Driving a C7 Corvette across the USA in 2015 remains to this day as one of the best road trips of my life. The following is a detailed summary the entire 2,841 mile journey from San Diego to Washington DC.
A 6-day road trip across the US in a 2015 C7 Corvette
I only had a week to do this cross-country road trip, so I knew right off the bat that it wouldn’t be possible to drive both directions. I’d either have to fly to my destination and drive back to San Diego, or drive then fly. I opted to drive east and then fly back home.
Renting the 2015 C7 Corvette
Renting a C7 Corvette for this road trip was my goal. To be honest, I didn’t need to do this drive in a really nice car. This journey was all about setting out on the open road with nothing but a change of underwear and my sense of adventure. All I really wanted was something reliable enough to make the trip without problems.
But the car guy in me couldn’t resist looking at the high-end options from Hertz and Avis. Only Avis had premium cars available for a drop-off outside of San Diego, so that’s where I ended up.
It’s important to know that I’m not an attention-seeking person at all (I prefer to stay out of the spotlight and blend into the background). As much as I was looking forward to this, I was a bit apprehensive thinking about how far out of my element I was going to be driving a neon yellow Corvette all week. No matter though – I was still super stoked to have this car.
This C7 smelled brand new inside (although it had 5,300 miles on it already), and I was in utter disbelief as I pressed the “Start” button and fired that car to life. After the gate agent at the Avis lot wished me well on my journey east, I drove away feeling like I had just won the lottery.
Before getting too far, I pulled into an empty parking spot along the Embarcadero to take a moment and get settled before heading out of San Diego. I took a ton of pics, organized my backpack a bit, and set up the GoPro that I would be using to document my trip.
And then it happened. I noticed that joggers were stopping to take pics of the car as they ran by. Great. For a shy introverted person such as myself, that was a bit weird – and I was starting to dread being the center of attention for the next week. Oh well. There was no way I was going to give this car back now. I mentally accepted the challenge.
Day 1 of 6: San Diego to Deming, NM
Once settled, I drove through downtown San Diego on my way to I-8 east. The horrific blind spots of the C7 quickly became apparent as I was navigating around the city, and I made a mental note to PAY ATTENTION before making any lane changes.
I pulled onto the I-5 north before merging carefully (darn blind spots!) on interstate 8, and within 5 minutes I started to settle in a bit and let the reality of what I was about to do soak in. I had a long day ahead of me, so it was time to sit back, relax, and just cruise.
I made several stops in the first couple of hours to try and get some nice pics of the car before it got too dirty. The bugs had already started to splatter the windshield once I descended the eastern range of the mountains surrounding San Diego, and having clean pics of this Corvette would come in handy for the review I planned to write later on.
My first stop for gas was at a Chevron station in Winterhaven, CA, even though I still had more than a half of tank of gas left. More than anything, I just needed to stretch my legs, use the bathroom, and unpack the sack lunch my wife was kind enough to prepare for me before I left.
Back on the road, I ate while I drove and turned on the stereo for the first time so that I could listen to the road-trip playlist I had created for this trip several nights before. Life was good right about this point! I was driving a brand new C7 Corvette Stingray along a straight stretch of American highway in the desert southwest, nothing but open land in front of me, with good tunes pumping through the stereo. So far, this trip was turning out to be every bit as cool as I imagined it was going to be.
My next stop was several hours down I-8 at a rest stop in Buckeye, Arizona. Once again I felt the need to stretch my legs and use the bathroom, and I came back to the Vette to find an older gentleman giving it a pretty good look-over. We started talking, and it turns out that he was a Corvette owner himself.
We talked for a bit, and I realized that this was probably going to happen a lot during this trip – and suddenly I didn’t really mind all that much. It’s always fun to meet people who share a passion with cars!
Within the next hour or so I realized that my original goal of reaching Deming, NM was slightly aggressive. I was still west of Tucson at this point and was already feeling like I had enough for the day. But I had a schedule to keep, so I pushed on.
