What's awesome on I-10?
July 22, 2013 9:12 AM   Subscribe

In two weeks, I'll be driving solo cross-country on I-10. Trying to make the trip fairly quickly, so I won't have much leisure time. BUT - close to the highway - are there any restaurants, spots of immense scenic beauty or other roadside attractions that I shouldn't miss?

So my family is moving from California to Florida. My wife and kid get to fly. I get the privilege of transporting a car and our little dog overland.

The vast majority of the trip will be on I-10. I've driven cross-country before, but never on that route. I won't have much free time to explore, but is there anything awesome in Tucson, San Antonio, Houston, Mobile or anywhere else along I-10 that is close to the highway and worth making a stop for?

Advice on dog-friendly lodging would be appreciated, too. Right now planning to split nights between hotels and rest areas.
posted by gnutron to Travel & Transportation (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
We drove from New Orleans to San Francisco last summer with our two dogs. We stayed at La Quintas in San Antonio and Phoenix and I would recommend it. Very clean, affordable, and surprisingly nice for the price. One of them (forget which) was nice enough to notice ahead of time that we had dogs and put us on the first floor near the side door so it was easy for us to take them out for walks.
posted by radioamy at 9:23 AM on July 22, 2013

If you like delicious tacos, Surrealist art, Mark Rothko, and/or Cy Twombly, then this Google map shows you the way to a nice little 1-1.5 hour-long side-trip in Houston. The art stuff is all free, which is part of what makes it a simple, easy side-trip that's doubtless worth it, and it's open from Wednesday through Sunday from 11am-7pm.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 9:25 AM on July 22, 2013

The Cabazon Dinosaurs are awesome along I-10.
posted by gyusan at 9:27 AM on July 22, 2013

There is an awesome BBQ place just off I-10 in Ft. Stockton, TX
posted by colin_l at 9:27 AM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, sorry, I missed the "dog-friendly" part. :\
posted by Monsieur Caution at 9:30 AM on July 22, 2013

In Louisiana, you can hold a baby alligator or get really close and personal with them. Perhaps not as dog-friendly as you would like.

In Mississippi, the Stennis Center has some cool rockets.

FYI - you will also probably want to take the 1-12 spur just after Baton Rouge to avoid the 1-10 V down to NOLA and back to Mississippi (unless you want to see N.O., in which case, the Kenner Police Dept. car parked on the side of the highway near the airport is usually unmanned).
posted by tafetta, darling! at 9:31 AM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

I did some of this drive when I moved from California to Florida.

You can see the Alamo in San Antonio. It's interesting enough if you've never seen it before, but if time is a factor, I'd drive past it and say, "Yup, that's the Alamo alright." (I did this with Pearl Harbor in HI, so YMMV.)

Motel 6 is pet friendly, and they're pretty cheap. You'll want to check the Trip Advisor though, some fo them can be in dodgy neighborhoods.

I-10 is sort of a nice drive, but unless you have time to get off and explore, it's just your typical interstate kind of stuff.

Stop in Louisiana and get some local cuisine. Boiled crawfish, if that's your thing.

Eat some Mexican food in Arizona and compare it with Mexican food in New Mexico, then with Tex-Mex in Texas, that's kind of a thing!

I-10 is a snore and going across Texas...brutal. Put a brick on the gas pedal and daydream, there's a whole lotta nothing. Stop for a Dairy Queen now and then to break up the boredom.

Cracker Barrel has a thing where you can pick up a book on tape and return it to any other Cracker Barrel, so that's a thing. Cheaper than buying books.

Your biggest enemy is boredom. So plan on combating that as much as possible.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:39 AM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Get boudin and fried boudin balls at Best Stop in Scott, LA, just east of the Texas border. It's right off the highway. Trust me on this one. You want to eat here.
posted by scose at 10:21 AM on July 22, 2013

Texas: Detouring through Fredericksburg and Austin shouldn't be a bad side trip, and you can skirt around Houston to the north. Also in Junction, Texas there is a place that sometimes serves BBQ goat tacos (Cooper's I think).

We always try to stay at a Drury along I-10; they're no-questions-asked pet friendly and have a complimentary happy hour :) The Las Cruces Drury has a nice outdoor area.

Lafayette, Louisiana has lots of places to eat.

Mobile has a battleship.

