Tales from a Michigander Abroad: Ohioan Signage

by Brandon James Anderson

When I was twelve, my family took a vacation in our 1996 Chevrolet Astro van to Disney World. It was one of many trips from my youth in which I traveled to and through the state I now call home, Ohio.

On that trip, I remembered seeing, for the first time, rectangular blue signs along the Interstate that informed motorists of what gas stations and fast food places could be found at the upcoming exit. I told my father that this was a good idea and that Michigan should be doing this as well. He suggested that I write the governor about it, which, as anyone who knows me personally would assume, I certainly did. While I doubt my letter to John Engler got the ball rolling, eventually the state of Michigan (like practically all states) moved in that direction.

Now, eighteen years later and months into my residency “down under,” the one thing I’ve become fascinated with is the Buckeye State’s admiration of signage. And, given the state’s puzzling tendency to numerate every single road while also giving it a name, this abundance of signage can get confusing.

I present Exhibit A:

Exhibit A

This is a photo of an intersection in Perrysburg, Ohio, not far from where I currently reside. Ohio 795 is a main road in Perrysburg and, as you can see from this photo I found from a long-dormant Angelfire web page, the road’s terminus is at the intersection of Ohio 199 (also known as Louisiana Avenue) and U.S. Highway 20 which actually runs all the way from Boston to Northern California.

Typically, my commute between Michigan and Ohio involves crossing the border at U.S. 23, pictured below:

U..S. 23

Throughout the fall, however, I’ve been trying out different routes from Bowling Green to Jackson, Michigan, where I’m teaching a class on Friday afternoons. This has led to me crossing the border through random roads that run north-south and intersect U.S. 223 or taking M-52 all the way down to the border where it then becomes Ohio road 109 and meets up with the aforementioned U.S. 20, pictured below:

U.S. 20

It’s along this route that I have come across signs such as these:

Fulton 24

Like Michigan, Ohio has a lot of counties (88 compared to the Mitten’s 83). While not every county is as desolate as Fulton County here, it stands to reason that these no-name, numerated county roads must exist in the thousands throughout the state. With such redundancy, Ohio’s love for uncreative road names makes a little bit of sense. Plus, it provides the state with ample opportunities to warn rapscallions and evildoers that crime doesn’t pay.


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