How Long Does It Take to Drive Across America?

I am often asked how long it takes to drive across America.  Well, that depends on you.

If you drive East-West from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, it is 2,100 miles at the two closest points.  If you drive from the top of the United States at the border to Canada to a Southern border, it is miles.  It can be between 1,250 miles and 2,500 miles.  Choose from Highways 89, 101, 1, 41, 61, 83, 89, or 101.  Or make up your own route.

Now, what is your objective?  If it’s speed, the 2,100-mile cross-country trip should take you about a week, assuming you stop to sleep.

How long does it take to road trip around America?

Is your question: how long does it take to road trip around America?  If your plan is to see the sights, and you want to visit all 50 states, my 50-state trip Round America took 158 days.  If I could have seen everything there is to see, it would have taken years.

There are other options.  Perhaps consider what the farthest points across the country are, and choose a route.  I looked at the map and devised two laps around the U.S. so I would hit all 50 states.  On my second trip, I devised one lap that enabled me to reach all 50.  It took 237 days.

How long does it take to visit all 50 states?

How long does it take to drive across USA?  As with so many things in life, it all depends.  Decide what you want to do and can do, and just go!  A road trip around America is an amazing experience.

Round America 50-State Road Trip – St. Augustine to Jensen Beach, Florida

Accidental Tourists — Day 4

We were determined to make today a better one!  We got off to an early start as it was going to take us a good while just to get back to Saint Augustine after our hotel-hunting-odyssey.

We met another nice American from Ohio as we gassed up — Rich McIntosh from Cleveland.  We had met more people from Ohio than from anywhere else.

Saint Augustine is a very interesting place.  Tremendous history and equally tremendous (aka overdone) tourist development.  It’s a pretty place with a striking black-and-white striped lighthouse.  We drove straight to the Fountain of Youth for a water fix.  We enjoyed learning about the history of Ponce de Leon’s discovery of America, which he named “Florida.”

Old Ponce was an accidental tourist, too, as he was trying to find Bimini and the alleged Fountain of Youth.  Instead, he found what is now Saint Augustine and a spring.  Bozzie loved seeing the peacocks.

In the parking lot at the Fountain of Youth, we met an especially nice couple from Missouri, “Rocco” and his wife.  We also met Dolph, who works at the Fountain of Youth.  They saw the signs on the car and asked all about the trip, and we enjoyed sharing a few stories and learning a little about them.

We then saw the other historical highlights in Saint Augustine — the Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest wooden schoolhouse in the USA, and the lighthouse.

Down Highway A1A through a variety of little towns down to Daytona Beach.  In Daytona, we enjoyed watching the stereotypical diner waitresses at the Starlite Diner where we had a cheeseburger and “Freedom” Fries.

We lived in Orlando for six years and have been to Daytona many times, so we didn’t spend as much time as we would have otherwise.  I enjoyed seeing the Drive-In Christian Church — a real church built on the grounds of a drive-in movie theatre where you can listen to the sermon on the window speaker in your car.

We made a few other stops.  We met a nice lady, Pat, in a parking lot as she saw the sign on the car and told us how she wished she could go to all 50 states.

We passed through a lot of beach towns today, and we saw one little motel after another.  It was amazing that all of these little, old places can stay in business, but it was so great to see that they have.  Motels provide a real slice of Americana that it would be such a shame to lose.  We also saw a good number of roadside fruit stands today as well as a big souvenir store called Wings.

We arrived in Jensen Beach just as the sun was setting.  William, the desk clerk at the Marriott, DID have our reservation, so he became our newest hero.  In the elevator up to our room, we met a cute 10-year-old named Brianna.

William recommended Villa Parma for dinner, where we enjoyed very good Italian food and a delicious Chocolate Bomb Cake for dessert.  Our waitress, Nicole, was excellent, and we met Michael, a very friendly and talkative bus boy.

We also saw Brianna again and met her parents and her brother, Derrick.  Brianna and Derrick are both Olympic-caliber competitive swimmers.

