This report is from Day 4 of our 2005 Summer Vacation, on July 31, 2005.

Day 4 of the Froggie/Ladymegs 2005 Great Circle Tour (long)

The Froggie/LadyMegs 2005 Great Circle Tour, Day 4:  "Texas is flat", plus trouble brewing

- Started the day from Tinker AFB, dropping down to I-240 then heading west on I-240 to I-44.  As noted in my Day 3 report, I-240 is 6 lanes plus one-way frontage roads on each side between I-35 and I-44.

- The I-44/I-240 interchange is a fairly tight trumpet interchange, with the ramp from I-240 to westbound I-44 being the loop.  The "through routing" through the interchange is I-240 and I-44 to the north.

- I-44 through southwestern Oklahoma City is 4 lanes.  That said, the bridge over the Canadian River (just north of OK 37 WEST) is wide enough to accommodate 6 lanes.  There's also a really neat old through-truss bridge next to the I-44 river crossing which appears to be the old US 62 crossing of the river.

- The I-44/OK 37 WEST interchange is also a trumpet, with the EB 44 to WB 37 ramp being the loop.

- OK 37 is 5-lanes undivided from I-44 westward all the way to the middle of Tuttle, almost to but just short of the junction with OK 92.

- Took OK 37 to its terminus at US 281 in Hinton, then nudged up US 281 to I-40 West.  Most of our trip the rest of the day was along I-40.

- The I-40/OK 58 junction near Hydro is kind of odd.  The easiest way to explain it is it's a split diamond, with a half-diamond on each end and connections via 2-way frontage roads on each side of I-40 and an offset of about 1/2 mile between OK 58 to the north and OK 58 to the south.  Both roads extend across I-40, though...signage suggests that OK 58 follows the south frontage road between the two.

- Stopped for gas in Weatherford, where Exit 82 (east side of town and east end of the I-40 Business Loop) is in effect a trumpet interchange (EB off-ramp from I-40 being the loop), but where the WB on-ramp to I-40 is accessed from Washington Ave.

- There's a wind farm right up along I-40 between Weatherford and Clinton.

- Repaving project on I-40 in the vicinity of Foss.

- There were signs for a "Route 66 National Museum" at Exit 41 (OK 34 NORTH/Elk City).

- OK 34 duplexes with I-40 around Elk City, while OK 6 continues to go through the town.

- A rest area on westbound I-40 near Erick has a sign showing the "Oklahoma Veterans Memorial Highway System".  Basically, each leg of I-35 and I-40 going out of Oklahoma City commemorates veterans of the 4 main U.S.-involved wars of the 20th Century:  the two world wars, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

- Just before the Texas/Oklahoma line on westbound I-40 is a reassurance shield with the "Oklahoma" state name.  Also in this area, Google Maps still shows a half-interchange to/from the west just barely on the Texas side of the line, including an underpass under I-40.  This configuration no longer exists.  I-40 appears to have been recently rebuilt on the Texas side, and all that's left of the old interchange is a westbound on-ramp from the north frontage road.

- Briefly took FM 1547 down to get Collingsworth County.  Besides a signpost on the side of the road showing Collingsworth on one side and Wheeler on the other, it was strange seeing a 70 MPH speed limit on a road that is in about the same shape as a Mississippi county road.

- Back on I-40, we stopped at a rest area just west of Alanreed (near MM 132), where what had been a flat Texas landscape very suddenly changed to one of hills and valleys.  A very scenic area, actually.  Was also interesting noting the restrooms within the rest area were designated/posted as "tornado shelters".

- Just west of Groom, off the side of I-40 was one of the largest crosses I have ever seen.  It was a huge white cross that had to be at least 100 feet high, sitting about 1/2 mile off the Interstate.

- On the eastern edge of Amarillo, just before the US 287 junction, a warning sign warned of "Severe Crosswinds".

- I-40 is 6 lanes through most of Amarillo, from the US 287 junction on the east side of town west to the western I-40/Loop 335 interchange.  When the I-40/I-27 interchange was rebuilt a decade or so ago, it included 6 through lanes through the interchange on I-40 (as I understand it, I-40 had 4 through lanes previously).

