Thursday, November 1, 2012

Bubba's Campaign and the Missing Road Signs

Somewhere near 40 miles to Birmingham, we crossed over the border into Alabama. While we were still informed on an imperative and frequent basis that this was the future home of the I-22 corridor, signs letting us know how far it was to Birmingham (which we'd been informed of regularly back in Mississippi) seemed to go missing.

On this trip (as on our original journey to CO) we noted that Alabama had the only phonetic road sign that we'd ever heard of or seen. Apparently the residents and visitors to Guin will be unable to find the place unless a second sign spells "Gu-win".

It was about 20 miles until ANY sign notified us of the distance to ANY town. We soon "discovered" that this was the work of Bubba, the director of signage for Rt. 78 (and perhaps all of Alabama).

Bubba, it seemed, had a vendetta against the folk of Birmingham. (Which he labels "burning hamsters" or "bumming hummers" depending on his mood.) It therefore became his personal campaign to confuse and dis-enlighten travelers, especially anyone traveling from Mississippi (whom Bubba disparagingly references as "missississies" whether or not they are Mississippi natives). Bubba incidentally, was a native of Gu-win, thus the imperative for correct pronunciation.

*foreshadowing* We weren't certain what Bubba had against Birmingham, but we were soon to find out. *cue sinister laughter* "Bwahaha!" */foreshadowing*

To convince the higher-ups on the public works/roads & bridges committees to fall for his villainous plot, Bubba explained that not wasting signs on telling travelers the distance to upcoming cities would save the state money. (We in fact noticed only about 5 or 6 such signs in the entire distance between the Mississippi state line and Birmingham.)

"We don't need to know that sort of stuff," Bubba lectured. "We already know that stuff and those darn missississies will have to deal. Besides, I ain't never left Gu-win and who cares how far it is to Birmingham? It's only the state capitol, after all. Besides if we put Birmingham on the signs, that's a lot of extra letters and the signs will have to be made longer."

It wasn't until mile marker 48 (exactly half way from the border) that a sign finally announced "Birmingham 48." We assume this meant 48 miles, since the thrifty Bubba didn't spare extra lettering for the word "miles" either. This unsettled us a bit, since by our calculations Birmingham should have been at least 10 or 15 miles further. But needing gas and a rest break, our hearts were gladdened at the idea of a shorter drive.

Two more signs announced Birmingham at 28 and 21 miles to, and then a surprising "Birmingham exit 1 mile". Following this was the announcement that all traffic on Rt. 78 (presumably ALL traffic, since Rt. 78 was the only route on that highway) must exit.

And now we have documented proof that the folks at Rand McNally maps were (perhaps unwittingly) in collusion with Bubba.

On the map, Rt. 78 is shown as dead ending at Rt. 77 with eventual construction to bring it to meet Rt. 65. The exit we were forced to get off at did not jive with the map. As we left the ramp we were greeted with a tiny sign (Birmingham and an arrow to the right - no mileage, thanks to Bubba again.) on a narrow and ill-lit road. Some time later we found another tiny sign, "Birmingham 12".

"Ah ha!" I said. "There's our missing 10 or so miles." Meanwhile I scanned both the road and map trying to determine where we were. None of the roads bore any resemblance to the map, and Bubba hadn't allowed any street name signs or route markers.

Not wanting to miss our next route change, Quantum stopped at a Walmart to ask directions. As usually happens at such times, as soon as Quantum got out of eyesight, I decovered where we were. There, way off in a corner of the map (about 15 miles from where I thought we'd been let off) a tiny portion of Rt. 78 was shown. Obviously it had been nearly obscured at the prompting of Bubba.

The kind gentleman at Walmart gave Quantum excellent directions and we were now on our way to Rt. 280. We got to Birmingham around 9:30 at night and hoped to make Columbus, GA by about 11:30 or midnight. Silly us!

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