All right road geeks, get your pour your self some Bacradi Limon and get your Control City Freak on. That’s the youtube channel where he talks about interstate highways and the places they are signed to go to. If you dig that kind of content why not give a like or subscribe, ya subscribe.

WFY: Who is Todd, the Control City Freak? How did you come to care about control cities? How many interstate control cities have you called home?

CCF: I’ve been a roadgeek since birth. I looked at maps and atlases all the time in elementary school, and the July day my family drove from Kansas to Michigan every year was basically second Christmas for me. I always sat in front to “watch the road” and never remotely considered taking a nap. I was into control cities but had no idea what they were called or how to talk about them, but seeing the signs switch from Kansas City to Des Moines to Davenport to Chicago to Indiana always helped me to determine our progress on the road, and seeing signs for Detroit and Toledo always blew me away since they seemed like such faraway places.

I haven’t lived in too many primary control cities, mainly Chicago and kinda weirdly Rockford, but I have lived in less prominent ones like Lawrence, Tacoma, and St. Petersburg and in just outside of Los Angeles and Baltimore. Oh yeah, and Paris, Seoul, and Ho Chi Minh City.

WFY: Does it feel like a burden to know exactly what control city should be for every stretch of interstate highway in the country? Is that why you decided to start the channel?

CCF: I started it because I’m a total control city nerd, and it didn’t seem anybody else was on that particular corner on YouTube. I could have tried out making a Zelda channel or an NFL channel for a wider possible audience, but there’s already so many creators out there making fantastic content on those topics. Knowing the control cities never felt like too much of a burden since I know a bunch of them by heart anyway, but I’ve also made plenty of videos on roads I don’t know very well and have never driven, and I definitely forget the details of those roads as soon as I’m done making the vid. 

WFY: Has running a youtube channel about control cities helped you gain the respect of your peers, family, etc.?

CCF: Not particularly lol. My wife watches some of them but she still has no idea what I’m talking about. My parents subscribe but rarely watch. I do have some friends who are pretty jazzed about it and watch regularly.

WFY: Is two control cities a best practice when a highway has to major destinations? I’m looking at I-95 north of Baltimore in particular.

CCF: I like dual control cities and think they would work well in a lot of places. Baltimore is a great example, somewhere where there’s a major junction in a less-worthy city (sorry, Wilmington). I also think it could be useful to doubly sign the next reasonable control city alongside the next truly major city (say, the next actual major sports league city + Omaha, Louisville, Albuquerque, Tulsa, and maybe Boise). I’m more of a system guy then a number guy, so I have no problem signing major cities on a different number rather than minor cities on the same number. For example, 40 East could be something like Needles/Phoenix, Kingman/Phoenix, Flagstaff/Albuquerque, Holbrook/ABQ, Gallup/ABQ, Grants/ABQ, ABQ, Amarillo/OKC, OKC, Fort Smith/Memphis, Little Rock/Memphis, Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville/Charlotte, Asheville/Charlotte, Winston-Salem/Raleigh, Greensboro/Raleigh, Durham/Raleigh, Raleigh, Jacksonville/Wilmington, Wilmington. 

WFY: You don’t mention signage much in your videos, just the control cities. Do you have preferences on things like fonts, exit tabs, route markers? Some people have strong feelings about clearview or legacy button copy.

CCF: I’m pretty agnostic on that. I don’t care for super weird fonts that seem like they are trying to be standard, like the ones on the Welcome to Alabama signs, but I’m fine with highway gothic, clearview, and button copy. 

WFY: Please share your top five state route markers and toll highway trailblazers…

CCF: For state route markers, I’ve definitely got to lean west.

Kansas

California

Alaska

Washington

New Mexico

For toll highways, I’m generally annoyed by paying tolls so I don’t really love any of them, but I suppose I’ve got to be a homer here and pick the Kansas Turnpike. It’s got a good looking trailblazer, and it’s well maintained and has reasonable prices compared to legacy eastern tollways and the new ones that have popped up all over Florida and Texas.