East of Tucson, I started to think seriously about finding a hotel and calling it a day. I passed some decent roadside hotels on I-10 between 4-5pm that had me tempted to stop, but I knew that the more driving I did now would make the next day much easier.
That still didn’t stop me from pulling off the highway shortly thereafter to check out a hotel I saw a billboard advertisement for a few miles back. Long story short, it was a sketchy area with a lot of abandoned buildings around and I didn’t feel safe parking the C7 there overnight. So I pushed on, committed to make it all the way to Deming as I had planned.
The final hour of driving this day brought a beautiful sunset, “bonding” time with the in-car navigation system (the voice-command feature didn’t work so well, and I ended up arguing with it), and the realization that I was definitely overambitious in my plans to make it to DC in less than a week. I was tired, and thrilled to death when I finally started seeing exit signs for Deming, NM around 8pm.
It was only when I pulled off the highway that I realized that the headlights weren’t on (oops!), but I quickly found a decent looking hotel and promptly checked in. After settling into my room, I hopped back in the Vette to drive to a nearby Subway restaurant that I found while searching Google maps. This turned out to be an adventure, as a pretty scary looking dude approached me as I was walking out of Subway and back to the car in the dark parking lot.
“Yo man, nice car!”, he yelled to me as he was walking up. Ugh. He seemed cool though, so I opened the door for him so he could have a look inside. I thought that was the end of it, but I could see something click in his head like I was rich or something (because of the car), and he asked if I could “help him out”.
Ugh. But like I said, he seemed cool (and I just wanted to get away), so I gave him the $5 change I had in my pocket. He looked disappointed, then said “thanks” in a low voice and walked away. Weird.
I got out of there fast and went back to my hotel room to eat before calling it a night. Day one complete!
Day 2 of 6: Deming, NM to Amarillo, TX
Despite driving so many hours the day before, I was anxious to get an early start. I admit that I was also anxious to see how the C7 faired overnight in that sketchy hotel parking lot. There’s just no way to “hide” that car – Velocity Yellow is bright, and it stands out like neon in a sea of drab beige and silver sedans.
I’m happy to report that the car was just as I left it the night before, although slightly wet from light overnight rain. Whew! With that behind me, the first order of business was to load up on a big breakfast at the local Denny’s. This would be my only meal until dinner time later in the day (besides snacks), so it had to be a hearty breakfast that would stay with me all day.
I topped the Vette off with gas at the local Chevron station before heading out on I-10 east, and made a quick run inside for a bathroom break and a bottle of water. The place was sketchy as hell, so I was quick to get out of there as fast as I could. All I kept thinking was how much of a target I must look like with that flashy yellow C7 Corvette sitting right outside.
I was only on the road for an hour before I pulled off at a roadside tourist shop on I-10 for another bathroom break and more water.
The skies were still overcast and dull by the time I got to Las Cruces, but I couldn’t resist stopping by a coin operated car wash to give the Corvette a quick bath. There were bugs splattered all over that thing, and I felt ashamed driving it that way – especially since I was still at the beginning of my trip, and I wanted it to keep it looking as good as possible for as long as I could.
From there I headed on 70 east, which would take me all the way through Roswell and Clovis. Clovis would be an important stop for me due to the fact that I was born there. My parents moved us away when I was still a baby, and I’ve never been back. So I was anxious to see it! But there was a lot of driving ahead of me to get there…
Driving through the White Sands missile range was…weird. Breathtakingly beautiful of course, but weird. Gun ranges are one thing, but missile ranges? How incredibly cool is that? I just hoped they weren’t out there doing target practice today, because the yellow Corvette I was in would have made for one hell of a moving target!
Although I was making pretty good time up until this point, it did occur to me that it might be nice to stop and check it out. But knowing that I still had a full day of driving ahead of me to reach Amarillo, I pushed on.
