It's a sign of the times

By Mary Marek
Posted 11/4/99

I do a lot of driving around the countryside these days. Besides making a zillion trips down to the farm, which is about half way between Kalona and Washington, I do a lot of running around for my …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

It's a sign of the times


I do a lot of driving around the countryside these days. Besides making a zillion trips down to the farm, which is about half way between Kalona and Washington, I do a lot of running around for my job. I’m often running to Riverside or Ainsworth or Iowa City.

It’s not surprising, considering the number of miles I drive every week, that I should occasionally run into (not literally “run into”, that would be a bad thing) other drivers who are somewhat irritating.

There’s nothing I hate worse than someone who pulls out in front of me and proceeds to drive at about 10 miles per hour under the speed limit. If you don’t plan on driving as fast as the rest of us, don’t pull out in front of us.

And then there are the tourists who poke along in downtown Kalona, window shopping from their cars. Get out of your cars, for Pete’s sake, and walk. Downtown Kalona is not that big.

On the other hand, there are a lot of people out there who should slow down about 15 miles per hour. My husband would say I’m one of them, but most of the time I try to adhere to the speed limit.

Anyway, my purpose today is not to give driving lessons, although a lot of folks out there could use them.

No, what I intended to write about today was traffic signs. As a responsible driver, I try to always be aware of traffic signs, especially the white ones with the numbers on them. They let me know how much over the speed limit I’d be driving if I weren’t a conscientious driver who never speeds.

But, as long as I’ve been driving (which is something I try not to think about ‘cause it makes me feel old), until this past summer, when Cody was studying for his driver’s permit (which also makes me feel old), I never actually gave traffic signs a lot of thought. They were just “there”, telling me what I needed to know to safely get where I was going. I learned a lot helping Cody study.

For instance, did you know there are seven standard traffic sign colors? Can you name them? I didn’t think so. They are red, green, blue, yellow, white, orange and brown. Which ones did you miss?

Do you know what each color signifies? Red means stop (you probably knew that one). Green signs give directions, blue tell about services for drivers, yellow is for warning or caution, white alerts drivers to regulations (like speed limits), orange is for road work and maintenance warnings and brown points out recreation and historical points of interest. (And you didn’t think you could learn anything by reading my column. Ha!)

Now that we’ve got the colors memorized, did you know certain shapes mean certain things? Of course you did! I’m sure you all knew that stop signs are octagonal, yield right-of-way signs are equilateral triangles (I’m taking DOT’s word for this; I’ve never actually measured one to see if all sides are equal or not), no-passing signs are pennant shaped, warnings are diamonds, rectangular signs are regulatory, school crossings are marked with pentagons, railroad crossing signs are crossbucks and signs warning of a railroad crossing ahead are circular.

You may be wondering why I seem to be obsessing about traffic signs. Me, too. Actually, it’s because I ran across one the other day that had me confused.

As many of you are probably aware, the bridge on the Riverside Road just south of Riverside isn’t open. Therefore, to get south of Riverside, you have to take 218 south, then go west on 130th Street, which is a gravel road. I’ve been traveling this route pretty often lately, ‘cause I’ve been going to the VFW to take pictures of the giant mural that’s being painted. By the way, you should go see it. It’s quite impressive.

Anyway, there’s a traffic sign on 130th Street that had me confused. It’s a white sign with a squiggly arrow on it pointing around what looks like the prow of a ship. Now, up until lately, I’d never even been on that end of 130th Street, so for all I knew, someone may have parked a ship in the middle of it, but as hard as I looked, I couldn’t find one.

My next thought was that maybe what I thought was the prow of a ship was supposed to represent a highway divider of some kind. I couldn’t find one of those either.

I had just about decided the Department of Transportation was just trying to confuse me (which isn’t all that hard to do), when I decided to look in Cody’s driver’s training manual to see what the sign was trying to tell me. Low and behold, I found out the sign is telling me to “Keep Right”. Right of what?

The actual explanation of the sign in the manual is “Keep Right. The road ahead is divided. Stay on the right side of the island or barrier.”

What island? The one the ship is tied up to? If I can’t find the ship, how am I supposed to find the island?

I was “right” all along. DOT is trying to confuse me.

This week’s recipes

October was National Pork Month. I should have been sharing pork recipes with you all month. Since I didn’t, I’ll try to make up for it a little by sharing two recipes that were submitted by readers. The first one came to me from Rosemary Fisher, who got it from Alta Widmer. The second one came via e-mail from Holly Blosser Yoder. Thank you, ladies. I always enjoy hearing from folks.

Ham Balls

1 1/2 lbs. ground ham

1 lb. ground lean pork

2 c. bread crumbs

2 eggs, well beaten

1 c. milk


1 c. brown sugar

1 tsp. dry mustard

1/2 c. vinegar

1/2 c. water

Mix ham ball ingredients well and form into balls. Place in baking pan. Mix sauce ingredients and bring to boil. Pour over ham balls. Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees, basting often with sauce.

Sausage Lover’s Chili

1 qt. chopped tomatoes

2 cans chili beans

1 apple, peeled, cored and chopped fine

2 lbs. ground pork sausage

1 large onion

1 tbls. chili powder

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 tsp. dried cilantro

1 1/2 tsp. salt

Other seasonings to taste: cumin, oregano, celery seed

Cook tomatoes, chili beans and apple in crockpot on low. In skillet or heavy saucepan, brown sausage and pour off grease. With burner on low, add onion, garlic and seasonings to sausage. Stir and cook for about five minutes. May add a tablespoon vinegar or sweet pickle juice to keep moist. Add sausage mixture to crockpot. Continue cooking on low 6-8 hours. Note about the apple: This flavor compliments the sausage and is a nice alternative to celery or green pepper.