The Other McCain

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‘Streets’ and ‘Avenues’ in Rural Iowa

Posted on | August 6, 2011 | 18 Comments

Rick Santorum’s schedule lists the address for his event this afternoon as 3275 400th Street. The Google Map directions to this location directed me to turn left onto 570th Avenue – which is a dirt road that runs between two cornfields. And after going a mile and a half, then I was directed to turn right onto 100th Street which is – you guessed it, didn’t you? – another dirt road between two cornfields. Here is a photo of the intersection:

Now, you may ask yourself: Why do Iowans endow their dirt roads with such seemingly grandiose names? My theory: The alternative would be to name the roads for people. But they’ve got more dirt roads than they’ve got people to name them after. And “Cornfield Road” wouldn’t be particularly distinctive, would it?

UPDATE: Linked by Don Surber and Simply Timothy — thanks — and you can see some photos of Rick Santorum’s barn party event here.


  • Mike

    They do the same thing in backwater Florida towns, too, except the roads go between canals and cane fields or palm tree plantations.

  • neenergyobserver

    Might be dirt roads between cornfields but it’s fine looking corn

  • Charles G Hill

    Actually, this is the result of trying to extend 911 emergency services: everyone now has a street address of sorts, and the 911 operator doesn’t have to try to figure out Route 2, Box 89A.  

  • jwallin

    Consider yourself lucky. In the midwest the counties and states are pretty good about signage FOR BOTH CORNERS of most intersections out in the boonies.

    While living in the NE (connecticut in particular) I found it very infuriating to find only ONE sign for ONE street at corners was the SOP for country roads. Apparently you were supposed to know the other corner even if you got to it by accident or by being lost. (freaking cheap a$$ new englanders)

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  • Frederick Hopkins

    Looks very much like a corner I remember north of Ankeny – meaning north of “Suburban Dez Munez”. Then again that was 30 years ago…see that cornstalk on the left….
    Okay seriously Des Moines was organizing street names 20 miles north of town back in the seventies so that as they grew…

  • Frederick Hopkins

    One of the niceties of Iowa is that the state was almost completely surveyed and plotted …before any roads…so with exceptions almost all roads are east-west or north-south, and on a grid. If you’re on a dirt road flip a coin drive in a direction and you’ll come to a bigger road. 

  • Michael Bates

    Yep, in New England you’re supposed to know the road you’re already on. (True in the Boston suburbs as well as the country.)

  • Adjoran

    In much of Iowa, the choices are pretty limited.  You can be on a dirt road between two cornfields or on a paved road between two cornfields, or you can be “in town.”

    But Frederick Hopkins is exactly right, it was done that way with most of the Midwest territories, and it does make more sense than the road systems of most cities and counties on the east coast.

  • John Valentinetti

    If I remember correctly,  the DOT has ruled those street signs illegal because of the type face  and will have to be changed.

  • Charles

    In the Iowa countryside, streets run east and west, avenues run north and south. 100th Street means it is on or near the northern county line. 110th street would be one mile south, etc.

    Avenue numbers get higher as you go from west to east. Sometimes Avenues have sequential letters intead of numbers, and sometimes they have names.

    The local farmers don’t use these street and avenue names, they are for 911 dispatchers and other visiting city boys.

    I’ll bet you were on gravel roads not dirt roads. You will appreciate the difference after a good rain.

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  • Bob Belvedere

    And forget about the highway signs.

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