Odds and Ends 12

On March 23, 2016 · 10 Comments

It’s been quite awhile since I posted one of the recurring Odds and Ends articles. I had a bunch of small items to share, so why not? People seemed to like them. I considered that #12 must have been special because it was twelfth in line and Twelve Mile Circle liked to celebrate all things twelve, although honestly the number really had no greater significance. Readers who wish to see the previous eleven articles can always find them in the Complete Index.

Even Lower Clearance

Low Clearance
Tunnel Under C&O Canal. My own photo.

I discovered a number of roads with particularly Low Clearances several years ago. Later I had the privilege of visiting one of those sites in person while traveling through western Tennessee, a road with an overpass only eight feet (2.4 metres) of clearance. I went several miles out of my way to chronicle the site. Obviously I had an affinity for such things.

Little did I know that an even lower overpass lurked practically in my back yard and I’d passed within eyesight of it at least a hundred times. One of my regular bicycling routes through Washington, DC took me down the Capital Crescent trail sandwiched between the Potomac River and the historic Chesapeake & Ohio Canal heading northwest out of Georgetown. Recently I’d noticed a parking lot at Fletcher’s Boathouse. Then, for some inexplicable reason, I began to wonder how cars got into it. The lot didn’t seem to have an obvious outlet to a road. I spotted the exit a few days ago, perhaps because the trees didn’t have leaves yet, and saw an amazing sign out of the corner of my eye: "Tunnel Clearance 7 Ft" (2.1 metres). A tunnel beneath the C&O Canal let an access road connect to Canal Road (map). That’s how cars got into the parking lot. It felt tight even on a bicycle.

Comments on that earlier article implied even lower clearances (perhaps as low as 2 metres / 6.5 feet), nonetheless the Fletcher’s Boathouse tunnel was now the lowest automotive clearance I’ve seen in person.


Disputanta, Virginia

I noticed a small settlement southeast of Petersburg, Virginia, oddly named Disputanta (map). There had to be a story. What kind of dispute would lead to Disputanta? I prepared to give it the full 12MC treatment as I rolled up my sleeves and started searching. The story seemed tantalizingly good as it emerged. William Mahone built the Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad. He and his wife Otelia supposedly rode along the newly-opened tracks, naming stations in succession. She had been reading Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe and suggested placenames based on the book. William agreed and a string of stations became Wakefield, Windsor, Waverly, and [Mc]Ivor. Then they ran out of worthy candidates and it led to a bit of a disagreement. They memorialized their tiff with Disputanta. The story probably wasn’t true although it sounded good.

Then I stumbled upon an article in the Virginia Pilot, What’s in a name? — Disputanta. I’d been beaten by about four years and I couldn’t add anything to it. I hate it when that happens.

Coded Places

312 Urban Wheat Ale
312 Urban Wheat Ale by Frank Gruber on Flickr (cc)

Has anyone been following the great comments on the recent article called Mike? I mentioned that Milwaukee’s IATA airport code, MKE, was used as a surrogate for the city name in certain circumstances. Readers Philip Newton, Rhodent and John Wood pointed out other examples – PDX (Portland, OR), LAX (Los Angeles, CA), RDU (Raleigh-Durham, NC), and OKC (Oklahoma City, OK).

That also got me thinking about different abbreviations and codes used in a comparable manner, including those that I’ve referenced on 12MC before. For example, Chicago’s 312 telephone area code was adopted by the Goose Island brewery for its 312 Urban Wheat, sparking similar land grabs by other breweries in different cities as in More Geo-BREWities. I’d also referenced the postal Zip Code made famous by a 1990’s television series in 90210: Myth and Reality.

I wondered if there were other abbreviations or codes used in a similar fashion.

Iqaluit’s Road to Nowhere

iqaluit: road to nowhere
iqaluit: road to nowhere by Agent Magenta on Flickr (cc)

Iqaluit (or ᐃᖃᓗᐃᑦ in the Inuktitut language) was the largest settlement and capital of Canada’s Nunavut Territory, with nearly seven thousand residents. I grew more curious about the city as I researched Sawtooth Elsewhere. Iqaluit offered a What to Do page on its website that included a "Road to Nowhere." That was its actual name and the road truly led nowhere (map).

Every city has its most famous road and ours is the Road to Nowhere. Most tourists want a picture under the road sign. If you’d like to actually experience the Road to Nowhere, you can hike or walk it year-round, ski it in the winter or drive in the summer. This scenic route will take you just outside of town on a winding road that goes by lakes, rolling hills and tundra until it eventually ends, in the middle of nowhere!

