KANSAS CITY, Mo. — If you’ve never driven across it, it’s difficult to appreciate just how large the United States is.
The trick to any road trip, particularly a cross-country one, is to have the right vehicle. For this 4,000-mile journey, which stretched from San Diego in the most southwestern point of the lower 48 to New Hampshire in the far northeast, I picked the most iconic American vehicle possible: the Ford F-150.
The F-Series has been the best-selling pickup in America for more than four decades, even if some of Ford’s competitors quietly grumble about how this number is calculated since all Ford F- trucks are included, while Chevy and GMC are tallied separately even though they’re made in the same factory, for example.
Regardless, Ford sells many, many trucks and knows precisely what its truck customers want and need. My F-150 was a terrific configuration — no features you don’t need and everything you do (or nearly so, at least).
Truck buyers can configure their F-150s into a dizzying array of configurations, and this was no different. Start with the XLT trim ($49,885), one step above the stripped-down XL work truck, and configure the 3.5L V6 twin-turbo EcoBoost engine ($2,595). That’ll give you 400 horsepower and 500 lb-ft of torque, which you’ll want for those endless climbs across the various mountain ranges of these United States.
Then Ford offers numerous option packages so you can mix and match to your heart’s content. This truck had Ford Co-Pilot 360 Assist 2.0 ($995), which is a complicated way of saying it had adaptive cruise and an active lane-centering feature that is mind-bogglingly useful on endlessly long, dead straight stretches of interstate. Add the 360-degree camera package ($765) because this isn’t a small truck, and it’s good to know what’s around you.
A host of other features like the Max Trailer Tow Package ($1,995) and the OnBoard Scale w/Smart Hitch ($650) round out the arrangement and prep the truck for everything you might throw at it. All in, it sported an MSRP of around $63,000.
The Interior Work Surface ($165) is handy as it transforms your center console into a big flat desk. Even better, the XLT is one of the few F-150s to have a column-mounted shifter, which means the desk can be open while you drive along. While many a contractor will use it for work, I found it exceptionally helpful for eating barbecue.
That’s because I wasn’t making this a cross-country sprint. No, I was turning this into a marathon of deliciousness, stopping at several tasty spots for barbecue along the route.
I went to Kreuz Market in Lockhart, Texas, and enjoyed tremendous prime rib and sausage. Less than a mile away, I swung through Black’s Barbecue and enjoyed a beef rib nearly the size of my head and a bonus piece of the owner’s birthday cake.
In Oklahoma City, I went to Clark Crew BBQ, a restaurant that seems tailor-made for franchising. The walls are adorned with championship trophies and plates filled with some of the tastiest catfish and house-made pickles around. Their brisket was pretty delicious too.
Finally, I hit the two-fer jackpot in Kansas City at Q39, which has deep-fried heaven itself with pork belly and sausage corn dogs (those are two different types of corn doggies, by the way). Served with real maple syrup and bbq sauce, which should just be mixed if I have anything to say about it, I could have had two or three servings of those, and I’d have been happy.
Finally, I went to the world-famous Arthur Bryant’s barbecue, where I got grumped at by the staff and enjoyed the best ribs I’ve ever tasted. It was mind-bogglingly good and the epitome of Kansas City barbecue. I can’t recommend it highly enough if you’re in the area.
Through it all, my Ford F-150 was quiet and comfortable, with no fatigue even on 12-hour sprints across the desert. The 36-gallon fuel tank helped tremendously, and I scored about 14 mpg on the trip, pretty good considering I was towing a 4,000-pound car on a 2,000-pound U-Haul auto trailer.
The lane-centering tech works while towing and while it isn’t fully hands-free like GM’s Super Cruise is, I didn’t need to put in much steering input for much of the drive, aside from minor corrections and to remind the system that I was still paying attention. On long straights, I’d rest my hand on the wheel and give it a little tug every 10 or 15 seconds. It resulted in a far more relaxing trip than it would otherwise have been.
Between that and the litany of storage spots (including six cupholders for the front two seats and massive door pockets that can easily fit even the most enormous Evian bottles), power ports (a half-dozen USB and two 120-volt home power outlets), I dare say there isn’t a better road trip vehicle than the Ford F-150.
God bless America.