- As has been noted occasionally on the misc.transport.road newsgroup, there is a stretch of I-40 in the Texas panhandle that isn't quite fully up to freeway-standard.  Starting just west of a truck parking area near MM 13 and running to near MM 3, there are occasional at-grade intersections (some with crossovers) along I-40 serving nearby ranches.  This is one of only a small handful of Interstate segments where at-grade intersections are allowed.  The premise behind this design exemption is that this area is so remote that adding frontage roads and an interchange or two to eliminate the at-grade intersections would not be cost-effective, and the negligible traffic on these side roads presents a minimal safety risk.

- Although the hamlet of Glenrio on the Texas/New Mexico line is extremely small, guide signage for Exit 0 showed shields for an I-40 Business Loop there.  Alas, we didn't stop to look further.

- Speed limit on I-40 goes up to 75 MPH once in New Mexico.

- An interesting Historic US 66 shield appeared on I-40 guide signage at Exit 356.  It appears to be very similar to the old 20s/30s-style US shields, with "NEW MEXICO" above the horizontal line.  But the borders, numbers, and letters were brown instead of black.

- Exit 343 was the first example of occasional I-40 exits where there is nothing listed on the guide sign...just the exit number and an arrow.

- Between Tucumcari and Santa Rosa, and between MM 304 and MM 299 more specifically, there was a construction zone on I-40 which had all traffic in a 2-lane/2-way configuration in the eastbound lanes.  From what we saw, the westbound lanes were being tore up and redone.

- The overpass at Exit 256/US 84 NORTH (yes, NMDOT signed US 84 as north-south here) had a very decorative design.  There were a couple other overpasses along I-40 that were similarly designed.

- Exit 234 was one of a couple examples we saw where there were multiple off-ramps from westbound I-40 with the same exit number in the same vicinity.  In this case, the first off-ramp went right into a commercial/hamlet area, while the second off-ramp was at the main interchange.  The two off-ramps were about 1/4 mile apart.

- Exit 218 at US 285/Clines Corners was another example of multiple off-ramps, but NMDOT delineated between the two here by using a letter suffix (i.e. Exit 218A was Clines Corner while 218B was US 285).  This location also ended our trek along I-40, as we took US 285 north towards Santa Fe.

- US 285 was a fairly scenic drive, with views of mountains on both sides through the haze, and was relatively flat.  There was one hilly stretch which also had the graphical version of the "Falling Rock" warning sign.  A few of the side roads along here had county route shields, using the blue pentagon shield.

- US 285 is 2 lanes north of I-40, but widens to 4 lanes at NM 41 (a junction which was unsigned going northbound).  Speed limit remained 65 for a couple miles, until we entered a suburban area about 4 miles short of I-25 (speed limit dropped to 45 here).

- Most of the houses in this suburban area were a very Southwestern style...almost adobe-like.  Not surprising given the area.  Though this stretch of US 285 was 45 MPH, it was driveway-free and had only a couple of traffic signals (and a "horseback riding" warning sign too).  The traffic signals struck me as interesting....they were very similar to Minnesota's in that NMDOT made prolific use of both side-mounted and overhead mast-arm signal heads, as well as pedestrian signals.  New Mexico uses horizontal signal heads on the mast arms though, as does Wisconsin and some parts of Florida.

- Took I-25 "South" (actually going northwestward here) to Santa Fe, where our hotel was along NM 14.  Signs along "Southbound" I-25 directed trucks destined for US 84/285 North to use NM 599 instead.

- After stopping at our hotel and taking a break is where we started running into trouble.  With my car.  The engine was making very strange sounds that it shouldn't have been making.  Given the time of day (early evening), we opted to not take our chances too much and limited the rest of our travel that day to walking around part of old town Santa Fe (nice photo opportunities, including signs showing the "PRE-1937 HISTORIC US 66 ROUTE") and getting dinner.

Next up:  A dry surprise, Four Corners, and Dust Devils

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