Driving eastward into Sacramento, you’ve probably spotted a head-scratching sign along Highway 50. What’s odd is the mention of Ocean City, MD — separated from Sacramento by eleven states and 3,000+ miles.
Buckle up — we’re taking a road trip to explain the origins.
The History behind Sac’s Ocean City sign
Ocean City had its own sign pointing toward Sacramento first. The Maryland State Highway Administration explained to FOX40 that Ocean City leaders — including a man named Ed Buck — installed the Highway 50 sign on their side sometime between the 1970s and 1980s to denote the end of the highway as it reached the nation’s eastern shore.
According to a 2016 article from CapRadio, Caltrans’ head of California highway maintenance in the 1980s, John R. Cooper Jr., was inspired by Ed’s work to add a sign on the westernmost end of the roadway — albeit somewhat ironically.
“I can remember I got a lot of static from Caltrans people because I had been conducting a campaign to get rid of unnecessary signs — and this really was an unnecessary sign,” John told the NPR affiliate.
That “unnecessary sign” drivers see on the side of the road today isn’t actually the original — but a third iteration. The first two versions of the sign, which only listed the distance to Ocean City, were stolen in 1999 and again in 2001. Caltrans workers added the distances to Placerville and South Lake Tahoe during the third sign’s installment. This way, the sign would be larger and harder to steal (which seems to have worked so far).
Sacramentans share their Ocean City stories
Wow, we are overwhelmed by the responses we received from our readers about the Ocean City, MD sign on Highway 50, and thought we would share some of our favorite responses with you:
“Hi from a native Sacramento area resident living In Baltimore MD! I have pictures with both signs! The first time I went to Ocean City as a Maryland resident I had to see the sign! Growing up in Sacramento I never knew the ‘why’ until I looked it up and was living in Baltimore! I have had Sacramento friends question why I took a picture with a road sign we’ve seen since we were little.” — Erin N.
“I love that you highlighted the sign. I’m originally from MD and I love seeing that sign on my work commute between Sac and Davis. I knew the history but I didn’t know why MD’s sign was so small and ours was so much bigger. We made a point to see the other sign last summer when we went to Ocean City. There is no way theirs is getting stolen based on it’s [sic] location above the busy highway, we could barely take a photo of it.” — Courtney H.
“I didn’t drive there but, I grew up in Philadelphia and my Grandfather had a large Arcade on The Ocean City boardwalk, Marty’s Playland which is still operational. The family sold it in the 1990’s when we moved to Auburn in 1985. I was surprised to see the sign and I still smile when I see it on my way home from the Bay area.” — Merrill K.
“My friend, Kevin and his son, Thomas, rode their bicycles carrying all their gear from Sacramento to Ocean City, Maryland, inspired by this sign. I would love to hear what other fun adventures were inspired by this ‘unnecessary’ signage.” — Tyler L.
“I drove to Ocean City in May of 2019. I went with 3 of my girlfriends. What a great time we had!” — Princetta P.
We would love to know if the sign has inspired any adventures or trips of your own.