Weird Questions from our trip
During our trip I started jotting down questions that popped into my head. And thanks to the power of the Internet I was able to look a lot of them up when I got home. Here's what I found...

How do those center-pivot irrigation systems move around? I never see one actually moving!
The water pressure or driveshafts move the wheels, with each wheel moving at a different rate so the rig pivots. Here is a nice writeup on these systems.

Why is it that you cannot pump your own gas in Oregon?
Apparently this is a law that was in effect through much of the country early in the 20th century but Oregon and New Jersey have not revoked it yet. Voters apparently do not trust oil companies to give back the savings "self service" would bring, and others possibly see it as a way Oregon can be distinct from other states. For more info see this Mail Tribune editorial and this New Jersey Monthly article.

What are jake brakes?
It's a form of engine brake, a trademark owned by Jacobs Vehicle Systems, where either the intake or exhaust is blocked, amplifying reverse torque through air compression. Apparently truckers like to use jake brakes to save wear and tear on brake drums, but the staccato noise it produces prompts some towns to put up "JAKE BRAKE USE PROHIBITED" signs. See this Pagewise Article (and close that annoying ad that pops up!)

What are those white strobes I see on some traffic lights such as in Childress, Texas?
It is a safety device that enhances visibility of the traffic signal. A resource of the Virginia Department of Transportation states that strobe lights in the red lens of a traffic light is used for (1) areas with a high truck volume and high speed; (2) areas with a high accident rate; (3) areas with road geometries, especially grades (downgrade), horizontal curves, and other features, that result in limited sight distance; and (4) isolated intersections where a signal is unexpected. See this National Transportation Library article for more details.

Can you walk out and leave your keys to check out of a motel?
Don't know. Am still checking on that one!

Why do people speed up, usually unintentionally, when you pass them? The psychology of this effect is fascinating!
The jury is out to lunch on that one. But there's also evidence that people even behave that way as pedestrians. See this interesting rec.autos.driving thread for more discussion.

Why does the word "dinč" appear in graffiti in northwest New Mexico?
Dinč means "Navajo" according to sites such as this one.

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