Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Shame & Embarrassment

When I first started taking photos on a regular basis, I only posted the best ones. I was just starting out, so I was still working on getting the right angle. I also edited a lot: I would take a decent photo and crop all but the "important" parts. 

That was 2002-2003 and I've learned a lot since then. Now I'm a lot better at getting just the "right" angle, plus I actually include some of the surrounding area now for perspective. When I started posting photos to Flickr, I only posted the best photos or the most unique ones. I had lots and lots of photos that I deemed "not good enough" for public display. 

Case in point:
TO East 290
This I-290 photo was taken July 2004 near Chicago. I didn't really stop to take the photo, but merely slowed down. You can see it's kind of washed out for shooting through a dirty windshield and almost into the sun. 

This one:

23-116

AR 23/116 south of Booneville suffers overzealous cropping. You get the sign and not much else.  

These aren't my best work, so I chose not to post them. But all that has changed now. In the last 3 days, I have posted over 200 old photos. Some are poorly cropped, some were taken at a bad angle or bad exposure. I've decided to go ahead and post them so everyone can see how far I've come. 

But I'm not done yet. I still have more photos to post. How many? I have NO idea. I've got CD's full of photos plus a plastic shoe box full of more photos that haven't been looked at in years. 

For those of you who like to keep count: I now have over 3600 photos posted. I'd love to break 4000 by December 31, but I don't think that's going to happen. I'm not even sure where I was this time last year: 2300? It's been a busy year. Next year, maybe I can break 6000. 

Well, back to work, I guess.


Monday, December 28, 2009

Ice, Ice Baby

I spent a few days up in Missouri over Christmas visiting my folks. It's about a 4 hour drive, so I usually leave around 11 and arrive just before 3pm. This year, I left early due to the threat of Winter weather. I planned to leave around 8 and arrive about Noon, but it was closer to 9:30 because I had to make a quick stop on my way out of town.

It rained all the way there, but the temperature was in the 50's, so I wasn't too concerned about ice or snow... I just wanted to get where I was going before it arrived: weatherman was saying "After 3pm", but later changed it to "After 10pm", so I guess I hurried for nothing.

Well, we only had about 1/3 to 1/2 an inch when all was said and done, not the 4 to 8 inches forecast. BUT there was some ice on the roads as there was a band of ice that followed the rain and preceded the snow. 

The day I came home, I was checking the weather forecasts on-line as well as road conditions and found a major difference between Arkansas and Missouri road reports. Missouri's maps are more detailed and Arkansas' you sort of have to guess.

This is a screenshot from MoDOT's website. You can see almost all the major roads and their current conditons. You can even zoom on on a particular areaNow, only the major roads actually have their conditions posted, but it gives you an idea what to expect and many of the secondary roads are posted so you can use the major roads for perspective.


Now we come to Arkansas' map:It's just a statewide map with only a few major roads posted. Looking for a particular region? Good luck! As you can see, many roads are not labeled and even more are not shown. Looking for AR 7 around Jasper? It's the unlabeled white line between Harrison & Russellville.

OK, I confess: it's better than nothing, but Missouri gets credit for having greater detail and the ability to zoom in on a particular region. It's almost ironic: AHTD just revamped their website a few months ago, but didn't improve their highway conditions map. No zoom, little detail... it just sort of sits there.


Now, moving to Oklahoma, only the "major" highways (Interstates & Turnpikes) are labeled and  everything is broken down by region:So, for Oklahoma, you have an idea of how each region is faring. Unlike Arkansas or Missouri, it's not color coded to specifics (snow, ice, etc), just varying degrees of how slick it is. 

Missouri's site is the most detailed, but it's also the slowest to load due to its level of detail. Arkansas and Oklahoma load fastest, but Arkansas has more detail when it comes to major roads, than Oklahoma does. Oklahoma doesn't snow as much detail, but it's a little better for "at a glance" road conditions.

My favorite of the three would be Missouri for its detail. Arkansas needs to label its highway better and Oklahoma while good for at a glance, could use a zoom in feature for specific areas.

Perhaps someday, states will work together to collaborate data so you don't have to jump to different state's sites to plan ahead for bad weather.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

35 Cent Rant

I spent a few days in Missouri over the holiday and came home to no milk and no cereal in the house. OK, I knew about that, so no big deal.

I decided to treat myself to breakfast at the nearby Waffle House. Seems like they're almost always busy, no matter which one I go to (there are 2 here, plus I occasionally patronize them while traveling). No matter... I almost always grab a set at the counter.

I was hungry, not having had a decent meal since breakfast the day before (chicken strips are NOT a meal, they're a snack), so I ordered their "All Star Breakfast": 2 eggs, waffle, bacon, toast, hash browns... and I ordered a "Regular" orange juice off the Dollar Menu. The food was decent overall, though the bacon was a trifle overdone. I'm a bit surprised how quickly I devoured everything.  

