Years ago, I completed one of the things on my bucket list. I had always wanted to make a cross-country road trip. It was something that I wanted to do before I turned 30 years old. The easiest way to do this would be to travel Interstate 10.
Interstate 10 is the southernmost coast-to-coast highway in the country. It’s only 5 hours from Atlanta. It runs through eight states: Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. Interstate 10 is 2460 miles long.
My ex and I decided to make the trip from July 1st – 14th, 2013. We also agreed that the best way to do it would be to drive a rental car out there and then fly back. For anyone that wants to make a cross-country road trip on Interstate 10, this article is for you.
I’ll share my adventure, tips, and things to do in several locations.
Cross-Country Road Trip: Interstate 10 Route
Atlanta to Jacksonville
The night before, I didn’t get that much sleep. I am always excited about trips, making it nearly impossible to sleep. We picked up the rental at about 12:30 pm. They gave us a Dodge Avenger. I was glad they gave us that car because I had driven one before. The car had enough space for our luggage and snacks. It also should be good for mileage. We left Atlanta at about 3:30 pm. We made it to Jacksonville, Florida, at 8:45 pm. The drive was cool except for the rain we ran into in South Georgia. In Jacksonville, we stayed at one of my friend’s houses.
If you are going to be making a trip like this, you want to ensure that you have snacks. You can purchase them from Kroger, Sams, or Walmart stores.
Make sure that you purchase a cooler as well. Since I knew we weren’t driving back, I bought a styrofoam cooler similar to this one.
Jacksonville to Biloxi
I was ready to get the day started. Once we woke up, we jumped on the road. Before we started on Interstate 10, we made two small stops. The first stop was Jacksonville Beach. I had to have a picture of each coast. So I snapped a quick photo and headed towards the Jacksonville Jaguars football stadium. I also have another goal: see all the MLB, NBA & NFL stadiums and arenas. After we took pictures of the stadium, we started the trek on Interstate 10. I bought a blank map with me. The map’s purpose was to document the different license plates we see on I-10. I hoped that we would see all 50. I will let you know the final tally at the end of the post.
We drove through so many popup thunderstorms in Florida. It seemed like every thirty minutes; there was one. The drive from Jacksonville to the Alabama state line was also longer than I expected. It looks like Florida had ten different license plate designs. We kept seeing other plates thinking it was a different state, but it was still Florida. We cruised in the Florida panhandle until I noticed a cop car behind us. I was in the passenger seat. The cop came to my side and said we were going 81 in a 70. He asked us where we were going. I told him Biloxi, then eventually California. Then I started showing him different documents about the trip. He was hyped about the trip and gave us a warning (Thank God).
We finally made it out of Florida and into Alabama. The drive through Alabama was short. The only mid-size city we rode through was Mobile. We eventually arrived in Ocean Springs, which is right outside Biloxi. We stayed at a Studio 6 hotel for the night. For dinner, we ate at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. They had a hell of a buffet. It was all you could eat, including crab legs. Afterward, we went to the Hard Rock Cafe and enjoyed the experience.
Biloxi to Houston
I drove the whole route that day. We typically switch up on the driving every 3-4 hours. I wanted to see how long this drive would take. It took about 6 hours to get to Houston. I have never driven over so many rivers, ponds, and bayous in my life. There were so many bridges. Some were very high. I was a little nervous as somebody with a slight fear of heights. I made it, though. I also didn’t realize there was so much water in South Mississippi and Louisiana. I knew we were in the gulf, but I underestimated that. We stopped for a brief lunch in Baton Rouge and continued to Houston.
We could tell the difference in the landscape once we got near Texas. The plants were less green than they had been. The 1st thing I noticed once we crossed into Texas was the exit number. It was exit number 880. That meant 880 miles to New Mexico. That is a lot of miles. We made it to Houston an hour and a half after we saw that sign.
We checked into our room and rested for a couple of hours. Before the trip, I purchased tickets to the Houston Astros game for that evening on Stubhub. The seats were excellent. We were on the 2nd row from the infield.
Those were the best seats I’ve ever had at an MLB game. They also had the 4th of July fireworks a day early because their 4th of July game was a day game.
