Everything is bigger in Texas and it’s clear why the Lone Star State is so popular with tourists when you consider all that it has to offer. The state of Texas is a veritable treasure trove of stunning landscapes, historic sites, museums, parks, retail malls, and BBQ joints.
This second-largest state in the United States shares a southern border with Mexico and borders Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. And as much as you would like a nice drive through Texas, there are moments when you’ll wonder how long it would take to travel from one end of the state to the other.
Routes to Get Across Texas
The irregular shape of Texas makes it possible to cross the state in various routes, and each takes a varied amount of time.
The I-10, which runs through the southern portion of the state, and the I-40, which crosses through the Texas Panhandle and runs through the northern part of the state, are the two most prevalent routes in Texas.
Driving Route 66 through Texas
Panhandle, Texas’ northernmost region, is known for its pancake-flat plains that spread for about 200 miles (320 kilometers). There are no trees or other features in the western part that stretches into New Mexico, also known as the Llano Estacado or the “Staked Plains.” One hundred years ago, Kiowa and Comanche tribes roamed the Texas Panhandle, a buffalo-rich grassland in the southern Great Plains. Oil and gas, trucking, and Route 66 tourists have now joined ranching as the region’s primary source of economic activity.
I-40 has replaced old Route 66 in Texas, but in ghost towns like Shamrock and McLean, as well as Amarillo’s sole city, the old US-66 still serves as the primary business route and is surrounded by the vacant remnants of roadside businesses. Only a few people are still willing to sit down for a cup of coffee and a taste of the past.
The original 178-mile (290-kilometer) stretch of Texas’ Route 66 is now drivable for just around 150 miles (24 kilometers), a great way to add to those new car miles. The majority of Route 66 is buried beneath the I-40 Frontage Road. Between Jericho and Alanreed, and from Adrian to Glenrio, the final 18 miles of a Route 66 automobile trip across Texas will be on I-40. But don’t worry, since even this frontage road has a rural, middle-of-nowhere vibe to it.
Panhandle to South Padre Island, Texas
Following the US-77 S route, it takes 843 miles (1,356.68 kilometers) to get from Panhandle to South Padre Island. If you drive non-stop, the distance between the Panhandle and South Padre Island is approximately 14 hours and 24 minutes.
This is the quickest way to get from the Texas Panhandle to South Padre Island, Texas. The town of Moody, Texas, serves as the halfway point on the route.
South Padre Island, Texas, and Panhandle, Texas, share the Central Time Zone (CDT).
Things to Consider That May Affect your Travel Time
The time it takes to drive across Texas is mostly determined by traffic. The majority of the state is free for travel, but if you’re driving along one of the busiest highways (e.g., I-10 between large cities or passing a major city) or during rush hour, you’re more likely to get stuck in traffic.
The 26-lane segment of I-10 west of Houston is the world’s widest road section, and there’s a good reason for it: it can get very congested. There may be traffic jams here and there, but you can also go through it late at night without any problems.
How many times you’ll have to stop will also have a significant impact on how long it takes you to finish the route. Because certain cars are more thirsty for gas than others, and if you have a baby that would require frequent breaks, you will need to anticipate a long drive. You won’t be able to just keep going without a rest stop with the distances in Texas being in the hundreds of miles.
Even on major highways, the speed limit varies widely. A range of 55-80 miles per hour is enforced on the interstates. Despite this, many cities are reducing speed restrictions as you approach or drive around them, making it more difficult to travel long distances at high speeds. Due to roadwork, El Paso dropped the speed limit on the I-10 to 60 mph in 2018 but did not raise it once the construction was over.
Driving Across Texas as Quickly As Possible
If time is a factor, it’s simple to hop on the I-40 highway as needed along Route 66. However, even though you’ll be going by a few small towns, you’ll be unlikely to find a working gas station. Shamrock is the next large gas station, while Amarillo is approximately 90 miles away.
If you must travel across Texas in the shortest amount of time possible, here are a few recommendations to help you get there as quickly as possible.
At the very least, it’s a good idea to travel in a vehicle with at least two drivers, one of whom can take over if the other needs a break or rest.
If you have the option or are renting a vehicle, skip the gas-guzzling monster and opt for something more eco-friendly. Over 800 miles of routes span the South. Instead of two or three stops at the gas station, you’ll only need one if you drive a fuel-efficient vehicle.
The best time to travel is during the day, not at night. Several Texas speed limits are reduced during the night, making movement more difficult due to lower visibility. The best time to cross the border into Texas is at 7:30 a.m. so that you can take advantage of the daytime and get back out before it gets dark. While Sundays tend to be 30 minutes faster than other days due to lower traffic counts, the difference on a 12-hour trip along the I-10 is not as significant as you might expect.