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Exit 185A – a big conspiracy?

The conversation at the Clear Creek Ranch poker game/road association meeting last week revolved around two topics: football and politics. There is nothing original that can be said about the Super Bowl unless the players’ jerseys start sporting Roman numerals.

Back in the real world when I had a real job, we had a sales presentation with a client in Louisiana a few days before the Super Bowl, which was in New Orleans that year. The client offered to pull some strings and treat us to free tickets.

“No thanks,” I said, “I’ve seen a football game before.”



Ka-Ching, NO SALE! It was a long flight home. Shortly thereafter my letter of resignation was cheerfully accepted and I “retired” to Clear Creek Ranch.

I don’t attend Super Bowl Sunday parties because the conversation is limited to belched recitations of cliches and quotes from the Sunday sports section (which everyone in attendance had already read). Killer guacamole dip can only ease so much pain.




At the poker game, we chewed on political controversies between deals. If you haven’t heard, there are presidential primaries and local elections going on. Our resident blowhard asked: “Why does the media always report the size of campaign contributions? And why not call them bribes, because that’s what they really are?”

And your point is?

This same guy developed conspiracy theories around the large white Xs that appeared on Nevada County roadsides a few years ago. Couldn’t be for aerial mapping purposes, had to be more sinister than that. Although none were spotted, black helicopters were involved. I didn’t bother to scan the horizon. I’ve seen helicopters before.

Someone mentioned the strange signs on the local freeway. Our “freeway” is NOT an eight-laned doubledecker thoroughfare with multilevel clover leafs. Highway 20/49 merely widens to two lanes in each direction for a few miles before constricting again as it leaves the city limits.

There is a new offramp sign among the pine trees and daffodil sprouts at Ridge Road and Gold Flat — “Exit 185A.” How unnecessarily impersonal and urban. I hope the numbers and letters combine auspiciously in a numerological sense for the local New Age types. And does the green-and-white color scheme impart good feng shui? Exit 185 was surely a long way from the cultural epicenter that must be Exit 1.

I could hear gears grinding in our conspiracy theorist’s head. No doubt a popcorn machine of innuendoes would soon spew forth about godless mud people, government bureaucracy and population density. Not as dense as at least one skull at our poker table.

Later at home, I did a bit of research. Our cash-strapped state government is labeling every highway exit in the state with consecutive numbers from west to east and from south to north, at a cost of $20 to $30 million. (What’s a few mill?) Exit 1 on I-80 is on Seventh Street in San Francisco, exit 201 is near the state line at Farad. Exit 1 on I-5 is Camino de la Plaza near the Mexican border, and exit 796 is Hilt Road in Siskiyou County. Our own exit 185 is part of the Highway 20 numbering system which originates near the coast in Mendocino County. The “A” indicates there is more than one exit in that mile of Highway 20. According to the Caltrans Web site, Highway 49 has no numbers assigned to it at all.

If you haven’t seen the Exit 185A sign, don’t bother. You’ve seen a freeway sign before. I know I have.

Mike Drummond is a Nevada County writer whose column appears on Tuesday. You can write him in care of The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945; or e-mail him at miked@theunion.com.


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