Roadtrippin’ 2020: The Roadways – Seeing the USA on back roads

Sumoflam stands among the giant Redwoods on the Avenue of the Giants

The most time consuming part of any extended road trip is being on the road.  For me, this is the icing on the cake.  Sure, I love to see all of the quirky places, unique towns, Mom and Pop eateries and more.  But, there is something about driving a two-lane highway (or narrow road or even gravel road) that brings out the wanderlust in me big time.  Watching those white/yellow lines pass by while seeing the scenery, wildlife, buildings, etc., as I drive by, is one of the best parts of travel.  Of course, a good soundtrack, like the thousands of songs on my Spotify playlists, also adds to the fun.

I am a stats person.  I love the numbers.  Therefore, I keep my phone synced to Google Maps and it literally tracks every mile I drive and even keeps a log of everywhere I have been.  In 2020, according to Google Maps, I traveled 15,404 miles (over a duration of 836 hours) and visited 121 different cities (85 of them were new) and visited 349 places (237 new) across this country.  It didn’t note that I visited 26 states in 2020.  So, basically, I have a complete daily log of my driving, stops, restaurants, hotels, national parks, and more.  To me that is a really cool thing to have!


Google-generated pin drop map of my 2020 road trips. (Map generated by Google Maps)
Road dashes are typically 10 feet long and have a 30 foot space between them


A little trivia: According to the US Department of Transportation, those white and yellow lines — which are referred to as “broken lines” — do have typical regulations for roadways, though not completely followed.  Basically, broken lines should consist of 10-foot line segments and 30-foot gaps, or dimensions in a similar ratio of line segments to gaps as appropriate for traffic speeds and need for delineation.  That boils down to about 132 dashes a mile.  So, based on these numbers, I drive past more than 2 million lines over the course of 2020.  Of course, it is likely a little less considering that there are parts of the roadways with double lines for no passing and there were some dirt roads and some unstriped back-country roads.  But still…I saw a lot of lines in 2020!!

A long stretch of highway in California and Nevada
Lombard Drive in San Francisco is called the “World’s Crookedest Road”
Driving “The Dragon” – US 129 in southern Tennessee

My road trips took me on some pretty long, desolate stretches of highway in places like Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming and Nevada.  But, I traveled over some of America’s curviest roads with names like “The Dragon,” “The Rattlesnake,” “Iron Mountain Road,” and, of course, the world-famous “Crookedest Street in the World” aka Lombard Street, with its eight kinda scary hairpin turns in San Francisco.

The Dragon is probably one of the most famous “curvy roads” in America, especially for the motorcycle lovers,  Located on US 129 in southern Tennessee, the last 11 miles to the North Carolina border has 318 curves.  It is so popular that photographers sit at a number of the curve pull-offs and take pictures of each vehicle that goes by and then the riders and/or drives can actually purchase them online if they want.  At the beginning (northern part of the Dragon) there is actually a large wooden Dragon that tourists can stop and take pictures with.  Then, as they cross into North Carolina at Deals Gap, there is another unique dragon, numerous gift shops and places to eat.  All really focused on the motorized two-wheelers such as Harleys, Indians, Triumphs, Kawasakis and Hondas.

Kentucky has tried to follow suit with its Rattlesnake, which is also about 11 miles, but not as many curves.  There is also a summer only souvenir shop along the way.  The scenery through the forest is lovely.

US Route 16A – Iron Mountain Road in Custer, South Dakota

But the really unique one is the Iron Mountain Road in South Dakota.  This is US 16A and it is basically a windy road over a mountain from Custer State Park to Mount Rushmore.   This is 17 miles long with 314 curves, including 14 switchbacks and 3 pigtails.  I had never driven a pigtail before.  This is where the road “pigtails” over itself.  In other words, you go under a bridge, hit a curve and then drive on the bridge over the road you just drove in.  Pretty unique road construction.

Here is one shot of a “pigtail” on Iron Mountain Road.

Of course, curvy roads are the rarity.  Many of the roads are long and straight.  This holds trues especially in places like Wyoming, South Dakota, Nevada and more.  Here are just a few shots from the roads…

This long stretch of road is Nebraska Hwy 2 running north out of Alliance, Nebraska towards South Dakota
This is Interstate 15, near Nipton, California. It pretty much goes straight into Las Vegas, Nevada
This is Nevada SR 164 heading east to Searchlight, Nevada, which is practically a ghost town. It goes through Joshua Trees for miles
Interstate 40 in New Mexico replaced much of old Route 66. This shot is taken west of Albuquerque, heading east. Those are the Sandia Mountains on the horizon
We made a trip to Uncertain, Texas and this SH 43, near Karnack, Texas on our way there
Northern Washington has US Hwy 2 running through it. This shot is east of Waterville, Washington in the high desert
Wyoming has many long stretches of roadway. This is US Hwy 14-16 NW of Gillette, Wyoming heading for Montana
Not all long straight roads are in deserts. US 101 near South Bend, Washington is straight through massive pine forests.

And then there are the various other places.  Here are a few more of my road shots.

Main Street in Philipsburg, Montana
Downtown Anaconda, Montana
Bandon, Oregon on US 101
State Line Road runs nearly 20 miles along the Texas/New Mexico Border. All dirt/gravel.
Downtown among the buildings of San Francisco
Approaching Stevens Pass, Washington heading west on US Route 2
Crossing Columbia River on Astoria Bridge between Washington and Oregon.
Main Street in Equality, Illinois
A back road outside of Lexington, KY
Sunset in Dittmer, Missouri
I-90 heading west near Alberton, Montana, west of Missoula
The highway near Mount Rushmore in South Dakota

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