It was also about this time that I started to get paranoid about something going wrong with the car. I was just starting to enter some really desolate country, and my mind couldn’t help but to wander and think about all the millions of mechanical and electrical parts doing their thing in this Corvette.
If a critical system component quit on me here I’d be screwed. I was traveling solo way out in the middle of nowhere, and the thought of waiting by the side of the road all day for a flat bed or tow truck to come and rescue me had me uneasy. But at least cell phone service was good. I had a full signal for the entire day.
I made a pit stop in Alamogordo for a bathroom break and to top off the car with gas, and I was getting excited looking at the mountains off in the distance. Unfortunately, the rain started coming down pretty good just as I was pulling away from the gas station, and it lasted until I came down the eastern range of those mountains on the other side.
But what a drive! I had no idea that the mountains of New Mexico were so beautiful, and I made a mental note to myself to come back and explore this state in more detail some time in the future. I really wasn’t expecting everything to be so pretty.
My anxiety was starting to build again as I came down out of the mountains and plowed along route 70 towards Roswell. Looking at the map, it was humbling to realize that once I pass Roswell, I’d be all alone for a good two to three hours out on the open road until I reached Clovis.
Right about now I was glad that I didn’t do this drive in my ’96 Mustang GT. The thought of being way out there with an old car hundreds of miles from civilization didn’t sit right with me, which made me realize how much of a spoiled city guy I’ve become. Anyway, I put my faith in the Vette to get me to Texas today, and I kept moving forward.
Roswell was a huge disappointment. I wanted to stop and get a cheesy souvenir (just to say that I’ve been to Roswell), but route 70 bypassed the city completely and I saw none of it. Of course I could have taken a detour and had a look around, but getting to Amarillo at a decent hour was more important to me. Oh well – it will have to wait until some other time.
I’ll tell you what. There is – n o t h i n g – between Roswell and the next decently-sized “town” (Portales) along route 70. Just wide open land for as far as the eye could see, and it really was amazing to be out there all alone. All my fingers and toes were crossed that the Corvette would make it to the other side without incident, so I loaded up some high-energy techno to help burn away the miles. Upon arrival, it felt great to be in civilization again!
Once past Portales, I reached my birthplace of Clovis, NM. It was everything I had imagined it to be, which wasn’t much. Just a small town out in the middle of nowhere with Cannon Air Force base off in the distance. I drove out the the base for a pic of the entry gate (my father was stationed here in the early 70’s), then topped off the car with gas before heading out of town on 60 east.
It’s strange, but I didn’t feel anything special by being there. Not that I expected it to be an emotional moment or anything, but still…Clovis is just an ordinary small town, like so many others I’ve passed through on this trip so far. I’m glad I made the effort to see the place though, at least for the sake of being able to say that I’ve been there (as an adult).
Once across the Texas border, the weather was starting to clear – and once again I was starting to get irritated about driving a dirty Corvette. All that rainy driving through the New Mexico mountains earlier in the day did a number on this C7, and it was downright filthy. Luckily, I passed right by a nice coin operated car wash along route 60 in Friona, and gave the Vette its second bath of the day.
The rest of the drive to Amarillo was nice, thanks all in part to the 75mph speed limit. God bless Texas and the 75mph speed limit! It felt so good to cruise worry-free at 80mph in the late afternoon sun, and I can only hope other states raise their speed limits too. 75mph is perfect. Not too fast, and not too slow either. Absolutely perfect.
The storm clouds were starting to build south of me as I approached Amarillo, but I made it to a decent looking Holiday Inn Express before the rain started. Actually, the rain didn’t start until much later in the night, but it was looking stormy out there by the time I arrived.
The car drew more attention as I was unloading at the hotel, and I had a brief conversation with a man and his teenage son who were sitting outside the main entrance of the hotel getting some fresh air. People sure do like the Corvette – and I was starting to find that I enjoyed talking about it as well. After two full days of driving thus far, I was really starting to get attached to it.
