Cumberland Times-News

Jim Goldsworthy - Anything and Everything

September 21, 2013

You can’t say this has been straightened out

Let us return to Goldy’s Rule 106, which was part of our discussion a few weeks ago:

It referred to a piece of road design that thousands of other motorists and I had to navigate on a daily basis.

I said at the time that the rule was “obsolete, at least until they reopen it”: If you must pass through the roundabout on U.S. Route 220 south of the junction with Interstate 68, ignore the sign that recommends you go no faster than 20 mph. Unless you are driving a sports car and know how to handle it, 15 mph is about the maximum you should push it.

Guess what? Goldy’s Rule 106 is no longer obsolete. The roundabout has made a comeback. Whether it has come back with a vengeance remains to be seen.

I was, however, incorrect in my previous wording because the State Highway Administration refers to it as a “U-about,” rather than a roundabout.

To my way of thinking, it’s neither a roundabout nor a U-about because you don’t go ’round, and you don’t make a U.

It more closely resembles a question mark than anything else.

Starting from the northern end heading southward, you go straight for a bit, then zig to the left and zig to the right (Stand up! Sit Down! Fight! Fight! Fight!) before entering a sharp left turn that would have adrenaline junkies cheering and Formula One drivers complaining.

After completing this maneuver, you zig back to the right and (thankfully) head straight downhill.

 It might be more appropriate to call it a “Question mark-about” because it probably causes drivers who are newly subjected to it to exclaim things like, “Huh?” “What the ... ?” “Why the ... ?” “Who the ... ?” and “How damn much money did they ... ?”

(The answer to the last question is about $3.77 million, as the Times-News reported in August.)

Still, U-about is an appropriate term because a warning sign that bears the following could easily be posted at its entrance:

“U-about to have fun goin’ through this sum*****!”

The original U-about was subjected to reconstruction because of the number of complaints received about it. (The newspaper is already receiving letters about the rebuilt version.)

The lane itself was too narrow and the turn was banked the wrong way.

I was one of many who could see havoc resulting when the thing gets icy in wintertime.

There was a guard rail, but a semi at full downhill slide would have gone through it like Carrie Nation’s hatchet through a whiskey barrel.

You could tell by the tire scuff marks crossing what I suppose is an island (or maybe it’s a peninsula) that truckers straightened out the curve on a regular basis.

I grew up in West Virginia and have traveled by motor vehicle to many places in the Mountain State, but never have I seen a comparably convoluted piece of road within its boundaries ... and that includes U.S. Route 50.

The rebuilding lasted for some months and the U-about is open again, so southbound traffic has to use it once more.

From what I can tell, all that’s happened is that the whole section has been raised and the steeply banked turn has been flattened out, with a curb a few inches high placed at the edge of the island/peninsula that has been retained.

The highway version of a ski jump ramp — a ski jump that follows a slalom course, no less — has been added at the top (southern) end of the question mark. (Who else has something like this? Go Allegany County!)

There remains a guard rail which, I suppose, is less intimidating than the massive (and so far impenetrable) wall that lies at the bottom of the Moose Curve on I-68 going eastbound through Cumberland.

The lane is still too narrow, and I continue to recommend you go no faster than 15 mph.

The big rigs I’ve followed have so far made it successfully through the U-about, but the left rear wheels on their trailers invariably cut across the island/peninsula.

The only thing that would make this worse is for someone in Annapolis to decide that the nearly $4 million spent on this maze could be recouped by setting up a toll both.

Traffic is already going slowly enough that making motorists stop completely to pay a toll shouldn’t hold up progress much more than is already the case.

Estimates are that an average 15,000 motorists go through there on a daily basis, so if you figure a buck a head, that’s $15,000 a day.

The U-about could pay for itself in just about nine months and begin raising money the state of Maryland could use for for new road projects in the metropolitan areas (which is where most of Maryland’s highway money already seems to go).

All this reminds me of a tale related to me by a friend who worked on the railroad. (If I’ve told you this before, please forgive me. It’s one of my favorite stories.)

He and his men had just finished constructing a mildly curved track bed and were about to commence tamping it down when a supervisor of relatively tender age showed up.

My friend described him as “a College Boy,” which is the same type of person my father and other members of his generation would have described as a “90-Day Wonder”: Put him in school for a few weeks, and he leaves it convinced that he knows all there is that’s worth knowing.

The College Boy/90-Day Wonder informed my buddy and his associates that the trackbed didn’t need to be tamped down.

