolis (Indy) is a pretty nice, little, midwestern “big” city too. 🙂

    Sorry, I had to stand up for my home state. 🙂

    1. Haha no worries! I will say, we haven’t given Indiana a fair shot, we’ve really only been to the dunes and drove through it (top to bottom, rough!) but I’ll make sure to check these out next time we go through!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.