I was reading something earlier this week about the recommended driving distance for a single day. A number of websites and forums suggested 500 miles was an appropriate distance for the average driver while some went so far as to say it should be the limit! Drivers vary in experience (and quality) but a lot of people were preaching the 500 mile mark. The things holding a driver back are numerous; fatigue, boredom, weather, road construction, darkness, and speed traps (screw you Indiana). For Beth and I, we’ve been on a number of long road trips that have required longer than average driving days:
2012 Amherst, NY to Portland, ME (via VT/NH) About 610 Miles – Day
2012 Fayetteville, NC to Kissimmee, FL (via Charleston) About 626 Miles – Day
2011 Tempe, AZ to Concord, CA (via Hollywood) About 766 Miles – Day
2011 St. Louis, MO to Livingston, TX (via Memphis and Shreveport) About 800 Miles – Day
2011 Concord, CA to Rock Springs, WY (via Lake Tahoe) About 929 Miles – Day/Night
2011 Rock Springs, WY to Minneapolis, MN (via Omaha) About 1143 Miles – Day/Night
2011 Houston, TX to Tempe, AZ (awesome sunrise over the desert) About 1163 Miles – Night/Day
2013 Minneapolis, MN to Houston, TX (via I-35) About 1237 Miles – Night/Day
2013 Houston, TX to Minneapolis, MN (via I-35) About 1246 Miles – Night/Day
There are pitfalls to driving longer distances, obviously. I’ve been so tired I almost fell asleep at the wheel. I had to pull my own leg hair repeatedly to stay awake. We’ve been through a number of rough storms that had our windshield wipers on full blast. Driving through the West Texas desert at night had Beth nervous as hell while I slept soundly, unaware of the hundreds of deer she saw. Despite all these reasons to pull over and stop, we pushed on and survived each obstacle.
For those of you trying to figure out how far you can travel in a day, don’t be afraid to take breaks. It is very difficult for drivers to accurately assess their own level of fatigue. The more tired you get, the more difficult it becomes to tell how tired you really are. There are some warning signs to be aware of, such as trouble focusing, head nodding, spacing out, slowed reaction time, and drifting in the lane. Beth and I stop often to sight-see, eat at an actual table, and stretch. Everybody should test themselves to know their personal limits. Limits also vary based on the conditions and for solo travelers versus those in a couple or group. For us, if one of us is driving and can’t go on any longer we switch. If we were both too tired to drive, for example, we would stop and take a nap somewhere, which thankfully hasn’t happened to us yet.
Inspired by the 500 mile driving day concept, Map 17 shows the distance of some of North America’s major cities from our home base of operations, Minneapolis, MN. I charted each of these major cities (and technically some less than major cities) by distance as the crow flies. Mapping by drive time would have been far too complicated but it is interesting to compare the two numbers. Some of the cities are much farther by car than they are by air (the Great Lakes tend to get in the way a little bit). I’ll also say I was surprised San Diego was closer than San Francisco.
My mileage data can be calculated for your home town too. Figuring out what cities are within a day’s drive can be a great way to start planning your next trip. Find the destination of your first leg and the rest of your trip may plan itself.
I found Map 18 on Business Insider via Thoughtform. The map shows the population of the United States in a 3D form. New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago stand out as the top three population centers but it is cool to see where people congregate throughout the country. There is a heavy concentration in the Northeast as well as California and Texas. I could see flocking to warmer climates in the South but many people seek big-city living in the Northeast too. The Twin Cities area of Minneapolis and St. Paul represents well enough. We’re more of a cultural hub than a “cram-everyone-into-seventy-square-miles” hub. There are some facts already embedded in the image. Have at it folks.
If you haven’t gotten your map fix for the day out of the two previous maps, check out my bonus map link below. Please leave questions or comments and if you need help planning a road trip I am there for you, just post below.