Why Roads are Less Traveled

A primer to keep you from getting lost, more or less

Illustration by Brad Fitzpatrick

It's foliage season, which means we've got a lot of visitors in the state, many of whom will end up getting lost. There are politicians who came to New Hampshire thinking they could handle our backcountry roads and were never heard from again, which may not be the worst thing.

Anyway, I've put together a little primer on New Hampshire roads to keep visitors from getting lost. (I generally wouldn't care, but I figure if these folks do get to where they're going, they might buy something.)

In other parts of the country, roads run in basically two directions: east to west and north to south. But in New Hampshire, we've added several dozen more directions, and we try to incorporate them into every one of our roads. Mostly this has to do with the land, which makes the surface of the moon look like a parking lot. Whenever you try to build a road, something is bound to get in the way - a rock, a river or a historic endangered species wetland preservation district - so our roads tend to wind around a lot. Also, most of our roads were originally laid out by wandering cows, and later road builders were either too lazy or stubborn to straighten them. (Or they just thought it would be amusing to leave them as they were.)

All of which means you can't pay too much attention when a highway sign says "north" or "south" on it. That's just a general principle, like the Pledge of Allegiance. Whole stretches of road may go in the exact opposite direction of what it says, so don't let that throw you.

"Pay attention or you'll end up in the middle of nowhere beside a rusted-out hulk with a Morris Udall bumper sticker on it."

Speaking of road signs - there aren't any. At least, that's the way it seems to outsiders. There's a reason for this. We figure that if terrorists ever come here, it'll slow 'em down. On the rare occasion when you do find a road sign, bear in mind that it generally tells you where you're going, not where you are. You may be on East Milfoil Road, but you're actually in Frost Heaves. Over to East Milfoil, the very same road is called Upper Frost Heaves Road or some such. Again, we don't do this on purpose to confuse outsiders, that's just an added benefit.

You've heard of the "Bridge to Nowhere" in Alaska? In New Hampshire we have quite a few "roads to nowhere," classic thoroughfares that start out full of vim and vigor, then lose interest at the edge of town and peter out into old cellar holes and collapsed stone walls. Pay attention or you'll end up in the middle of nowhere beside a rusted-out hulk with a Morris Udall bumper sticker on it. Don't say I didn't warn you.

But the latest fad around here is traffic roundabouts. I think they're an invasive species, first carried to New Hampshire on the undercarriage of an '84 Subaru with Vermont plates that was passing through on the way to an organic gardening festival. I've suggested putting volunteers at the border to check for this kind of thing so it don't spread. But does anyone listen to me? No, they do not.

Edit Module
Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags


Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Popular Articles

  1. 2015 It List
    Our 2015 It List is the who’s who of New Hampshire. Meet 14 influential Granite Staters who...
  2. 28 Ways to Have Fun This Winter
    This year, why not resolve to make the best of the snow and ice? Here are 28 things to do...
  3. Miracle on Beech Street
    At the Manchester Police Athletic League, officers change the lives of local youth for the better.
  4. Understanding and Alleviating Dry Eye
    The syndrome puts comfort and eye health at risk.
  5. Challenge Yourself with Snowshoe Racing
    Put on your snowshoes and run! If you enjoy regular races, you just might like the added...
  6. Holiday Shopping in Concord
    Concord’s Main Street is back and beautiful. The recent downtown renovation has made for a...
  7. Alexander Heffner Host of “The Open Mind”
    "The Open Mind,” which turns 60 this year, got a new lease on life when Alexander Heffner,...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags