What I Consider the Most Boring Interstate in the United States Just Happens to Be the Greatest Interstate in the USA
I can count on one hand how many times I've been to the far west side of the state. I chaperoned a bus to a Sheryl Crow concert (opening act Semisonic) in Rapid City in 1999 and I attended my niece, Sarah's, graduation in Belle Fourche in 2002.
The bus ride wasn't so bad. We watched movies the whole way. The trip home from Belle Fourche at 11:00 PM on a Sunday night was like driving into the darkness of hell. I don't think we met more than four cars from Wall to Mitchell. I really didn't see what was so great about I-90.
A guy named Robert Reid (no, not the dad in Brady Bunch - that's Robert Reed) works for National Geographic Traveler and he helped determined the greatest interstates in the U.S. He ranked the lower 48 state's, 66 primary interstates spanning 47,000 miles.
Here's how he came up with the list:
We turned to algebra, and created a "traffic rating" based on vehicle travel miles per mile of interstate (1.0 is least busy, 5.0 the most). We weigh that against the general joy of the ride as a whole, often rewarding longer highways—the true "interstates"—or thematic regional rides, over mere connectors to suburbs or coastal towns.
How did our two interstates in South Dakota do? I-29 made the list at #34. The 756 miles of road spans Kansas City to the Manitoba border. So, how about I-90, the interstate that will lead you to free ice water at Wall Drug? It was #1!
Of course, I-90 runs through South Dakota, but the 3,102 mile super slab runs from Boston to Seattle. Here's what Mr. Reid had to say about I-90:
I-90 needs to fire its Brand Manager. As the USA's longest interstate, it is the King of the Plains, Big Sky Central, the Northern Delights, or perhaps the Road Not to Take in Winter. But we think of it simply as America's Great Road.
If you are going to make one cross-country trip in your life, look close at I-90. Robert Sullivan, author of Cross Country, has gone coast to coast at least 30 times, and picks this as his favorite. It's less trafficked than I-10, I-40, I-70, I-80 (the other four main east/west options). On its way, it goes from Boston's Freedom Trail to almost within the spray of Niagara Falls, into rock'n'roll HQ in Cleveland then Chicago, across the plains to Wall Drug's throw-back free water and Mt Rushmore, to the world's first dude ranch, past Custer's last stand at Little Bighorn, over Idaho's Fourth of July Summit, and reaching birthplace of something called Starbucks.
We bow to you I-90, the greatest interstate in the USA.
For those of you wondering, I've lived in South Dakota all of my life and I've never been to Mount Rushmore. I promise to make that my THIRD trip to the far west side of SoDak on I-90.