And that’s a good thing because I was pretty hungry at that time, and I wanted to find a grocery store to stock up on food and snacks for the coming days. Unfortunately, the nearest store was 10 miles away. It nearly killed me to get back into that car for more driving, but that feeling was washed away as soon as I pressed the Start button and brought her back to life. It’s a pretty special car that can get me excited about driving it again when I was already completely exhausted from driving already.
The car got a lot of attention in town – I could see everyone stopping along the sidewalk to watch, which is a weird feeling for an introvert like me. But I enjoyed the moment, appreciating how lucky I really was to be on a road trip like this in such an amazing car.
Day 3 of 6: Amarillo, TX to Maumelle, AR
Despite two full days of driving from San Diego to my current location of Amarillo, TX, I was up bright and early for the long haul to Little Rock, AR.
The Corvette survived another night unscathed in a busy public parking lot, but she wasn’t as anxious as I was to get going this morning. The first starting attempt didn’t go well. She sputtered and coughed, and overall sounded pretty rough for what was essentially a brand new car. Thankfully, she got that out of her system quickly and fired right up on the second attempt. I was off and on my way out of Amarillo.
Unfortunately, I timed my departure right with the morning rush hour traffic, so things were a bit slow for the first 30 minutes or so as I made my way out of the city. The skies were overcast an dull, with drizzle starting to build the further I drove east.
I stopped for gas an hour later in Shamrock, and it was there that I drove my only stretch of the original Route 66 of this trip. Unfortunately, the road was in deplorable condition and the rain and mud puddles made for a rather miserable experience.
If the conditions were better I probably would have cruised Route 66 for a while, but the weather was not cooperating at all. I did, however, see a nice collection of Corvettes (including some C7’s) on display at a corner automotive store here in Shamrock. These were the first C7’s I saw on this trip so far.
I’d also like to point out that the wind farms along I-40 in this part of Texas are amazing. There are hundreds of huge wind turbines for as far as the eye can see, and the fog and rain of this particular morning made for an erie (but super cool) scene. Traffic was super light, so I’m kicking myself for not pulling over and getting some pics of the Corvette in front of some of those turbines.
The rain became progressively heavier as I made my way through Oklahoma, and by the time I passed through Oklahoma City it was coming down in buckets. The Corvette handled it all very well though – it felt planted and solid through the heaviest of it, though there was one scary moment where I lost traction at 65mph as I hit the gas to get around some merging traffic. Lesson learned.
I stopped at a rest area just outside of Oklahoma City for a quick break, then topped off the gas tank a few miles down the road.
From there, it was non-stop all the way to Little Rock. The car was running like a champ despite the pounding rain, though a “change oil soon” notification popped up in the display cluster during the afternoon. I never was able to figure out how to dismiss it.
The rain became heavy, and it was downright scary at times because visibility was so bad. The car wasn’t hydroplaning much, but the spray from the trucks was crazy. This wasn’t an easy afternoon of driving, and I had to concentrate 100% to make sure I didn’t end up putting this beautiful C7 into the ditch.
I was feeling downright relieved when I started approaching the outskirts of Little Rock (my destination goal for the day) shortly after 5pm – but then the skies opened up and visibility went to near zero. It was also about this time that I started noticing cars in the ditch on both sides of the road. I knew that I had to get off the road ASAP. Luckily, I saw signs for hotels just a few miles ahead in Maumelle, so I made my exit and called it a day.
Day 4 of 6: Maumelle, AR to Knoxville, TN
I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I was to wake up to a halfway decent weather forecast for my drive to Knoxville. According to the Weather Channel, it looked as if the skies would start off a little bit sprinkly, then taper off to be mostly dry for the rest of the day.
Score! After all the rain I drove through the day before, the last thing I wanted to see was more rain – especially when driving such a fun car as this Corvette. It was actually a pretty good car in the rain, but sports cars are always more fun when the roads are dry.