When I went to pay for my meal, I found I was charged $1.35 for my orange juice. I asked about it and was told that was the price for a "Regular" orange juice. What about the Dollar Menu? "What Dollar Menu?". Well, after I put up a big fuss, they adjusted my bill. Now, I can see this maybe happening with a new server, but not with someone who has been there a while. I eat there about once every 2-3 months and the staff hasn't changed much (except for the cooks), so why the error? This has happened here before and at 4 other Waffle Houses... and they all deny the Dollar Menu until I show it to them. What gives? Hoping I won't notice? 

I've contacted Waffle House's customer service line only to be told I need to talk with the franchisee. Is it me or is that passing the blame? I find it very disappointing when a multi-million dollar corporation seems to act as if it's someone else's problem. Yes, it's only 35 cents, but it's the principle of the thing. 

End rant.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

OOPS!

Say what you will about Arkansas highways and AHTD's signing practices, they always seem to do amusing/odd things. One of my favorites is posting the wrong route shield.

Usually, it's using a state shield for a US Route such as this sign near Beaver:  Jct AR 62

But they also get it wrong the other way such as this sign for AR 162 at Alma
US 162 ??

Most recently, I found another. This time in Van Buren
Can You Spot the Error?Actually, this one isn't wrong. It's the one behind it:
Right Number, Wrong Shield

Now, I can sort of see how someone might become confused: this road was US 59 back in the mid 1930's. Well, it was actually TEMP US 59. Oklahoma was upgrading old OK 17 to be part of US 59 so it was temporarily detoured through western Arkansas...but that was 70 years ago! This has been State Route 59 since at least 1940.

Now, want to see something really confusing?Left or Right?

Road to Nowhere

You've heard of the "bridge to nowhere", but what of the "road to nowhere" ? It exists! It's in Oklahoma. It's I-44!

Built in 1957 as the Will Rogers Turnpike,  it runs from the Oklahoma/Missouri State Line near Joplin to Tulsa where it joins OK 66 and US 412.  In 1958, the turnpike was "grandfathered" in to the Interstate highway system as I-44. 

In 1992, the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority built the Creek Turnpike, a partial loop around Tulsa. Its northern (or West) end was at I-44 northeast of Tulsa, with its southern (or East) terminus at I-44 near Sapulpa. Following the completion of the turnpike, I-44 was rerouted along a 2 1/2 mile section of the turnpike, which left a 2 mile section of the original highway abandoned. I-44 now enters Tulsa co-signed with US 412.

These first two photos show the north approach to the lane shift  

Abandoned lanes. Look closely in the second photo  and you can see an exit sign for OK 66.

Looking Northwest from OK 66, plus abandoned roadway at OK 66


Here's a Google satellite view to put it all in perspective:

It's not totally abandoned, though: the Oklahoma Highway Patrol is said to use this for training grounds.  Plus, I think a State Senator used it as part of an ad for how bad Oklahoma highways were and how he would fix everything if elected (he lost).

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

130 or 49?

Along I-30 a few miles east of Texarkana there is some construction work going on. As of now, it looks like a southbound spur of I-30, which has been proposed to be I-130.  

But it has also been proposed to part of I-49.

Confused?

Eventually, this will be part of I-49. It will come into Texarkana along AR 549 then head north on AR 245. Around Arkansas Ave, it will shift NE towards I-30

BUT, if the roadway is completed before I-49 officially reaches Texarkana, then the road will be I-130, but will become I-49 later on. Don't ask me why they're doing it this way... I guess it's an Arkansas thing.

 

 

Got to be Arkansas

If this is Hogeye, this has got to be Arkansas.


The one, the only, thriving micropolis of Hogeye. Almost literally a "wide spot in the road", Hogeye sits along AR 265 southwest of Fayetteville. Just to the south, 265 intersects AR 156 which heads east towards West Fork. Keep going south, you eventually hit AR 170 which takes you to Devils Den State Park. Otherwise, there's not a lot to see here: one gas station/carry-out pizza place is all you'll see. 

If nothing else, I'm sure it's quiet out here, but it's probably very isolated when it snows. But I guess we can't all live in the city ;)


Only in Oklahoma

Strange doings in Oklahoma. Near Wellston,OK, there is a toll booth next to a McDonalds. No, I kid you not. During the Oklahoma City Road Meet this past June, we found this McDonald's sitting next to on-ramp for Westbound I-44.

The ramp actually cuts through the parking lot.  So which came first? The on-ramp or the McDonald's?

