Do not drive into smoke
August 5, 2014 10:33 AM   Subscribe

The Worst Highways in America. "There are bad, bad roads in America. None have I-40's ability to warp time itself, and turn what should be a three-hour drive with traffic into a creeping space-time anomaly broken only by the words "hey, there's the exit for Bucksnort." I am convinced a person could extend their lifespan near infinitely and live to biblical ages provided they drove only on this stretch of I-40. No one will ever prove this, because no one would subject themselves to this even in the name of near-immortality. They would rather die, and wisely so."
posted by HumanComplex (155 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
I-10, from San Antonio to El Paso. And from Tallahassee to Milton, FL.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:40 AM on August 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


Split I-35 in Austin. Whoever the fuck thought that was a good idea probably never had an actual good idea in their life.
posted by kmz at 10:43 AM on August 5, 2014 [12 favorites]


I will also add I-55 just north of Jackson Mississippi to say just south of Memphis TN
Lots of trees and that's about it
posted by robbyrobs at 10:43 AM on August 5, 2014


Southeast Expressway, Boston.

And for the record my definition of "worst" does not include long and boring, but that's just me.
posted by Melismata at 10:45 AM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


I mean, most highways are awful. Especially around cities. It would be harder to come up with a highways that aren't terrible list.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:46 AM on August 5, 2014 [7 favorites]


I-70 through Kansas, once you get west of Topeka. Billiard table of the Gods, for sure.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:46 AM on August 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


Actually, if you manage to find the right time of year to make the drive, WA 26 from Vantage to Pullman is like driving through an impressionist painting. The wheat fields will be this carpet of various greens flowing across the hillsides. The farmsteads will come and go as you drive along, little detailed buildings amidst the surreal carpet of growth. The rocky sections of the drive will break things up nicely for you, allowing your eyes a chance to see something other than the insane mottled green carpet that looks like something painted.

It's really a very nice drive, if you're not on a schedule.
posted by hippybear at 10:46 AM on August 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


Do not drive it smoke because there might be a prairie fire in that smoke, or you might drive off the road. Now I know (not that I was tempted to drive into smoke in the first place, but now the sign makes sense).
posted by filthy light thief at 10:47 AM on August 5, 2014


I-95 between Ft. Lee, NJ and CT. Also known as the George Washington Black Hole Bridge
posted by Dashy at 10:47 AM on August 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


The Salina-Hays stretch on I-70 is really only half of the boring part. Make it Salina-Limon and you're in the neighborhood.
posted by rewil at 10:48 AM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


I-80 Nebraska is no joke. I had intermittent car troubles there about 10 years ago--apparently my Focus had a faulty fuel pump that stopped pumping when the weather got hot, and Ford had determined they weren't going to issue a recall. The Ford dealer's remedy: Wait it out and drive it at night. I ended up sitting for 6 hours at a Kamp Out America in the middle of nowhere that was staffed by British people.

Anyway, I fly to any place West of Nebraska now.
posted by TrialByMedia at 10:49 AM on August 5, 2014


One of my favorites, on the other hand, even in terrible traffic, is the Overseas Highway.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:49 AM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


My usual stomping grounds are I-5 between Seattle and San Diego, and freeways west between Portland and Cheyenne. I love every mile--except the stretch of I-5 between Eugene and Portland. Somehow that little 90-minute hop attracts the most irritable, reckless, petty drivers I've found anywhere outside of New York City. Hit Portland and turn left onto I-84 East and, even though it's packed with tourists trying to rubberneck at the Gorge at 75 mph, it's suddenly smooth sailing. I can't explain it.
posted by darksasami at 10:50 AM on August 5, 2014 [8 favorites]


And Wikipedia informs me that there is not one, but a multitude of Bucksnorts, pre-Civil War towns and communities across Tennessee as well as in Fayette County, Marshall County and Bullock County, Alabama; Prentiss County and Tate County, Mississippi; and Craighead County and Dallas County, Arkansas. There is no citation for this fact, but I will believe you, previous editor, more than I believe the fantastic story of a still owned by a man named Buck.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:50 AM on August 5, 2014


I-70 is really just end-to-end horror stories, from the spaghetti in St Louis to the terrible drag across Missouri. Ugh Ugh Ugh Ugh Ugh.
posted by pjern at 10:51 AM on August 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


Boring roads are one thing, but not jokingly thinking to myself many times on I-90 in the Boston area "I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to make it home tonight" beats anything else I've experienced.
posted by MillMan at 10:51 AM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


I-70 is really just end-to-end horror stories, from the spaghetti in St Louis to the terrible drag across Missouri.

Oh, god, yes...That Missouri slog on 70 is interminable! Other than driving anywhere in Florida, I never wanted a state to go away so hard as I did driving 70 through Missouri.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:54 AM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


I-70 across MO is all sweetness and light. Not always interesting, but it moves. Now, any highway within 100 km of Toronto, on the other hand ... where an additional two hours doesn't even class as a delay.
posted by scruss at 10:57 AM on August 5, 2014


A special shout out to I5 between Seattle and Portland. Routed to avoid any scenery, this stretch of freeway could exist anywhere that there are low hills and some industrial stretches of river. Meanwhile it is heavily peopled by drivers who are both slow and can barely get out of their own way. I've driven at least thousands of miles apiece in every region of the country except the southeast (and tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of miles in the Midwest), and there is no stretch of road I can think of which is, mile for mile, as tedious to drive.
posted by wotsac at 10:57 AM on August 5, 2014 [7 favorites]


Once you get to Indio, California it's just desert for the next 1,000 miles until you get to San Antonio on I-10.

After the "Highway Beautification" stuff from back in the 60s, the entire stretch is almost denuded of billboards and signs too.

Straight, hot, bazillions of huge trucks, scraggly desert shrubs...nothing to see here...move along...forever!
posted by CrowGoat at 10:58 AM on August 5, 2014


Bucksnort bucksnort Bucksnort bucksnort bucksnort bucksnort Bucksnort bucksnort.
posted by Naberius at 10:58 AM on August 5, 2014 [9 favorites]


Hwy 160 between Tuba City, AZ and Kayenta, AZ.

I've driven many many roads in my life, but that is by far the most treacherous and dangerous and frightening I have ever been on.

It's the only time in my life I have ever pulled off the road to let my nerves settle.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:00 AM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


BuckSnort, your discount cocaine superstore.
posted by dr_dank at 11:01 AM on August 5, 2014 [23 favorites]


I'll take I-70 in MO any day over the semi-truck clogged shit road that is I-44 from STL to Joplin. 14 years driving that route and I hate it more every time.
posted by stltony at 11:01 AM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


I-40 also runs through downtown Knoxville. A couple of years ago, Tennessee DOT decided to close I-40 for comprehensive repairs. Traffic armageddon was predicted and everybody kinda freaked out. And then it happened.

And by "it" I mean "nothing." DOT closed I-40 through Knoxville for almost two years, and there was no appreciable change in traffic elsewhere in the city. The predicted apocalypse just didn't materialize. Now we have safe interchanges and exits, new pavement, retaining walls and sound barriers, and the whole thing was done before schedule and under budget.

In conclusion, I-40 is a road of contrasts.
posted by workerant at 11:03 AM on August 5, 2014 [7 favorites]


I-10, ... from Tallahassee to Milton, FL.

Agreed, though I'd extend that all the way to Jacksonville. In other words, ALL of north Florida.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:03 AM on August 5, 2014


Split I-35 in Austin. Whoever the fuck thought that was a good idea probably never had an actual good idea in their life.

Yeah it sucks but, believe it or not, it's a vast improvement over what it replaced. At Airport Blvd there was the ONLY at-grade RR crossing in the entire 40,000 miles of the Interstate Highway System. You haven't lived (or nearly died) until the 18 wheeler you're following slams on his air brakes and jackknifes at 70 mph to keep from T-boning a freight train...
posted by jim in austin at 11:06 AM on August 5, 2014 [9 favorites]


At least I-44 is kinda pretty, apart from the meth and porn stores and puppy mills and anti-porn billboards, once you get into the karstic hills.

I'm sure the answer for a lot of people is some variant of "That kind of boring route I've had to take a lot." So I'll say I-95 once you head north of Jacksonville and the next actual city isn't until Virginia. Hey look! A pine tree! And a Stuckey's!

One time we passed through Roswell NM on US 380 heading back to Denton TX, and it wasn't quite stopping time so we figured we'd just stop at the next Super 8 or Motel 6 or similar. Turned out the next reasonable place to stop was our home, ~500 miles away.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:06 AM on August 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


My wife's family took a cross-country road trip when she was pretty small--complete with video of the floor of the car while they discussed the buffalo they'd just seen because my mother-in-law had the "on" and "off" buttons on the camcorder confused--and I'm sort of looking forward to doing that trip with my kids, too. Although I may be driven into Griswoldesque madness by the stretches described here.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:09 AM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'd take I-44 any time over I-70, if only for the scenery. The drivers on I-44 are also several levels less crazy than the ones on I-70, who seem to realize that the further west they drive the more desolate it will become, and this spurs them to a higher level of madness.

No mention of I-81 so far, woot, I suppose all that construction work has improved things some.

I used to drive I-40 regularly from Fort Smith to Knoxville and really never had much of a problem with it or the traffic. Sure, there was generally always at least one semi-truck crashed or otherwise sitting immobilized on the side of the road, but it wasn't terrible. The straight shot through Tennessee, from Memphis to Nashville, and then stretches of it toward Knoxville though is pretty boring.
posted by Atreides at 11:14 AM on August 5, 2014


There seems to be two very different definitions of Worst here:
1. Asshole drivers, massive delays, crumbling infrastructure
2. Nothing to look at

...the entire stretch is almost denuded of billboards and signs too.
You say that like it's a bad thing.
posted by MtDewd at 11:14 AM on August 5, 2014 [11 favorites]


I have driven all over this country, and the worst I've experienced by far is the I-95 corridor. The entire thing. It's terrible. I have never not sat motionless on it for an extended length of time at some point during whatever trip I'm taking. Plus there are miles and miles of the most irritating billboards possible in both directions advertising the disgusting South of the Border retail eyesore at the NC/SC border. After last year's Sunday-after-Thanksgiving nightmare I have sworn it off for all time, even if that means 25mph through small towns.
posted by something something at 11:18 AM on August 5, 2014 [9 favorites]


Also I don't really understand how you can have a list like this that doesn't just say "all of I-95, especially the Cross Bronx but really all of it."
posted by uncleozzy at 11:18 AM on August 5, 2014 [20 favorites]


I-80 through Nebraska is a special kind of hell. It takes a full day to drive through that state, no matter how fast the traffic is going, no matter how early you start, it will be a day.