WFY: What’s your favorite interstate, interstate section, sign, etc.? 

CCF: My favorite overall is I-70. The entire stretch from its start in Utah to Denver is fantastic, and I recently drove it for the first time in 20 years and enjoyed it just as much as I did when I drove it semi-regularly in the late 90s. The Kansas section underrated, and it connects a lot of major cities in the eastern half of the country. Plus, with the San Rafael Swell, Glenwood Canyon, Eisenhower Tunnel, first stretch of Interstate pavement, Breezewood, and the Park and Ride, it’s got more random quirks than any 3 Interstates combined. Idaho Springs to Vail in particular is my favorite stretch.

My favorite sign is the To Chicago Skyway one at Cornell and Stony Island on the South Side of Chicago. 

I’m also a fan of this one in Grant’s Pass, Oregon

WFY: Does living in a place that is a mainline interstate control city confer on an individual a certain level of prestige? Does living in a place that is merely a 3-digit interstate control city mean some prestige, but not as much as a 2di?

CCF: That’s an interesting question. I just took a glance at the top 50 cities proper and top 50 metros in the US.. Fresno (34) and Bakersfield (48) are the largest cities that aren’t really on any Interstate and thus not regular Interstate control cities. Mesa (36) is near I-10 but is not an Interstate control city at all, but it’s clearly a suburb. Milwaukee (31) and Virginia Beach (42), and Tulsa (47) are not on X0 or X5 Interstates but are Interstate control cities. San Jose (12) and Long Beach (43) are on 3-digit Interstates. Long Beach is part of the Los Angeles CSA and is a kinda suburb, but I’ve also spent enough time in the LBC to know it’s its own thing. San Jose is its own metro for reasons, but in my mind it’s part of the Bay. As for top 50 metro areas, San Jose (27) isn’t on a 2di, and Pittsburgh (30), Virginia Beach (36), Milwaukee (38), and Hartford (47) aren’t on x0 or x5 routes. Given that there are no Interstates 50 and 60 due to potential conflicts of with same-numbered US Highways, one could think of 44 and 64 making up the real I-50, I-70 being real 60, 80 being real 70, 90 being real 80, and 94 being real 90, which would remove any lack of cachet for Virginia Beach, Milwaukee, and Tulsa. Also, I-70 should absolutely sign Pittsburgh in both directions, so it’s hard to deduct points from the Burgh based on bad choices by PennDOT, Maryland, Ohio, and West Virginia. Ultimately, this means that the only top cities and markets losing the prestige of control citydom are San Jose (one of the richest cities in the country but one that should be part of the SF market), Bakersfield, and Fresno. Given that, yes, I suppose there is something of a lack of prestige in not being signed on a major Interstate.

Editor’s aside..

WFY: Long ago, When I was in Colorado one spring break, I wondered how Limon got to be a control city, even though I didn’t know the term at the time. While Limon gets your angst, what is the second worst control city? Is using Limon as a control city as egregious as Interstate 238 or 99?

CCF: I wasn’t aware of the term at the time, but by the time I was in college I was pretty obsessed with control cities. I spent years wondering what might be signed eastbound in Denver, but had no way to find out at the time. The first time I passed through Denver was also during spring break (1997) so I finally found out. Needless to say, I was mortified. I’d been to Limon years before on my way to Boy Scout Camp in Colorado Springs and remembered being wildly unimpressed with it. I-99 is ridiculous but I’ve never spent any time on its route, and other than keeping it US 220 or making it a 3di, there’s no other number that works since all the relevant numbers for that spot of the grid are already taken. Plus, everyone on geography nerd YouTube raves about State College (WFY: it is a great place to go to college), so it deserves that extra mainline prestige. When 238 was designated, every X80 was already taken, and it’s a short route so I don’t care too much about it, although it should have probably just stayed a state highway. I’d say Limon is more egregious. As for second worst control city, there are plenty of terrible ones I could mention, but all the California talk in the previous question makes me think Santa Ana. I mean, Anaheim is bigger, more famous, draws way more tourists, I-5 traverses more of it, and 5 even goes right by Disneyland. More to the point, both are suburbs, and Los Angeles to San Diego is only a 2 hour drive if traffic isn’t bad, so they should absolutely sign each other the whole way.

