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travel from florida to texas (road trip)

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This is the second longest road trip I've ever driven, so of course I'm going to talk about it.

The longest distance I've ever driven was from New England to Florida back in 2006; that had a total distance of roughly 1,600 miles. The trip I just drove from Florida to Texas was about 1,200 miles.

On the 2006 trip, I stopped once to sleep at a hotel. On this 2018 trip I just did, I drove the whole way in one go, only stopping every few hours for gas and bathroom breaks. The total time driven was about 18 hours, just as all the mapping apps predicted it would be.

While true I was able to skip the cost of a hotel, I don't recommend doing a road trip this way. I did get cramped up a few times and was fighting sleep just to stay focused in the final few hours of the trip. In fact, I'm honestly amazed I was able to complete the trip like I did given I'm in my early 40s, and it's been close to 13 years since I last did this.

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The map above shows the route I took. I had planned on a different route, but had to change it because of the aftermath of Hurricane Michael.

I-10 West, Florida

This was the most heartbreaking part of the journey.

What I had originally planned to do was take US-98 and Florida State Road 30 along the coastline to see all the cool stuff there. But then Michael happened and it did a ridiculous amount of damage to the area, so I had to go around it and use I-75 North to I-10 West instead.

I did pass through that 80-mile stretch of I-10 that was closed off and then reopened just a few days before I drove through. It was bad. For miles and miles I saw downed trees on either side of the road. Many road signs were knocked down and damaged beyond repair. Many billboards torn to shreds.

I did stop once in the area at a gas station, and there was a guy selling "I survived Michael" t-shirts. This was a way of the locals trying to make the best of a really bad situation. Other businesses still had boards on the windows they hadn't taken off just yet. Two girls that worked in a local pizza house were standing on the side of the road holding cardboard signs that said "YES, WE'RE OPEN", because from the road it looked like their building was closed from damage, but it wasn't.

Like I said, it was heartbreaking to see all that. While true that Floridians are used to dealing with bad hurricane damage, Michael was different. It was way worse than what's happened in years past. Hopefully, those in the panhandle will able to pick up the pieces and get their lives back together.

I-10 West and US-98 West, Alabama

Not really much to say here since this was the shortest part of the trip.

The best part was on I-10 passing through Mobile. Some nice bridges there. This was right at the time I was losing daylight, so I didn't see much. From here on out I was doing night driving all the way to Texas.

US-98 West, Mississippi

This part of the trip was a whole lot of absolutely nothing.

On the slower parts of US-98, what I saw was a repeat of the same thing over and over again. Filler station and fast food, go a few miles, filler station and fast food, go a few miles, repeat.

On the fast part of US-98, there was even more nothing. For many miles there were no filler stations, no restaurants, no anything. It was just plain eerie.

I-20 West, Mississippi

This was the worst part of the trip.

I-20 through Mississippi out of Jackson is completely broken. The road is all chewed up, hard bumps are everywhere and it really beat the crap out of my car.

I-20 West, Louisiana

Once out of MS and into LA, things got slightly better but not by much. I-20 was still all banged up here too. There were also a few weird turns here and there through Shreveport.

It was also in this state I saw someone get pulled over for speeding. The guy actually wasn't going that fast and was speeding at about 10 miles over the limit. A cop was about 15 car lengths behind him and followed for a good 5 miles. The guy speeding totally didn't know the cop was there. Then once the road opened up a bit where the cop could safely pull the guy over, on came the flashing lights and that was that.

I kinda felt sorry for the guy that got pulled over, but believe me, he had a ridiculous amount of time to slow down and didn't, so... oh, well.

I-20 West, Texas

The moment I passed out of LA and into TX, two things happened.

First, I-20 immediately went smooth as glass. The road was perfect. No bumps, no humps, no holes, no chewed up pavement. I've not experienced a highway this smooth since parts of I-95 in Maine were refinished years ago.

Second, there was something I never encountered before. A 75 MPH speed limit.

It was weird to legally drive at a speed of 75 miles per hour. The fastest legal speed I ever drove before that was 70 in Florida. And before that, the fastest was 65 in New England.

At that speed, I was blazing by almost every car and trucker I encountered. It was really late at night by this point and most were driving around 65 to 70.

This stretch of road was the best part of the trip, no question. The only sad part is that it was night, so I couldn't see any greenery around me.

I-635 North and US-75 North, Texas

This was the final leg of the trip, and it sucked, but only for one reason. Morning rush hour.

I tried my best to get there before the morning rush, but didn't quite make it. So there I was, aching, bleary-eyed and very tired, smack dab in the middle of a million cars, trying to get to my new home.

Obviously, I got home, but yeah, that rush was the last thing I wanted to deal with after being on the road for 18 hours.

Before that point, pretty much all of the trip was uneventful and I cruised right through. But the rush was bad. Not a good way to end a very long road trip, but that's what happened.

New things I did on this road trip

This was the most technically advanced road trip I've ever done.

On the 2006 trip, all I had was a Garmin StreetPilot c340 for navigation and nothing else. The c340 performed well and got the job done.

On this 2018 trip, I had a Garmin DriveAssist 51 LMT-S. This thing is a million times better than the c340 was in too many ways to count. But what I will mention is that there a feature in it where if you've been driving for a very long time, the Garmin will ding, say you should take a break, and suggest a few places to stop. This is something you can turn off if you wish, but I left it enabled on purpose just to see if it would work. And yes, it did.

I also had my girlfriend (she was with me for the trip, I didn't drive solo this time) load up two apps on her phone to check other things. Weather and traffic.

For weather, we used the Dark Sky app. Worked great except in places where the data connection was spotty, such as on US-98 through Mississippi.

For traffic, we used the Waze app. This was the first time I saw Waze in real-world use, and oh yeah, it's good. It will tell you of cars pulled over up ahead, traffic conditions (obviously,) and other things. Nice to have. I think, however, that it's not the best thing for long road trips that use mostly interstate roads. Better for smaller roads and cities and such.

I am still of the opinion that a dedicated Garmin GPS is still the best thing to use for navigation. While Waze impressed me, it wasn't enough to sway me away from my DriveAssist 51.

This was also the first big road trip where I had backup GPSes aplenty. There was the Garmin DriveAssist 51, a backup Garmin nuvi 50LM in the glove box, my phone and my girlfriend's phone. And if for some crazy reason all that failed, I had a Rand McNally Road Atlas printed map that I bought just this year.

Overall...

This was a good trip overall. Some of it sucked, but fortunately the sucky parts were short.

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