Covering 800 miles of American freeways in less than 10 days is something I never thought I’d do to be honest – an inexperienced driver at best I’ve driven short distances (and through a Florida tropical storm from Cape Canaveral back to our Orlando apartment) – but somehow we survived unscathed driving diagonally the length of Louisiana from New Orleans to Shreveport, through the crazy traffic of Dallas and along the long, undulating motorways of Texas.
It was amazing. We saw places that we never would have been able to
explore, it gave us a freedom to nip into cute restaurants we spotted
from the road and stay in a couple of really quirky hotels off the
We intentionally hired a small car,
ending up with a Scarlet Nissan which I christened Bonnie (both
named for our lovely waitress one morning and after the infamous Bonnie &
Clyde). She was automatic and had a sweet spot around 75miles/hr
(or 120km/hr, I’m so glad I hadn’t converted that over whilst in the US) but
best of all (I think) the colour and size marked us out as tourists
amidst the white 4-wheel drives that all the locals drove.
We flew (hopped really, on
the American Airways buses of the sky) from Austin to New Orleans to
avoid the chaotic traffic jams of Houston and taxied around Dallas
(mostly to give me a break from concentrating – we got some of the best
recommendations from our drivers though, one restaurant we visited two
nights in a row) but our hours on the road were definitely some of our favourite.
Louisiana has one of the highest speed limits in the
continental US and some beautiful camber, whilst Texas seemed a little
slower but had more 18-wheeler trucks sharing the tarmac with my admittedly Nana
The driving is super quick, but I simply kept in the
right-hand lane to 5 miles under the speed limit which was comfortable
for my confidence – and helped us avoid the $175 Louisiana speeding
fines. At the start of the trip I was a nervous wreck, that night almost
falling asleep in the hot tub in our hotel from exhaustion after
clenching the steering wheel all day. By the end of our mammoth road
trip I was changing lanes with
ease, occasionally floating in the middle lane before tucking back in
behind trucks and sauntering out of the car with keys jangling on
I’ll be honest, and admit that did we encounter a couple of scary
situations – a truck driver changing lanes not allowing me enough time
to enter a motorway (I luckily just popped into a shoulder lane),
getting lost in the middle of Dallas skyscrapers (we jammed every device
we had onto navigation), accidentally assuming a road was much narrower
than it really was (luckily the road was relatively quiet so I just
guided her nimbly over to the correct lane) and dodging some of the twits who
pulled out in front of us – one with a trailer full of wood – but
overall it really was fine.
I doubt much of this is helpful, but a few things/tips to bear in mind when planning an American roadtrip are;
CHECK YOUR CAR INSURANCE BEFORE YOU START DRIVING.
Photograph the dents in your car when you pick it up, just in case.
Rest. We stopped every hour or so, just to grab a drink and stretch our legs, my Dad’s voice echoing in my head every day.
It’s totally OK to call your family in England to check if you can put tap water in the window washing reservoir. (As a student and before smartphones invented, I once call my Dad to check how long to boil potatoes for. They’ll still love you, they’ll just laugh a little at you.)
planned to mostly drive in the middle of the day to miss the city
rush hours and allow loads of time to stop and do random things.
Buck-ees have nice restrooms and are all along the highways BUT hopping out at a small town gas station can be quite an eye opener.
There weren’t as many signs to stop and see random things as we were
hoping, but luckily a touch of Google research provided ample
‘scuse the blurry photo…
DO NOT PASS STOPPED SCHOOL BUSES OR POLICE CARS (OR AT LEAST SLOW RIGHT DOWN PAST THE POLICE CARS)
We downloaded an app that was perfect when we drove around Florida (NavFree I think?) but the best app we found en route was still Google Maps as it assisted with picking lanes in the busy city junctions but it can be a data vacuum and unhelpful when there is patchy data signals.
DON’T SPEND ALL THE TIME DRIVING – we probably needed an extra day really – with traffic etc most 60 minute distances were really around 75 minutes which adds up over a few days and there was an additional place we fancied visiting (but we demurred as it would have meant 5hours+ driving one day).
MOST IMPORTANTLY KIDS: DON’T EAT SERVICE STATION SANDWICHES, GO DEEP-FRIED.
Driving again has given me a real confidence boost – oh how I miss the convenience of four wheels. Whilst planning our next road trip away, I think I’m gonna start working on my next bumper sticker that says “My Other Car Is A Boat.”
Have you ever driven on the wrong side of the road? Would you?