That said, anyone who takes I-95 from New York to Boston is a damn fool who deserves their fate. I-84 and I-91 exist for a good reason. I-95 inside New York, well, may god have mercy on your soul.
posted by Hactar at 11:20 AM on August 5, 2014 [9 favorites]


I-95 from DC to Richmond or vice versa. Standstill traffic across 6 lanes at 1pm on a Sunday? Yep, because reasons. And all your gods help you if you believed the GPS when it said 2.5 hours to Baltimore.
posted by T.D. Strange at 11:22 AM on August 5, 2014 [25 favorites]


Hwy 160 between Tuba City, AZ and Kayenta, AZ.

I've driven many many roads in my life, but that is by far the most treacherous and dangerous and frightening I have ever been on.

It's the only time in my life I have ever pulled off the road to let my nerves settle.


In 25+ years of driving the only accident I have ever had happened in this stretch of road.
posted by bartonlong at 11:22 AM on August 5, 2014


Highway 26 in Washington goes straight through the Palouse region, which is nothing less than a giant 3D rendition of Bliss.jpg. If that's the worst highway Brian Floyd has driven then I envy him.
posted by theodolite at 11:22 AM on August 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


I quite like I-77 in West VA although the tolls took me by surprise when I first took it.

Route 29 outside Charlottesville and Route 3 outside Fredericksburg, both of which I had the misfortune to drive recently are concrete wastelands punctuated by brands and traffic lights. Just utterly depressing.
posted by idb at 11:23 AM on August 5, 2014


anyone who takes I-95 from New York to Boston is a damn fool who deserves their fate

It took me 7+ hours to get from Long Island to Providence once. It was one of the very few times that driving has reduced me to literal tears.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:23 AM on August 5, 2014


I-155 from Springfield to Peoria is a beautiful little bit of highway. It is a pork project whose sole purpose in the universe is to get state legislators in Springfield to and from Peoria quicker. It is beautifully-paved, beautifully-maintained, and there's hardly any traffic. It's boring, but there's always several oversized trucks hauling weird things who are taking it as a rarely-traveled route. And it ABSOLUTELY FLIES because the state troopers don't ticket because some ridiculous percentage of the car traffic is state legislators, their staffs, and politically-connected state employees. It isn't worth their time and the publicity. Like once a year they do a speed sting there and there's always a few state legislators who get hit going 90 and it's statewide news for three days and then back to normal.

I-40 over the Appalachian mountains is a little bit terrifying ... I was used to the West Virginia tollway's somewhat wider roads with gentler slopes. (The article dislikes it, but I-77 is a WAY BETTER way to cross the Appalachians than I-40. WAY BETTER. No comparison. And I have had to pull of I-77 because of weather conditions and spend the two nights snowed in a Days Inn next to a Wal-Mart. It's still better. And I-77/W.Va. Turnpike is so beautiful it'd be on my list of fave interstates to drive.) I-40 I had the pedal literally to the metal in my little sedan and the slopes were so steep I couldn't go any faster and there was ANGRY FAST SCARY TRUCKS barreling around curves and vision-obscuring mist. No thank you, I go around on state roads now.

I-90 Toledo to South Bend (from the article) is pretty execrable. But at least it's DRIVEABLE, unlike, say, I-65 from Gary to Louisville which sucks THE ENTIRE WAY, is ALWAYS under construction, and is equally as dull in terms of scenery ... except for the constant near-death experiences from trucks and drunks. I do always grumpily think to myself that the Ohio Toll Road (I-80) should have to pay ME $11.50 to drive it because IT TAKES FOR FUCKING EVER (Ohio is a Taft of a state) and IT IS SO BORING and I have to PAY for the privilege and it's just BETWEEN ME AND WHATEVER I WANT TO GET TO. (But I admit it is well-maintained and the service areas are clean and safe and have useful things. It's just so looooooooong.)

My personal standard for "terrible highways" is the Dan Ryan in Chicago in the 80s and 90s, when it was a pot-hole-y mess with a speed limit of 45 but you were always either sitting parked for an hour and a half sucking fumes from all the other cars, or driving it in the middle of the night when you couldn't see the damn pot holes coming. Plus left entrances and exits, and at the time I took drivers' ed, it had three of the most deadly interstate on-ramps in the top 10 for the whole country. It's better now.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:24 AM on August 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


Glad to see the Schuylkill Expressway on there.
posted by carter at 11:25 AM on August 5, 2014


40 comments in, many mentions of I-70, and somehow no mention of Breezewood?
posted by schmod at 11:26 AM on August 5, 2014 [14 favorites]


All highways are the worst highways in America. Get out of your car.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:27 AM on August 5, 2014 [10 favorites]


I-70 through Kansas is basically a five hour long discourse on the case against that state, which I can't really say for any other awful stretch of highway I'm familiar with.
posted by invitapriore at 11:28 AM on August 5, 2014


Glad to see the Schuylkill Expressway on there.

Yeah, it wouldn't even have occurred to me to think of it as a highway, since usually it's more like "a stretch of hell mysteriously tacked onto the side of this cliff face, decorated with cars valiantly striving to be mobile." I've been in traffic there at, like, three a.m. No sporting events, no fireworks displays, no concerts...just...I have no idea. Purgatory? I think it's actually Purgatory.
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:29 AM on August 5, 2014 [12 favorites]


>I-40 over the Appalachian mountains is a little bit terrifying

That stretch, coming south to Asheville, can get really fucking scary. We (my family) has done that stretch in snowstorms, going both ways, and when it's dry and daytime it's a beautiful drive. When it's dark and stormy, it's a scary, windy, white-knuckled run (too fast going down, and on icy days too slow going up) with big trucks and death around every turn.
posted by unknownmosquito at 11:30 AM on August 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


It's a cute idea, but it's hard to sympathize with the choices in the article. The US interstate highway system is one of the marvels of the modern world: not only is there a road in Wilmingon, North Carolina that leads without interruption for two thousand miles to Flagstaff, Arizona in two days' driving time, but there are equally high-quality roads between essentially every two cities in the country.

We have taken this marvel that our grandparents built and cheaped out on the maintenance until the road itself has rebelled and thrown people into the rivers. At the James River near Norfolk a six-lane highway squeezes into a four-lane bridge and tunnel, and people are mystified about why traffic backs up for ten miles in both directions and blame the "cowards" who slow down at the tunnel entrance. But the "worst highway in America" is a broad, rural river valley where the smallest towns have funny names? The mountain road where a broke 21-year-old was able to get through a winter storm without quite running out of gas or playing all of his tolls? Long, boring miles through endless fields of food growing straight out of the ground on its way to your grocery shelf with no manual labor required on your part? Hard to take seriously.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 11:30 AM on August 5, 2014 [32 favorites]


I-70 through Kansas is basically a five hour long discourse on the case against that state, which I can't really say for any other awful stretch of highway I'm familiar with.

I-70 convinced my husband to never, ever, ever drive across the country like that again. He would rather sell the car then drive through Kansas. The only bright spot was a handpainted billboard for Dr. Joe, who appeared to be selling sports physicals out of a barn, and also maybe snake oil.
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:31 AM on August 5, 2014


Invitapriore - how fast were you driving? Four hundred twenty miles, plus another hundred twenty in Colorado, you musta been goin' awful fast.

Me, I've told the story before, but I got pulled over for doing the speed limit in Kansas.
posted by notsnot at 11:33 AM on August 5, 2014


The leg of I-5 from Bakersfield to LA is actually one of the better parts of that drive, since there's actually something going on and plenty of lanes. Getting from Sacramento to that point is terrible nothingness, and two lanes going each direction wouldn't be bad except that it's California so while your speed limit is 70 the truck speed limit is 55, which means that you basically have two single lanes that happen to be next to each other, and even that is pushing it if one semi decides to pass another.
posted by ckape at 11:38 AM on August 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


Driving is terrible. I want my robo-cars or transporters or whatever it would take to make me having to drive long distances go away. If they could put in some sort of whatzit that stabilizes things enough that reading in the car doesn't make me carsick, then I would be golden.
posted by emjaybee at 11:40 AM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


Once you get to Indio, California it's just desert for the next 1,000 miles until you get to San Antonio on I-10.

And some of us like it that way.

Though I'll grant there are more interesting ways to traverse Texas from El Paso if you're not in a hurry, either the long detour on 180 past the Guadalupes to Carlsbad and back down or the one on US 90 through Alpine to Del Rio.
posted by Creosote at 11:40 AM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


I knew this was going to little more than a list of "things that piss me off about that highway I have to drive on everyday." But I got to say, that guy nailed the time warp aspect of the highway between Memphis and Nashville. I've driven that route probably 10 or so times both ways, and I've always notices and commented upon how it induces some weird hypnotic/fugue state that seems to take much, much longer than it appears on the pre-trip driving plan. I'm not sure that's because it is a bad highway as much as it because the repetitive scenery almost feels like a treadmill.

If you go with straight "the actual paved road is shit to drive on", in my experience, the winner would have to be one of the many highways I drove on in Louisiana. It's like they paved them one time in the 60's and decided they were done ever doing anything about them again.
posted by dios at 11:41 AM on August 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


I just got back from a literal third-world country* which had better roads in the rural backcountry (Kanchanaburi on the way to Myanmar) than the roads in the core of the very large US city I live in. I may be able to drive from the ocean to Dallas on the 45 or all the way across the country to LA on the 10 (not so lucky me, on both counts) but damned if I wouldn't exchange that for a functioning local highway system.

Also, the 29 from Grand Forks to Fargo is kind of terrible but only because it takes forever (longest hour and change of your life, every time) and the only redeeming feature is that the onramps have gates to close them in bad weather.

*used only for hyperbole; substitute 'developing country' if you prefer
posted by librarylis at 11:43 AM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


Since awful highways are way too numerous to mention, I-40 from Old Fort, NC to just past the TN border is pretty interesting. Also if you head south from there, there are a ton of great mountain roads — NC 107 to Cashiers, NC 281, NC 215 (part of which is freshly paved), Tail of the Dragon a little further west, just a ton of beautiful scenery and roads where driving is interesting and enjoyable.
posted by indubitable at 11:43 AM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


I see your paltry east coast interstate nightmares and raise you US HWY 2 from Minot ND to Cut Bank MT. Minot to the MT/ND border takes you right through the Bakken oil rush, featuring tanker trucks and fleets of white pickups driven by young meth addicts who think nothing of pulling into oncoming traffic. From the border to Cut Bank you will see a stretch of unmitigated boredom that will make above mentioned stretches of Kansas and Nebraska seem like a drive through Big Sur. You will wish you were back fighting for your life in North Dakota. Almost.
posted by Ber at 11:44 AM on August 5, 2014 [8 favorites]


Also fun: figuring out the Sacramento area freeways. There's Interstate 80, there's 50/80/ "Business 80", there's more than one "Interstate 80 Reno" exit to completely confuse you while driving if you don't already know the area and where you are going...
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:45 AM on August 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


A couple of months ago we drove I-40 from Albuquerque to L.A. (well, to Barstow, technically), with heavy winds all the way across New Mexico and Arizona. If there is anything as terrifying as being surrounded on all sides by 18-wheelers fishtailing at 80 miles an hour, I don't want to know what it is.
posted by scody at 11:46 AM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


If the Cross Bronx Expressway, the Long Island Expressway and the New Jersey Turnpike are not on this list, the list need be updated. I would add the DC Beltway too. I also spent the longest day of my life trying to get from O'Hare to downtown near the Dan Ryan and will always take the train from now on regardless.
posted by 724A at 11:47 AM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


I-95 between Ft. Lee, NJ and CT. Also known as the George Washington Black Hole Bridge

This should get a lot better once Chris Christie is no longer in office. Ha ha ha!

In all seriousness, if you just avoid rush hours, the GWB isn't that bad. I've crossed it without delay a half-dozen times in the last year. The Manhattan crossing is by no means the worst stretch of I-95 for horrible traffic (I know that's a really low bar).
posted by aught at 11:48 AM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


I drove I-40 many many times between Little Rock and Durham when I was in college. I literally got on I-40 two miles from my house, drove I-40 for 860 miles, and got off about 2 miles from school.

Memphis to Nashville is bad. Little Rock to Memphis is worse. The road is in considerably worse shape, and there is literally nothing but soybean and rice fields. And mosquitos hitting your windshield.

Between Nashville and Knoxville, the scenery becomes half-decent, but you don't have time to look at it because you are too busy scanning for state troopers, county sheriffs, and local police at every overpass.

The drive down the mountains to Asheville is actually beautiful, but again, no time to look because you'll end up crashed off the side of the road. I've always wanted to see a big semi on one of those runaway truck ramps.

Asheville to Durham is okay as far as interstate systems go, except for the inevitable traffic jam in Greensboro.

The only redeeming factor in that 14 hour drive is the sheer number of Cracker Barrels you can choose from.
posted by mbd1mbd1 at 11:49 AM on August 5, 2014


I would say:
1. that one stretch of, I think, either the Dan Ryan or the 90 or both, (I've lived here for 5 years and the names of Chicago highways are still gibberish to me) that's always backed up, day or night.


2. I95 going through New Jersey and the tangle of highways near NY that I always manage to get lost on, every time.

Usability trumps aesthetics.
posted by bleep at 11:51 AM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


I-66 inside the Capital Beltway in Northern Virginia gets my vote. Traffic jams, lousy-to-nonexistent signage, constant construction, it's got it all. My favorite part is when headed south on that road, well inside Virginia, you see a monster sign telling you how to get to Baltimore. Not Dulles or Reston or Front Royal or Charlottesville -- Baltimore, 50 miles in the opposite direction and all the way on the other side of the Capital Beltway and Washington DC.

I pity the wayward travelers to DC who make the fundamental mistake of renting a car and trying to use I-66 to get into or out of DC. I-666 is more like it.
posted by CosmicRayCharles at 11:51 AM on August 5, 2014 [6 favorites]


I like hearing stories like this because I know driverless cars are coming and all of these complaints are like listening to people complaining about the discomforts of taking the stagecoach. You'll get into your car and watch a couple of movies or get some sleep or play the guitar or write a novel, maybe with a programmed stop for food and bathroom and stretching your legs along the way, and emerge at the end of the trip as if from a cocoon. Cars will be built like mobile entertainment and work centers. No one will ever get lost.

You won't even notice the highway unless you set the program to sightseeing mode, which will tell you when to pull up the shades and look out the windows. "To your right, the Rocky Mountains, which were once a major obstacle to transcontinental travelers. [...] On your left, a 'gas station' preserved just like in the days of the gasoline-powered automobile. Back in those days, a 'driver', with no computer assistance at all, would guide a car up to one of these stations and pump a large quantity of highly explosive fuel into a tank slung under car."
posted by pracowity at 11:55 AM on August 5, 2014 [7 favorites]


66 isn't that bad at all, outside of rush hour. Compared to the unending hell-scape that is all of northern virginia traffic, it can be quite nice.
posted by empath at 11:56 AM on August 5, 2014


the sheer number of Crackers Barrels you can choose from.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:58 AM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'll always hate I-35 between Oklahoma City and Dallas, but that's chiefly because my band was trying to get to Austin for a show in December and an ice storm turned that whole stretch into a frozen apocalyptic hellscape (no salt down there) and we were ultimately forced to spend the night in Jacksboro, TX, conveniently located in a dry county.
posted by evisceratordeath at 11:59 AM on August 5, 2014


Jon Bois ... home of Walton's Mountain
posted by GallonOfAlan at 12:02 PM on August 5, 2014


Nthing I-95. I went to school in NC, parents were in NJ, so I was making at least three round trip trips a year, sometimes more, on that road.

My favorite was coming back the Sunday after Thanksgiving. In the car were me, my friend who also went to school in NC, and a friend who went to school in Baltimore. It took a grand total of 7 hours to get to from NJ to Baltimore, including 3 hours to cross the Delaware bridge (while in line for the toll booths, we listened to an entire episode of Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me), and about 14 hours to get to NC, and that was only because the person driving (not me) felt OK with pushing the "never speed in VA rule" once we were south of Richmond.

When we got in, close to midnight, I got to my then boyfriend's house, burst into tears, and then ran to the bathroom to throw up thanks to a combination of Delaware-Rest-Area-Sbarro's and car sickness. It was a wonderful time.

I now regularly do the Ohio to NJ drive (also chronicled in "Bossypants". Tina Fey and I have something in common!), and while I-80 through the middle of PA is boring at times, at least it's not 95.
posted by damayanti at 12:12 PM on August 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


I've made that I-40 drive maybe 75 times. It's boring, but not at all earth-shatteringly so.

I-40 is a delightful, highly varied drive built on a fine road in excellent condition and chockablock of terrific attractions... at least when compared to the drive down I-57 or I-55 to Carbondale. That drive is so awful, through such crappy towns, with so little to see that every time I take that route, I honestly consider just stopping in front of a particularly hopeless-looking person and saying, "Get in. Today is the day you escape."
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:13 PM on August 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


notsnot: "Invitapriore - how fast were you driving? Four hundred twenty miles, plus another hundred twenty in Colorado, you musta been goin' awful fast.

Me, I've told the story before, but I got pulled over for doing the speed limit in Kansas.
"

Ha, I wasn't including the part of Colorado that is really still Kansas, so it wasn't that insane, and it may have been more in the 5.5–6 hour range, but I'm pretty sure I maintained a good 80mph clip through there. Can't make it go fast enough, I say, and it only gets worse the more times I do it.
posted by invitapriore at 12:16 PM on August 5, 2014


There's a stretch of I-65 somewhere near Gary that is responsible for forcing me to pull over and have a little mini-freakout in my car in the middle of the night. I'd been driving from Atlanta to Chicago for some ungodly number of hours, surrounded by trucks in the right lane forced to limit to 65 while assholes tailgated me in the left lane doing 90. And it was dark and raining and I was just loopy with it all.

And then there's this slight curve, the first slight curve for a long long time in that shitheel of a state on that shitheel of a highway, and out of NOWHERE these hundreds of blinking red lights appear, hovering just too low to be radio towers, blinking, blinking, blinking, in this vast dark alien hellscape that goes as far as you can see in every direction.

I pulled off at the next exit and spontaneously had a nap in a church parking lot, and after that I made it to Chicago in one piece. Found out on the drive back -- in daylight -- that the lights were on truly massive wind turbines ... that weren't much better since they look like the aliens from War of the Worlds.

But fuck I-65 at night and those blinking red lights.
posted by none of these will bring disaster at 12:19 PM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


All highways are the worst highways in America. Get out of your car.

But be sure you've pulled off the highway first, or you'll get run over.

Anyway, that's just silly and unhelpful advice - what, we should all go back to prairie schooners maybe?
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:21 PM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'll always hate I-35 between Oklahoma City and Dallas,

It sucks north of OKC, too. That whole stretch between Wichita and Dallas is...

Well, at least sometimes there are thunderstorms to watch.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:22 PM on August 5, 2014


That said, anyone who takes I-95 from New York to Boston is a damn fool who deserves their fate. I-84 and I-91 exist for a good reason. I-95 inside New York, well, may god have mercy on your soul.