I’d drive it if I ever visited Iqaluit. I did pretty much that exact same thing when I went "out the road" in Juneau, Alaska.

On March 23, 2016 · 10 Comments

10 Responses to “Odds and Ends 12”

  1. John Wood says:

    Since you do love the beer theme, I’ll just leave this here:


    Also, I was trying to recall if you had done an article largest areas for area codes vs smallest. Perhaps you did and that is why it came to mind.

  2. Ken Saldi says:

    Here is Colorado, we have a band (albeit not a great one) named for our area code. 3Oh3!. They hail from Boulder which has a 303 area code.

    Also, just a bit south of us in New Mexico, you have the 505 which is on a very good salsa brand!

  3. Calgully says:

    Australian postal codes are four numeric digits. My favourite town name, 1770 (sometimes spelled out as Seventeen Seventy, occasionally known as ‘The town of 1770’) has the postcode 4677. Pfft.

    The postcode for the city of Sydney is 2000. This led to a great co-incidence when the Sydney 2000 Olympic games were held in the locality of Sydney 2000.

    This audience (but not many others probably) may be interested in the arcane subject of Australian Postcodes. (Feel free to stop reading now if not).

    Each postcode encompasses one or more bounded localities. The structure of the code is that the first digit identifies the State. 2=New South Wales or ACT, 3=Victoria, 4=Queensland, 5=South Australia, 6=Western Australia, 7=Tasmania, 0=Northern Territory. That’s pretty well known by most Australians. But there is more structure than that. The second digit indicates broadly speaking how far the locality is from the State capital. If it is 0 you’re right downtown, if the second digit is a 1 then you’re in the suburbs, if it’s 2 or more then you’re in rural areas (generally speaking).

    So for example Sydney 2000 is right downtown in NSW, Parramatta 2150 is in the Suburbs of Metropolitan Sydney NSW, and Bathurst 2795 is in rural NSW

    Also, because the current Postcode system was introduced in the 1960s the numbering system generally follows the railway lines which were at that time used to transport mail.

    There are some non-geographic postcodes too – these start with 1, 8 or 9. These are allocated to major businesses who receive a lot of mail and who want their own ‘prestige’ address.

    The numbering system for States (2 for NSW etc) is also used for other purposes as well and is embedded in the psyche of Australians. For example Radio station callsigns traditionally start with the number of the State. Eg 3AW is in Melbourne, 6IX is in Perth, 7NT is in Launceston (Northern) Tasmania. These numbers are also used for Bank Swift codes and some Ham radio callsigns. It’s kind of used for telephone area codes, but not quite 02 is New South Wales / ACT, 03 is Victoria but after that it deviates – just to annoy those of us who care about such things.

  4. Peter says:

    How are fire engines supposed to get through that tunnel to Fletcher’s Boathouse?

    • Fire boat? The District of Columbia does have a fire boat, and Fletcher’s Boathouse is next to a navigable part of the Potomac River.

      • My curiosity got the best of me and I had to check it out on my morning ride. There was a pedestrian bridge across the canal at the boathouse in addition to the tunnel. It appeared both wide enough and strong enough for motorized vehicles. From there one would be able to drive down the canal towpath a short distance to a concrete ramp leading to the far side of the parking lot. I’d guess it’s used by maintenance trucks and such that can’t fit beneath the tunnel. Fire trucks could probably also use it during an emergency.

        Or they could let the boathouse burn and build another. It wasn’t much more than a shack and not particularly historic, either.

  5. Scott Surgent says:

    So I looked at the street map for Iqaliut and noticed another road heading slightly west of north that appeared to be a little longer than the Road to Nowhere. Was the rule that the road be the longest out of the city?

    By the way, my boss was once flying back to New York from Europe, taking the polar route, when some sort of “issue” forced the plane to land in Iqaliut. He spent an overnight there. Thus, I have one degree of separation from someone who has been to Iqaliut.

  6. James says:

    An even lower clearance, 6’10”, can be found on Leewood Drive in Eastchester NY just as it passes under the railroad tracks on its way to the Bronx River Parkway. It is a fairly busy stretch of road and while there is currently a traffic light controlling movement through the tunnel, until the late 1980’s there was simply a yield sign.

    • Joshua D says:

      James, I know this underpass too. I used to drive the Bronx River Parkway often and came across the exit for Leewood Drive, and one time did drive through it.

  7. Aaron of Minneapolis says:

    Relating to coded places — Area codes here in the Twin Cities aren’t really used as geographical shorthand. On the other hand, there is a craft brewery called 612 Brew, after the Minneapolis area code. I don’t drink, though, so I have no idea what their beer is like myself. Reviews seem to be good though.

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