The curve was sufficiently gentle, he said, and the speed limit was low enough, that there shouldn’t be a problem.

The trackbed tamping was canceled. Probably saved the railroad a good bit of money, too.

“First train that went through there,” my friend said, “guess what happened. She went right over on her side.

“We never saw that fella again.”

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Jim Goldsworthy - Anything and Everything
  • He means well, and this time they spared his life

    Our pal Phil is the only re-enactor certified in writing by both the Lee and Custis families to portray Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee (whose wife was Mary Anna Custis Lee). When he’s in uniform, he generally stops at the bottom of the path that leads to the summit of Little Round Top, salutes Capt. Gary and First Sgt. Goldy and asks permission to join us. (Get it? Generally ... General Lee?) We always return his salute and grant him permission, in part because he’s our friend and also because the real Lee never got to see what it really looks like from up there. (Get it? Grant ... Grant? U.S. Grant? Real Lee ... really? OK. I hear you. That’s enough. Seriouslee.) Phil gets a kick out of being able to sneak up on us while we’re distracted by tourists.

    July 20, 2014

  • They’d have fallen like Autumn leaves

    So there we were, minding our own business (at least momentarily), leaning against the cannon at Little Round Top.

    July 13, 2014

  • Better read that french fry before you eat it

    People give me otherwise-insignificant items they hope will amuse or inspire me. I appreciate this. I’m always glad for free entertainment, which as Goldy’s Rule 33 says is everywhere. All you have to do is wait and it will come to you. Also, I have been writing columns for 37 years and embrace inspiration anywhere I can find it.

    July 6, 2014

  • The moose is loose, and it’s coming for you

    So how would you like to look out your kitchen door window onto your porch and see a moose looking back at you from close range?

    June 28, 2014

  • There are some debts you can never repay

    Today’s column will be relatively short, as my columns go, for reasons that should become apparent, and I thought long and hard before writing it.

    June 21, 2014

  • It could have saved the county a lot of money

    Random thoughts sometimes occur to me when I least expect it, usually when my brain has become tired.
    When I voice these thoughts at work or in other places, people may tell me, “Goldy? It’s time for you to go home.” Yes, ma’am.
    Here are two random thoughts of recent vintage:
    • If Bugs Bunny were an Emergency Medical Technician, would that make him a MedicHare?
    • If Daisy Duck got a job driving for United Parcel Service, would she be an UPS-a-Daisy?
    I wouldn’t blame you if you think that sounds Goofy — or Daffy.

    June 15, 2014

  • These two were part of the Not Top Ten

    Occasionally, at this time of year, I see reference to a “class orator” or a “class speaker.”

    Nothing wrong with that — people can call such things whatever they want, as far as I’m concerned — but it makes me wonder. Have “valedictorian” and “salutatorian” become politically incorrect, and I didn’t notice? It may come as a surprise to you, but I really have not kept up with what is politically correct or incorrect. That’s what people tell me, anyway. With some of them, it actually seems to be a compliment.

    June 8, 2014

  • Coming soon to a highway near you?

    People say to me, “Goldy? Can I ask you a stupid question?”

    In theory — and theory only — the correct response is: “The only stupid question is the one you don’t ask.” Not so much. There ARE stupid questions, some of them so stupid that to call them stupid is to damn them with faint praise. Other questions are — on the face of it — legitimate questions, but shouldn’t be treated as such ... not if you subscribe to the same philosophy that I do: Free entertainment is everywhere; all you have to do is wait, and it will come to you.

    June 1, 2014

  • This was a skill that proved very useful

    The Belmont Park stewards have decided to let California Chrome wear his nasal strip during the Run for the Carnations. Nasal strips usually are worn by people who snore and may have saved numerous marriages. It helps the Triple Crown hopeful to breathe, and some twolegged athletes wear nasal strips for the same reason. In this case, Chrome’s nasal strip may keep him from (wait for it) ... losing by a nose.

    May 25, 2014

  • He made a big splash by asking this question

    “I don’t know who you were talking to last night,” said Capt. Gary, “but you were talking and moaning in your sleep. Never heard you do that before.” Neither has anyone else, I said. Besides, I had told him not to be surprised if we had visitors. I wasn’t at the top of my game for a couple of days, and he said some of our friends asked him if I was all right. It’s not the first time for this, so now I’ll know to watch out for it. It can affect you and is not something to play around with — as our friend Cathy found out.

    May 18, 2014

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