I think this statement is too broad. I completely agree about I-95--but only for the stretch between NYC and New Haven. Once you get east of New Haven, the drive is usually reasonably pleasant--until you hit crazy traffic patterns in Providence. And my experiences on I-84, particularly from Hartford to Danbury have been nightmarish. Picture this: It is FRIDAY afternoon/early evening in JULY--meaning high vacation season. You are trying to get over to the Catskills to rock climb on the weekend. And the state of Connecticut decides to SHUT DOWN ALL LANES on 84 in the Danbury area to PAVE THE ENTIRE Highway. This causes a back up FROM DANBURY TO HARTFORD. And by backup, I don't mean we are slowly moving. I mean we are stopped and relaxing in the median strip-think little picnics to pass the time--for many many hours! We later learned that yes, they were paving all lanes at the same time and were literally allowing the traffic to progress once the blacktop cooled sufficiently--or something like that. I have never seen anything like this in my life. I have never forgiven the state of CT for allowing such a thing to happen.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 12:23 PM on August 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


I've driven every inch of I-10 at least twice, and I've driven most of it at least 5 times. San Antonio to El Paso has a few things going for it -- road-cuts through the limestone are quite the geology field trip, and there's some semi-interesting towns, if you get off for gas. Sonora is a shit-hole, but I actually like Ozona. That's where it gets bad though. From SA to Ozona, you have a town every 30 or so miles to sort of pace your trip, them bam -- it's like 112 to Fort Stockton, which trust me, is no destination. Fortunately, the last of the almost-boundless Edwards plateau pretty quickly gives way to the Davis mountains, & Balmorhea is a tiny paradise, if you've got time for a swim.

I can't say much about the stretch west of El Paso because all my trips over it were way back in The Before Time called The Seventies, but I recall liking the desert overall. Except I think I almost died of heat stroke west of Phoenix one July, in a black '55 Chevy without AC. This is not a stretch of road for weaklings, by my memory.

San Antonio to Houston is pretty meh, until you get near Houston, then there they come -- the black SUVs & red sports cars, going 95, and dodging the slower cars, like it's a motherfucking video game. East of Houston, I-10 is divided into sections of mini-hells, each one with its own different hellish qualities. The initial stretch to Port Arthur is marked by a distinct lack of exits for anything, and has been under construction since the Lincoln administration.

From the Louisiana to Mobile is a featureless stretch of coastal plains, featuring piney woods, broken only by a couple of landmarks. One is the causeway over the swamp. Do not break down or run out of gas here, because 20-mile bridge over alligators. Another is an "interesting" series of 90º turns in Baton Rouge, just east of the craziest, highest, steepest bridge in the world. It wakes you up from the causeway, though. Then there's the temptation of the New Orleans exit, which breaks my heart each time I pass it, opting instead for Slidell, which I don't believe to actually exist. Also the casino billboards, my god.

East of Mobile, you get into the low undulating sandhills of the Florida panhandle. And it goes on and on just like the flat piney woods. Exits announce towns that again, I don't think exist. Has anyone ever actually seen Pensacola or Tallahassee? I thought not. It flattens out a bit east of 75 into-- you guessed it -- piney woods, all the way to Jacksonville where the Great Global Girdle simply runs out of land.

We're flying to the kid's graduation in Melbourne next spring -- I can't face that road again.
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:30 PM on August 5, 2014 [9 favorites]


Anyway, that's just silly and unhelpful advice - what, we should all go back to prairie schooners maybe?

Yes, that's clearly the only option. Thank you for serious and helpful response.
posted by entropicamericana at 12:35 PM on August 5, 2014


I notice nobody in the thread has had anything bad to say about Nevada's highways so far. I'm pretty sure Nevada's economy is composed entirely of two economic drivers: Las Vegas and Federal Highway Funds. When I had occasion to drive across the state once, it seemed like a good half the population (I guess the half that wasn't working in the casinos) was out there with hard hats and pickups and graders working on the roads. You'd drive five miles then slow down for a construction zone for five miles. Five miles open, five miles of construction.

In the stretches where there was no construction going on, the edge of the shoulder was still lined with orange striped plastic barrels - because why bother to collect them and bring them in when you're just going to be repaving that section of highway again next week anyway? Just leave them there and we'll move them back out into the lane when we come back. Save us some time.

But I have to say, you could fucking eat off those roads. They were cherry from border to border.
posted by Naberius at 12:46 PM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


I mean, take this comment from earlier. [Emphasis mine]
And by "it" I mean "nothing." DOT closed I-40 through Knoxville for almost two years, and there was no appreciable change in traffic elsewhere in the city.The predicted apocalypse just didn't materialize. Now we have safe interchanges and exits, new pavement, retaining walls and sound barriers yt , and the whole thing was done before schedule and under budget.
(Incidentally, this is not an unusual phenomenon when freeways are demolished. [Warning: Freakonomics link] (Turns out.))

So if there was no appreciable change in traffic in the city, why bother re-opening I-40 at all? Why not build a neighborhood there instead?
posted by entropicamericana at 12:48 PM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Guessing, but I suspect the trucking industry has something to do with it.
posted by box at 12:52 PM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


A glib response, to be sure, but are we really going to continue to hold our cities hostage to 4.3% of highway vehicles?
posted by entropicamericana at 12:55 PM on August 5, 2014


I-80/90 through indiana and ohio isn't that bad - come on, elkhart's got the RV HALL OF FAME!!

hmm - never mind

but my nomination for the worst highway is a seasonal one - I-94 from albion to chicago in the winter

slow down for ice and snow? who the hell does that? we're superman, we can drive as fast as we want, even if we're trucks who regularly drive at 70-75 mph

why is the traffic all backed up?

and then there's the delightful days when it's sunny in battle creek - a little snowy in kalamazoo - and pure winter blizzard hell from benton harbor (or paw paw) all the way to gary

if you're driving I-94 during the winter be very aware that the weather you get midstate is not always the weather you get near the lake

there are backroads along 1-94 and US 131 - i strongly suggest taking them if the weather gets bad - the roads may be snowier, but you won't be driving them with hundreds of insane idiots
posted by pyramid termite at 12:56 PM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


DOT closed I-40 through Knoxville for almost two years

For the record, I did no such thing.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:56 PM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


out of NOWHERE these hundreds of blinking red lights appear, hovering just too low to be radio towers, blinking, blinking, blinking, in this vast dark alien hellscape that goes as far as you can see in every direction.

There's a wind farm along I-35 somewhere in northern Iowa just like this (I think it's even near one of the two times along that entire stretch between Des Moines and Minneapolis where the road turns). I always felt the opposite about it, though; it was nice to see at night when we'd do the quiz bowl tournament runs to Ames or Iowa City in college. Mostly because it was the only thing to look at along the way. Stand tall, soldiers.

80/90 between Toledo and South Bend really is the worst, though, especially in winter when you never know if you'll hit a random band of white-out lake effect that you have to drive through because there's nowhere to stop.
posted by jackflaps at 12:58 PM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


This post is pretty much bringing Coals to Newcastle, innit?
posted by clvrmnky at 1:02 PM on August 5, 2014


These are not Interstates, nevertheless, I named the interchange from the S202 eastbound to the S101 northbound outside Phoenix "The Grinder"

At approximately 7 in the morning on any weekday, you and several fellow contestants are swooping left at 70+ through the gloom, turning to the north when all of a sudden, traffic from westbound S202 joins in on the right and you all surge up to the top of a slight hill where on the other side... a sea of brakelights.

Or not. Because there is no way to predict traffic on the other side of that hill and because the demons massed on either side of you are demanding speed or promising unpleasantness, all you can do is hold your breath and ignore the sickening feeling as you top that slight rise. Every. Damn. Time.
posted by mmrtnt at 1:02 PM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


I used to live in Salina. Grew up there. I also drove the shkuhll expressway (which im not gonna bother to spell right) for a few months, I consider Philadelphia worse by a wide margin.
posted by hellojed at 1:04 PM on August 5, 2014


I-40 is either the best highway or the worst, depending on your tolerance for Brak.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:04 PM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


For a little more counterprogramming in the thread:

I-15 between Mesquite, NV and St. George, UT goes through a tiny sliver of Arizona, through some cliffs and canyons. A surprisingly beautiful drive, especially in contrast to the previous 250 miles of the I-15.

Most especially late afternoon during monsoon season and the clouds and the sunset and the rain off in the distance and well I think you have the idea.
posted by chimaera at 1:05 PM on August 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


> I notice nobody in the thread has had anything bad to say about Nevada's highways so far.

I live in Las Vegas and I agree, the highways are decent. The problem is the drivers.

I believe there are basically three groups.

1 - Normal local commuters and sensible folk

2 - Tourists and new arrivals who are absolutely clueless and wander mindlessly from shoulder-to-shoulder agog at the fact that they are actually in Las Vegas!

3 - Impatient, inconsiderate psychopaths who hate group #2 with a searing passion who routinely snap and hop curbs, drive down medians or use their horns in an attempt to shape traffic to their desire.

Otherwise, outside of the Strip itself, traffic is fairly benign and you'll rarely wait through more than one traffic-light cycle, ever.

posted by mmrtnt at 1:15 PM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


OMG the 101 anywhere in Northern California. Especially the part between San Francisco and, let's say, Cloverdale. For a pre-taste of hell, if you're going in that direction, try leaving Novato at say, 3 p.m. on Friday afternoon and head north to Petaluma. If you're lucky, you'll make the 8-mile journey in under an hour....
posted by Lynsey at 1:19 PM on August 5, 2014


And my experiences on I-84, particularly from Hartford to Danbury have been nightmarish.

Avoidable if you take the Merritt Parkway to I-91. The Merritt is a crapshoot, though: sometimes it's pleasant, sometimes it's a parking lot, and sometimes it's a crazed deathrace with coked-up maniacs whose soulless bodies seem to crave nothing but high-speed death behind the wheels of their BMWs.

You pays your money (actually not, probably if they were toll roads they wouldn't suck as much) and you takes your choice.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:26 PM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


In college and for a number of years afterwards, we would do a yearly ski trip from central IL to CO. I think that I-70 west of Topeka is just about the most mind numbing piece of road I've ever been on. Glad it made the list. We used to time our trip so that we'd reach Kansas at about midnight, and then you could fly through the state at 90+ mph after Topeka. Even then, it felt like it took forever.

Fortunately I now make enough money where I can just fly to CO and rent a car. Haven't done that drive in years, and I don't miss it a bit.

I never had to drive the Dan Ryan before all the construction in the mid '00, but my sister was up at the University of Chicago then. The Dan Ryan during construction was a special kind of nightmare; one that frequently took me to Indiana because I accidentally ended up on the goddamn Skyway. Now it's a comparative dream.

