Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Get Your Kicks on Route 666

We were traveling back from the 4 Corners, the area this blog is named after, to I-70 to make our way back to Frisco, Colorado.

We traveled a most unique stretch of geography through southeastern Utah. Along this route, there were areas of unbelieveable beauty. And there were areas of unbelieveable isolation. Literally, you could look in a full 360 degree view and see nothing but rock, dirt and maybe a mountain in the far distance. No buildings, electric lines, fences or cars. Nothing.

It was like being in an episode of the Twilight Zone.

As we approached an intersection in downtown Monticello and saw this sign.

The three digits, 666, immediately caught my eye.

Seeing a highway designated 666 is nothing unusual for me. In Ohio, in the east central part of the state, Ohio 666 stretches between Zanesville to near Dresden. I've traveled this highway a couple of times and make it a point to show guests if we are traveling out that way. Depending on how they view religion, they either are spooked or laugh it off.

But I wasn't aware that a US Route 666 existed. And, well........., it doesn't. At least now.

When I saw the sign with the designation "Old" 666, I thought that this was an old stretch that was replaced by a new and improved highway that made an alternate route. I wasn't aware that there was an active desire to have the highway recristened. As anything. Highway 491 was finally accepted as its designation.

From Wikipedia, U.S. Route 491 is a north-south United States Highway. One of the newest additions to the U.S. Highway system, it was commissioned in 2003 as a renumbering of U.S. Route 666.

With the 666 designation, this route was given the nickname "The Devil's Highway" because of the common (but not total) Christian belief that 666 is the number associated with the Mark of the Beast.

Because of the highway's number, accidents and other phenomena became repeated as legend. These legends convinced some people the highway was cursed.

The change from US Route 666 began in 1993 in Arizonia, reportedly because the signs were a prized possession for vandals.

The route in the other 3 states became U.S. Route 491 in 2003, mainly through efforts of New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. He requested the change due to the "infamy brought by the inopportune naming of the road".

Even after the renaming of the road, many business preferred to keep cashing in on the fame and used the term "Devils Highway" to describe their location and address.

I'm not sure what to make of the need to change the highways designation. Sure, sign vandalism probably had a lot to do with it. But I wonder if those who are superstitious about the meaning of those three digits had anything to do with the change.

Who is more close to handling this correctly? Those who brush it off or those who will do anything to keep those three numbers from being seen?

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