What's The Best Highway For Driving Across The Country?

I may have been slightly lost when I took this picture, not far from I-40.
I may have been slightly lost when I took this picture, not far from I-40.
Photo: Raphael Orlove

There are many routes to take if you’re going coast-to-coast in the U.S. You can take I-80 if you hate yourself. You can take Route 50 if you’ve never turned off the Golden Oldies station in your life. You can even route yourself over the Great Lakes if, actually, probably not at the moment.


I myself have gone a few different ways, always routing myself either over or under the tallest parts of the Rockies. The last time I did the drive, I did Seattle to NYC and enjoyed finally seeing Montana.

The time before that I did Sacramento to NYC by way of I-40, eating pie on the dry side of the Sierras and boiled peanuts in the rather more green Great Smoky Mountains. My car also blew up a lot. There was something very satisfying about sticking to one highway pretty much the whole way, at least one highway that took me past a lot of the more beautiful parts of the county.


There are good routes for different times of the year, and better routes for different priorities. I think if you’re looking to eat your way across the country, you want to bend all the way south, routing yourself through New Orleans and the Southwest. The radio is going to be good, too. Sticking to staying up north isn’t bad, but I’d be willing to sacrifice moon-sized pancakes in Wisconsin so that I wouldn’t have to hunt for vegetables across the rest of corn country.

Since there are so many ways to get across the continental U.S., I think we should ask two questions:

How do you rank the major arterial interstates? I loved 40, as I said, but I’ve never spent much time below it on 10 or 20, as I was always afraid of getting stopped by Border Patrol. I have hated 80, but I think parts of it aren’t as bad as the reputation. Chunks of it in PA are borderline scenic!


The other question would be more general. Which route have you taken that you’ve enjoyed? What would you do again?

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.


Lord Whistledown

US 101 from Los Angeles to Port Angeles.

Wine country, followed by San Francisco, followed by more wine country, followed by Eureka, followed by redwoods, followed by the Oregon coast which is perhaps the most scenic coastline in the entire US, followed by the Olympic peninsula. Sure there’s some sketch parts like Aberdeen WA but it’s a fun trek.