Wednesday, December 15

Planet of the Bizarre Road Names by 2 Wheels 2 ... Everywhere

 We all know that riding is one of our favorite multi-sensory experiences. The smells, the feels, the sounds and sights combine in a tasty stew of inputs. Especially the sights. But it’s not always those mountain vistas or desert sunsets that capture our imagination. Sometimes it’s something way more basic. Like when we see signs with bizarre and unexplainable road names. The potential for weirdness lurks around every corner!

The majority of roadways in this country bear names culled from a precious few categories.
They can bear monikers that reflect some geographic feature…..”take Valley Road until you reach the Ridge Pike, then go left….” As a counterpoint to geographic names, there are the byways that take their names from manmade objects or places.

I can think of no less than 4 “Airport Roads” within 25 miles of where I sit. Not to mention bridges, dams, mills, railways, mines, forges, or ferries. Roads are also often named for some famous person, usually (but not always!) dead. Virtually every major metropolitan area in the US has a Martin Luther King Avenue, Boulevard, Street, or Parkway. Likewise John F. Kennedy. Local guys and gals who have done big things often get streets named for them too. In this category athletic heroes, politicians, military and civil servants get a lot of play. Then, a great number of roads are named based on where they lead. In the 19th Century we had the Oregon and California Trails.

Now we have (in my part of the world, at least) the Phoenixville Pike. Flora and fauna are the last big category. Trees get seem to get tribute almost everywhere – There are Pine Streets, Spruce Streets, Chestnut Streets, Walnut Streets, and of course that icon of nightmares, Elm Street liberally scattered throughout America. (Geez…almost forgot Wisteria Lane!) On the fauna front, I regularly tour on a couple of local roads named Buck Run and Doe Run. Equality of the sexes I suppose. In any case, I’d wager that you can bin 80% of the road names in this country in these half a dozen or so categories. But then, every so often, you run into a road name that you can’t really explain.

Many years ago, I went to school at Penn State University. If memory serves me correctly, that local area was dotted with street names that reflected the importance of the University in the life of the local community. College Avenue. University Drive, and such. Other big college towns like Ann Arbor and Lincoln, NE seem to generally mimic that pattern with University Boulevards of their own. But that can’t explain my discovery of Groundhog College Rd in a pleasant rural area of southeastern Pennsylvania, not 10 miles from my home. I can tell you that I’ve ridden the modest length (less than a mile – all paved) of Groundhog College Rd. I could find no college and frankly, precious few groundhogs. Still thinking there must actually be a college, I checked on the website of this country’s highest authority on Colleges and Universities, the NCAA. Guess what? No Groundhog College. It’s too bad, too. Can you imagine the excitement…”Tonight at 9pm, on ESPN, the Fighting Groundhogs of Groundhog College take on the Number 1 ranked Duke Blue Devils in NCAA Basketball…..” I would be only too happy to hear from anyone who can explain to me the naming of Groundhog College Road near West Chester, PA. .

Groundhogs, at least, do occasionally get snippets of respect from the world at large. While neither the most noble nor most ferocious of beasts (see Lions, Tigers, and Bears) they did earn a major movie credit (Groundhog Day, 1993.) That is clearly not the case with my next example of a road name that gives tribute to a living creature. Tapeworm Rd. Really. It’s a pleasant enough little country lane that I’ve discovered along one of my favorite ride routes. It kinda winds around in some low rolling hills and its sinuous character might possibly account for the name. But really, a tapeworm? A parasite that lives in your digestive system, can grow to 12 feet in length, and is passed out through your stool? Seriously? Wouldn’t something like Serpentine Trail or Winding Lane have been a better option and presented a prettier mental picture?

Last, but certainly not least, among my local favorites is Butt Lane. Suffice to say, it’s real, it exists, I’ve ridden on it, and I cannot possibly comment further. Self explanatory I suppose.

These local favorites of mine do, however, pale in comparison to a legendary (and mega creepy!) highway not 100 miles from home. That would be Shades of Death Rd. in Hope, NJ. I’ve never been there but supposedly there are stories of paranormal activity at the adjacent Ghost Lake, not to mention beheadings and lynchings, that might partially explain this macabre street name. I definitely think that Shades of Death Road deserves a road trip come springtime. Don’t you?

Got your own favorite weird/bizarre/creepy/unexplainable street names? I’d invite you to share them with us so we can all enjoy!

Jack Broomall is a lifelong motorcyclist and a friend of RevZilla. His motorcycle adventures have taken him across the North American continent several times, to Alaska, the Alps, the United Kingdom and the Isle of Man. He is a member of the Iron Butt Association and also owns a number of Land Speed Records set on motorcycles at the Bonneville Salt Flats where he is a member of the Bonneville 200 MPH Club. He has been known to do occasional restorations of his favorite bikes from the 1970s and enjoys track days as well. Jack writes his “2 Wheels 2..Everywhere!” stories about the motorcycling life on a monthly basis or whenever the mood strikes.
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