Team drives to highest point possible in all 50 states

Larry Edsall
Special to The Detroit News

Any idea what the highest point you can reach in a car or truck in Michigan may be?

It’s Mount Avron, which is 1,979 feet above sea level and is located in L’Anse Township in Baraga County in the western end of the Upper Peninsula.

I learned because Mount Avron was one of the destinations on the Motor Mountain USA adventure, a 50-state altitude adventure staged by the staff of TFLcar, which is short for The Fast Lane Car, a YouTube automotive review channel based in Boulder, Colorado.

The Motor Mountain USA adventure began in spring 2015 at the annual Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah, where the plot was hatched to drive to the highest point possible in all 50 states and to complete the adventure by the 2016 Jeep event.

Obviously, a Jeep Wrangler was the vehicle of choice for the trip, which involved four TFLcar staffers taking turns driving 37,000 miles to the highest points in all 50 states. And, yes, that included Hawaii and Alaska.

To involve TFLcar viewers and website visitors, commemorative belt buckles were commissioned for each state and were geocached to be found by those viewers and visitors who ventured out to the highest locations. In some cases, the staffers had to check with viewers and visitors even to determine what the highest location in a state reachable by Jeep might be since not every state department of transportation or forest service knew that information, said Andere Smirnov, producer and managing editor for TFLcar.

Smirnov said the Michigan buckle has been collected, but there are a few still unclaimed.

Smirnov said the highest point with a road couldn’t always be reached. For example, in some states there are no roads that reach the highest point and in some those points are on private property. Another challenge: In some states, the highest roads are closed during winter months.

“The best thing about the trip was discovering these places,” Smirnov said. “Most of us travel by interstate and don’t go off the beaten path, even though (interesting places) may be not far off the interstate.”

For example, he said, the highest drivable point in Utah was just an hour’s drive from I-85. “Many are national or state parks and they’re beautiful,” he said.

And then there’s Florida, with the lowest highest point only some 360 feet above sea level. “It’s a little dog park,” Smirnov said, “but there is a plaque” noting that it is the highest point in the state.

Smirnov said some bought Jeeps so they could launch their own Motor Mountain adventures. Others, he said, were simply inspired to venture out and explore new places. Some made it a mission to secure a belt buckle; one team of two guys actually got them in three states, he said.

The Motor Mountain USA was TFLcar’s second such adventure. In 2015, it went to Prague in the Czech Republic to buy a 1968 Tatra 603 to drive across Europe, import to the U.S. and then drive across the country to the Pebble Beach Concours d’ Elegance where there was a special class for Tatra vehicles.

Another adventure awaits, though in the meantime Smirnov said he simply wants to take his wife, son and daughter out to see some of his favorite high points.

Larry Edsall is a Phoenix-based freelance writer. You can reach him at