Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Who Names Roads, Anyway?

Back in the late 1940's my family began a migration from urban/suburban areas of New York and Connecticut to the rural quiet of Otsego County up in the western Catskills.  Before moving ourselves, we drove up to visit in the 1935 Buick Sedan my dad bought after we three kids got too big to ride in the rumble seat of his '32 Plymouth Roadster.

The trip from Queens Village to Otsego County took forever.  We'd motor across the Bronx Whitestone Bridge, up the Hutchison River Parkway to the Taconic all the way to its end - back then at Route 52 in Southern Duchess County.  We turned west on 52  to US Route 9 and north on 9 to Route 23, crossing the Hudson on the Rip Van Winkle Bridge. On 23 we passed through Windham, Prattsville, Grand Gorge, Stamford, Harpersfield, a few Davenports, and finally into Oneonta then out the other side on East Street. That soon became a gravel road for several miles until we made a right turn then took the left fork onto a narrow dirt road, arriving a minute or two later at my grandparent's house on Dutch Hill Road.

With pit stops to buy fuel, pee, eat, and such, it was a lo-o-ong trip!

We kids used to amuse ourselves by reading road signs and coming up with stories about how they were named: Gun Hill Road, Bullet Hole Road, and the like were fodder for our fertile imaginations and helped the endless hours pass.  The same old road names could elicit different stories each trip.

Even now as I travel, I often amuse myself by making up stories about how roads got their names. However there is one, Exit 65 off I-85 just south of Petersburg, Virginia that, no matter how I try, I am unable to come up with a plausible story to explain.  The name - SQUIRREL LEVEL ROAD.  

Have fun!