I-90: For lolly-gaggers and those in a hurryThe first governor I ever covered as a rookie newspaper photographer was Nils Boe. I shot his picture when he helped dedicate a bridge or something near Mitchell on Interstate 90. That was sometime in late 1967 or 1968. I-90 was still under construction in many spots, and Highway 16 remained the road of choice for much of the east-west travel across South Dakota.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
The first governor I ever covered as a rookie newspaper photographer was Nils Boe.
I shot his picture when he helped dedicate a bridge or something near Mitchell on Interstate 90. That was sometime in late 1967 or 1968. I-90 was still under construction in many spots, and Highway 16 remained the road of choice for much of the east-west travel across South Dakota. That’s the road I grew up traveling. Every 10 or 15 miles, the old road went through or just past the edge of a small town.
I don’t remember much from my photo shoot that involved Gov. Boe, but I do recall an old gentleman telling me the completion of the interstate would change completely the way people traveled across South Dakota. His premise, which had some logic, I suppose, was that if people had a smooth, straight and fast route across South Dakota, they wouldn’t stop for anything.
Some years after I took photographs of Boe, I traveled to Chamberlain when Gov. Dick Kneip rode a vintage convertible across the I-90 bridge to celebrate its completion. That was in 1974, I think. There was much talk of how the fine, new interstate would draw more and more travelers to and through South Dakota. There were also some grumblings that the high-speed travel option would make the world go too quickly through the state and discourage people from stopping to smell the sweet clover.
In the years since Kneip rode a convertible across the Missouri River on the new bridge, I’ve traveled Interstate 90 hundreds of times. I’ve come to appreciate both the efficiency of the divided highway and the practicality of its many exits.
There have been times when I’ve been in a dreadful hurry to get somewhere, usually home from a business meeting in Sioux Falls or Rapid City. Those who know me can confirm that even when I’m in a hurry, I drive pretty close to the posted speed limit. Over the years, I’ve discovered that even if I stay at the speed limit, I can cover huge chunks of the state in a few hours.
I recall a time in the late 1980s when I was on assignment in Spearfish, covering the state Board of Regents, I believe. I got a call in the evening that required me to be in Sioux Falls late the next afternoon. I hit I-90 about 7 a.m. the next morning, and less than six hours later, I was in Sioux Falls. It isn’t something I’d care to do every day, mind you, but it was possible, and it was something no one would have considered doing on old Highway 16.
Other times, when a meeting finished early or an unexpected change in plans left me with plenty of time to get home from the Black Hills or the eastern edge of the state, I was able to almost dawdle along on the interstate. That doesn’t mean I fell below the posted minimum speed. I generally kept up with the flow of traffic. But whenever I felt like taking an exit for a soda, a candy bar or a tank of gas, I did that.
Times like those were when I met the owner of a place in New Underwood that was the world’s smallest biker bar or something, and when I talked with the guy who runs the 1880 town and gives kids free sheriff’s badges out west of Murdo off Exit 170.
Times like those were when I talked with a woman who had been involved in moving an old church to a spot near the interstate at Kimball and when I drove to the top of the hill in Okaton and talked to a man who ran a rock shop and curio store.
What I’ve learned is that Interstate 90 is both for those in a hurry and for those in a mood to lolly-gag along. For my past 40 years, it has been quite a trail.