Completely Random Facts of the Week – Issue 44

September 1, 2015

uselessfacts header44The weekly collection of random and fun facts.  In this week’s edition: Interstate Highway Numbering, Slipping a Mickey, Mystery Dum Dums, A Car Moose Test, and the Thing on the End of a Flagpole.interstatehighwaysigns

In case you didn’t know it, Interstate Highways that travel east to west are given even numbers, and north to south routes are assigned odd numbers. Odd route numbers increase from west to east, and even routes increase from south to north, and interstate routes don’t have to cross state lines to be designated as an Interstate Highway.  An example of these are the three roads that are interstate highways in Hawaii, and Interstate 45 that runs from Dallas to Galveston in Texas.  Roads under the Federal-Aid Highway Act that receive federal funds are considered Interstate Highways.

The three digit interstate routes that are around urban areas have their own meaning.  The last two numbers indicate the parent route, while the first digit indicates if the road is going directly to a city (which is an odd digit), or looping around the city (an even digit).  Of course there are a few exceptions.

The Interstate Highway System, or known now as the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways, got its start in the late 1930s.  It began as a study of a system of superhighways that would be supported by tolls.  The Bureau of Public Roads, which was the predecessor of the Federal Highway Administration, found that a toll system wouldn’t be able to support the road network.  In 1944, the National Inter-Regional Highway Committee proposed a 33,900 miles system of roads with an additional 5,000 miles of urban routes.  The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1944 was enacted by Congress, and in 1947, the first 37,700 miles of road were selected.

Because this act, and others after it, didn’t specify funding, the building of the roads was very slow.  It wasn’t until the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1952 when funding was specifically granted for construction.  President Eisenhower and the Federal-Aid Act of 1956 were the true catalysts for the full construction of the interstate highway system.  Federal taxes from gas and vehicle user fees were used to pay for the federal portion of construction and are used today in the Highway Trust Fund.  One of Eisenhower’s requirements was that the entire program be self-financed without adding to the federal deficit.

The longest Interstate Highway route, I-9, runs from Seattle, Washington to Boston, Massachusetts, for 3,020 miles, while the shortest, I-97, runs 17.62 miles from Annapolis to Baltimore, Maryland.  Texas has the most interstate mileage with 3,233 miles.  Source

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The phrase “slipping a Mickey” likely originated with Mickey Finn, a Chicago saloon owner known for drugging and robbing customers.  Finn had a bar called the Lone Star Saloon and Palm Garden where he partook in some less than stellar activities, such as selling stolen items, to name just one.  He somehow obtained some white powder, which was believed to be chloral hydrate, and concocted two drinks with the stuff; one mixed with beer, and the other with alcohol and other substances.  When the drinker got a taste of the stuff, they next found themselves in an alley without their belongings and unable to remember what happened.  Finn had lifted their things while they were dozing.  After paying off the Chicago P.D. for a time, Finn’s bar was eventually shut down in 1903.  He sold the recipe for the concoction to other bar owners by that time, and the term “Mickey Finn”, or “slipping a Mickey” became synonymous with a drink that put someone out on the floor.  Source


The mystery flavor of Dum Dums is a mixture of two flavors when one batch ends and a new one begins. They do it so they don’t have to stop the line to clean out the machine for a new batch.  On the Dum Dums website, they explain that the mystery flavor is a secret, but it all comes down to what batch was running and which batch replaced it so that the machine wouldn’t have to stop.  Sometimes if you really concentrate, you can pick out what flavors have been mixed, but it isn’t easy.  Source

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Every country has there own standards when it comes to the safety of cars when it relates to an impact of some kind.  But in one country, they’ve invented a special type of test that has to be passed in order for a car to become roadworthy.  In Sweden, cars must pass what is called the “moose test”, which requires that the car be able to evade a moose on the road without flipping over.  It’s also called the “Elk test”, and a car has to be able to return to its normal course of travel without flipping over while going 43.5 miles per hour.  It isn’t as easy as it sounds.  The Jeep Grand Cherokee had trouble with it, as did the Porsche Macan S Diesel.  Source

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The ball on top of a flagpole is called a “finial”, and the revolving assembly below it that it mounts to is called a “truck”.  The “truck” can either turn with the wind on ball bearings or remain stationary. They also have a pulley where the line connecting the flag runs so it can be raised and lowered.  The word “truck” in reference to a pole goes back to 1626 where it was used as a nautical term for an assembly at the top of a mast which had holes in it where lines supporting sails could be run through.

“Truck” has also been used as the term for the ball at the top of a flagpole in military circles, and there are some interesting urban legends about what is supposedly contained in the ball at military bases that continues to be passed along.  One particular legend says that inside the truck (referring to the ornamental ball) on a flagpole in a military installation there are three things; a grain of rice, a match, and a silver bullet.  If a soldier is surrounded by the enemy, the grain of rice is there to be eaten to gain strength, the match is then used to burn the flag so it won’t be captured by the enemy, and the silver bullet is used to to fend off the enemy or to commit suicide so the enemy won’t be able to learn any secrets.  Another variation says there is a razor, a match, and a bullet. The difference here is the razor is used to cut up the flag before burning it so it won’t fall into enemy hands. Still other variations include a grain of wheat or that there is a gun buried at the base of the flagpole to use the bullet in.

While the stories sound interesting, there is no truth to any of them.  According to flag historians and people that work in the flag industry, the truck (or more properly, the finial), is said to be made of solid metal or just hollow. In addition, there is also no mention in military manuals of any of these items being in the finial or truck on a flagpole.  Source, Source, Source, Source

That’s it for another edition.  Until next time, and as always, use these facts to annoy those around you with your new found knowledge.  Everyone will appreciate you for it

Past Issues of the Completely Random Facts of the Week

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About the author 

Daniel Ganninger - The writer, editor, and chief lackey of Knowledge Stew, the author of the Knowledge Stew line of trivia books, and editor of Fact World and the Knowledge Stew sister site on Medium, our ad-free subscription sites. I hope you learn many new things here that add to your knowledge.

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