Probably the worst bit of driving I do (and I don't drive much) is the Circle Interchange in Chicago. It's only a short stretch, but the frustration/length ratio is incredibly high. I've never been on it when traffic wasn't backed up. 3am in the morning and there are still traffic jams. In 2010 it was rated as having the worst congestion for trucks in the US.
posted by sbutler at 1:33 PM on August 5, 2014


I absolutely detest I-95 from Boston to New York.

95/128 from Boston to the southern junction at Norwood is the highway equivalent of the chariot races in Ben-Hur, Rhode Island is all right though Providence is a weird little traffic dance, the post-industrial Connecticut coast absolutely depresses me especially around New Haven and Bridgeport, Fairfield County on the whole is an elevated 8-lane morass, Westchester County looks all right but those service plazas are horrendous (I know they were at least designed to be clean, once).

You have a brief moment to catch your breath around Co-Op City before diving into the Cross-Bronx Expressway, a claustrophobic nightmare because Robert Moses, who never drove anywhere himself, had the brilliant idea of shoving six lanes down into a 25-foot cut with plenty of narrow overpasses to keep it fun.

Your reward for making it through this interminable slog is the George Washington Bridge and the New Jersey Turnpike. Yay!!

When I'm heading west from Boston for southern points such as Virginia or North Carolina, I will do anything possible to avoid taking I-95 through New York. I have two ways to bypass it: The first route is I-90 to I-84 through Connecticut, then taking the Saw Mill River Parkway over to the Tappan Zee Bridge, but as Seymour Zamboni noted above, Connecticut takes lessons from PennDOT and can do absolutely bonkers things to the road while people are trying to drive on it. Post-industrial Hartford and Waterbury are also depressing to drive through, but at least the traffic isn't as bad as 95 most of the time. The Saw Mill has its own unique challenges; the entrances were designed in the days of 35-mph driving so you don't have any time or distance to merge at current speed, for example, but it's only slightly less psychologically damaging than the Cross-Bronx.

The other, slightly more time-consuming route is to simply take the Pike all the way across Massachusetts into upstate New York, then cutting down the Taconic Parkway to the Tappan Zee and reluctantly taking the Garden State Parkway to the NJ Turnpike. I love the Taconic. It is one of my favorite roads to drive since there are no trucks and it's a fun, curving road and they've taken most of the grade crossings out so it ain't as dangerous as it used to be.

I-95 through New Jersey and Washington ain't no great thing, either; the New Jersey Turnpike is what it is, the Meadowlands stink to high heaven, and the stretch of 95 before and after Baltimore is an unavoidable disgusting mess. I've seen motorcycles race through stop-and-go traffic. I've seen people urinating out of discreetly-opened doors in completely stopped traffic. I do not recommend having a caffeine come-down around there.

My Boston-to-VA/NC border best is just under 13 hours, and while the worst parts of the journey were taken in the very very early morning, at least two of those hours were spent in stop-and-go traffic. But when you have to be at a funeral, you have to be at a funeral, so.
posted by Spatch at 1:38 PM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


DirtyOldTown: "I-40 is a delightful, highly varied drive built on a fine road in excellent condition and chockablock of terrific attractions... at least when compared to the drive down I-57 or I-55 to Carbondale. That drive is so awful, through such crappy towns, with so little to see "

One year instead of taking I-65 back up from wherever we were coming back from, my dad decided to take us over into Illinois and up I-57, probably upon the realization that none of his offspring had every been south of I-80 despite living in Illinois their entire lives. We looked out the window for five minutes when we crossed the state border and then we were like, "That's great, dad," and went back to reading our books. I have vivid memories of my father repeatedly hectoring us for the next FIVE HOURS, going, "THIS IS THE BEST FARMLAND IN THE WORLD, WHY AREN'T YOU LOOKING OUT THE WINDOWS?" "IT ALL LOOKS THE SAME, DAD! IT'S ALL CORN!" In fact whenever any one of my siblings complains about a boring trip, one of the others of us will shout at them, "BEST FARMLAND IN THE WORLD!" and then we all crack up.

I am, as we all know, MeFi's largest advocate of the beauties and wonders of corn country, and I truly do enjoy the beauty of the Midwestern landscape, but when you're on an interstate so the road never changes, and then the scenery never changes ... well, three hours is plenty of that.

(This is also one of the problems with I-95 in southern Virginia, the trees are so thick on both sides of the road ... deliberately, I think, to shield it from the towns, that you see NOTHING for hours on end. Parts of I-40 in North Carolina are like this too, NOTHING BUT BERMS for a hundred miles. So dull.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:51 PM on August 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


I live in Memphis and I grew up in Middle Tennessee, where my family still lives. I drive on that stretch of I-40 multiple times per year, usually around the holidays when the traffic is particularly heavy. My advice to all road travellers in Tennessee: Unless you are specifically going to Nashville, stay as far away from Nashville as possible.
posted by vibrotronica at 1:52 PM on August 5, 2014


I seem to recall there not being a whole lot of anything on I-26 between the NC/SC line and I-95.
posted by Gev at 1:56 PM on August 5, 2014


what, we should all go back to prairie schooners maybe?

Yes, that's clearly the only option. Thank you for serious and helpful response.


If you're being serious, add some substance to the rather desultory "get out of your car" sound byte and allow for some discussion. In the meantime glibness usually begets glibness, you've been around Metafilter long enough to know that.
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:02 PM on August 5, 2014


Eyebrows McGee: "...unlike, say, I-65 from Gary to Louisville which sucks THE ENTIRE WAY, is ALWAYS under construction, and is equally as dull in terms of scenery ... except for the constant near-death experiences from trucks and drunks.

I-65 between Gary and Indianapolis is much better now that they installed all of the windmills around Lafayette. That used to be a terribly boring drive.

My personal standard for "terrible highways" is the Dan Ryan in Chicago in the 80s and 90s, when it was a pot-hole-y mess with a speed limit of 45 but you were always either sitting parked for an hour and a half sucking fumes from all the other cars..."

The first time I drove a manual transmission was on a hot day on the Dan Ryan in stop and go traffic in 1987. That was a rough day.

For those who don't know, the Dan Ryan (I-94) goes through the south side of Chicago in a 14 foot deep trench. The smell from the humongous active landfill it passed in the 70s and 80s defies description. There cannot be a worse stretch of interstate than it was at that time. The speed limit was 45. The actual speed was 0 or 85.
posted by double block and bleed at 2:06 PM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Spatch, back when I drove from the edge of Ohio to Boston via NYC on a regular basis, I sometimes found myself splitting the difference and taking I-91 to Springfield and then driving on the turnpike. I've hit traffic on 84, but I don't remember ever seeing any on 91. Of course, that just means that the first person who follows this advice will find that the CT DOT has decided to reroute it via New London via some truly horrific crimes against time, geometry and nature.

I feel I should also mention a contender not for worst highway, but for worst interchange- trying to stay on I-76 around Harisburg, PA. You have to switch highways multiple times to stay on the same road. There is a special place in hell for whoever came up with that.
posted by Hactar at 2:17 PM on August 5, 2014


Nothing can be worse than I-95 between DC and Richmond, in particular the stretch between DC and Fredericksburg. Rush "hour" on that part of the highway is from May-October, continuous. Interstate driving in other places may be boring, but at least you're moving.

There was the time I spent 6 hours driving to Richmond from Arlington, or 5 hours back to Fredericksburg just coming home from work in DC.

The horror.. the horror....
posted by smoothvirus at 2:18 PM on August 5, 2014 [6 favorites]


I think we can all agree that interstate driving sucks. What is the old saying about driving on interstates? Something like "drive across your country without seeing it."

One time while driving north on I-65 on our way to Chicago and we topped a hill and all we could see in front of us was a parade of tractor trailers. I noticed that there was a state highway running roughly parallel to the interstate. We got on that and we were almost the only car on the road. And it was a pretty drive through small towns and farming communities. It may have taken an hour longer but it was fun.
posted by zzazazz at 2:19 PM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


In the alternative to worse, I-64 is one of my happiest interstates to drive on. It's sandwiched between the "northern routes" and the "southern routes" and with the exception of some construction around Louisville and occasionally, Huntington, is a pretty smooth ride from St. Louis to Charlottesville (or Richmond). It merges with I-81 just north of Lexington and that's pretty much the only time you really have to deal with semi-truck traffic. The only downside is that you do have a toll after Charleston, but it isn't much and you cut through the mountains south of the West Virginia capital and pop out at Tamarak which has great food for what amounts to a high end truck stop filled with handmade crafts of West Virginia and Appalachia, as a whole. Once you disengage from 81, you climb over Afton Mountain, which now with fog lamps installed, rarely has dozens of cars pile ups from weather, and then cruise on beautifully paved roads to C'ville or onward to Richmond. I won't vouch for it past Richmond, but it's by far, one of my favorite interstates.
posted by Atreides at 2:22 PM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


I drove out West about 10-12 years ago, from Illinois to Vancouver, WA.

I had never driven in the mountains, so I spent a lot of time picking a route that would keep me away from the worst passes.

I drove I-70 in Kansas, and I remember some weird badlands and tumbleweeds. I was like, "oooh, a tumbleweed, look!" And then I realized they could blow out of the median ditch at any time, in front of me, and started white-knuckling the steering wheel. Kind of like this.

Took 24 into Colorado Springs, and the grade was pretty gentle. It got me off of I-70!

Somehow ended up driving through the Blue Mountains in Oregon at night, which is probably for the best, as if I had seen what I was driving through (Deadman's Pass, no thanks), I would have been freaking out a lot more. I did see the slope down into the Columbia Gorge at dawn, which was pretty awesome. Would do it again if I were a passenger and on Valium.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 2:25 PM on August 5, 2014


The leg of I-5 from Bakersfield to LA is actually one of the better parts of that drive, since there's actually something going on and plenty of lanes. Getting from Sacramento to that point is terrible nothingness...

