Get Outta Town: Try not to steal Colorado’s almost-420 mile marker

by Nick Gonzales

Stratton, Colorado, a tiny town of about 650 people, sits on Interstate 70, just west of the border with Kansas. It has an ice cream store, a restaurant, and a nine-hole golf course. What it’s probably most famous for, though, is the mile marker sign that stands, at least in theory, just east of I-70 at exit 419.

The mile numbering system for that particular interstate begins at the Utah border, and then curves north and south a bit as it travels westward, eventually hitting the border with Kansas about 450 miles later. As a result, it’s one of the only roads in the state with a well-marked 420th mile. (The other two highways of that length, U.S. 40 and 50, don’t have signs denoting the mile), according to The Denver Post.)

Since five teens in San Rafael, California, began first started whispering it to each other as a code word for the time they planned to meet to search for an abandoned cannabis crop, “420” has become inextricably linked to stoner culture.

As you can imagine, the 420 mile marker was always been a popular sign to steal, especially after Colorado legalized marijuana in 2012. According to the Washington Post, it was one 15 such signs in the country.

In a 2013 effort to stop people from absconding with the sign, the Colorado Department of Transportation decided to move the marker one hundredth of a mile to the east, replacing it with one that indicated “Mile 419.99.”

This isn’t the only time CDOT has had to thwart sticky-fingered bandits. If you travel Cameron Pass, west of Fort Collins, you’ll find “Mile 68.5” near the summit. People kept taking “69.”

The rate at which thieves make off with the sign has slowed, but there’s still a pretty good chance it will be missing when you drive past it. When the sign is there, it’s a popular spot to stop, take a few selfies (but definitely not take the sign – we know you’d never do that), and either rejoice or despair that you’re entering or leaving Colorado for, or from, the Midwest proper.

If the sign is missing, but you’re really dead set on seeing it, turn around. After all, there should be two – one for westbound traffic and one for eastbound traffic. If neither are there and you’re some sort of lunatic that absolutely has to see (again, definitely not steal) one of the signs, and you don’t care what state it’s in, stay heading east on I-70 through Kansas until almost Missouri. You’ll find another not long before you reach Kansas City.

Nick Gonzales

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