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Van Horn, Texas, to Jacksonville, Florida, on US-90 is 1,633 miles. I-10 loosely parallels the route and sometimes you are forced to travel the Interstate when hurricane damage takes out a bridge, or several, in the Gulf Coast area.
Overall, if you have the time to simply enjoy the slow pace of Southern living, US-90 is the route to take.
Click on the tabs to see route descriptions and maps by state.
Van Horn, TX to Orange, TX
Est 1,240 miles - 20.0 hours (click here for route map)
The first few hundreds miles from the western end of the route are easily described; straight, generally without hills, desert, lonely, and "Will we EVER get there?"
The distances between towns is astounding and at times the interruption of a Border Patrol checkpoint is almost welcomed. Things to see and places to stop and spend a little time are easy to find, they are the only things to which the highway signs point. The few tourists you see are all heading there - just follow them. If western folklore turns your crank then wander around Langtry and Del Rio looking for things related to Judge Roy Bean. "Judge Roy" by all accounts, was a crook, wife abusing philanderer, murderer, notorious bigot, and in trouble with law enforcement authorities in several states and Mexico - a perfect politician. So, of course, he became a Justice of The Peace! It's a great story and you can visit his grave at the Whitehead Memorial Museum in Del Rio.
The hustle and bustle of the first real city is evident about 35 miles from the center of San Antonio. Depending upon your departure time from Van Horn you are probably eager to find lodging. Try to get there early in the afternoon and put some sight seeing time in before going to bed. Set aside a good chunk of the next day to see more of the sites like the Alamo. Consider a walking tour. Many are concentrated into a small area. It's worth the time and effort. If it's hot, and it usually is, go to the River Walk. It sits below grade and extends through the heart of the old town area. Lots of restraurants, places to shop, and the atmosphere will relax you as you gird yourself for the rest of the trip through Texas.
Beyond San Antonio it's often difficult to get away from I-10, US-90 co-locates or is adjacent for the next two or three hundred miles to the Louisiana border and beyond. If time is pressing, or your patience easily runs thin, just give up and run I-10.
At Seguin you have the option of taking Alt US-90 for about 130 miles into Rosenburg and Sugar Land areas of metro Houston. The Alt is actually the original route of US-90 and this stretch is much less confining and takes riders through rural settings this area seems to be quickly losing.
At Houston US-90 runs north of I-10 but remains as a busy four lane for all but about 20 of the miles remaining before the Louisiana state line. At Beaumont the co-location with I-10 begins again and any potential romance with your destination and the highway is shattered by the industrial nature of the area.
Beaumont has so many little 'stop and visit a while' attractions that it is a good place to plan an overnight stop. One of those is the Babe Didrikson Zaharias Museum. It's fee free and documents the life of a very gifted woman athlete from a time when women were expected to be cheering from the grandstands rather than dunking baskets, scoring birdies and eagles, and winning Olympic gold medals in track and field events. Hey, combine this with a few other interesting stops in Beaumont and you really do have a good tourism day before continuing east (Or west).
Other tourism sites are a fire department museum, historical homes from the early oil era, and some good restaurants. If you are a blues buff, you might keep a sharp lookout for the ghostly haunts of Janis Joplin - she grew up here and her raspy voice echoes from many corners of the town.
Orange, TX to Pearlington, MS
Est 370 miles - 6.9 hours (click here for route map)
From Beaumont eastbound to Lafayette US-90 is a main thoroughfare for the locals. I won't call it a nightmare, but only because the incidental traffic jam that leads to a complete stop isn't common. But it is heavy traffic most of the time and everybody seems intent on their cell phone conversation - I guess they are calling home to see how much bread, milk, and Cajun foodstuffs are needed in the pantry. Be careful and patient and remember that I-10 is just a couple of minutes away if you need to make up for any lost time.
Beyond Lafayette, as the route turns southeast into New Orleans, you will find that US-90 is soon to disappear from this area, or at least be swallowed up as a co-located route when it is re-badged as I-49. The saving grace is that it does alleviate the speed problem and congestion disappears. If you want to experience the original route as it was 50 years ago, just slide east a few hundred yards and run LA-182. It has all of the problems of a local thoroughfare, but does still have the flavor of a road trip through interesting territory.
Part of that Cajun flavor missed by remaining on US-90/I-49 is the city of Houma, and if you take LA-182 as your alternate you will pass through Houma. It's a very friendly town and welcomes tourism dollars with enthusiasm. That loop to the south and back to US-90 will add about 25 miles and an hour to your trip, but it's worth considering if you are really on a leasure trip.
Once you cross the invisible boundary line of St Charles Parish it's impossible not to know you are in metro New Orleans. The route is still being upgraded to Interstate standards, and eventually it will be I-49 as a southern loop around NOLA all the way over to the eastern side of town. But until that happens you are able to see what the locals know is really New Orleans. Tourists think of NOLA as the French Quarter where you will find the ghosts of Louis Jordan, Acker Bilk, Louis Armstrong, and hundreds of jazz and blues pioneers that plied their trade in the seven or eight decades past. And the excitement is still there, waiting for tourists to open their wallets to tour rides, street performers, souvenir shops, restaurants and hotels.
The locals know Business US-90 as the southern artery of New Orleans, and for the most part it's referred to as "The Westbank Expressway." It's the faster moving four lane that moves them to and from work, to the grocery store and back again. It's gritty, noisy, and often confusing for the unwary traveler that gets off the path looking for the real New Orleans.
If you have a radio that you can listen to as you transit the area, the best one for local traffic information is WWL at 870 AM or 105.3 FM. It will bring you accurate information of expressway slowdowns and best detours if there is a stoppage.
Touring Downtown New Orleans?
Street side parking can be difficult to find around most of the tourism venues. Fortunately there are many parking decks and garages that will accommodate you, especially around the Port of New Orleans. Expect to pay about $18 for a full day. If you do find a meter on the street be certain not to let the time run out lest it become subject to police towing and impound. Impound is a notorious gambit played by the NOPD and it can sometimes take a day or two to learn WHICH towing firm took the vehicle and at what impound lot it is held. Consider the $18 parking lot fee a bargain. Better yet, keep your bike in a secure hotel or motel lot and take a cab downtown. That will save you from worrying about your bike while you are doing the equivalent of a New Orleans pub crawl.
Continuing your ride along US-90 into Pearlington, MS isn't bad east of NOLA. Especially nice is the crossing of Lake St Catherine. The noise of New Orleans will still be echoing within your helmet, but the view of wildlife along the lake and in the Bayou Savage NWR will wash that away.
Pearlington, MS to Mobile, AL
Est 106 miles - 2.6 hours (click here for route map)
The next 100 miles of US-90 are exciting, exasperating. It's really lovely when you are looking south. Looking north isn't much of a thrill unless you appreciate the architecture left behind by repeated hurricanes that come through like a street sweeper in Superman's Bizzaro world.
Crossing the bridge at Bay St Louis brings you into the best of Gulf Coast living. For the guys it's beaches and bikinis. The girls like the endless places to shop, and everybody likes the warm sun and the cool gulf breezes.
If you intend to stay here there are plenty of places for every budget level. Generally, the least expensive rates will be found a bit inland, clustered around the I-10 intersections. If you want to stay close to the beach and not spend a fortune you need to plan your visit from the middle of September to the first week of November. There are far fewer visitors then and the rates drop significantly. Toward the end of November the snowbirds migrate in for the winter and rates reach their highest.
Expect the road to be congested. Summer transits are especially hard on ATGATT riders as temperatures routinely hover in the mid to upper 90's and it's impossible to go fast enough to make the vents in the jackets work. Take the time to stop and hydrate or you will have a problem by the time you reach Pascagoula.
The Oasis of Mobile
Quiet and quaint is the best way to describe the old quarter of Mobile. The streets are often narrow and crowded, so finding a place to park the bike can be difficult. But that can lead to a nice walking tour. Parking violation enforcement is not nearly the nightmare of New Orleans.
