Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Wait, Where Am I Going? Part I

Recently between 2012 and 2018 there was a funny recurring skit on Saturday Night Live called "The Californians."  Now, I had lived for a few years in California and more specifically in Southern California near what they call the 'Inland Empire' which is really a part of the massive Los Angeles area.

If you ever saw "The Californians," it was hilarious but mostly if you lived there, near there, had family there or spent any time there; because then you could relate to it.  The players in the skit were obsessed about where they had to drive to, and how to get to an additional destination from that location.

An example of what they would say would go like this . . .

Stuart:  Where are you going?
Karina:  Riverside.
Stuart:  So you're taking the 405?
Karina:  Yea, then the 110 to the 105.  Down 605, get off at 22 go up to Disneyland and get on the 91.
Devin:  What are you doing Karina!  You need the 105 to the 605 and get off at the 10 near Sunset and Harbor.
Stuart:  That's stupid Devin!  She needs . . . 

And on and on it went.

At the end they would all look in a mirror making shocked faces and go to break.  It ALWAYS cracked me up.  It was my favorite skit for a while.  (If you are curious, look it up on YouTube, it will make you laugh).

If you saw it and could relate to it, it would have made you laugh.  Because being out in LA you have to know every road and plan for every possible outcome to get anywhere.  So folks, are known for having entire conversations about road numbers that go on and on.

Now, if you never saw it you probably don't have a clue what I'm talking about.  And, that's OK.  But, I bet you know how it feels to see a bunch of numbers on signs and not really know what's going on or even worse, be lost.

So, the inner geographer in me wants to help.  I'll post a series of blogs (off and on, not everyday) on how to read and understand some of the route signs in the Texoma area and I'll pass along some tricks to always be able to easily figure out where you are.

Let's begin.

First, there are four different types of route marker in Texoma.  Each one looks different and represents a different type of route.  Now, it's important to understand that the route marker will not always indicate what kind of road you are on such as a two-lane or four-lane but it will indicate to you what type of route it is by how it looks.

Let's go over the four different types of route markers.  And, don't panic but one has two different looks.  I'll explain that later.

Take a look at this:

This is an interstate shield route marker.  It is the only type of route that is red, white and blue from top to bottom.  It's the same look all over the nation.  In the red field at the top you will see the word "interstate" written in white letters in all caps.  

Here in Texoma we have only one interstate and that is Interstate 44.  To abbreviate the route we say "I, 44" and it is written "I-44."  Now, some in Texas will write "IH-44" but understand that in the other 49 states it's written "I-44."

The next level down is the federal highway, also known as a national highway.  Most folks just call it a "US" highway.  Here is what it looks like:

It consists of a unique shaped shield that is used in all of the 48 states.  The shield shape will never alter from this.  The sign is almost always black and white only.  The route is referred to as "US" followed by the number.  So for this example it's US 82 and is written with a dash, US-82.

The third type of route is the state route.  Now, this is where it gets just a little confusing.

Each state has their own route sign.  Each states route sign can look very different from other states, it can be different colors and different shapes.  Each state is different.  And, because Texoma covers two states, Texas and Oklahoma, we have two to look at.

First here is the state route sign for Texas:

The Texas state route is a square with a black outline and white interior.  It has the number in black with the word Texas in all caps at the bottom in black.  This denotes a Texas state route.  These can be one, two or three digit routes.

Second here is the state route sign for Oklahoma:

You will notice that this sign is similar to Texas, in that it is a square and does have a thin black outline with white interior and the markings in the square are black but that is where the similarities end.

The Oklahoma state route sign has the shape of Oklahoma outlined in a thin black line slightly centered towards the top with the black numbers of the route overlaying it.  This can be one, two or three digit routes.

So if for some reason you are lost you can determine if you are in Texas by seeing the word Texas on the bottom of the sign or if you are in Oklahoma you can see the shape of the state towards the top of the sign.

Other states can be very different.  You won't see any of these state route signs in Texoma but you will in Colorado and Kansas, can you figure out which is which?

The yellow sign that looks like a sunflower is the Kansas state route sign and the colorful one with the state flag at the top of the sign is Colorado.  It also has the red "C" on it.  These are just two examples of other state route signs and all 50 states and six territories have their own signs for their routes.  When visiting another state be sure to find out what the sign looks like before you go.  An internet search will give you the answer.

Finally in Texas we have a fourth type of route.  It's considered a secondary state route or "farm" route.  In fact that's where it got it's name, the "Farm to Market" route.  It's otherwise known as the FM route.  

In Oklahoma they have one type of state route marker but things are bigger in Texas and more land to cover and more counties means the need for a second state route system which then became the FM system.  Here's the example of an "FM" route sign:

These are usually described as "FM" followed by the number.  So this one is "FM-369."  Notice the difference from the primary route sign.  This one is primarily black with two white words, "FARM" and "ROAD" from top right to bottom left.  In the center is a white shape of Texas.  And, in the center is a black number.  These numbers are a bit more diverse.  They can be one, two, three or four digit signs.

I hope this has helped and we have just scratched the surface.  I'll let this all sink in and in a few days I'll write the next one.

The next in this series will help you understand what the numbers mean on interstates and US roads.  Did you know that if you know the number you can determine what direction you are going and a good idea of where you already are at.  I'll explain next time.

Let me know if this helped. Thanks.

Bryan W. Rupp