I topped the Corvette off with gas at the Shell service station located right next to the hotel before jumping onto I-40 east towards Memphis, and was really happy to see breaks in the clouds up ahead with sun shining through. But I was right in the thick of morning rush hour, so it took about 20 minutes or so to break free of that and reach open road.
I started to take notice of all the truck traffic over the next few hours. It seemed like most every vehicle I encountered was a large semi, and they were everywhere. I had no idea there was this much truck traffic between Little Rock and Memphis, and it was by far the most dense I had experienced on this road trip so far.
Also interesting was the ridiculous amount of speed traps once I crossed into Tennessee. It seemed as if there were state police cars hiding in the bushes at the crest of every hill, and this went on for hours. Watching my speed became the #1 priority for the afternoon.
Despite the traffic, I made pretty good time. I only stopped twice during the entire 8 hours to Knoxville: once at a rest area in eastern Arkansas to use the bathroom (pics above), and once to top off the car with gas. I think what inspired me to keep going was how beautiful the state of Tennessee is – lots of greenery and rolling mountains. I forgot how pretty it is there.
I arrived in Knoxville smack dab in the middle of evening rush hour, so it was pretty slow going as I made my way to find a hotel. Unlike the previous three days of driving, I already knew where I would be staying for the night. Well, sort of. Since I wanted to drive the Tail of the Dragon the next morning, I had already decided that I would stay at a hotel adjacent to the Knoxville airport. The Dragon is only 1 hour south of there, and I figured I’d have plenty of nice hotel and food options in that area.
Day 5 of 6: Knoxville, TN to Salem, VA
After a morning of spirited driving on the Tail of the Dragon, it was time to push on to Washington DC. The drive out of Knoxville was in pouring rain, and by this point, I was pretty much sick and tired of driving in the wet. There was nothing I could do about it, however, so I just chalked it up to bad luck and crossed my fingers that the skies would dry up as they day went on.
I didn’t need to be in DC until the following night, but part of me was thinking that I might be push all the way through now if I was feeling ok. But I quickly started to realized that I was not ok. I’m not sure if it was the car sickness I experienced while driving the Tail of the Dragon that morning or what, but my body started to break down slightly. I wasn’t feeling all that great as the day went on.
It had been an intense week of driving thus far, so it didn’t really come as a surprise that I wasn’t feeling my best. I ultimately decided that Roanoke, VA would be my destination for the day, which would leave me with only a short drive to reach DC in the morning.
It sprinkled on and off throughout the day, and overall, it was probably the gloomiest day of the trip. Day 4 from Amarillo to Little Rock was gloomy as well, but the wide open land of Oklahoma was really beautiful and green. Here in northeastern Tennessee and southwest Virginia, spring was just starting to bloom.
I stopped off at a rest area a couple hours out of Roanoke, and walking back to the car I met a guy in a Coca Cola truck who asked me about the car. He was a car guy himself, and we talked for 10 minutes or so about Mustangs and muscle cars before the rain came pouring down again and I had to seek the shelter of the Vette.
As I said before, this Corvette draws a lot of attention, and I met a lot of cool people on this trip that I wouldn’t have if I were driving anything else.
My overall state of feeling hit a new low the closer I got to Roanoke. By the time I reached Salem (around 4pm) I decided that it was time to call it a day. I had reached my physical limit, and I desperately needed to get out of the car. Luckily, I saw some signs for some hotels a few miles ahead, so I was more than happy to pull into the first decent one I saw.
Driving from Miami to Key West (and back) in one day was difficult enough, but this took it to a whole new level.
I did absolutely nothing for the rest of the day (except walk next door to a grocery store for food), and it felt so good to be off the road. Although completely exhausted both mentally and physically, I felt relieved that I was only 3 hours away from Washington DC at this point. The road trip was nearly over.
Day 6 of 6: Salem, VA to Dulles, VA
After 5 days of driving across the entire USA, it all came down to this. Today would be the day I finish this cross country road trip! I was feeling both relieved and sad at the same time, but probably more relieved than anything else.
