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Interstate Highways, Ranked

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Joyce and I drove this in 2010:

12) I-10 ("The Neck Beard")

Route: 2460 miles, Santa Monica, California to Jacksonville, Florida

Traffic Rating: 2.55

Hanging as low as a neck beard on the Lower 48, the I-10 is a fun way to connect the coasts—and particularly useful when other trans-continental ways are covered in ice. Great towns: New Orleans, San Antonio, underrated El Paso, Los Angeles. Excellent nature: Florida's white sands at Pensacola, Texas hill country, Joshua Tree National Park. (Biggest negative? The original In-N-Out Burger had to be torn down to make way for it.)

That had to be fun!

Yes, we did it in 10 days and made 10 stops from LAX to JAX!

What did you drive?

A beat up 1989 Toyota Camry!

Well, the ride is really about the company.  ;)

I want to do the "Sweetheart Plank" with my sister.  As I type that I realize what a loser I am.  :)

That sounds like fun. 

Only 348 miles from San Diego to Casa Grande, Arizona?

You could do a round trip in a day. 

Spoiler alert:

10) I-8 ("Sweetheart Plank")

Route: 348 miles, San Diego to Casa Grande, Arizona 

Traffic Rating: 1.66

This southwest short-cut crosses some desolate, fascinating country: the Sonoran Desert, Yuma foothills, ghost towns around the Algodones Dunes, and an old plank road that turned 100 this Valentine's Day.

9) I-94 ("Fargo Forever")

Route: 1585 miles, Billings, Montana to Port Huron, Michigan

Traffic Rating: 2.08

All it really takes to "get" the Great Plains—those seas of wheat that gently roll over prehistoric sea floors—is to try. (Emily Post, an etiquette writer, wrote about her 1915 cross-country drive, summing them up as offering "an impression of the lavish immensity of our own country as nothing else could.") To see the light, try this epic sky drive across North Dakota. A great detour is the "Enchanted Highway," an iron-sculpture lined two-laner to Regent, North Dakota.

8) I-15 ("Rock Skipper")

Route: 1433 miles, San Diego to Sweet Grass, Montana

Traffic Rating: 2.32

Sure, most people know I-15 as the road to Vegas, but its northeastern climb offers a main artery to national park central: Death Valley, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Yellowstone, Glacier. God, it's fun driving across the west.

7) I-25 ("Wyoming Autobahn")

Route: 1063 miles, Las Cruces, New Mexico, to Buffalo, Wyoming

Traffic Rating: 1.73

It's often Rockies out one window, high plains out the other, before finishing with a legal 80 mph ride into Buffalo, Wyoming, home to one real-deal Wild West hotel.

6) I-55 ("Jesus Just Left Chicago")

Route: 964 miles, Chicago to Laplace, LA

Traffic Rating: 2.0

It's Jesus' favorite interstate according to ZZ Top's 1973 song, "Jesus Just Left Chicago." It's covers hallowed ground too, tracing one of Amtrak's legendary routes. It follows old Route 66 through Lincoln Central at Springfield; then buddies up with the Mississippi to Memphis, before cutting across the Delta towards the Big Easy.

In Nebraska, I-80 has a 72-mile stretch without a single turn.

5) I-80 ("Lincoln Highway Redux")

Route: 2890 miles, San Francisco to Teaneck, New Jersey

Traffic Rating: 1.93

Interstates are often defined by their middles. And much of I-80, more or less the realized version of the Lincoln Highway, is flat and repetitious. Nebraska has a 72-mile stretch without a single turn. Look closer. In Wyoming, where the road cuts through pink granite rock huddling the sides of the road, watch for the "gangplank," a slow rise in the high plains. As John McPhee put it in Rising from the Plains, "At this place, as nowhere else, you can step off the Great Plains directly onto a Rocky Mountain summit."

4) I-24 ("The Legend")

Route: 316 miles, Pulley's Mill, Illinois to Chattanooga, Tennessee

Traffic Rating: 2.54

If you need a challenge, I-24's "Monteagle Mountain," a 6 percent grade in Tennessee, is considered the most treacherous stretch on the interstates. Jerry Reed, underrated star of Smokey and the Bandit, wrote a song for it ("The Legend"). Johnny Cash also sang of it too: "your life is in your hands when you start down that long steep grade."

3) I-84 OR/ID/UT ("Big Country")

Route: 770 miles, Portland, Oregon to Echo, Utah

Traffic Rating: 1.33

The least busy interstate of more than 500 miles, the gorgeous I-84 of the west offers the system's most dramatic blink-and-you-miss-it interstate view. An hour east of Portland, keep an eye for the 523-foot drop of Multnomah Falls, a few hundred feet out your car window.

2) I-70 ("Trans-Siberian American")

Route: 2153 miles, Baltimore to Cove Fort, Utah

Traffic Rating: 1.87

Poor I-70. Patches of this nearly trans-continental monster strike horror into backseat groaners on long trips. Kansan plains, in particular, where winds can topple 18-wheelers. That said, no other interstate has done more. After crossing the Midwest, it catches the greatest skyline-from-interstate view in St Louis (the Mississippi meets Arch, right by the road), then slowly rises over the big-sky plains and runs smack into the heart of the Rockies – just the Glenwood Canyon leg requires three tunnels and 39 bridges – before finishing in the Utah desert at I-15.

1) I-90 ("America's Great Road")

Route: 3102 miles, Boston to Seattle

Traffic Rating: 1.67

I-90 needs to fire its Brand Manager. As the USA's longest interstate, it is the King of the Plains, Big Sky Central, the Northern Delights, or perhaps the Road Not to Take in Winter.But we think of it simply as America's Great Road.If you are going to make one cross-country trip in your life, look close at I-90. Robert Sullivan, author of Cross Country,has gone coast to coast at least 30 times, and picks this as his favorite. It's less trafficked than I-10, I-40, I-70, I-80 (the other four main east/west options). On its way, it goes from Boston's Freedom Trail to almost within the spray of Niagara Falls, into rock'n'roll HQ in Cleveland then Chicago, across the plains to Wall Drug's throw-back free water and Mt Rushmore, to the world's first dude ranch, past Custer's last stand at Little Bighorn, over Idaho's Fourth of July Summit, and reaching birthplace of something called Starbucks.We bow to you I-90, the greatest interstate in the USA.

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