Thursday, August 16, 2012

I'd like to buy a vowel

Have you ever noticed that there is no Route Q in Missouri? Nor is there a Route G or Route S. While it may seem like someone spilled their alphabet soup on a Missouri roadmap, the truth is that some letters are never used to name roads.

In fact, of the 26 letters of the alphabet, six of them are conspicuously absent from Missouri road signs. Here’s why.

G -- Can look like the number 6

I and L -- These letters look too much alike and also resemble the number 1

Q -- Too close to the letter O

S -- Looks like the number 8

X -- Film-rating designations have given this letter a bad rap

The letter R is used in special circumstances. You will not find an R used alone because they resemble the letter P. Usually it is combined with an A or a B for short state roads that go to a park or conservation area.

MoDOT occasionally receives questions concerning the choice of letters. Some people even asked if there are secret meanings behind double-lettered routes. As provoking as that may seem, the truth is somewhat less cryptic.

The lettered routes are part of the state’s supplementary system. These routes joined the Missouri system in 1952 when the state absorbed almost 12,000 miles of county-maintained roads. The letter designations came shortly after that.

The letters were assigned county-by-county. Starting with A, roads were named in coordination with adjacent counties so there would be a mix in the distribution. If the list of single letters ran dry, then double letters were used until all the county roads had a designation. The original designations have basically remained the same since then.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

It’s Only 35 mph

“What possesses people to jump off a tower like that?”

Mr. Wonderful, my Olympics-obsessed husband, is amazed by the accomplishments of the athletes who’ve tumbled, swam, shot, rowed and otherwise flashed across our TV screen. He holds a special reverence for the divers.

AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis
 We watched the teams of synchronized platform divers the other night.


It was as if the athletes shared a single nervous system. They approached in tandem, leapt in tandem, spun and twisted in tandem and entered the water together with just as much of a splash as Missouri has seen fall from the skies this summer.

As we gaped in wonder, one of the announcers remarked that the divers strike the water’s surface at 35 mph. Hmmm. That got me thinking.

People sometimes tell me they only use seat belts when they’re on the highway.

You know, because the slow speeds in town can’t really hurt you.

Here’s the thing - if your car is traveling at 35 mph and it strikes another object, everything in the car – groceries, gym bags, people – continues to move at 35 mph for a time…unless it is fastened to the vehicle’s safety cage. The cage crumples as it absorbs the energy of the crash…like the water absorbs the divers’ forward energy.

Would you jump from a 10 meter Olympic platform into an empty pool? It’s only 35 mph.