Minh’s Notes

Human-readable chicken scratch

Minh Nguyễn
August 13th, 2007


Driving through cornfields

Southwest Ohio is full of creepy stories about ghosts and other strange encounters along the roadside. There’s a whole series of books on them. But if the subjects of these tales call any area road home, the one that begins in Historic Downtown Loveland is probably that road.

Head down W. Loveland Ave. and take a left onto Second St. (SR 48). After a couple blocks, turn right onto an unnamed road. Now this road is interesting: it’s clearly drawn as a trunk road on Google Maps, but it has no label. If you try hard enough, Google Maps will give you directions that take you down this road, and thanks to Google’s new “customize your route” feature, you can even force Maps to confess that it’s an “Unknown road”.

But why am I making such a big deal about an unnamed road? After all, there are gazillions of those out in Texas. Here’s why: it’s a virtually straight, seven-mile-long road that cuts diagonally across many acres of farmland, right over a few ponds, and straight through a dozen homes. It’s not just an unnamed road; it’s a phantom road. It doesn’t exist. And yet it stretches for seven miles along the Clermont-Warren county line, according to not only Google Maps, but also Google Earth, Yahoo! Maps, and Live Search Maps.

Turns out the explanation is simple: someone (or some computer) at NAVTEQ apparently misread the county line for a navigable road. Interestingly, both Yahoo! and Microsoft superimpose county lines on their maps, so you can clearly see how the line wound up there of all places.

Anyhow, if you happen to pass through Loveland, be sure not to take the path never traveled. Even if you’re looking for the illustrious Loveland Frog, you’ll probably just end up with a totaled car and a mouthful of corn husks.

Google finally removed the phantom road, a few years after I first noticed it. Luckily I took a screenshot of the road in Google Earth before it was removed. The screenshot I’ve added above shows one of several spots where the road trampled right over someone’s house. As of December 7th, 2007, both Google and Microsoft have updated their data, removing the road, but Yahoo! still displays it.


  1. Minh’s Notes


    A couple weeks ago, I started at Mapbox, a startup focused on advancing open data and GIS technology.