From “Road Trip USA” by Jamie Jenson, published by Moon Books:
"Once the only entirely paved route from Canada to “Old Mexico” (as hard-to-find postcards along the route still say), US-83 is still likely the shortest—from Swan River, Manitoba, dead south to Brownsville, Texas, and beyond to Matamoros, Mexico, seemingly without turning once.
The route’s grim moniker, “The Road to Nowhere,” is alternately unfair and then not severe enough, for the route navigates some of the widest and most aesthetically challenged landscapes in the country—the yawn-inducing rolling grasslands of the northern Great Plains, the beefy expanses of western Nebraska and Kansas, and the mesmerizing heat of the Texas-Oklahoma Panhandle—before following the lower Rio Grande south to the Gulf of Mexico.
Yet on US-83 you’ll also take in some phenomenal country: verdant farmland dotted with truly small towns, endlessly shifting prairie grassland, winding Missouri River roadways, and plain, isolated, where-the-hell-am-I agricultural expanses.
Following roughly along the 100th meridian, US-83 marks the historic divide between the “civilized” eastern United States and the arid western deserts. Physiography aside, this route’s cultural landscape centers on small but self-sufficient farm or cattle communities that date back to the last days of the Wild West and that are far enough off the tourist trail to retain an unselfconscious, aw-shucks quaintness. For endless miles in every direction, telephone and power poles provide some of the few signs of life between the highway and the distant horizon, though the towns—where average speeds drop suddenly from 70 mph to radar-enforced 25 mph or slower—are spaced just often enough along the highway to serve your food-and-fuel needs.
Perhaps best of all, US-83 manages to transnavigate this broad, odd nation, albeit north-to-south, without once grazing a conventional tourist attraction. Here along the backbone of the nation, conversations over a daybreak breakfast, afternoons spent cooling off by municipal swimming pools, and twilight American Legion baseball games provide the stuff of truly memorable Road Trip diversions, and for that reason alone, US-83 remains a must-do long-distance byway.”
With an epic project like this, I decided to focus only on the road itself and 1 mile on either side of it. No side trips or distractions. While the landscape was stark, it was not bleak and certainly not boring. The lack of big cities or tourist attractions made the trip feel like a voyage of discovery. My first day started in Bismarck, ND (95% White), then north to the Canadian border, where I turned around and headed south to Brownsville, TX (95% Hispanic) and tried to capture the subtle changes in the landscape and culture for the almost 2000 mile US 83.