We missed connecting with old friend, Craig Linton.  My Florida geography was bad as I thought he lived near Tampa, but he was apparently just down the road from our hotel.  Our apologies to Craig and his wife!  We enjoyed many wonderful times with Craig when we lived in Orlando; we think of Craig and Guy Lombardo every New Years.

The main lesson we learned today was this:  There are more nice people than not-nice people; all you have to do is say hello.  We met delightful people today at a gas pump, in a parking lot, in restaurants, and in an elevator.

We had found that some of the most enjoyable travel experiences were when we veered from the planned route on a whim or when someone suggested something to us that we didn’t know about…or when we got lost and found something unexpected.  Accidental tourists.

A number of things that we had done to make the trip go well were working as hoped, while others were not.  I couldn’t imagine how I would cope nearly as well during the stretches of the trip that Boz was back in Atlanta.

Thank Heavens for the sunscreen as I had an outstanding “golfer’s tan” with only the balding spot on the top of my head sporting a sunburn.  Our system of clothes worked really well; we had four bags – two bigger ones that held a week’s worth of clothes that stayed in the car, and then we each carried a day or two’s worth of clothes into our hotel each night in a smaller bag.

The next morning, our dirty clothes went into yet another bag ready for the weekly washing.  We took the right amount of stuff.  Our tape recorder malfunctioned the night before the trip, so we took notes the first three days until we bought a new recorder.  It worked great on Day 4 as we drove and flipped it on to record the towns we hit, mileage, thoughts, etc.

It was much harder than I thought to find the time at night to write as much as I would have liked and to process the day’s photos.  We took large-format photos, but I barely had the time to put a few small format photos on the website.  If I could figure out how to drive and type on the computer at the same time….

Round America 50-State Road Trip – Savannah, Georgia to St. Augustine, Florida

Interstated and Ticketed – Day 3

From beautifully-preserved Savannah Georgia, we traveled down two-lane roads with skeletons of businesses put under by the Interstate highways.

We expected a let-down today after such a special day in Savannah yesterday.  We got it.

According to Mr. Rand and Mr. McNally, the distance from Savannah to Saint Augustine is only 180 miles.  It took us 12 hours to get there, so we averaged just 15 miles an hour (though we ended up driving over 350 miles, so we actually averaged about 30 mph).

I recall passing just one vehicle all day.  I hadn’t had a ticket in 9 years, and I had decided to drive at or under the speed limit throughout this trip.  After all, we were driving on two-lane roads to see the sights…not racing to get somewhere.

So it was the lowlight of the day when Officer Vincent Passarelli of Kingsland, Georgia claimed I was driving 55 in a 35.  I was just driving along at the same speed as a bunch of other folks.  Officer Passarelli admitted he was coming from the opposite direction, so he decided to stop the little white convertible instead of any of a variety of pickup trucks and SUV’s.  I joked with him that we had driven only 500 miles of 25,000, and at this rate, I would lose my license before we hit Alabama.  He didn’t laugh.

I tried to get him to let me take his picture, but he refused.  We did manage to get a shot of a sign nearby that said: “Speed Checked by Radar.”  On our Trip Scorecard, I budgeted 0 (zero) traffic tickets, so we are way over budget, and it’s only day 3.

I’m afraid my focus will now have to be on speed signs to avoid seeing more flashing lights in the rearview mirror.  There are a never-ending number of speed limit changes on the two-lane roads that pass through so many towns.

The day began well enough five or six hours earlier, though we got away from the hotel much later than we should have.  Sunny and 75-degrees, so another lovely day.  We drove around the Historic District of Savannah for an hour or so looking at homes for sale, and we saw some nice ones.

We stopped for gas, and we were delighted when we found it was an old-fashioned full-service station.  Thomas pumped our gas, cleaned our windows, and helped me clean the bugs off the front of the car.