WFY: Which major interstate has the most appropriate control cities over its length. Which interstate has the worst? Major interstates only – not I-97, i-99 or other short-haul ones.

CCF: I-65 is near perfect its entire length. I-24 does a pretty good job as well, particularly in Tennessee. I-90 is probably the best of the transcontinental routes. For worst, tough to say, that may require a deep dive and a whole video. I-25 does a terrible job but the three states it crosses are all pretty well known for bad signage. Oh that reminds me, Las Vegas, New Mexico would be in the running for second worst control city. I-40 has to contend with California, New Mexico, Texas, and North Carolina so it’s got plenty of weird signage. Western I-84 is pretty bad its entire run, particularly eastbound. 

WFY: Are bridges and tunnels appropriate for control cities? Is there a threshold or is it, to paraphrase Potter Stewart, “I know it when i see it…”

CCF: Haha that sounds about right. I think the bridges and tunnels in New York make for good control cities, because you obviously don’t want to take the GWB if you’re heading for Midtown. Of course, some random bridge that nobody’s ever heard of that crosses a stream isn’t worth mentioning.

WFY: What about buildings (like “Pentagon” in Northern Virginia, “Prudential Center” in Boston), stadiums and arenas as control cities?

CCF: I think those are fine for 3 digit routes, but on a 2 digit road they should probably just be reserved for individual exits. Of course, I’d make exceptions for Arrowhead and Allen Fieldhouse, as those should clearly be the primary controls for I-70 in downtown KC. Way more important to the universe at large than the cities of St. Louis and Topeka lol.

WFY: Pennsylvania, which often determines control cities based on county seats, and North Carolina seems to get most of your wrath for provincial control cities, but what states aren’t far behind? I suppose State DOT Madness will provide some clarity. What’s State DOT Madness all about any how?

CCF: State DOT Madness is a brackety thing I put together to determine the best state DOT in control city signage. I did a series of videos ranking the states in particular regions, and they all got way lower viewership than my normal videos. Genius that I am, I decided to triple down on this concept by spending 5 weeks talking about state DOTs lol. A lot of viewers did ask me to rank the states nationally, so I figured, why not have the viewers themselves do the rankings? 

I pick on North Carolina and Pennsylvania, but I do think a lot of that is because both have so many Interstates and are quite large laterally so I was forced to revisit them again and again. Plenty of other states do really bad jobs at nearly every chance but aren’t quite as Interstate-rich, like Oregon (particularly eastbound and southbound), New Mexico, New Jersey, West Virginia, and Maryland. Nearly all of the smaller Northesastern states sign their roads as if 100 miles is some sort of incalculable distance that can’t be conquered in under a week. Montreal to Boston is a 5 hour drive and passes zero major cities! Yet there are like 7 control cities on the route.

WFY: John Riggins had 1983, Stephen Strasburg had October 2019, I had the winter 2022 Capitol Broomball season, Foo Fighters had The Colour and the Shape – when did you feel like it all came together for you and you put out your best video?

CCF: Love that you mentioned The Colour and the Shape, agree, easily the best Foo Fighters record. Everlong is my favorite song of all time. Riggins is cool too, second best Jayhawk RB ever. For my best video, I’d always like to say “the next one,” particularly in a couple weeks here when I cover Route 66 in what will surely be my longest one. I-80 East is easily my most successful video. It’s a good one I think, but I do think the reason for it’s success is the route itself and that I happened to make a banger of a thumbnail for it. I think Colorado 470s is one of my best, that one had tons of jokes and sight gags before I even got into complaining about Limon. Korea Highway 1 was cool too, that one was a bit more personal since I used to live a 10 minute walk away from it.

