“The area around the Bonneville Salt Flats,” Cruis’n USA concludes, “is the longest stretch of straight Interstate in the entire country….No trees, no curves, nothing.” I can relate. I find about 95% of Interstate highways dull. I guess that’s a design ideal since these roads are built for fast distance travel and not to be part of anyone’s actual vacation. Gawkers taken in by Interstate scenery at 80 mph would surely be considered a hazard to Interstate planners. “Hey. look there, family. Isn’t that a gorgeous view?” Crash!
That’s why I’m surprised when I come across a truly beautiful stretch of Interstate like I-70 between Salina and Green River in Utah. Ruth & I usually take Highway 6 from Spanish Fork to I-70, but this year we decided to take what looked like the longer way to see if we were missing something. We were. The Utah scenery was spectacular almost all the way. The San Rafael Reef was the cause. Its long series of colorful cliffs and distant mountains is unbeatable, and the fact that a storm was brewing added drama to the drive.
When I got home, I began to wonder if there are other beautiful Interstate drives out there. Last night I spend an hour pouring over a Rand McNally Road Atlas and had lots of surprises. The biggest one is how many stretches of Interstate it has dotted as scenic. Here’s what I learned. California has a least 7 scenic Interstate drives. Some very beautiful states have few. For example, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico have lots of dotted highways but only one Interstate each shown to be scenic. The one in Colorado is the continuation of I-70 eastward. The long stretch from its border with Utah all the way to Dillon is deservedly dotted.
I unexpectedly found 4 scenic Interstates in both Connecticut and Massachusetts! I-76 going east in Pennsylvania, which is also the Pennsylvania Turnpike, is dotted from Somerset almost all the way to Harrisburg. Many states–Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, New Hampshire, Virginia, Hawaii, etc.–have only one dotted Interstate. Several, like Idaho, Kansas, and Michigan, have 2. Oregon, a super scenic state, has 3.
What’s up with Hawaii? Only O’ahu appears to have developed Interstates, and they are designated H1, H2, and H3. Alaska has zero Interstates. This might be due to its late designation as a state, size, remoteness, and small population. The only other state that Rand McNally could find no Interstates to name as scenic is Illinois. Anyone who has driven I-55 from St. Louis to Chicago will understand why.
Missouri, Kansas, and Pennsylvania all claim to have the first completed Interstates.