We drove off – Saint Augustine, Florida was our ultimate destination.  We got really lost trying to find our two-lane road, and we wasted an hour or more.  I lost count of how many times we got lost today, but I bet it was five or six times.

I joked with Barbara (who I call Boz or Bozzie) that I should place an ad on www.monster.com for a new navigator.  We again regretted that we didn’t have a GPS and joked that we were using a BPS (Bozzie Positioning System).  We finally got on the right road.

We saw the historic Midway Church, built in 1754, but one of the few highlights of the day was a little later when we saw the world’s smallest church — 10-feet by 15-feet, built in 1949 and deeded to Jesus Christ.

We drove through mile after mile of run-down houses and trailers.  Several of the houses looked like something out of “Deliverance.”  I hope the folks who live there are happy.

We reached Brunswick, Georgia for a late lunch at the highly-recommended Georgia Pig restaurant.  We were disappointed, and Boz assured me the ladies room would “win” the worst restroom award in our “Best and Worst” competition.

Jekyll Island was our next stop, and we felt it was a bust.  Boring and not particularly attractive.  The ladies at the Welcome Center were far better than the island.  I adjusted the color on the picture of the ocean at Jekyll Island, and it makes it look a lot prettier than it was.

There is no coastal road from Savannah down to Florida.  We passed through a lot of swampy terrain.  Not a pretty area compared to beautiful Savannah.  We finally saw the ocean at 2:30 in the afternoon.

Throughout the day, we saw one closed bombed-out-looking service station after another.  I love old service stations, and I did find these interesting to see, but it is sad to realize that the Interstate Highways caused so many businesses to fail.

We did find Woodbine to be interesting — mainly because the first thing we saw as we drove into town was an “antiques” shop with a sign out by the highway that says “Dead People’s Things For Sale.”

We met some nice people, including Kevin from Strongsville, Ohio, who we ran into at the Hofwyl-Broadfield rice plantation; another Kevin (the rock climber) in the parking lot at Staples; and Tim and Tiffany inside Staples.  Tiffany had an interesting story; she has two different legal identities!  Her name was misspelled on her birth certificate, so she is legally “Tiaffany.”

We also met some really nice folks on the boat.  Yes, the BOAT.  We had not planned to take a boat ride, but there are a few problems with maps, it seems.  We discovered that maps have far less detail than is ideal; small roads and towns are not shown, and they tend to show roads where they aren’t.

That’s why we ended up on a boat — the St. John’s River Ferry boat — to take us across a wide expanse of water between Fernandina Beach and Jacksonville.  The “Ferry Mistress,” Jennifer, was a delight as were the folks in the vehicle next to us, Melissa and Rodney from Powder Springs, Georgia.

We finally arrived in Saint Augustine after dark at about 8:30 pm.  We couldn’t find our hotel.  When we called, the hotel said they had no reservation for us.  We checked with hotel after hotel to find them all full.  I drove further than I will ever admit before we finally got a room for the night.  To me, there’s nothing much more aggravating after a long day than to hear that you don’t have a room.

We learned a number of lessons today.  I guess the main lesson was Location, Location, Location.  Interesting that Savannah can be so beautiful, but you don’t have to head very far south to see ugly.  And to see what the interstate highway did to businesses on the old two-lane highway delivered a very strong message of the first, last, and some say the only rule in real estate — location, location, location.

The reality hit “home” today that this trip is going to be very hard.  At one frustrating point, my sweet young wife of 34 years said this trip was going to be a cross between Fear Factor and Survivor.  She’s right about the Survivor part; this was to be an endurance test.

Round America 50-State Road Trip – Day 2 – Savannah Georgia

Life is like a Box of Chocolates — Day 2

Savannah, Georgia is a feast for the eyes.  We love old buildings and architecture, so today ranked as one of the most enjoyable days we have ever spent on vacation.  Savannah has an incredible collection of beautiful old buildings, huge trees draped with Spanish Moss, and lovely flowers, plants, and gardens.  When you put all of this together, it is truly stunning.