Houston was the first city that we stayed in for a second day. The only cities we would stay in longer than one night would be San Antonio and Los Angeles. Day 4 was very relaxing. We had the chance to tour the city. We took pictures of Reliant Stadium (Texans) and the Toyota Center (Rockets). Houston is a big city that is spread out. We also went to the Galleria, one of the malls. The Galleria was full of people. They had hundreds of stores. They also had an ice skating rink on the 1st level.
We went back to the hotel to rest for a while because we booked a tour on one of the double-decker buses for the evening. The tour was great, except that it rained for 20 minutes. That caused us to move to the 1st level of the bus. Other than that, the tour was excellent. We had a chance to see more of downtown and midtown Houston.
Houston to San Antonio
San Antonio was a little over 3 hours away from Houston. It was a direct drive. We made a stop at this superstore called Buc-ee’s. Buc-ee’s had food, gas, and souvenirs. Everybody on that stretch of I-10 stopped there. The place was crowded.
Once we arrived in San Antonio, we noticed that the traffic was not as bad as in Houston. That was a good thing. We checked into our room and relaxed for a while. We went downtown to see the Alamo in about an hour or so. The Alamo was nice. After we left the Alamo, we went to the Riverwalk. The Riverwalk was beautiful. Restaurants and shops were everywhere. The place had a very relaxing vibe to it.
San Antonio was excellent. The city is diverse and not too crowded. We spent the majority of the day at SeaWorld. They had a lot of good shows and amusement rides. The show that I liked the best was the sea lion and otter show. It was hilarious.
That evening we went to a local bar near our hotel called Marty’s. It was a cool, low-key spot. They had karaoke and some nice drink specials. I talked with one of the locals. She was excited that we were making a cross-country trip. I also decided to do karaoke. I performed Darling Nikki by Prince. I thoroughly enjoyed San Antonio. It’s a city that I will go to again.
San Antonio to El Paso
After a fun night at Marty’s, we decided to be lazy and sleep in a little bit. We eventually got on the road at 11:45 am. About 560 miles later, we made it to El Paso. That was a very long drive. You have to make sure that you have your music or podcasts ready. If not, you may go crazy, lol. The landscape seemed to change instantly once we were out of the San Antonio city limits. I started seeing road signs that I had never seen before, such as “Falling Rock,” “Gusty Wind Alert,” and “Watch for Blowing Dust.” The only good thing about the drive was that the speed limit was 80 mph. Most of the cars were going 85-90 mph.
On this stretch of Interstate 10, the cities were about an hour apart. West Texas felt like we were riding through the town in the Jeepers Creepers movie. We saw a few cars broken down on the side of the road. That has to be a scary situation. It would take at least an hour for help to get to you. I was glad when we finally made it to El Paso. El Paso is in the Mountain Time zone. We decided to eat and then go to downtown El Paso. Call us crazy, but we wanted to see how close to the Mexican border we could get. We saw the border highway and the border bridge. It was dark out, so we decided to head back to the hotel.
El Paso – Tucson
The drive to Tucson, Arizona, was not that long. It was only 4.5 hours. We left Texas and drove through New Mexico and Arizona. New Mexico had more traffic on Interstate 10 than in west Texas. There were also a few more cities and towns.
By now, we were riding through the desert. It felt like Hill Valley in 1885 (Back to the Future 3). Every car on this stretch of I-10 was stopped at a Border Inspection Station. We also saw some more unusual interstate signs. One sign said, “Prison facilities near. Do not pick up Hitch – Hikers”. A few others were “Dust storm may exist” and “Defacing rocks unlawful.” We also noticed more parking areas than rest areas on the interstate. We also saw a couple of tiny dust storms. It felt like we were going to the wild west the further we drove. We passed the continental divide once we reached Arizona. You could tell New Mexico and eastern Arizona are less populated than other states on I-10. Interstate 10 in Arizona was very quiet in the beginning.
We checked out the Foothills mall and the University of Arizona campus in Tucson. We finished the night at Applebee’s for dinner. People in Tucson were relaxed and easy to talk to.