But the Corvette had been so good on this road trip, and I loved driving it. That made getting back into it not as difficult as it could have been if I were driving anything else. I can only imagine the dread I would have felt if I had to muster the strength to get back into a Toyota Camry or something.
I slept in a bit to try and build as much energy as possible, and I eventually checked out of the hotel and hit the road about 9:45am. That was my latest start on this road trip so far, and it felt great to take things slow and easy for once.
The skies started to clear as I made my way north on I-81, and I was under full blue skies by the time I reached 66 east towards DC. This was the first blue sky I had seen in days, and it was incredibly welcoming to see. Also nice to see were the flowers and trees that were blooming all along the freeway as I reached the outskirts of DC. Spring was in full bloom.
I made it to Dulles International Airport (IAD) by 1pm, which is where I had scheduled to return this C7 to Avis. I started feeling a bit nostalgic as I made my way into the airport property and topped off the gas tank one last time. I had become quite attached to this Corvette over the past 2,800 miles. It ran beautifully, and it really was difficult to give it back.
The return process was entertaining. I pulled into the return lane and all the Avis personnel within a 100ft radius gave me a look like I was lost or something. One of the women came over to scan the bar code on the windshield and her head nearly exploded when she realized it was an Avis car. “WOW!” was the first thing that came out of her mouth before yelling “this is an Avis car!” to another employee.
Several other Avis employees started walking towards the car as I was unpacking my things, and they kept asking if it was really was one of theirs. I assured them that it was, and they all took turns sitting in the Vette getting their pictures taken with it. Several employees even took it for a quick spin around the lot.
To be honest, I didn’t even know what to expect returning this car at IAD. I assumed that it was a big enough station that they already had cars like this to rent. Those Avis employees assured me that they have never had a car like this on their lot. I asked one of the guys if he thought it would stick around, and he quickly said “no way”.
He told me that it would most likely be gone within a day, presumably shipped off to another Avis location that rents premium cars such as this.
While I was waiting for the Avis shuttle bus to take me to the main terminal (so that I could catch another shuttle bus to the hotel), one of the managers came out of the main building to check the car out himself. Finally, as the bus was driving away, I saw them take the Vette back to the cleaning station – and that officially marked the end of my time with that amazing car.
While sad to see it go, I was actually slightly relieved to get it off my hands. That Corvette had been a massive attention magnet all week, and it was actually a bit stressful living with it because I knew it drew so much attention.
If someone would have told me two days before this road trip started that I would be doing it in a brand new 2015 Corvette Stingray, I would have not believed it. The pessimistic part of me would have thought that sounded too good to be true, as stuff like that doesn’t normally jive with my kind of luck.
But the automotive stars aligned above, and driving all across the USA in C7 Corvette ended up being one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Hey, it doesn’t take much to impress me!
I drove through deserts and mountains, wide open plains and lush farmland. I drove through dry 85 degree heat and cold heavy rain. I walked in on gay truckers doing their thing in the bathroom of a roadside New Mexico tourist stop, and I only nearly lost control of the car once. Most importantly, I managed to drive the entire way without a single speeding ticket.
That Corvette and I passed through 8 states on our coast to coast journey:
- New Mexico
We traveled 2,841 miles together, along eleven different interstates and roads from west to east:
I spent $201.91 in gas, filling up (mostly just topping off) 10 times along the way. There were six nights in hotels, and two flights to get me home back to San Diego from Washington DC.
The only complaint from the Corvette during the entire journey was a “Change oil soon” notification that popped up on the instrument cluster on day number 3 as I was making my way towards Little Rock. Other than that, it performed like a champ and seemed eager for each new day.
So that’s it. I can now say that I’ve driven a Corvette from coast to coast. The ultimate American road trip (in my mind, at least), and it’s going to be pretty hard to top that. But I’m in no rush. This trip was fun but incredibly exhausting at the same time, so I don’t think I’ll ever drive that far in this short amount of time ever again.