Don't know where you're going in Florida, but the beach route from Pensacola thru Panama City is fun, though it does add several hours. Apalachicola is a cool town to walk around and eat seafood (Water Street Hotel and Marina is pet friendly). If you don't want to waste that much time, you can cut over after Tallahassee and go through Perry for variety.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:23 AM on July 22, 2013

Fairhope, in Baldwin County across the bay from Mobile, is a beautiful little town with a nice assortment of restaurants and such on its main street. The Marriott Grand Hotel in nearby Point Clear is stunning.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 10:30 AM on July 22, 2013

Chuy's Restaurant/John Madden's All-Madden Hall of Fame in Van Horn, TX

And you'll get to ride along the border fence between Ft. Hancock and El Paso!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:40 AM on July 22, 2013

As already mentioned, the Stennis center, as you enter Mississippi, is worth a stop. Allow time to view the rocketry based information. There are designated places to walk your dog, under the water oaks, pines, and magnolias.

Within Louisiana, there is a rest area in the Atchafalaya basin that has displays of geological and natural history interest, as well as a pet rest area.

Unless you want to visit New Orleans, take I-12 as a shortcut. There is little to see but trees, but it is quicker.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 10:47 AM on July 22, 2013

You must stop at Buc-ee's, which is on I-10, shortly before San Antonio, in Luling, TX. You'll see the billboards for miles before you get there. They have the cleanest bathrooms in America, cheap gas, and you can get an addictive snack product called "Beaver Nuggets". Also fudge, breakfast burritos, and tons of other food and gadgets. People are rabidly fanatical about this place, I see the tshirts everywhere. (I, myself, own a rhinestone-encrusted Buc-ee's beaver shirt, because that's how I roll.)
Seriously, you'll probably need gas, food or a bathroom break then anyway, and Buc-ee's is something everyone should experience at least once.

Note: you'll probably pass other Buc-ee's along the way, I think there's one on the outskirts of Houston. Don't be tempted; they aren't as good as the one before San Antonio.
posted by MexicanYenta at 11:04 AM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you're headed to the west coast of FL, I'd actually recommend cutting down US 19, down from Tallahassee. It only adds a little to your trip, and is much more scenic.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:31 AM on July 22, 2013

One thing to keep in mind is that it's really really freakin hot, so any stops you make will have to be near the hotel so that you have somewhere cool to leave your dog.

Are you the only human doing this trip? Having the dog becomes really complicated with the heat, because you basically can't leave them alone. I drove with my fiance, and we would tag-team stops. He would go get food or use the bathroom and I would walk the dogs or hang out with them in the car, and then vice versa.

Oh also prepare for the possibility of dog puke from motion sickness. Our little dog threw up twice. It wasn't a huge deal, we just threw out the blanket in his kennel and wiped his face with a wipe.
posted by radioamy at 11:33 AM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

I live in central Texas and drive to Arizona along I-10 a couple times a year. You should be aware that cell service between San Antonio and El Paso is in and out. I've been doing this drive for 5 years now with TMobile AT&T and Verizon. They all have drop out points along the route. Gas stations are few and far between out there so its probably a good idea to fill up as soon as you can when you hit a quarter of a tank.

Now for the good stuff. Cooper's BarBQ in Junction Texas (mentioned by RobotVoodooPower above) has great fruit cobbler and ice cream. I don't believe they have a drive through though so you'll have to go in to get it. Its yummy in a "sweet southern comfort food" sort of way. Definitely drive by and see The Alamo, in San Antonio, its not very far from the freeway and its iconic. There's an historic inn in Van Horn called Hotel El Capitan that I have always wanted to check out. Haven't been able to stay there yet, though so can't say for certain how good it is. The pictures make it look pretty interesting and if you're passing through Van Horn late at night, be aware that its a LONG way to El Paso. If you have time check out Balmorhea State Park and swim in the world's largest spring fed swimming pool. Its a nice refreshing break from the 100 degree drive. Finally, if you have time check out the gorgeous, Chiricahua National Monument in AZ. You will drive through some of the gorgeous rock formations even if you dont make the monument itself. Oh and one last "thing," here's a link to everything you need to know about The Thing. You'll know what I'm talking about soon enough. : )
posted by WalkerWestridge at 11:57 AM on July 22, 2013

Great info so far. Random regional food awesomeness is right up my alley.

Indeed, I will be the only human on the the trip - so anywhere I stop needs to be quick in-and-out to minimize leaving the dog in the car to like 5 mins or less.

