Driving north from Alton there are three roads. One is a picturesque road along the Illinois River. If you want to meander and enjoy spring blossoms or fall foliage Route 100 is perfect. The other two roads take you to Jacksonville eventually– Route 73 and Route 273. On various maps Route 73 is marked as 273 and vice versa, because at some point the state renamed them, but neglected to change their own maps and all of the road markers. Likewise local communities did not change all of the local signs to correspond with the renaming. The roads begin and end at Alton and Jacksonville, so what’s the difference?The low road takes 15 fewer miles to get to Jacksonville because it is relatively straight. The high road curves in a large arc to the west, passing through Jerseyville and Carrollton on the way to Jacksonville, so it adds miles to the trip, but a third of it is a four lane limited access road, so it is quicker. (It will also avoid Roodhouse, but that may not be important to you.)
The low road will not help you if your destination is Quincy. Then the curve in the high road actually puts you farther west and, combined with route 106, cuts off several miles. None of these roads is especially well-marked on either maps or signs along the way, so the confusion of road names is just an additional disadvantage for people who are first finding their way.
Especially when you are leaving Alton the choice of whether to take 73 or 273, and determining which one is which, challenges the journeyer. It’s enough to make you choose the river road, knowing at least that you will enjoy the scenery. But in order to determine the fastest way, I have taken both roads, going the opposite way than I planned the first time because my map was wrong. The next time I bought a new map at a convenience store, and it was wrong too. Then I picked up a fourth new state map, and they had finally corrected their error. The new 73 is now the high road– old 273. The new 73 is now the low road– old 73.
It makes me wonder about the saying, “We’re all going to the same place anyway, so it doesn’t matter how we get there.” In some respects it matters, although the devil is in the details. And if you think you’re going one place and wind up in another, then it certainly might matter to you. It might even be important which roadmap you choose, since they are not all correct, at least not in all details. And it is especially disconcerting to think that you are on one road, and then to find out that you are on another, but something tells me that it is not an unusual experience. Sometimes someone has switched the roads, making a person think one is the other.