We live just a few hours away, but we had never seen Savannah until today.

We saw buildings that date back to the mid 1700’s; late 1800’s buildings seemed new in comparison.  In 1820, 464 homes were destroyed by fire, but with only a few rare exceptions, the people of Savannah have managed to save the city from those who would knock down the old to make way for the new.

I don’t believe there is anything else like this anywhere in the country.  Savannah also has clear rules about trees; no one is allowed to touch them – not a one.  Barbara commented that if she were a squirrel, she would want to live in Savannah!

We have learned from our travels that an overview bus tour can be really beneficial in a new city, so we began our day with guide Annie and a busload of gray-haired people on an Old Savannah Tours trolley.  We got the lay of the land and learned a lot.

We left the tour and then walked the route to take a closer look.  I took about 200 photos; I could spend days here and take thousands.

James Oglethorpe, the founder of Savannah and Georgia was apparently a very strong leader, and it is clear that he was a genius as a city planner.  Savannah was laid out with 24 wards (now known as squares), and these are beautiful parks with big trees and beautiful plants and flowers.  21 of the 24 have survived, and we saw them all.

The squares are usually lined with great, old homes and equally attractive commercial buildings.  Savannah makes extensive use of iron – wrought iron and forged iron – and the iron provides the character for many of the historic buildings.

History is everywhere.  Savannah is surrounded by three forts, and the military has a strong presence here.  There are more memorials to brave Americans and wars than I’ve seen anywhere but Washington, DC.

We took a break from history to lunch at the Soda Pop Shoppe, a small Mom and Pop lunch counter in the heart of the city.  “Senor” took good care of us, and our hot dogs were very good.

We visited the Jack Leigh Gallery.  Mr. Leigh is a top photographer, and one of his photos is the cover for the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.  We admire great photography, and we were really taken with his work.

There have been a lot of movies filmed in Savannah.  We took pictures of the Mercer House on Monterey Square – the home in the movie “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”  And we visited Chippewa Square, where Forrest Gump sat on the bus bench with his box of chocolates.  We were disappointed to learn that the bench is no longer there, as the bench has been one of the highlights that we planned to see.

Guide Annie told us that the bench is now in the museum at the Savannah Visitors’ Center, so I paid the entrance fee to take my trusty camera in for the all-important photo.  I got the picture, but it isn’t the REAL Forrest Gump bench; it’s just a similar bench that the motion picture company donated to the city.  I hope they didn’t sell the real bench on ebay.

We met a number of nice people on the streets of Savannah.  We enjoyed chatting with Jane and her dog, Susie, and Sherry and her daughters, Morgan and Ellie.  We also talked with a nice couple (both medical folks) from Delaware who we ran into several times.

I enjoyed taking photos of flags and patriotic displays.  There were quite a few.  I was puzzled by one home that had three flags hanging from an iron railing on the second floor.  One was mounted properly, but two were upside down (and flying a flag upside down is a signal of distress).  I’m not sure if it was an expression of concern about the Iraq War or a dyslexic patriot.

I am hoping that I will get enough good patriotic photos from each state to publish a photo essay book featuring flags across America.

On vacations in recent years, I always felt like the vast majority of the other tourists were quite a bit older than we were.  After removing my glasses several hundred times to take photographs and to attempt to read maps today, I now recognize that the years have taken their toll.  After this, I may just have to try the surgery to improve my vision as I hate being handicapped this way.

We had been planning to eat dinner at Mrs. Wilke’s Boarding House, but several people recommended a similar place, The Lady & Sons.  Our southern buffet was exceptionally good.

Each item at The Lady & Sons was about as good as we have ever had – fried chicken, sausage and onions, spaghetti, green beans, butter beans, yams, black-eyed peas, and cheese biscuits.  The peach cobbler and banana pudding were really good, but not special.  I again had ½ iced tea and ½ lemonade; our singing waitress, Lisa, called it an “Arnold Palmer.”

