Is “Scenic Interstate”an Oxymoron?



If you google “scenic interstate highways” you won’t find much.  One respondent nominated the Pacific Coast Highway, Highway 101. The problem is, 101 has very few Interstate segments and goes basically inland through a lot of central California.  The real West Coast Interstate Highway is 5, and Highway 1 is the one to drive in California if you have lots of time and want scenery.  The 3rd website down promises “Images for scenic interstate highways”.  The photos are mostly close-ups of concrete and cloverleafs.  The fact is, the Interstate Highway System was built for speed and convenience, not scenery.

I pondered this as I drove quite scenic I-15 from Great Falls to Helena, Montana, in July, 2014.  It followed the upper Missouri River for much of its 90 miles with the Big Belt Mountains in view about half way through the journey.   Because Ruth was driving, I began to compile a list of others and came up with 12 before reaching Helena.

I-70 from Grand Junction to Denver.  What’s in View?  Wineries, the Colorado River, Glenwood Canyon, The Rocky Mountains beginning about Eagle and lasting practically all the way to the Denver suburbs and a rapid descent, the Eisenhower Memorial Tunnel, etc.

I-75 between Naples and Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  Also called Alligator Alley, this curveless and creepy 78 miles is appropriately named.  I recently had a vivid conversation at a party about the accidents that occur when cars slam into inhabitants.  Alligators do occupy the waterways adjacent to this road and are seen on the road  despite fences and underpasses that reduce their numbers.

I-70 across Kansas.  No joke.  I love this 425 mile  journey over the High Plains, through the Flint Hills, and into the woods of eastern Kansas.  Every town along the way has at least one attraction of interest (see August 5, 2014 blog, “Kansas Surprises” and the next-day continuation).

I-75 north from, roughly, Mount Pleasant to Sault Ste. Marie.   The freedom of the open road and several lakes can be enjoyed after leaving populated southern Michigan.  The most awesome part is crossing the Mackinac Bridge, also known as Big Mac.  Side trips might include Leelanau County north of Traverse City and its aqua Glen Lake, Mackinac Island, the Soo Locks, etc.

I-25 from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, New Mexico.  I haven’t drive this segment of 25 recently, but I used to experience it regularly and loved the way its 50 miles rose rapidly from big city to open country.   Four Indian reservations, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, La Bajada, etc.

I-87 from Glen Falls to Plattsburgh, New York.  How many Interstates pass through a 6.1 million acre park?  Larger than Massachusetts and incredibly beautiful (see photo above), Adirondack Park is the largest in the Continental U.S.

Also listed:  I-95 From Portland to Bangor, Maine, I-68 from Hagerstown west to the Maryland border, I-15 from Las Vegas to St. George, Utah, I-35 from Oklahoma City south to Ardmore through the Arbuckle Mountains, and I-84 east from Pendleton to Baker City, Oregon.  What am I missing?





About roadsrus

Since the beginning, I've had to avoid writing about the downside of travel in order to sell more than 100 articles. Just because something negative happened doesn't mean your trip was ruined. But tell that to publishers who are into 5-star cruise and tropical beach fantasies. I want to tell what happened on my way to the beach, and it may not have been all that pleasant. My number one rule of the road's disaster is tomorrow's great story. My travel experiences have appeared in about twenty magazines and newspapers. I've been in all 50 states more than once and more than 50 countries. Ruth and I love to travel internationally--Japan, Canada, China, Argentina, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, etc. Within the next 2 years we will have visited all of the European countries. But our favorite destination is Australia. Ruth and I have been there 9 times. I've written a book about Australia's Outback, ALONE NEAR ALICE, which is available through both Amazon & Barnes & Noble. My first fictional work, MOVING FORWARD, GETTING NOWHERE, has recently been posted on Amazon. It's a contemporary, hopefully funny re-telling of The Odyssey. View all posts by roadsrus

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