Residents of the Northeastern U.S. may be familiar with the concept of shunpikes. Though I lived in Massachusetts for five years and just learned of their existence recently.
A 'shunpike' is a road deliberately built, or taken, to avoid a toll road. It's short for 'shunning a turnpike'. This differentiates a shunpike from a 'freeway' which also doesn't have tolls, but wasn't deliberately built to avoid an existing toll road.
Shunpikes are like the engineering equivalent of spite houses. Their purpose is to give the finger to someone else (the owner of the toll road). As such, they often inspire bitter grievances and feuds. Details of one such feud was reported in the Poughkeepsie Journal (June 3, 1962):
Dutchess Turnpike Co. was chartered in 1802 to build a new road from the Courthouse in the village of Poughkeepsie over the approximate path of the old Filkintown road for some 35 miles east to Sharon, Conn... The president of the Turnpike Co. was Jesse Oakley who had a storing, freighting and ferrying business at the Upper Landing, near the mouth of the Fallkill.
The principal landowner in the Lithgow area was old David Johnston who called his vast property and home Lithgow, a name borrowed by the little settlement nearby... David Johnson was so infuriated that the new turnpike was laid out considerably west of the old road, and so, quite a distance from his home, that he built the Shunpike on his own land...
Whatever the plans for the Shunpike were at that time, they certainly irked the Dutchess Turnpike Co. It published a notice, signed Jesse Oakley and dated Dec. 16, 1809, in the Poughkeepsie Journal of Dec. 20 telling of its intention of asking the next Legislature to permit to to change the location of its toll gates "from time to time in case any road shall be opened to permit travelers to pass around it. . ."
Residents of the Towns of Washington and Clinton promptly called an "Anti-Turnpike" meeting for Dec. 29.
Throughout the 20th century, it seemed to be widely assumed that the mood of the husband was determined by the behavior of his wife at home. So, concluded the District of Columbia's traffic safety office in 1963, if a man was in a 'disgruntled disposition' and consequently got into a traffic accident, it must have been the fault of his wife who didn't cheer him up adequately when he left home with a goodbye kiss "as though she meant it."
Mills & Boon books are the British equivalent of Harlequin romances.
Which is the setup for an odd fact, which sounded to me like an urban legend when I first came across it, but it turned out to be true. As you drive along the M6 Motorway in Britain, you're driving on copies of Mills & Boon romances, because 2.5 million of these books were used in the construction of the road.
about 2,500,000 of the books were acquired during the construction of the M6 Toll. The novels were pulped at a recycling firm in south Wales and used in the preparation of the top layer of the West Midlands motorway, according to building materials suppliers Tarmac. The pulp which helps hold the Tarmac and asphalt in place also acts as a sound absorber and is vital in the construction of roads.
Richard Beal, the company's project manager for the M6 Toll, said the books' absorbent qualities made them a vital ingredient in the construction of the country's first pay-as-you-go motorway.... for every mile of motorway approximately 45,000 books were needed.
Road lines are of those things one tends to take for granted, but obviously someone had to first think of the idea, and credit for it is given to Dr. June McCarroll of Indio, CA.
As told by the LA Times (Oct 12, 2003):
In 1917, she was driving home at dusk after visiting a patient when a truck forced her off a narrow highway into the sand. It wasn’t the first time. The truck driver apparently had difficulty telling just where his half of the unmarked highway ended.
Later, while driving on another, newer highway, she noticed that the road had a definite middle joint where it had been widened from 8 feet to 16. The pronounced center ridge caused cars to stay on their own side. A center line painted down the middle would serve the same purpose, she decided.
Known for confidence and straight talk, she took her idea to the Riverside County Board of Supervisors and the Chamber of Commerce. They gave her a polite ear but nothing else.
She took direct action. She got down on her hands and knees and painted a 2-mile-long 4-inch-wide white stripe down the center of the road that passed in front of her house on Indio Boulevard.
She was sure that her example would illustrate the idea’s safety benefits, but change was slow to come. For seven years, she wrote letters and petitioned the county and state to adopt the white lines.
Finally, with the support of the Indio Women’s Club and the California Federation of Women’s Clubs — which had previously campaigned to add roadside markers and to preserve El Camino Real — she prevailed. In 1924, the Legislature authorized the State Highway Commission to paint center lines.
From Doc June’s idea sprang colors, stripes and other markings on streets and highways to enhance motoring safety. By the time she died in 1954, at 86, striping highways was commonplace across the country.
Dr. June McCarroll
There is some controversy, since two Michigan men (Kenneth Sawyer and Edward Hines) apparently had the same idea before McCaroll. And they even painted some white stripes on a road. But unlike her, they don't seem to have tried to get their state government to adopt the idea. So, I think McCarroll rightly gets credit as the originator of the idea.
1975: Rather than installing expensive signs or speed bumps, Napa, California experimented with using chickens to slow down motorists on one of its streets — Streblow Drive, bordering Kennedy Park. They simply let 85 chickens roam the park and street at will. Said park superintendent Bob Pelusi, "Only occasionally does an errant driver charge through the flock. In the nine months we've had the chickens on the job, we've lost 12 of them — gone in the line of duty, so to speak."
Havana, Illinois has a bug problem. Not bed bugs or cockroaches, mayflies. Their bridge is covered in them and by covered I mean up to six inches deep. The resulting bug goo all over the bridge has caused a number of accidents, cars and motorcycles. A certain kind of water bug grows wings and swarms as mayflies before laying eggs. I am thinking there will be far fewer of the water bugs this season because so many got squished on the bridge before laying eggs.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.