Agreed...as an Angeleno the drive up the 5 through the Tejon pass and down to the grapevine is pretty nice once you get past Santa Clarita. There is quite a lot of history in that area and the rolling hills are gorgeous. The tejon ranch area was one of the last strongholds of the grizzly bear and the San Joaquin valley just to the right as you drive through the grapevine was the first indian reservation in California and one of the first in the US. San Emigdio canyon to the west of Gorman was a major trail in the early days and there is a lot of pretty terrain to look at. Once you get down into the San Joaquin though...pretty much all of it sucks as far up as Sacramento. Like 6 or 7 hours of pure flat hell with nothing to look at but industrial farms and tea-party billboards. Here is what William H. Brewer had to say about that part of the San Joaquin in 1864:

"...The day was hot, as usual, but not so clear. The mountains were invisible through the dusty air; the perfectly level plain stretched away on every side to the horizon, and seemed as boundless and as level as the ocean. It is, in fact, sixty miles wide at this place, and neither tree, nor bush, nor house breaks the monotony. Thus we slowly plodded our weary way over it, league after league, day after day. During the entire day we saw beyond us, behind us, sometimes all around, the deceitful mirage...heated air, and not cool water, we find in its place..."

Not much has really changed in 150 years or so as far as the drudgery. It used to all be alkali flats but now its mega-farms. There still remains nothing to charm the eye. 6 or 7 hours by car feels like a soul-crushing eternity through this boring region....I can't even imagine what it would have been like on the back of a horse.
posted by jnnla at 2:35 PM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


"Since no one who likes Nashville has ever liked Memphis, and no one who likes Memphis has ever liked Nashville."

Alright, this guy checks out.

Though, I agree with above. Any stretch of I-40 in Arkansas is worse than anything on a Tennessee stretch of the same. Not even homerism, although I've driven Knoxville-Memphis stretch God knows how many times. I can't deny it can kind of be a redneck hellscape with one or two comically-hillbilly place names, but it's also at least generally tree lines, with some hills, and even a stretch across the Tennessee River. And, generally speaking, the roads are at least well maintained because for some reason TDOT* apparently has the budget of mid sized nation's armed forces.

Memphis to Little Rock, at least, is just dreadful. Every time I've done that stretch - admittedly less - the roads were in terrible condition and the scenery is nothing but infinite rice and soybean fields on land you know where the -Kansas part of the name comes from. I mean, it even makes sure to break hard south at Little Rock because we wouldn't accidentally going through some beautiful mountains or state parks.


(*AKA: "Total Destruction of Tennessee")
posted by absalom at 2:41 PM on August 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


I have one good memory of the last time I drove from Boston to NYC on I-95. I saw a Fung Wah bus going in my direction and continually changing lanes, majestically and gracefully, slowly progressing further and further ahead of my car. The driver clearly had skills.

I learned about the Merritt on that trip and haven't driven I-95 since.
posted by A dead Quaker at 2:42 PM on August 5, 2014


schmod: 40 comments in, many mentions of I-70, and somehow no mention of Breezewood?

Also known as a textbook case of how federalism goes awry. I'm sure the owners of those restaurants and convenience stores will sleep just fine tonight, but they shouldn't.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:44 PM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


I-44 in Oklahoma is actually pretty okay. Because 80mph limit.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:47 PM on August 5, 2014


I-81 in Virginia from Bristol north. Your tiny car and EVERY 18-wheeler in the country. Good luck to you.
posted by eviltwin at 2:56 PM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's Breezewood that I'm remembering, not Harrisburg. Thank you.

I am now going to go on smugly living a car-free existence.
posted by Hactar at 3:17 PM on August 5, 2014


It took me 7+ hours to get from Long Island to Providence once. It was one of the very few times that driving has reduced me to literal tears.

Eight hours to get from Boston to Brooklyn and 7.9 of those 8 hours there was a screaming baby in the backseat. And we could do nothing because we were stuck in so much traffic there was nowhere to stop. That trip continues to haunt my dreams.
posted by sutel at 3:23 PM on August 5, 2014


I-80 across PA is a special lesson on boredom and misery, with careening 18 wheelers tossed in for good measure. Sure the scenery can be nice at times but it wears thin 1/6 of the way through. Interchanges with more than one or two fast food options are rare.

The real fun comes with the trucks that use it to avoid the PA turnpike tolls. Narrow roads, darkness and poor visibility make it Russian roulette at times. Its not a matter of if you'll see or be in an accident it's a matter of when.

300+ miles of unbridled joy
posted by splen at 3:49 PM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'll be the designated contrarian about I-70. I've made the trip between Salt Lake and Kansas City many a time because I hate nearly everything about flying.

I actually like the Kansas part. The wide open expanses, the wind farms, the rolling terrain in the Flint Hills, the desolate grey post-Christmas snow or the huge mountains of cloud in the spring. The simple comfort of eating mediocre pizza in Colby. Listening to something longform on PRX via Satellite or a bong-bong-bong radio drama with 1 bit characters and a touch of 40's noir.

And the trip becomes more bearable knowing what is to come. Crossing over into Colorado. Staying for the night in Limon and waking up to 40 mph winds with way-below-zero windchills and the feeling of having overstayed your welcome in the apocalypse. The happiness at seeing the endless-finally-end when the first glimpse of mountains can be seen on the horizon and the land becomes slightly more rugged. Watching prairie change into city, city fades into steep uphills into the mountains.

Crossing the Rockies, feeling a bit lightheaded in the Eisenhower Tunnel, flying past Vail on a downhill with no end, the fir trees covered in thick blankets of snow, driving above the Colorado in a long series of canyons, watching everything change from the alpine green to the reds and browns of the desert. Passing through a bit of red rock desert at Grand Junction and then ending up in a new magnificent desolation of the Book Cliffs (so empty it makes Kansas look full by comparison) where the Utah border arrives and no one notices.

And then, the final 2 hours of the trip, you decide to take the life-threatening Hwy 6 shortcut to Provo and leave the desert behind and return to the alpine, half-blurred with sleep, worried about the snowflakes that keep coming, and the tight two lane road which takes the most direct and steep route, which makes you feel like flying into a very hungry abyss on that cold and very very dark night. But then, after yet another tight curve, there's the lights of Spanish Fork and it's an amazingly comforting sight. Even though there's another hour of driving left, you feel like you made it. Unscathed.

I-70 always felt like a big huge adventure. The Shire to Rivendell by way of Mordor. Now I-80 through Wyoming and Nebraska is just painful and there's no good memories of it.
posted by honestcoyote at 3:50 PM on August 5, 2014 [9 favorites]


Memphis to Little Rock, at least, is just dreadful. Every time I've done that stretch - admittedly less - the roads were in terrible condition and the scenery is nothing but infinite rice and soybean fields

Can confirm. I-40 in Arkansas is a terrible interstate, and that northeast corner of the state is just mind-numbingly dull and drab. Roads in Arkansas are so bad that truckers do whatever they can to avoid it. As in, the whole state.
posted by zardoz at 3:51 PM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'll be a contrarian and list out some of my favorite roads:
  • I-95 north of Boston and beyond - Northern Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine are all beautiful, especially in the fall. The traffic is usually light and the exits are one perfect vacation destination after another.
  • I-70 over the Rockies in Colorado - Fun, twisty, and awesome mountains. The only drawback is the traffic in the winter.
  • US 160 over Wolf Creek Pass, Colorado - I love the San Juans, and the views are gorgeous from up there.
  • US 550 from Durango to Ouray, Colorado - Absolutely crazy driving through some insane mountain passes in some of the most spectacular mountains in the world. Also known as the Million Dollar Highway.
  • The Merritt Parkway in Connecticut - One of my favorite drives in the NYC area. It can be slow, but it's also gorgeous in the autumn.
  • US 84 around Abiquiu, NM - Ghost Ranch may be one of the most jaw dropping desert locations in the country.
  • I-15 in Arizona - I love how you go from flat boring desert to imposing mountains in a heartbeat. It's a very profound change.
  • I-93 over the Franconia Notch in New Hampshire - So beautiful that the government would rather drop the interstate to a two lane road than tear up the scenery to widen the thing.
  • Anything in Vermont - Are there any bad drives in that state?
posted by fremen at 4:23 PM on August 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


On I-70, you go through Colorado, then in Kansas, there are signs warning of mandatory stops and drug-sniffing dogs. Appears to be a total fakeout, but use caution.

I like driving sometimes, and wish my cassette player worked so I could listen to those old mixtapes that made it more fun. About to head to Colorado from Maine, likely taking whatever is fastest and goes through Columbus, Ohio, which will be I-70. Crowded, but it'll get me there, with podcasts and CDs, stopping often to let the dog run, and for naps.

Going through Vail Pass on I-70, in either direction, is pretty amazing.
posted by theora55 at 4:39 PM on August 5, 2014


While it falls under a different sense of "worst," there's a portion of route 202 in Pennsylvania that briefly overlaps another road — 616? Something like that. Because of the vagaries of Pennsylvania's roads, which run almost exclusively northeast-southwest or northwest-southeast, it can already be confusing because highways can only be labeled "north," "south," "east," or "west."

For this portion where the two routes overlap, though, you're simultaneously on route 202 north and route 616-or-whatever south. And at that point you are, naturally driving more or less due east.
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:45 PM on August 5, 2014


There's a facebook post I see quite often recommending that we spend less on foreign aid and more on roads & bridges. The US has cut foreign aid to a trickle, and a lot of that is in the form of weapons, which has something to do with the lobbying of defense contractors. (Sadly, many of those weapons get used in unpleasant ways that we later regret, and we will still sell more weapons). During the beginning of president Obama's 1st term, there was the Recovery Act (ARRA), which funded repair of roads and bridges, but it wasn't renewed, because the Teapublicans didn't want Obama's presidency to succeed. Every bridge between me and my job was repaired, because in Maine, it's either slow traffic due to winter weather, snow and ice, or road work. The ARRA created jobs, got money into towns, cities and states, and rebuilt infrastructure. Not re-funding it was stupid, shortsighted and malicious, or, as we call it in the USA, Congress.
posted by theora55 at 4:47 PM on August 5, 2014 [8 favorites]


Also fun: figuring out the Sacramento area freeways. There's Interstate 80, there's 50/80/ "Business 80"

Argh that stupid interchange where it should be simply "N/S highway crosses E/W highway" but there are 5 names in play and two of them are making 90° bends, so, for example, if you're coming up 99 from the south, and you just eyeballed it on the map (because how complicated can it be?) and you just want to continue north, good luck.
posted by fleacircus at 4:53 PM on August 5, 2014


librarylis Also, the 29 from Grand Forks to Fargo is kind of terrible but only because it takes forever (longest hour and change of your life, every time) and the only redeeming feature is that the onramps have gates to close them in bad weather

Straight and flat save for one curve and a railway overpass by Mayville. The only change in grade for the rest of that stretch is a concession to the curvature of the earth
posted by nathan_teske at 5:05 PM on August 5, 2014


Hwy 160 between Tuba City, AZ and Kayenta, AZ.