Everyone we met and did business with in Savannah was nice.  Even the street people were courteous, and they were surprisingly few in numbers.

Georgia is very clean.  We believe people today are much more conscious of keeping places clean than they were when we traveled as children.

We capped off a special day by going to the Savannah Theater to see a musical production, “Lost in the 50’s.”  The Savannah Theater is the oldest continually operating theater in the country, built in 1818.  The show featured 80 great 50’s songs.  Nine energetic singers and dancers and eight musicians did a nice job.

While the talent was not Broadway-quality, it was a very enjoyable two hours enjoyed by several hundred folks.  It was an audience where you didn’t want anyone to take flash photography as many could have been blinded by the reflection from all the gray hair.  It was definitely a “Branson crowd.”

We didn’t miss the continuous coverage of the war that we endured while home for the last few weeks.  When we watch war coverage, we watched Fox News, as they are the only network that we’ve seen that seems to be patriotic.

As we walked back to our hotel after the show, we reflected on the day and agreed that we had learned an important lesson today: There are significant benefits to preserving and protecting history and “old stuff.”  It bothered us when we saw an ugly CVS Pharmacy on the corner of one of the most beautiful squares, a really tacky-looking chiropractic office in another square, and an orange A-frame Howard Johnson’s motel just a block or so from the Historic District.

The job that generations of folks in Savannah have done to preserve the history and beauty of their community is truly amazing.  Interesting that I could draw this same analogy to the Iraq war — it’s the brave who make possible the land of the free.

We knew our trip would be like a box of chocolates.  So far, we’ve pulled nothing but winners.  Days 1 and 2 were a delight.

Worlds Largest Ball of Twine in Cawker City, Kansas

I looked forward to seeing the World’s Largest Ball of Twine more than any other sight in America.  Everything from the Grand Canyon to the Worlds Largest Ball of Twine – that’s how I’ve summed up my sightseeing adventures.

I visited the Ball of Twine twice.  I have taken two 50-state road trips, and I saw the ever-growing ball on each trip.

There isn’t anything much in Cawker City, Kansas except the World’s Largest Ball of Twine, so I had no problem driving right up to it on the main street through town.  This sucker is BIG.  It’s housed in a very nice open-sided building where you can walk right up to it and smell it and touch it.

Frank Stoeber started the ball of twine on his farm in 1953.  It weighed 5,000 pounds in 1957, was measured at 8-feet in height, and contained 1,175,180 feet of sisal twine.  Stoeber gave the ball to Cawker City in 1961 before his death in 1974.

The last published report is that it weighed 19,973 pounds (that’s almost 10 TONS).   The ball of twine had a 40-foot circumference, and it was reported to consist of over 7,009,942 feet of twine.  If stretched, it would extend 1,325 MILES.  Like I said, this baby is BIG.

Frank Stoeber created it, and since he died, folks bring balls of twine, and they are weighed and measured and added to the giant ball.  I bought a ball of brown “sisal” twine (the only type of twine that is accepted), and I left it in the box that’s there for that purpose, so my twine is now a part of the World’s Largest Ball of Twine.

Be sure to take your own ball when you visit!  It was wonderful to see that the townsfolk stepped in to build this special place for the Ball of Twine after the creator passed away.

The owner and caretaker of the Ball of Twine is now the Cawker City Community Club.  A Twine-a-thon is a big annual event held in conjunction with the Cawker City Picnic and Parade.  The ball never stops growing.  The picnic and parade are held the third Saturday in August, and the twine winding is conducted the Friday before.

The World’s Largest Ball of Twine is easy to find in “Downtown” Cawker City right along Wisconsin Street (Highway 24) on the south side of the highway.  719 Wisconsin St, Cawker City, KS 67430.  It’s half a block west of Lake Drive, but you shouldn’t have any trouble finding it (small town and a big ball).

Google Map

Bill Windsor