Tampa is the final destination, but I figure by the time I hit Florida I'll just be hauling ass to get home ASAP.
posted by gnutron at 12:01 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

And yes, what radioamy said about dogs and heat. DO NOT leave your dog in the car, even for a few moments. The heat is literally deadly! Especially this time of year!
posted by WalkerWestridge at 12:01 PM on July 22, 2013

I can not over-emphasize how overpoweringly hot it is in the Southern part of the US in the summer. I seriously would try to do all drive-thrus for food, and bring the dog in with you to the bathroom and such.
posted by radioamy at 12:52 PM on July 22, 2013

I moved to Texas from Oregon. My trip took me down the length of I-5, where I stayed with my parents in Los Angeles, and then I drove I-10 all the way from Los Angeles to College Station, Texas.

First: I will echo the "don't leave the dog in the car" thing. I can't walk to the mailbox without being drenched in sweat, and it's not a good idea to turn the A/C off at all if you can avoid it and are sure you won't be locked out of the vehicle. If I have a dog with me, I park in the shade and leave the car running to keep the A/C running and on, and take a spare key with me. Even with that, I usually come out to someone pissed off at me for leaving my dog in the car. You also cannot usually tie a dog to something (except in Austin) in the shade. Dogs don't have the same methods of cooling available, and even leaving a pet who is not used to it or who has a heavy coat outside in 100 degree weather will have you googling the location of the nearest emergency vet on your phone. Ask us how we know...

There is No. Thing. worth stopping for between Los Angeles and Texas. That drive, by the way, should take you an entire day if you're on the road. My parents typically stop in Los Cruces, NM because that's the last place with a decent selection of hotels before Texas, and you don't want to stay in El Paso if you can avoid it.

After that, there's nothing again until you get from West Texas into Hill Country Texas. If you have the time, take the opportunity to make a side trip down 290 into Austin and see one of the gems of Texas: a city with parks, wonderful food, and nice people. (San Antonio, except for the riverwalk which I find crowded and annoying, doesn't have much to offer.) If you're a carnivore, you'll want to eat at a nice BBQ joint in Austin; any on this list will blow your mind. Most places in Austin are dog friendly and you'll be able to stretch your legs and the pup's. I'd recommend staying the night in Austin if your schedule allows for it. Unfortunately, due to the geography of Texas, you will not get much farther than Austin before you conk out for that day.

The next day, you will want to get up and take 290 to Houston, where you will rejoin I-10 via 610 North. Your destination tonight is New Orleans, which is about an eight or nine hour drive, if memory serves. (I drive a little fast.) The only place worth stopping at (because Houston is just another Los Angeles and doesn't have much to recommend it except traffic and freeways) is the rest area at Exit 121 in Louisiana. It used to be a school that actually had *school boats* to bring bayou kids to it. If you haven't been to New Orleans, you will need to pick among the gourmet delights and sights, or whatever you have energy for. I seriously could do no wrong eating there, except the time we got hungry while on Bourbon St. and stepped into a touristy place that had bad yelp ratings but looked nice. That place sucked. If you can, have dinner at The Green Goddess ... the hours are very limited, but it was the best food I had in a city of good food. If you do stay in New Orleans, park at your hotel (There are lots of good budget hotels downtown) and then walk or take a cab wherever you want to go. No one should drive into the french quarter. We take pedicabs and the streetcar everywhere when we visit.

I have not driven the gulf coast past that. It seems to me based on a trip that we'd planned that you can make it to the edge of the panhandle the next day. I have friends in Winter Park that are able to make it from New Orleans in one day by team driving, but at the end of what is truly a long trip, you should probably play it safe and plan to stay somewhere like Destin (which I think is another 8 hour drive) and then finish the drive down to Tampa the next day.
posted by SpecialK at 1:00 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

When you go to Buc-ees in Luling, make sure you use the bathroom. It is An Experience.
posted by Michele in California at 1:36 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

If at all possible, stop at Cattlemen's in Fabens for an awesome steak and unforgettable coleslaw, beans etc.
posted by jaimystery at 5:49 PM on July 22, 2013

Gas stations are few and far between out there so its probably a good idea to fill up as soon as you can when you hit a quarter of a tank.

I'm going to disagree with this. Between San Antonio, I always fill up any time I hit half a tank. There are some very long stretches without gas stations. And you can't always trust your GPS/google maps about gas stations-sometimes they don't exist any more. So if you're at 1/2 a tank and you see a station, fill up.
posted by MexicanYenta at 9:07 PM on July 22, 2013


WalkerWestridge: " If you have time check out Balmorhea State Park and swim in the world's largest spring fed swimming pool. Its a nice refreshing break from the 100 degree drive. "

I can highly recommend the El Oso Flojo Lodge in Balmorhea. I don't know if they'll take pets, tbh.
posted by Runes at 10:40 PM on July 22, 2013

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