You don’t put on a 3-piece suit to hit up the local fast food joint. Likewise, you don’t drop dough on a souped up auto only to drive it on confined city streets. Odds are you won’t be shipping your car out to America any time soon, but next time you find yourself on the bald eagle’s soil, consider getting behind the wheel of a fly ride and pushing her to the limit on one of these epic stretches of American asphalt.
Million Dollar Highway | Colorado
The Million Dollar Highway unfolds for about 40 km through western Colorado, but it’s really a 19 km tract through the Uncompahgre Gorge to the summit of Red Mountain Pass that gives the highway its name. Expect jaw-dropping vista after jaw-dropping vista, plus the daredevil fun of unpredictable weather, steep cliffs, narrow lanes, and a conspicuous lack of guardrails. You’ll be torn between watching the road and watching the magnificent Colorado Rockies scenery. The smart bet for both is to take it slow, but in the battle of smart vs. speed, you know who usually wins.
Rowena Loops | Oregon
If your travels take you to the Pacific Northwest, be sure to take a cruise down Oregon’s 121 km Historic Columbia River Highway. As the first planned scenic roadway in the United States, it has all kinds of fancy designations recognising it as a national landmark – and yes, it is beautiful, but it’s not just about the eye candy. Along the way are the Rowena Loops, a series of horseshoe curves designed to take the highway to an overlook at the Rowena Crest. It’s a unique, and picturesque, way to put your car’s handling to the test.
Kancamagus National Scenic Byway | New Hampshire
New Englanders love to make a big deal about “fall foliage” come September. New Hampshire’s Kancamagus National Scenic Byway is lined with hardwood and evergreen forest, offering one of the country’s most spectacular tableaus of changing colours. But that’s not all “The Kanc” deserves recgonition for – the blacktop itself is notable for serious drivers who want to test their mettle on its curves, uninterrupted by gas stations, restaurants, hotels, or anything else that could distract from the road.
Route 66 | California – Illinois
If you could name any American highway prior to reading this, this is the one. It’s so famous some might consider it a cliché, but Route 66’s path between Los Angeles and Chicago continues to captivate car lovers. It was one of the first highways in the U.S. Highway System, earning it the nicknames “Main Street of America” in popular culture and “The Mother Road” from author John Steinbeck. Though no longer a main route across the country, Route 66 is a must-drive if you’re looking for neon signs, diner food, questionable truck stops, and other elements of kitschy Americana.
Overseas Highway | Florida
Few names have been given more literally than the Overseas Highway. The southernmost leg of U.S. Highway 1 is a modern wonder. The road follows a trail originally blazed in 1912 by the Florida East Coast Railroad, stretching from Miami to Key West. And now? Now it’s a breathtaking 205.2 km mix of roadway and bridges (including the famed Seven Mile Bridge) that takes motorists directly over the tropical blue sea. The Overseas Highway is one part engineering marvel, one part stunning example of natural beauty, all parts drive of a lifetime.
Tail Of The Dragon | North Carolina
Is this the most badass expanse of asphalt in all of America? Some would say yes. This classic destination (particularly for motorcyclists) forms a swirling ribbon through the heart of the Great Smokey Mountains in North Carolina. It’s not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. The name comes from the road’s resemblance to a dragon’s tail when viewed on a map, which means what you’re getting is a serpentine stretch of 318 stomach-wrenching blind twists and turns. Mistakes made here are met with dire consequences, but avid drivers are undeterred.
California State Route 1 | California
Also known as the Pacific Coast Highway, or simply the PCH, California’s Route 1 runs along most of the state’s Pacific coastline. That means driving through some of the country’s most beautiful oceanside landscapes from LA to San Francisco and beyond, but it’s around Big Sur that the drive is at its best. The winding road is carved directly into the side of cliffs high above the Pacific Ocean and passes through a redwood forest in the Big Sur River valley. Be sure to snap a pic of the uber-photogenic Bixby Creek Bridge, one of the tallest single-span concrete bridges in the world.
Avenue Of The Giants | California
No trip to Northern California is complete without a visit to the state’s famous redwood trees. For gearheads, that visit should be a fuel-driven sojourn down the Avenue of the Giants through Humboldt Redwoods State Park. The ancient trees make this a more-than worthy addition to your bucket list. They stand hundreds of feet tall and one is over 950 years old – and it’s not even the oldest in the forest. For something even more unique, the Avenue of the Giants includes three trees visitors can drive through.
Lake Tahoe Drive | California & Nevada
The majesty of Lake Tahoe is so great it couldn’t be confined to a single state. Straddling the boarder between California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe offers ample opportunities for unforgettable drives. As you wind your way around the lake, lookout for the famous underwater boulders in Crystal Bay, the mansion at Sugar Pine, the sheer granite mountain at Eagle Falls, and Cave Rock, a sacred place to the Washoe tribe of Native Americans located at the throat of an extinct volcano.
Lower Wacker Drive | Illinois
Lower Wacker Drive doesn’t look like anything else on this list. It’s encased in concrete and, rather than being far from the madding crowd, is directly in the centre of that madding crowd. A spin down it produces a different kind of joy than the routes through America’s natural wonders. Lower Wacker is a twisting, tunnel-like roadway seemingly designed to be a location for movie car chases – and it has been, in both The Blues Brothers and Batman Begins. Lower Wacker’s twists and turns beneath Chicago’s more contested traffic are urban, eerie, and only for the fast of reflex.