  

 

Kind of makes you wonder how much of a discount McDonald's got for the land.

We started calling it the "Ronald McDonald Memorial Toll Booth".  Now if you want to stop at McDonald's and not go through the toll gate (it's one way: so there's no U turns, no way back), there is a small parking area just before the the toll gate

Still, it makes you wonder "what were they thinking"?

 

Monday, December 07, 2009

Tough Questions

Back in 1926 when the US Highway system was originally developed, Arkansas develped its own system of highways 

Highway 45, for example, ran from the Oklahoma State Line west of Mansfield (now AR 96) to AR 68 near Hindsville (now part of AR 295). Like many highways in Arkansas, 45 was extended, truncated and rerouted several times. Parts of 45 are now US 62, AR 59, AR 253, and AR 96.

Sometime in the 1950's (?), the signage changed. Gone were the square numbers and the State xx Road. Now it was simply Arkansas xx.


I sent a letter to AHTD several months ago asking when the changeover occurred. Answer: "We quit making those signs after 1971 when the MUTCD was changed.". 

That's not the question I asked. I wanted to know when Arkansas changed from one cut-out design to another.  I guess I'll have to do my own research to figure the answer to this obviously difficult question.



What's This?

I've been sorting some photos from this past Summer, getting them ready to be archived. Going back to August, I found some more Diverging Diamond photos from Springfield


Plus a bridge over Williams Creek on old US 166 near Mt Vernon

What I found especially interesting was the old section markers along the roadway:

   

These probably date back to then the bridge was built in 1946, but it's something I've never seen before, or at least I've never noticed them. Makes me wonder where else I might find something like this? The numbers increase going east, so Zero point must be somewhere in Mt Vernon. Guess I'll have to go back and investigate further.




Sunday, December 06, 2009

New & Improved

For nearly 2 years now, AHTD (Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department) has been upgrading signage along Interstate 40 between the Oklahoma State Line and I-30 near Little Rock. Gone is the old 60's era button copy, replaced with shiny new signs in Clearview. The first signs to be replaced were near AR 23 at Ozark

Button Copy AR 23

Clearview AR 23

As of this past Summer, almost everything had been replaced... except at I-540 south. I knew there were improvements planned because I saw bits & pieces of gantry along the side of the road, but nothing was being done. Finally, around the first of November, the new signs started to appear

First Westbound

40-540-71 Overhead

Then Eastbound

Finally Got It Right

These new signs are larger than their predecessors, plus they are on an overhead gantry, something that has been rare along I-40 except around Little Rock and West Memphis. Also, US 71 is now shown as running concurrent with East I-40 and North I-540... something that has been missing ever since 71 got rerouted along I-40 in the 1980's. One other major change is the diagrammatic arrows showing the lane configuration at the exit.

There is still something missing, however: Eastbound I-40 is not co-signed with I-540 or US 71. I-40 and I-540 are co-signed Westbound, but not US 71.  This is, to say the least, annoying. AHTD has a bad habit of not co-signing routes... especially if one route is an Interstate and the other a US or State route (such as I-40/ US 63 near Hazen or I-530/US 65 at Pine Bluff).  But I'll save that commentary for another day. 


Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Only in Tennessee ?

Favorite Dive

It's Just Ten Cents

I have a tendency to eat a lot of fast food when I'm traveling. Sometimes, it's a few chicken tenders from some roadside convenience store, sometimes it's a Subway sandwich. Occasionally (very rarely if I can help it), I'll stop at McDonald's. Admittedly, I'd rather stop at a Whataburger or some local hamburger place (like Canton Texas "World Famous Dairy Palace"), but sometimes it McDonald's.

If you look at their menu, you'll see something like "Hamburger 89 cents" and "Cheeseburger 99 cents", but if you want a Quarter Pounder, the menu only offers a "Quarter Pounder with Cheese". You can get it without the cheese (which I do), but you get some dirty looks from the employees. Now the funny thing is, if a Quarter Pounder with Cheese is $2.49 (I'm not sure anymore... it's been a while), a Quarter Pounder without Cheese should be $2.39, right? Wrong! It's the same price as the Quarter Pounder with Cheese. So, why is that?

First I asked the manager ("it's just 10 cents"). Next, I asked the franchisee (wrote their office) and was told "corporate sets our prices". OK, so I ask corporate: "our franchisee determines how much to charge based upon market conditions".  Hmmm... so the franchise says it's corporate's problem and corporate says it's the franchisee's problem. So, who's job is it?  This strikes me as not wanting to take any responsibility... to let someone else worry about it.

Y'know: maybe if people DID take responsibility instead of saying "it's someone else's problem", maybe the world wouldn't be in half as bad shape as it's in right now. But what do I know: I'm just a road scholar/road geek.