I've driven many many roads in my life, but that is by far the most treacherous and dangerous and frightening I have ever been on.


Why? It's a boring, flat drive.
posted by harold_dumbacher at 5:29 PM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


I-70 is really just end-to-end horror stories, from the spaghetti in St Louis to the terrible drag across Missouri.
Oh, god, yes...That Missouri slog on 70 is interminable! Other than driving anywhere in Florida, I never wanted a state to go away so hard as I did driving 70 through Missouri.


I-70 is a dream.

I came to that conclusion one day after deciding it would be nice, instead of driving to KC from STL, to take Amtrak instead. After about hour nine, with the train moving at about a walking pace, I swear to god if I had a gun I would have gone on a shooting spree.
posted by 2N2222 at 5:42 PM on August 5, 2014


If you time it right and you have the funds, you can drive from Cape Cod or Boston (easier from the cape) to New London, CT and take the cross sound ferry, stop on the north fork for farm produce, slide through Riverhead to the LIE (after 10pm is pretty good) and be in Queens or Brooklyn with most of your sanity intact. The expense and the extra-distance is totally worth it in terms of quality of life. An hour and twenty minute ferry ride in the middle of the trip is a balm to the soul.
posted by Divine_Wino at 5:57 PM on August 5, 2014


For this portion where the two routes overlap, though, you're simultaneously on route 202 north and route 616-or-whatever south. And at that point you are, naturally driving more or less due east.

Until They re-named it Cesar Chavez blvd. back in the early 90's, one of the most amusing set of directions in Austin was to tell someone to "Go north on South First, then east on West First." The quizzical look, or lack thereof would belie the term of residency of your listener.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:11 PM on August 5, 2014


Hwy 160 between Tuba City, AZ and Kayenta, AZ.

Why? It's a boring, flat drive.


It's not the road itself. It's that it is a crowded two lane road in the middle of nowhere. It is crowded with RVs and boat trailers and semis and sports cars all angling to get through the middle of nowhere as fast as possible and taking any and every chance to do it.

It's also in the middle of the Navajo nation, and so law enforcement is... well, I've never seen any. So, I've had on several occasions had to make the choice of riding what little shoulder there is or taking a head on collision.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:50 PM on August 5, 2014


You haven't lived until you've told someone to navigate by taking the I-35W east, south, or north. For whatever reason, I have never taken the I-35W west.

And nathan_teske, yes, driving over that dip in Mayville used to be accompanied by cheers whenever I was driving with my co-workers on a trip to Fargo.

Also, to be fair, the other redeeming features of the I-29 in North Dakota are:
1) You can drive really fast entirely legally (75MPH, baby!)
2) People pass on the left and drive on the right (yes, that utopia we all dream of does in fact exist)
posted by librarylis at 6:52 PM on August 5, 2014


I had an experience on I-44.
posted by lester at 7:10 PM on August 5, 2014


Only people who hate WSU hate WA-26. Sure, it's dry and dusty in the summer, but it's golden with wheat in the fall and luxuriant with green winter wheat in the spring. And it can be hazardous -- anyone who survived anywhere between 12 and 24 hours trying to get back to school after Thanksgiving Break in 1975 will know what I'm talking about. But it is a drive of great beauty at certain times of year, even when you're crammed into the back seat of a VW Beetle with a overstuffed duffle bag for company.
posted by lhauser at 7:52 PM on August 5, 2014


jackflaps: "out of NOWHERE these hundreds of blinking red lights appear, hovering just too low to be radio towers, blinking, blinking, blinking, in this vast dark alien hellscape that goes as far as you can see in every direction.

There's a wind farm along I-35 somewhere in northern Iowa just like this
"

Oh god, here comes another Kansas story.

So two trips after the pulled-over-for-doing-the-speed-limit trip, I was fastidiously avoiding filling up in the county I'd been pulled over in. What I didn't realize was that I'd dented the hell out of my gas tank, so a fill up was no longer 12.4 gallons, but 9 point something. So That fill-up in Limon CO was no longer enough to get me to Salina. I coasted the car for ten miles and finally ran out in a construction zone, about midnight on a fall Saturday.

Out ahead, I see all them blinking lights. All in unison, across half the goddamn horizon. Ok, must be a military base out ahead, and that's the runways. I call 911, just just confirmation; after receiving my location the operator tells me the town's about three miles away.

So I shake on my running shoes and hoof it down the highway. I can see a gas station sign a few miles out there, that must be the town.

It wasn't. It was just a gas station, and it was closed to all but credit card fillups on account of the construction also completely closing the exit ramp. I dug through the trash, hoping to find anything to put even a pint of gasoline into, without success. Well, on down the road, I guess. Them lights are still out there...

After about six miles of running on the shoulder and pulling up inches short of running into the back of yet another parked car (couldn't see 'em it was so dark!), I called 911 again, and got a different county dispatch. They informed me that yes, the first dispatch I'd talked to was three miles from my original location...perpendicular to the interstate. Tricky detail, apparently. The second dispatch advised that two miles up ahead was a rest stop, and another mile past that was a gas station that did actually open during the day, at least. In that gas station, once it opened, I found a great quantity of souvenirs related to the wind farm they were so proud of in those parts.

All told, I ran 9.3 miles on the side of the road, in the middle a moonless Kansas night, running toward windmills I never actually made it to.
posted by notsnot at 8:04 PM on August 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


Fazoli's really is not bad for fast food Italian. Hardee's just fucking sucks.
posted by in278s at 8:27 PM on August 5, 2014


I take it no one in the FPP or the comments has been to Atlanta and driven on I-285?
posted by hydropsyche at 3:03 AM on August 6, 2014


Oh god, I've driven every one of those...
posted by TheCoug at 3:22 AM on August 6, 2014


The Skyway on I-90 terrified me as a child. The approach to the bridge is quite steep, enough that a child sitting in the backseat might not be able to see that there is, in fact, a road there, and that you don't actually have to drive up the support beams over the bridge. I fully believed cars had to literally drive over the bridge. I beloved it for years because I shut my eyes as tightly as I could every single time we took that road.

Absolutely terrifying.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:36 AM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


It took me all week to get through Nebraska on I-80 one day.

When I was a kid we drove the old Hwy-66 between Barstow and Okie City--I say "we" but I mean "them" and I sat in the back with my hand out the window, playing airplane. Rattlesnakes in glass boxes at the gas stations located 80 miles from anywhere else. Soda pop, bottles hanging by their necks in tin boxes filled with chilled water. You put in a dime. Twenty-foot arrows stuck in the ground in front of the motel next door--we never used motels; they were for those who had money to burn. You could stop along side the road and sit in the shade under a bridge in a dry wash to have lunch, take a nap. I guess I was nearly ten years old before I realized that some bridges have water under them all the time. Canvass water bags hanging in front of the radiator to help keep the engine cool. This was before auto air conditioners and sliced bread. Then I grew up and all that stuff went somewhere else.

My favorite route from the west coast To Manhattan is I-40 to I-81, and so on, to the Delaware Water Gap, then over the GWB and onto Manhattan. I liked taking my big truck down Broadway much more than I liked going through that perpetual construction zone in Knoxville: the concrete barriers made a series of jointed chutes that were just barely wider than my trailer, and nobody wanted to drop their velocity below mach one. Goddam construction joints in the lanes methodically converted the 40 thousand pounds of cantaloupes I was hauling into cantaloupe juice. The rest of Tennessee was just fine. A small mom & pop truck stop just off the I-40 off-ramp at Bucksnort made the best buiscuits and gravy in the state. Okay, I hadn't checked out all the biscuit shops in the state, so I'm just saying.

Our terminal on the West Coast was near City of Industry. Gack.The super-metro uber-laned mess anywhere west of San Bernadino was always a challenge, but I often was able to invert my trips so that I was coming when they were going, and vice versa. It was nice, looking across the divider at the six-lane parking lot, thinking that but for the grace of timing I could be over there instead of humming along at legal speeds.

The only place where I hated driving more than Kansas was Nebraska--so flat it made my nose bleed watching the road come to a point near the horizon. Or Chicago. Chicago was the worst. If you drive a big truck in Chicago you have to get your Low-Bridge directory up-dated all the time. I'm not kidding. They repave the roads, reducing the clearances under bridges, but they don't adjust the markers accordingly. Then they charge to for the refitting, after they charge you to come and extract your trailer from under the bridge. Then your dispatcher gives you a ration of shit for being late on your delivery and refuses to send you a comm-check to cover the fines. Yeah. Fuck Chicago.
posted by mule98J at 9:58 AM on August 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


Anyone who believes that the stretch of I-40 is the worst stretch of interstate anywhere, or even the worst stretch of I-40, is living a life that's been charmed to Candyland status. FFS, get some audiobooks.
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:25 PM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


One of my favorites, on the other hand, even in terrible traffic, is the Overseas Highway.

Holy crap. I was just trying to think of the name of that highway the other day. I just have vague memories from when I was a very small child of a terrifying highway over the ocean. I mean, it would probably be pretty awesome now, but as a child NOPE NOPE NOPE
posted by jason_steakums at 4:01 PM on August 6, 2014


> And, generally speaking, the roads are at least well maintained because for some reason TDOT* apparently has the budget of mid sized nation's armed forces.

