Driving across the USA on secondary roads?

I’ve driven Rt. 80, 40 and even across Canada, to get from one coast to another (Canada was a nightmare), but no matter what, the traffic is so horrendous I’m discouraged. I want to drive from Maine to N. CA this Fall, but the thought of the of stopping at 3pm, checking into the motel, and then leaving around 1am to try to avoid the worst. I’m also wondering if Salt Lake is back to normal after the nightmare it was a few years ago.

I did drive from Tennessee due north and across N. Dakota, etc. in April 1998 and never met another car on one day, but I still would have to contend with that traffic around Detroit driving from Maine.

I’m not in a hurry, so I was wondering if anyone has driven a route other than the usual.

I’ve done the “small roads” thing, both on motorcycles and in the convertable.

In general, the West is OK, especially the Northern states.

We did Quebec City to Michigan’s UP last year, and other than the area starting about an hour east of Sault Ste Marie the traffic was fine. In some parts, there WAS no traffic. This looks like a decent route from Maine into the states, you might want to try it. It was pretty, too. I saw moose on the side of the road.

West of Michigan, you won’t have any problems in northern Minnesota, the Dakotas, or Wyoming.

Can’t help you much from there, that’s where my expertise ends.

First of all I’m envious. I’ve done the trek alone, with friends, with my wife and by far the best was taking I-70 it was a great run, little to no traffic and plenty of places to camp. My suggestion is go through the eastern states until you get to Ohio or so, and bunp off to a secondary road sometime after that. As we all know secondary roads out west are the best. The Montana route is especially wonderful. Got room for one more…If I were not teaching come fall, I’d be planning my own trip :slight_smile:

It sounds like a fantastic journey. I always prefer secondary roads anyway just because the scenery’s better.

The only times I’ve done them, though, have been well short of cross-country: a couple drives from one end of New England to another, and one from Albany NY to Niagara Falls, ONT. It does add quite a bit of time on to the length of your journey. But it’s worth it if you can spare it.

Blue Highways, by William Least Heat-Moon.

We do it in bits & pieces, usually through West Virginia and Pennsylvania in order to avoid the Pennsylvania Turnpike (my SO does not like tunnels). Last time we went through PA, we took the Lincoln Highway instead.

I have never been to the USA but I have to second Blue Highways. A compelling read and a journey that seemed well worth repeating.

In most of the Mid West, there is a plethora of roads to choose from if you don’t mind driving at 55 mph instead of 70 mph and slowing down as you drive through towns. There’s no reason to drive on the interstates unless you simply want to get from point A to point B in the shortest possible time.

BTW: if sue decides to go through W.Va., I suggest staying off US 250 north of Hundred. We took it once and had to pull over around Cameron because we were so dizzy from all the twists & turns!

Personally, I think sue should stick to the historical route as much as possible. I mentioned the Lincoln Highway earlier, which is the very first New York - California route specifically built for automobile traffic. If you take 202 down from Maine, you can pick up 30 just outside Philadelphia.

If you really want some secondary roads, take to guys that ride bicycles. :slight_smile: Here is a link to Adventure cycling They have multiple routes from East to West (or West to East)
Check it out

Route 30 could be an interesting trip, but in PA I strongly advise avoiding the stretch Philly-Gettysburg, and from Greensburg to the other side of Pittsburgh; both sections are clogged with local traffic much of the day.

Further west, I’ve followed US 30 through Nebraska and US 36 through Kansas and much of the midwest; the view, such as it is, is more interesting than it is from the Interstate and except for a few small towns, there’s pretty much nothing to hold you back. Wyoming, IIRC, pretty much your only option is I-80. From Salt Lake City west, don’t know as I haven’t traveled that route.

Hadn’t thought that far west. 30 does merge with I-80 pretty much from Wyoming to San Francisco. A viable alternative may be picking up 6 near Lincoln, then switching to 34 and 50 when necessary.

I’ve got a decent amount of experience driving across America (I’ve driven to all of the lower 48 states); from your OP I get the impression you’re mainly concerned with avoiding high traffic areas. I’m not sure I can give much additional advice along those lines; whenever I plan a trip, I’m not as concerned about the traffic as I am about finding the most scenic route possible. To that end (if you’re interested), I would pick up National Geographic’s Guide to Scenic Highways and Byways. It lists several scenic drives in various places across the country, with pictures and descriptions of points of interest along the way.

If you want any more advice on scenic drives along the way, let me know and I (and, I’m sure, others) will be glad to give some input.

One final thought–US 50 runs from DC to San Francisco and might be a good option for part of your trip. William Least Heat-Moon, previously mentioned as the author of Blue Highways, has this to say about US 50, “for the unhurried, this little-known highway is the best national road across the middle of the United States”. In particular, the portion of US 50 across Nevada is officially known as The Loneliest Road in America–which sounds like exactly what you’re looking for! :wink:

Correction: 40 is better than 50, that way you can pick up 6 again near Provo and follow that all the way to Benton, CA, where you can pick up CA 120 to Manteca.

Oops, my mistake. I hadn’ t zoomed in on Mapquest far enough and though 50 merged with I-80 at Reno. It’s a secondary road up to Pollock Pines.

Actually, it runs a good hundred miles past DC, all the way to Ocean City, Maryland.

Blue Highways is such a brilliant book. I’ve done 4 major road trips across the US, and on two of them, in homage to William Least Heat-Moon, I did them the ‘blue highway’ way.

Of course, it’s way slower, but it is such a fantastic way to see the US. Not the US that the brochures depict, but the down-home, economically marginal type. Wonderful. In the middle of some agricultural dustbowl, you see these immaculate homes sitting amongst verdant lawns, and wonder how it is that people have the patience to carve such pride from the dust.

What I loved the most was the faded 1950s optimism of the few motels and diners that you see in the middle of nowhere, and usually feel obliged to stop in. I never know how they survive, but the ambience, (in my case) the guileless curiosity at one’s foreignness, and the food, is so much better than the churn-em-out slop of the ubiquitous chains of the freeways. Genuine Americana, that’s slowly being eroded. Experience it before it’s gone!

I wish you a fantastic trip.

Tell me about it. I think the last time I was in Nevada we took US 50 for a while. I believe that is the road where we saw another car maybe every 15 minutes, and we hit a construction zone with no other cars in either direction. Just some college student doing summer work, stuck out there holding a sign with the rest of the crew a couple miles down the road. I think we pulled out a bottle of water and a soda to give him. We were stuck there for like 15 minutes while they did work and cut it down to a single lane. I think we finally had one or two other cars behind us when we got moving.

Don’t know if they’re still doing it, but you could get a “passport” from the Nevada Tourist Bureau and get it stamped at specific locations along Route 50. Once your passport was fully stamped, you could mail it to the Nevada Tourist Bureau and they would send you a certificate stating you “survived traveling along the Lonliest Road in America.” I did it about 8 years ago.

Jeff Olsen - I can vouch for the section of US 250 north of Hundred, WV. Having spent a considerable amount of time in Cameron (grandparents lived there, went to highschool there for a spell), I’m well acquainted with the area. Driving US 250 can be challenging, to say the least.