Tucson – Phoenix
The drive from Tucson to Phoenix was 99 miles. The drive was effortless. We stopped at an outlet mall in Tempe. I had never seen so much Arizona State merchandise in my life. It was good to see other cities representing their sports teams. It was hot in Phoenix. Before checking into the hotel, we saw the stadium where the Arizona Cardinals play. We checked into our room and rested for a couple of hours.
That evening, we proceeded to go to downtown Phoenix because we had tickets to the Diamondbacks game. Stubhub came through again. We saw the arena where the Phoenix Suns play as well. The Diamondbacks’ stadium is called Chase Field. It was very nice and up-to-date. They were playing the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodger fans were cheering louder than the Diamondback fans. It worked because the Dodgers won the game.
Our hotel was in an interesting location. There were some shady characters around. I wish we had more time to check out Phoenix, but I was glad we were leaving early the next morning. I could not do two days at the Super 8 Metro-North.
If you decide to visit Phoenix, check out this list of free or free things to do there.
Phoenix – Los Angeles
We finally got to California. The drive was pretty smooth on day 10. It took us 5.5 hours to get to Los Angeles. We left Phoenix at 5:30 am because we had to be in LA before noon. There was an inspection station at the California state line. Nobody was in there working, though. We also didn’t see any cops on the interstate in west Arizona. We noticed that east California was very isolated for the 1st hour. The only things around us were cacti, mountains, and a few RVs spread out. We eventually made it to Cali around 11 am. Instead of checking in at the hotel, we immediately went to the CBS Studios. I booked two tickets to the Price is Right TV show a few weeks ago. Once we got to the studio, the process took about 5 hours, but it was worth it. You can see my episode here.
After we left the CBS Studios, we drove I-10 until it ended near Santa Monica and saw the Pacific Ocean. We finally made it coast to coast.
We toured L.A today. We went to Hollywood Blvd, the Walk of Fame, Rodeo Drive, and the Beverly Center. The Walk of Fame was incredible. There were many more stars on the Walk of Fame than I thought would be out there. The Beverly Center reminded me of Phipps Plaza in Atlanta. There were a lot of expensive stores. After that, we went to Venice Beach. Venice Beach was lovely. It’s amazing seeing a beach with mountains in the background. We then made our way to the Santa Monica Pier. They had a free concert going on.
LA is a very diverse city. I enjoyed that a lot. We decided to go to downtown LA. We had the chance to see the Staples Center. I took pictures of the Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry West, and Wayne Gretzky statues. The team store was open at the Staples Center, so we decided to check it out. They had Lakers jerseys everywhere.
Dodger Stadium was next on our list. The Los Angeles Dodgers were playing the Colorado Rockies that evening. Dodger Stadium had the best fan participation out of the three stadiums we went to on the trip. I must come back to LA and see the Braves play the Dodgers one day. Dodger fans love and support their team. Dodger blue was everywhere.
Day 13 was the last full day in Los Angeles. We decided to do a bus tour of the city. The tour was good. We had the chance to see some of the stars’ mansions. Some of the mansions we saw were Cee-Lo Green, Bruno Mars, Rick Rubin, Lucille Ball, and Dr. Phil. We also went to Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive, and West Hollywood. They were interesting places, to say the least, especially West Hollywood. Later on, that evening, we went to the Venice Beach Boardwalk. The Boardwalk was different. There were vendors selling everything from shirts to posters to medical marijuana. There were also different types of people out there. Some were performers. Others were just plain weird.
Another thing that surprised me was the temperature. It was 67 degrees out there in July. That’s crazy.
Flight back to Atlanta
It was time to go back home. We flew Southwest Airlines back to Atlanta. It was a very smooth flight. As we returned to Atlanta, I thought about the previous 13 days. I did what people said couldn’t be done.
My three favorite cities on the cross-country road trip were San Antonio, Tucson, and Los Angeles. Out of 50 states, we saw license plates from 38 states, along with Mexico and Canada.
If you want to know the expenses for the trip, go here.
For more info on planning your trip, check out this article that I wrote, titled Planning a Cross Country Trip: The Ultimate Guide.
Jason Butler is the owner of My Money Chronicles, a website where he discusses personal finance, side hustles, travel, and more. Jason is from Atlanta, Georgia. He graduated from Savannah State University with his BA in Marketing. Jason has been featured in Forbes, Discover, and Investopedia.