Cody photographer Ross Gorman and his friends were driving through Wyoming to Cooke City, Montana, when one of his passengers saw a sign that made her do a double take. Gorman couldn’t believe there would be a typo in a road sign but made a u-turn to make sure.
“I had to apologize for not believing her,” Gorman said.
The sign right before Wyoming Highway 296’s junction with U.S. Highway 212 (also known as the scenic Beartooth Highway) erroneously read “Beartooth American All Road,” with the words “All” and “American” reversed.
“I was flabbergasted by seeing the error,” Gorman said.
Gorman found the mistake stunning and an embarrassment for Wyoming considering the heavy tourist traffic on the scenic mountain road. He doesn’t understand how the typo could have gone unnoticed before being posted.
“Everyone is going to be commenting on it and it won’t reflect too kindly on Wyoming,” he said.
Gorman’s friend Barbara Seliga, also a Cody resident, was the first in their group to notice the sign flaw. The crew couldn’t stop thinking about the mistake as they went hiking that day and how it could have happened.
“It gave us retired people something to do,” Seliga said with a laugh.
Seliga reported the mistake to the Wyoming Department of Transportation. At first, she said the person she spoke with thought it was Yellowstone National Park’s sign and mistake.
This wasn’t an unreasonable assumption as Yellowstone is responsible for plowing the highway.
But it was quickly determined that it was indeed WYDOT’s sign and mistake.
Possibly also missing from the sign is a dash in between “All” and “American” when it reads correctly. The Beartooth Highway is one of 37 All-American roads designated by the Federal Highway Administration. Previous versions of the sign without the words reversed also didn’t have a dash.
Can You See It?
The sign has been taken down and now only a sawed-off sign post remains as a reminder of the mistake.
Cody Beers, a WYDOT spokesman, emphasized that mistakes happen and that it may have been the result of only one person working on and closely inspecting the sign.
“Somebody made a mistake and now we’re fixing the mistake,” Beers said.
Beers said WYDOT produces hundreds of signs a year and this isn’t the first time one has been incorrect.
“Just like journalists, sometimes we print mistakes,” he said. “We published our mistake for everybody to see.”
He said WYDOT hopes to replace the sign with a correct version by the end of this week.
Gorman expressed concern that public money will be wasted having to put up another sign.
Beers said WYDOT had to replace many signs and several hundred miles of guardrail sections statewide this spring and summer because of the particularly harsh winter.
“It’s sort of like potholes” he said.
Beers was grateful that the public pointed out the mistake, but said if people showed as great an interest in reporting vandalized signs and vandalism, there would also be far fewer of those types of eyesores on the road.
“If they can help with that it would save the taxpayers a lot of money,” he said.
Beers mentioned how nearly all signs older than 3 years old on Wyoming roads have bullet holes shot through them.
“We get no reports of that, but when we mix up two words in a sign we hear about it,” Beers said. “We’ll get it fixed.”