Get your kicks on these road trips through the States
Time Out staff
Miami to Key West
It’s easy to get carried way on the 150-mile, four-hour trip from Miami to Key West and suddenly find yourself at the western tip. But the drive should be done slowly and calmly, and with stops. Some sections, notably the Seven Mile Bridge between mile markers 40 and 47, are gloriously scenic: there is a wonderful illusion that you’re driving on water. Key Largo isn’t the prettiest stop, but detour to the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park to see dolphins. The islands of Islamorada make up a ‘quaint little drinking town with a fishing problem’, according to local T-shirts.
The Pacific coast road
Known as the ‘Oregon Coast Highway’ in Oregon and the ‘Pacific Coast Highway’ in California, US101 runs most of the 1,500-mile length of the USA’s west coast, passing through the states of Washington, Oregon and California and the cities of Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego en route. In California, when it diverts inland, take Highway 1 instead for spectacular views – particularly at Big Sur – and miracles of road engineering. For a shorter trip, Monterey to Los Angeles is the honeypot two-day stretch.
Highway 61: The Blues Highway
Highway 61 runs 1,400 miles from New Orleans in Louisiana north to the city of Wyoming in Minnesota. Give or take a few meanders, it follows the course of the Mississippi River and passes through eight states: Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota. The landscape varies from cotton fields to humid lowlands to steamy swamps. Historically, southerners travelled from their rural homeland up Highway 61 to find work in Memphis, Chicago and St Louis; they took their music, the blues, with them. Muddy Waters, BB King and Bessie Smith all migrated up 61 to play the northern cities. Music fans should stop by the Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphisand the more modest Delta Blues Museum. An album to take for the ride is Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited; he was born in Duluth, Minnesota, formerly on the highway before the route was changed.
Blue Ridge Parkway
The Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina are the natural wonders at, respectively, the northern and southern extremes of this 469-mile drive through old-style America – expect split-rail fences, creaking farmsteads and wide open vistas of both wilderness and grazing land. The Parkway, which skirts the Appalachian mountains, was built in the 1930s as a Depression-era public works project, and was the US’s first, and ultimately longest, rural parkway. The route is famous for its abundant wildflowers – including rhododendrons and dogwoods, and dramatically wind-shaped trees high on the ridge. For more information, visit www.blueridgeparkway.org
The Big One: Highway 50 from Washington DC to Sacramento
If you want an all-in-one cross-country road, this is a fine east–west mega-drive. You’ll need two to three weeks to do it even cursorily. Make time to see Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean: US 50 begins in Ocean City and that is where the drive starts. Head through the capital, catching all the famed monuments as you cruise, and then go to Northern Virginia and the northern edge of the Shenandoah Valley; south-eastern Ohio, for undulating hills; Indiana and the George Rogers Clark National Historic Park; Illinois and the crossing of the Mississippi River; and on into the American West through Missouri. By Kansas you’ll start seeing old-school cowboys, and follow the Arkansas River through the Great Plains into the Rockies of Colorado. The road climbs to 11,312 feet as Highway 50 crosses the Continental Divide over the Monarch Pass. More canyons and big rocks come in Utah, and the sky opens up in Nevada, preparing you for sunshine and the Pacific coast in California.