Right!? I always praise Tennessee when traveling north. Its roads are a stark contrast to Alabama's.
posted by Monochrome at 4:01 PM on August 6, 2014


> I-64 is one of my happiest interstates to drive on

One of my most vivid memories of full-stop Interstate traffic had us stopped ina deep rock cut on eastbound I-64 somewhere there in northern Kentucky.

Once we got moving again, we saw it had been a semi burned down just about to ash.
posted by one weird trick at 5:51 PM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Once while storm chasing I had the pleasure of taking (I think) highway 23 between Canadian, Texas and Beaver, Oklahoma three times in a 12 hour period. It was actually a really good road so freshly paved that the speed limit for the 100 odd kilometres of our traversal was 45 mph because crews were sticking down the temporary lane marking tape. But the road is straight like an arrow, flat as a piece of paper, 100% rural and the only ones on it besides us and the work crews were a couple state troopers and assorted barely mobile farm vehicles. It went straight to the top of my "Roads I hope never to travel" list. The tedium was unbelievable and I think about it every time someone laments the faster interstate system over slower rural highways.

entropicamericana: "A glib response, to be sure, but are we really going to continue to hold our cities hostage to 4.3% of highway vehicles?"

That likely haul practically everything you buy including food to your town.
posted by Mitheral at 10:16 PM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


That likely haul practically everything you buy including food to your town.

Okay, let's downsize highways by 95% then.
posted by entropicamericana at 7:44 AM on August 7, 2014


That likely haul practically everything you buy including food to your town.

This is only the case because the highways are there, are hugely subsidized, and are free for them to use.

We have the ability to charge trucks directly on an axle-ton-mile basis for their road use, which would equate very nicely to the damage they do to the infrastructure itself. (Roads are damaged by axle weight, basically. The more weight you have per axle, the faster you wear out the road.) Passenger cars, motorcycles, etc., do almost negligible damage to well-constructed pavement. And as a bonus, if we did that we could get rid of the tax on diesel (which is really just a roundabout way of taxing trucks to pay a small portion of their share of road maintenance), and probably get some nice diesel passenger cars. Diesel-electric hybrids, even.

Ideally, the only place trucks should exist is drayage operators, taking things from rail/barge/sea terminals to the end consumer. There's nothing wrong with trucks as a "last mile" delivery. It's just ridiculous to use them to go thousands of miles. It's inefficient and dangerous, and probably not even economical if it wasn't being subsidized.

Freed from the requirements to accommodate interstate truck traffic, most of the really bad roads in the article could be designed very differently, probably in ways that would make them less fatiguing to drive.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:58 AM on August 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


"Boring," to me, does not constitute a bad experience with a highway. To me, it's more about traffic.

That said, I'm throwing in yet another vote for the entirety of I-95 (and the "de-facto I-95" sections of I-295 in Delaware and the New Jersey Turnpike) from the northern split with MA-128 down to roughly Richmond.

An Extra Special Clusterf*** Traffic Award is granted to the State of Delware and whatever counties/independent cities make up the highway between the MD/DC/VA tripoint and Fredericksburg. I have never, regardless of day of week or time of day, driven on either of those sections without sitting at a dead stop for unusual amounts of time.

As for Most Boring Stretch of Highway, that goes to I-90 through Minnesota (yawn), with an Honorable Mention given to I-95 through northern Florida to I-4. This from someone who has driven cross-country, through Nebraska, Montana, South Dakota and other flyover states (though not Texas).
posted by tckma at 12:09 PM on August 7, 2014


Oh, jeez, I once did the drive down from Lewiston, ME all the way to Phoenix, AZ. We gave ourselves a week, "In case we saw something interesting." We arrived in just over three days. The "Do Not Drive Into The Smoke" sign was about as interesting as it got once we hit I-44. Not to far from it though, if I remember correctly, was a sign that said something like "Hitchhikers May Be Escaped Convicts." I'd have gone a bit further with "Do Not Pick Up Hitchhikers in Prison Garb" but you know, so long as you make an informed choice, Oklahoma is OK.
posted by .kobayashi. at 12:11 PM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also, Connecticut is not meant to be driven in. I'm not sure what it's for, but driving sure as hell ain't it.
posted by .kobayashi. at 12:12 PM on August 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


You haven't lived until you've told someone to navigate by taking the I-35W east, south, or north.

I had to explain to a roadside assistance dispatcher (so not a local) that I was on the side of northbound 35W and his response was "I'm not from around there!" I just said that the tow company would understand and he trusted me.

I've been to all lower 48 states, but I am not sure if I have driven in every single one. The worst was driving from Vail to Denver on 70 in the dark in a storm. Mom was riding shotgun and we both still remember getting splashed by a truck and not being able to see a thing for a second.
posted by soelo at 12:31 PM on August 7, 2014


I-90 through Minnesota

Well, it has trees. 90 through the eastern half of South Dakota barely even has grass.
posted by soelo at 12:32 PM on August 7, 2014


No love for I-80 through Nebraska makes me sad. Maybe it is repetition that does it or maybe that I've pedaled a bike across the state a few times, or perhaps it's because I'm a local but there is something magical about that stretch of highway. Don't get me wrong, if subtlety isn't your thing, you're going to miss it and if you're more interested in your destination than in the journey you're not going to invest the attention required to see it.

But it is there for the experiencing. A friend of mine recently wrote of his time in the central/west of the state:
I saw enough houses out here, and even delivered to one, to convince me that it is possible to live out here, but by god it's got to be hard work.
And the depth and meaning of what this gets at sinks in somewhere around the fifth hour. And when it does it is deeply satisfying in its profundity.
posted by Fezboy! at 1:13 PM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


.kobayashi.: "Not to far from it though, if I remember correctly, was a sign that said something like "Hitchhikers May Be Escaped Convicts." I'd have gone a bit further with "Do Not Pick Up Hitchhikers in Prison Garb" but you know, so long as you make an informed choice, Oklahoma is OK."

It would be pretty easy for an escaped prisoner working with an accomplice to arrange for non-prison clothes to be deposited in a ditch close to the prison.
posted by Mitheral at 5:47 PM on August 7, 2014


I nominate i5 anywhere within about an hour of seattle. Get south of olympia? Everyone is suddenly driving 9000mph. Get north of like, everett? same thing.

But i swear, and i know everyone says this, but you could objectively measure how fucking useless drivers on that one stretch of 5 are.

Everyone. Goes. Fucking. 50mph.

In packs. Blocking all the lanes. I've watched people many times glance over at the speedometer because they thought i was speeding super aggressively when i was going 60-65mph and passing every car on the road, when that's even possible.

This happens regardless of traffic. There can be 8 cars between you and the horizon and they will be going fucking 53mph, with the person in the passing lane going 58. Real fucking speed demon.

Oh yea, and no one can merge. Or change lanes properly. The number of people i've wished i had a big snow plow on the front of my car so i could smash into because they slow down to like 5mph at the end of the on ramp...(and immediately redline their engine to try and block you from passing them when you try to)

There aren't really aggressive drivers here, instead we get clueless, meek, useless drivers who always go under the speed limit.

It's really funny how stark the contrast is though. You can find someone to drive 80mph behind on the way to vancouver if you want... once you get north of everett up towards bellingham, and once you get over the pass on i-90 everyone seems to take the highway name as the speed limit(i've seen situations in which every car, in every lane was going a minimum of 85mph). But... fucking seattle, what the fuck.

It's pretty funny. I own an old city bus, and it's governed to 60mph~ Everywhere but near seattle i'm always just on the highway with my foot flat to the floor riding that limit. Anywhere within the aforementioned area, it's unusual for me to actually hit it. They need to start a huge fucking campaign of ticketing people for driving more than like, 5mph under the speed limit. The ticket should be like $500, too. Come on tim eyman, sell it! your teabagger friends will love it because it hands money to the cops.

We also possess a couple other sad stupid roads, like SR-99/aurora ave where the speed limit is inexplicably 40mph even though everyone drives 50-55. It has barriers, and is at least 3 lanes wide and sometimes even more. It looks like a normal interstate... but 40mph. The cops occasionally line up and ticket basically everyone they can pull over. The bridge to west seattle also has the same stupid speed limit for no reason despite looking like a full on interstate bridge, connected to another section of road that looks like an interstate, and having like 4 lanes in each direction.

You can only get north to south in seattle on those two highways, and you can only get east-west on surface streets. It's all a complete trail of misery no matter where you're going. And there's only two possible states. 50mph, or complete LA gridlock. The only exception is at literally 3am.
posted by emptythought at 6:25 PM on August 7, 2014


Honorable Mention given to I-95 through northern Florida to I-4

I-75 between Gainesville and Atlanta, I-10 between Jacksonville and Tallahassee, Florida's Turnpike north of Orlando, Florida's Turnpike between Kissimmee and Fort Pierce, and I-26 and I-95 between Columbia and Savannah. All way more boring than any part of 95 in Florida.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 7:34 PM on August 7, 2014


I grew up outside of Boston and then lived in New York for several years so I thought I knew from crap highway driving -- but then I moved to Providence. Ten-foot highway on-ramps and two lanes of merging traffic immediately before every exit you need, combined with the adorable Rhode Island denial of the existence of the turn signal... You really do feel more alive when you stare death in the face every day.
posted by oinopaponton at 6:50 AM on August 8, 2014


Also, Connecticut is not meant to be driven in. I'm not sure what it's for, but driving sure as hell ain't it.

If you're ever driving in Connecticut and you hear the words "accident" and "bridge" in the same sentence on radio, do yourself a favor and just get off the next exit and grab yourself a meal. No one is going anywhere for a while. Connecticut's interstates are exactly the minimal size needed to handle the traffic. So when one bridge gets backed up, the traffic diverts to the other bridges and they all get backed up. Wikipedia disagrees with me on this one, but I'm convinced Connecticut is a Native term word for "that damn river is in our way."
posted by dances with hamsters at 8:52 AM on August 8, 2014


Mitheral: It would be pretty easy for an escaped prisoner working with an accomplice to arrange for non-prison clothes to be deposited in a ditch close to the prison.

Nevertheless, it remains good advice.
posted by .kobayashi. at 8:08 AM on August 9, 2014


M25 - crawl around London in a ditch filled with white van men and human misery.
posted by bright cold day at 3:37 PM on August 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


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