I’m not sure why it came to mind. I somehow remembered an odd series of jogs in a road I haven’t driven in several years. Here is an example:
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Each summer I drove along Occohannock Neck Road on Virginia’s portion of the Delmarva Peninsula. A friend’s family owned a summer cottage at Silver Beach on the Chesapeake Bay, and he would invite all of us over for a weekend of fun in the sun. This was the same place where one could observe a very rare East Coast sunset over water which has nothing to do with this article, which I note simply that for amusement.
The other geography-related item of interest to me, albeit much less remarkable than the sunset, was that road. In several places the route took sharp turns, right or left, for no apparent topographic reasons. Some of them approached 90 degrees and required one to slow down almost completely to a stop to avoid hitting a field.
The Eastern Shore of Virginia is flat. Its highest point is no more than 70 feet (21 metres) according to the County Highpointers Association. Roads here don’t need to accommodate elevation changes. There are wetlands along the shores however completely dry farmlands occupy the interior. There are absolutely no geographic obstructions that would prevent the construction of roads in absolutely straight lines if aligned with care.
The obvious conclusion is that roads out here following property lines. Long-ago farmers didn’t want roads cutting through their property. Authorities routed them around property boundaries and continued with their straight lines on the other side.
That led me on a quest to find the most extreme, most egregious instance.
A classic example often cited occurs in England. Stott Hall Farm sits in the M62 motorway median between Manchester and Leeds. You’ve probably seen this before.
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It’s not exactly what I’m seeking for a couple of reasons. First, the road barely curves to avoid the property. I’m looking for something akin to a series of very sharp 90 degree turns. Second, contrary to urban legend, the motorway wasn’t diverted around the farm due to property ownership issues. It’s because the surrounding terrain dictated this unusual route. I love this as a geo-oddity. However, it’s not what I’m hoping to find for my purposes today.
I consulted the Intertubes and I found a promising article. FlaglerLive.com explained How Old Kings Road Was Re-Routed for Walmart. It doesn’t exactly fit my model either. I was hoping to find an instance where an existing property triggered an unusual route. This is the opposite case. The road was perfectly fine beforehand and changed only because Walmart came along.
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I consulted the article and found the property in question in Palm Coast, Florida. The map clearly shows the re-routed Old Kings Road. It also shows the alignment of the previous road bed. Walmart will obliterate that residual path eventually, however, it’s still visible in the 2012 Google Maps imagery.
The change also seems like a gentle curve than a sharp angle. This one won’t do either.
An historical reference dangled another tantalizing opportunity before me. I found a wonderful reference on The West Houston Archives:
Harris County, particularly the western half, was largely rural farmland until the last half of the 20th century, and many of the major roads we drive on today started out as simple paths for horse-drawn vehicles. Because the land was mostly privately owned property, divided into squares, rectangles, and other similarly shaped blocks, the first roads had to be built around these property lines. Unlike today, when the state can buy out land for right-of-ways and build roads wherever they please, early road builders respected the rights of private landowners, and built roads according to what was available for them to use. This resulted in our early roads zig-zagging through the countryside at sharp right angles. It was north, south, east, or west, and very seldom anything other than a series of straight lines.
Yes! That’s exactly what I’m talking about! Unfortunately the article then goes on to explain how these roads were straightened-out as Houston grew, largely obliterating any sharp right angles. I poked around for awhile amid what remained of rural Harris County on Google Maps and didn’t find what I wanted to see.
Maybe it would be helpful to draw what I consider the Holy Grail of road re-routing.
road ___________ ___________ road | | | house | | | -------------
I found lots of decent also-rans although I never did find the perfect example. So now I turn to the vast 12MC audience. Can anyone find an instance where a road traveling in a completely straight direction is force to bypass a property with a series of 90 degree turns and then continue back on the same previous straight track? This will bother me until I find such a place.