This month in 2001, a self-described “sign guy” decided to solve an issue on the highways by adding his own road sign.

His name was Richard Ankrom, and, back then, he was one of many frustrated drivers in Orange County, California.

The problem was an interchange on the 110 freeway going north.

Those who wanted to get to I-5 north, which is a pretty important part of the highway system in California, had to get into the far left lane, or they would miss it.

But there was no sign to let these drivers know when they needed to get over.

And remember, this was 2001, long before turn-by-turn directions on your smartphone.

If you didn’t have a Garmin on your dashboard, and if you weren’t already in the left lane, you might miss the chance to get onto I-5.

Richard Ankrom thought that the solution was simple: somebody should put up a sign directing drivers to the left lane.

But when the state didn’t put one in place, Ankrom had another thought: he was a trained artist and signmaker, so why not just put up the sign himself?

The car news site The Drive reports that Ankrom spent three months designing a big Interstate 5 shield that was just the right color, along with the word NORTH.

He picked up some of the reflective buttons that other signs used to make it more visible and authentic.

Then he dropped by the hardware store to grab a hard hat and reflective vest so that he’d look like a highway worker, and he went to the existing sign and added his bit to the far left end.

And after that, people just used the sign to find their way to I-5.

It wasn’t like anybody was going to complain that the sign was suddenly more useful!

And because it looked legit, people thought it was supposed to be there, and that included California highway officials.

The only reason people figured out that Ankrom had added his sign to the highway was because he put out a press release in 2002

Once they found out, the authorities did not come after Ankrom for what he’d done.

Not only that, they left his sign in place until 2009, at which point they put in a replacement sign in the same place and the same style as the one Ankrom had added on his own almost a decade before.

I guess they figured a good idea was a good idea even if didn’t go through the usual channels.

Today in 1851, the very first America’s Cup competition, with ships racing around England’s Isle of Wight. The cup was known as the Hundred Guinea Cup until it was won by an American ship named America.

Though you might have already guessed that from the name.

How an Artist Helped Millions of Drivers With a Counterfeit Highway Sign (The Drive)

U.S. wins first America’s Cup (

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Photo by Jackie Nell via Flickr/Creative Commons