On my last visit here an old shipmate introduces me to 'A Spot of Tea.' It's on Dauphin Street, across from Cathedral Square. Open every day from breakfast to early afternoon, it has a sidewalk cafe with service into the square. Brunch or lunch here allows people watching and an opportunity to plan the rest of your day.
The Mobile River area has been developed into a nice tourism area and the newest highlight is the Gulf Quest National Maritime Museum on south Water Street, next to the Alabama Cruise Terminal. Admission is $18 and the exhibits are sure to give you an appreciation of what it is like to sail the Gulf of Mexico.
The big draw for most of us older 55 guys is the USS Alabama Battleship Park, right along US-90 on the east side of Mobile River. This World War II battleship, and the associated vessels and aircraft, impart the strength of the United States as it fought to overcome the Axis powers. Most of the things you will see here were probably built before you were born. Adult admission is $15 with discounts available for us older codgers.
There are a few really good seafood joints along the bay causeway. Some have live entertainment after 8 PM. Reasonable places to stay can be found on either side of the bay, making these venues an attractive draw for anybody just passing through for a quick overnight before pressing on east or west.
Loxley, AL to Jacksonville Beach, FL
Est 431 miles - 7.8 hours (click here for route map)
Continuing east on the Mobile Bay Causeway and staying on US-90 requires a bit of attention - it's easy to miss a few turns. Locally the road is known as The Old Spanish Trail. It isn't heavily traveled and allows the mind to wander a bit while enjoying some gentle hills and pleasant scenery.
Pensacola is the first large town encountered in the panhandle of Florida.It is an excellent choice as an overnight stop, or destination. The city has a long, and interesting history and all of it is on display.
Reach the historic downtown area by turning south at the intersection of US-90 and Palafox Street and take it all the way to Plaza de Luna. It has a wonderful view of Escambia Bay from a maritime perspective. This once was, and still is, the municipal pier. There are restaurants within walking distance, as well as colonial era buildings, antique shops, and an entertairnment area for evening activities.
There are several historic jewels along Palafox Street. One of them is Saenger Theater, a local favorite since 1925. It began life as a venue for vaudeville shows and theatrical productions. Post war it was used primarily to show first run Hollywood films. The box office closed in 1975 and the building entered a new phase of historic restoration that brought it to its current purpose as an cultural events center.
Less apprciated, but no less important, is the T.T. Wentworth Jr Museum. Housed in the old Pensacola City Hall, the Wentworth is similar in scope to the attic of an eccentric - which it is. Old T.T. died almost five decades ago, but I had the pleasure ot knowing him. His collection was first housed in a storefront at the north edge of town. He never refused an artifact; military uniforms, kids toys, photographs, pieces of pottery, anything that might be interesting could be found at T.T.'s. Many thought it a junk pile, but those that knew Pensacola history understood it was a treasure trove.
When the City of Pensacola moved from the building an arrangement was made to use the space to properly curate and display the thousands of items in the Wentworth collection. The State of Florida got involved, and now it's a tourist draw - I can see T.T. smiling, his vision was finally achived. You can visit for an $8 admission fee.
The really big attraction in Pensacola is the Naval Air Station, and the National Museum of Naval Aviation. NAS Pensacola is the home of the Blue Angels and summer visitors can even meet the team each week - be there by 11:30 AM on Wednesday from March through November.
Admission to the museum is free. If you are just curious about military aviation you can visit for a half day and be satisfied. Aviation geeks will want to spend a full day or more to ensure everything is properly experienced.
Security precautions are evident when visiting NAS Pensacola. Civilians may enter ONLY via the west gate. Visit the museum web site for complete details.
Also aboard the air station is Barrancas National Cemetery, Fort Barrancas, and Pensacola Light. Pensacola Light offers a ticket to climb the light and Fort Barrancas visitors can enjoy walking around the redoubt and envision what it must have been like to defend Pensacola in the 19th century.
Beaches and bayous are also available in Pensacola and eastbound through Milton and on to Tallahassee. Most of the area is flat, but there is water everywhere and many state and county parks to enjoy. The first 20 miles is congested, but after that the route turns into a very pleasant ride without much traffic to diminish the experience.