We all view riding as one of our favorite multi-sensory experiences. The smells, the feels, the sounds and sights combine in a tasty sensory stew. Especially the sights. But it’s not always those mountain vistas or desert sunsets that capture our imagination. At times it’s things more basic. Like roads with bizarre and unexplainable names. The potential for weirdness lurks around every corner!
The majority of roadways in this country bear names culled from precious few categories. They can bear monikers that reflect some geographic feature…..”take Valley Road until you reach the Ridge Pike….” As a counterpoint to geographic names, there are the byways that take their names from man made “stuff.” I can think of no fewer than 4 “Airport Roads” within 25 miles of where I sit. Not to mention bridges, dams, mills, railways, mines, forges, or ferries. Roads are also often named for some famous person, usually (but not always) dead. Virtually every major metropolitan area in the US has a Martin Luther King Avenue, Boulevard, or Parkway. Local folks who have done big things often get their due. In this category athletic heroes, politicians, military and civil servants get a lot of play. Then, a great number of roads are named based on where they lead. In the 19th Century we had the Oregon Trail. Now we have (in this part of the world, at least) the Pottstown Pike. Flora and fauna are the last big category. Trees get tribute almost everywhere. There are Pine Streets, Spruce Streets, Chestnut Streets, Walnut Streets, and of course that icon of nightmares, Elm Street liberally scattered throughout America. (Geez…almost forgot Wisteria Lane!) On the fauna front, I regularly tour on a couple of local roads named Buck Run and Doe Run. Equality of the sexes I suppose. In any case, I’d wager that you can bin 80% of the road names in this country in these few categories. But then, every so often, you run into a road name that you just can’t really explain.
Years ago, I went to school at Penn State. The local area was dotted with street names that reflected the importance of the University in community life. College Avenue. University Drive, and such. Other big college towns like Ann Arbor and Lincoln, Nebraska mimic that pattern with University Boulevards of their own. But that can’t explain the discovery of Groundhog College Road in a pleasant rural area of southeastern Pennsylvania. I can tell you that I’ve ridden the modest length (less than a mile – all paved) of Groundhog College Rd. I could find no college and precious few groundhogs. Still thinking there must actually be a college, I checked on the website of this country’s highest authority on Colleges and Universities, the NCAA. Guess what? No Groundhog College. It’s too bad, too. Can you imagine the excitement…”Tonight at 9pm, on ESPN, the Fighting Groundhogs of Groundhog College…” I would be only too happy to hear from anyone who can explain to me the presence of Groundhog College Road near West Chester, PA. .
Groundhogs, at least, do occasionally get snippets of respect from the world at large. While neither the most noble nor most ferocious of beasts (see Lions, Tigers, and Bears) they did earn a major movie credit (Groundhog Day, 1993.) That is clearly not the case with my next example of a road name that gives tribute to a living creature. Tapeworm Rd. Really. It’s a pleasant enough little country lane that I’ve discovered along one of my favorite ride routes. It kinda winds around in some low rolling hills and its sinuous character might possibly account for the name. But really, a tapeworm? A parasite that lives in your digestive system, can grow to 12 feet in length, and is passed out through your stool? Seriously? Wouldn’t something like Serpentine Trail or Winding Lane have been a better option and presented a prettier mental picture?
Last, but certainly not least, among my local favorites is Butt Lane. Suffice to say, it’s real, it exists, I’ve ridden on it, and I cannot possibly comment further. Self explanatory I suppose.
These local favorites do, however, pale in comparison to a legendary (and mega creepy!) highway not 100 miles away. That would be Shades of Death Rd. in Hope, NJ. I’ve never been there but there are supposedly stories of paranormal activity at the adjacent Ghost Lake, not to mention beheadings and lynchings, that might partially explain this macabre street name. I definitely think that Shades of Death Road deserves a road trip come springtime. Don’t you?
Got your own favorite weird/bizarre/creepy/unexplainable street names? We’d invite you to share them here so we can all enjoy!