The One Minute Geographer: Ready for That Cross-Country Trip?

Jim Fonseca
4 min readMay 15, 2022
Cape Alava, Washington to West Quoddy Head, Maine from Google Maps

You’re finally going to make that cross-country trip this summer that you have been thinking about for years! You’ll travel with a good friend, he or she. There are three things you must agree on before you start: the music, the food and the route. Classical or heavy metal? Fine dining or greasy burger joints?

The One Minute Geographer can give you some thoughts on the route. You’ll have to check out the One Minute Musician and the One Minute Gourmand to help with the other two.

We’ll focus on distance and time. Because of the kind of ‘funnel shape’ of North America, a cross-country trip across the northernmost part of the USA is a lot longer than the same coast-to-coast trip across the south. We saw in an earlier post that the extreme points western and eastern points in the 48-state US are Cape Alava in Washington state and West Quoddy Head, Maine. If you decide on that route, according to Google Maps (map above), you’re in for 55 hours driving time and 3,575 miles. (We’ve had Metallica on for 5 hours now; can we switch back to Black Sabbath?)

Also note on that Cape Alava to West Quoddy route that going through Canada is shorter by 270 miles. The time is the same, however, because Canadian speed limits are lower, usually 55 mph on the Trans-Canada highway. Plus you have to add border crossing time — twice.

San Diego, California to Jacksonville, Florida from Google Maps

A southern route is way shorter because the coasts pinch in on both sides of the continent. Recall that San Diego is east of almost all of Washington and Oregon, so we get a head start. Let’s go to Jacksonville — that lies west of the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. So this is the ‘cheater’s’ cross-county route — only 34 hours and about 2,340 miles.

San Francisco, California to Virginia Beach, Virginia from Google Maps

How about a mid-country route? Let’s say San Francisco to Virginia Beach. That’s about 44 hours and 2,980 miles. By the way, that central route is actually not much different than a simple northern route, not between the extremes, but let’s…

Jim Fonseca

Geography professor (retired) writes The One Minute Geographer featuring This Fragile Earth. Top writer in Transportation and, in past months, Travel.