How to Drive Across Texas

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Texas has some of the USA’s best driving: endless open highway under a big sky with 75-mph speed limits. Texas also does a great job of keeping its roads clean and beautiful; so much so that there’s a longstanding magazine called Texas Highways.

So why then do some travelers drive through Texas and find it miserable? Here are a few pointers from a native to optimize your experience:

Plan your route carefully. It’s easy to think that wherever you are in Texas, it’ll be like the Wild West image in your mind—unfortunately, that’s not true. Texas has at least half a dozen regions, all of which feel very different, so plan your drive carefully to hit the right spots, as though you were going cross-country. For example, if you really want to see bluebonnets, make sure you go through the Hill Country. If you’re not interested in desolate plains, don’t spend too much time in the Panhandle. If you want to avoid big-city congestion (which I suppose everyone does), stay off I-10 near Houston. For reference, and to demonstrate how far off-course you could accidentally veer, it’s about 830 miles from El Paso in the far west to Beaumont in the far east. That’s further than going from Chicago to New York.

Enjoy the drive itself. Driving in New York with its 55-mph statewide limit will never measure up to the open road in Texas, so enjoy the easy driving for its own sake. You have some beautiful sunsets over the changing landscape ahead of you.

Make sure you have A/C during the summer. Depending on your comfort level, you might insist on air conditioning during spring and fall too. There’s nothing worse than baking in your car, hoping the natural breeze will cool you off, and then realizing that it’s hopeless. Growing up in Central Texas, we had a black pickup truck with broken A/C and the windows were stuck in the up position—trust me, you don’t want this. Some northerners might also consider applying sunscreen, even though you’ll be in the car; the summer sun is that fierce.

Bring water. There are many isolated, unpopulated areas in Texas. You could be an hour away from civilization, so it’s always best to keep water (ideally in an iced cooler) to re-hydrate, plus some food, if only to avoid crankiness.

Know your seasons. I personally love Texas in the summertime, but it’s searing hot, so if you know you can’t handle 110-degree heat, spare yourself the agony of driving through South Texas in August. Then again, there’s sometimes snow up in the Panhandle during the winter. Take a look at your travel dates and adjust your route accordingly.

Have you driven across Texas? What was your experience?

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About Author

Sarah is the North America Editor for Go! Girl Guides and she wrote the New York City guidebook. Raised in rural Texas on mesquite barbecue and barrel racing, Sarah lived in Indiana for two years before moving to New York by herself. Some of her favorite experiences in North America include snowmachining outside of Anchorage, exploring Caladesi Island off the coast of Florida, touring a Cold War bunker in West Virginia, watching the sun set over Chicago from Lake Michigan, and taking an overnight train from Montreal to Halifax.

4 Comments

  1. I have driven across Texas in various forms (but not the dreaded Orange to El Paso route). There are some beautiful drives. My favorite was going from Midland to San Antonio and also from La Grange to Austin.

    I would disagree that I-10 is the worst freeway in Houston. They have done a lot to make that a better freeway. 45 and 290 are the worst now closer into Houston. And Brenham is also a great place to see the bluebonnets(1.5 hour outside of Houston), but I don’t consider Brenham part of hill country.

  2. Pingback: Keepin’ it Weird in Austin

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