WFY: I-68 is the most hyped interstate ever, but what is the second-most hyped interstate?

CCF: Haha I’d have to go with I-24. It gets mentioned on I-64, which it never touches.

WFY: Now that you have completed the primary interstate system, you are showcasing other routes like the Garden State Parkway (good choice) and some three-digit interstates. Also, your since the Kansas City Chiefs schedule has informed the highways you pick, what is the plan until next NFL season? Does a Royals road trip rate high enough to influence a CCF video?

CCF: I do plan to follow the Royals a little bit this year. I took a look at their schedule and they have a lot of Thursday games in markets that I haven’t really touched so there’s a lot of 3di and US Highway potential. 

WFY: How long does it take to produce these videos? Could you in fact drive the length of the interstate you are profiling in the time it takes to collect all the images, edit it, etc.? 

CCF: It depends on the road for sure. It would take 42 hours to drive I-80 straight through (according to Google Maps) and while making it took a long time, I probably didn’t spend 42 hours on it. I definitely spent longer on I-97 than the 20ish minutes it would take to drive it. It’s honestly hard to say because I’m usually working on 2 or 3 videos at once in different stages.  Over the last week I’ve recorded and edited Round 3 of State DOT Madness, found all the pictures for 520, found exit request pics for Route 66, done social media for State DOT Madness Round 2, and done preliminary work for the State DOT Madness round 4 video, doing everything I can do without knowing what the winners will be yet. I’d say I do about 20 hours per week of work on the channel, but I’m able to do some of that at my actual job during down time.

WFY: What’s the story with your Patreon account?

CCF: I set it up as a way for fans of the channel to support it directly, along with offering some benefits for members. I respond to pretty much every Patreon comment and message but not to every YouTube comment or email since it would take a long time to respond to everything. It would have been easier to set up YouTube Membership, but YouTube takes a bigger vig than Patreon does. Google takes a 40% cut off of SuperThanks as well, which is pretty lame, like if Chilli’s just gobbled up 40% of the wait staff’s tips. That’s the main reason I set up the Patreon, so that people can make exit requests and shoutouts without having to lose so much of it to Google. 

WFY: For the gearheads out there, what software are you using? What kind of car do you drive?

CCF: I use iMovie. I’d like to switch to Final Cut at some point to up my editing game, but I haven’t found the time to learn it. I suppose I could forgo watching Rocky IV for the 374th time or putting 200 hours into a Zelda game, but what kind of life is that? I did recently upgrade from a 2018 14 inch Macbook Pro to a 2023 16 incher, so there’s a lot less lag in editing and I have the space and horsepower to publish in 1080p, so the overall quality of the last few vids is way higher than the 2021-2023 ones.

As for car – this is a bit of an anomaly. I don’t own a car. I had one the whole time I lived in Chicago but rarely used it because I lived by an El stop, then I sold it when I moved to Seoul. I got hooked on easy walkability and became something of an urbanist. I rent cars here and there for road trips, which I still love doing, but I don’t get to do them very often anymore like I did in college or my early 20s. I never liked driving to run errands or to restaurants and bars, so for most of the last 20ish years I’ve always lived in walkable places. 

WFY: KC won their second consecutive Super Bowl since you started the channel – correlation equals causation, right? Of course if that’s true, you owe that fanbase an apology for not starting the channel around 2006…

CCF: Haha. I watched the 2006-2012 Chiefs and I can assure you that no individual could have helped those teams win. Patrick Mahomes was 11 years old in 2006, so the only person who could have saved them was a fifth grader at the time. 

WFY: Anything else the world should know about CCF?

CCF: Nothing I can think of offhand. These were great questions! You obviously did a lot of research before asking, so I really appreciate what you’re doing here. Thanks for taking the time to write them. Best of luck to you in the future, and thanks!

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