Sunday, May 3, 2009

Margin Notes: Traffic, Signs, AuNaturAlice

RENO, NEVADA - One of the joys of this city of more than 200,000 is that traffic is practically non-existent except at the height of the morning and afternoon commutes. No so in Sacramento, California when I visited last week. I discovered that traffic on the US 50 freeway westbound backs up in stop-and-go traffic all the way to El Dorado Hills (about 25 miles); it took me more than an hour to cover that distance during the morning rush hour on Thursday and there were no accidents involved. Interstate 80, once considered an east-west bypass of Sacramento, was backed up in both directions the same morning, and eastbound had been slow nearly all the way to Roseville the previous afternoon. Even the slowing economy hasn't led to much improvement in the traffic conditions around Sacramento.

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The sign at a McDonald's in Carson City, Nevada showed over 99 billion served on 3-May-2009, a mark that has been out of date since 2007

The slowing economy is not to blame for the fact that McDonald's is no longer longer updating its "billions served" signs that remain on many of their restaurants. I remember being amused to see the number of "billions served" increasing regularly on the sign at a long-closed Bellevue, Washington location. Today, I finally took a picture of a sign showing "over 99 billion served" at a Carson City, Nevada location. It turns out that these signs have been showing that figure since 2007, even though McDonald's passed the 100 billion mark later that year. Apparently, it is more interesting from a marketing perspective to keep saying "over 99 million" than to keep counting above 100...

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Nevada seems to be using these blue and black signs to designate a location where traffic may enter a controlled highway unexpectedly, as seen along US 395 in the Washoe Valley on 3-May-2009

Another odd sign was noted today along US 395 south of Reno. When traveling, I try to note new things that highway departments are using that I haven't seen in other places, and soon after crossing into Nevada from California, I started to note these blue and black signs. It appears that they are marking locations such as median pull-outs on divided highways where traffic may unexpectedly enter or leave the roadway. Exactly why these signs are necessary, and how Nevada chose blue and black for them, are things I wouldn't mind learning more about.

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Where else but Nevada would this be the most important civic sign? Directions to the marriage license office were noted in Carson City, Nevada on 3-May-2009

A final interesting sign noted in Nevada was the above sign pointing to the marriage license office in Carson City. The state of Nevada is still noted for easy access to marriage and divorce, and the highway department apparently is empowered to make it even easier for visitors to take advantage of these "services." I can't think of anywhere else in the world where such a sign would be seen.

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One would think that Nevada would be the place where the term "au naturale" might gain a new meaning, but actually it was in Denver, Colorado earlier this week that I first heard a new variation. I've heard of radio stations calling versions of music sung without electronic aids "unplugged" or "acoustic", but Alice 105.9 in Denver has a new term--AuNaturAlice. I'm a little surprised that a station targeting a female demographic would use such a term, but they seem to have been using it for some time.

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