Q: I have a question about these reality programs on TV, like “Storage Wars.” Is that legal in Iowa or Illinois, and if so, where can someone find out where these auctions are?

— Jeffrey, Davenport

A: Our friends at the Davenport Public Library reference department looked into the pertinent Iowa and Illinois codes to find out the rules for disposing of unclaimed property in storage units, which is the basis of these shows.

In Illinois, the Self-Service Storage Facility Act states that property in an unpaid storage unit can be sold after proper notice expires and the sale is advertised twice in two weeks in the local newspaper  Iowa law requires similar notification and advertisement of the sale of storage unit property. So watch the legal notices in the newspaper for such sales.

A&E Network’s “Storage Wars” follows teams of bidders looking to score big on storage auctions. It appears that the show or a similar one could purchase the contents of delinquent storage units and then produce their auction show, although most of the episodes of “Storage Wars” have been produced in California and Las Vegas, with a Texas version also running.

Q: What is the law regarding merging traffic onto Interstate 74 and Interstate 80?  Some ramps display yield signs and others don’t.  I am under the impression that if I’m traveling an interstate, I hold the road and the right-of-way until I decide to exit.  Any merging traffic should blend, either by my speeding up or yielding, preferably the latter. If all ramps displayed yield signs, this would clearly define responsibility.  It may also defer some road rage or the occasional one-finger salute.  I’m all for give and take on the road, but outside of semi drivers, I see more and more takers these days.

— Dave, DeWitt, Iowa   

A: Douglas Rick, area engineer for the Iowa Department of Transportation, says a section of the Iowa code requires the traffic entering the highway to yield to traffic on the highway, but a yield sign is not always necessary since current design practice provides an adequate acceleration distance on the ramps. 

Some of the older ramps that do not have adequate acceleration distances still have yield signs in place, he said.

“The Department of Transportation would like drivers to treat this situation as a merge and work together to make a smooth transition from the ramp to the highway,” he said.

The DOT does install merge signs on the highways in advance of each entrance ramp, and traffic flows best if the highway traffic and the entering traffic work together to provide a smooth merging operation.  “If you are on highway and see a merge sign, be prepared for other cars and trucks blending into your lane,” Rick said.

Q: I enjoy baking, especially bread, and I use a bread machine. The recipe calls for “bread flour.” What is the difference between regular white flour and bread flour? Is there anything I do to change regular white flour into white bread flour?

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— M.E., Eldridge

A: We found an answer in “The River Cottage Bread Handbook” by Daniel Stevens.

Bread flour has a higher percentage of gluten, up to

15 percent, which is what you want for yeast bread. Bread flour can be found in whole wheat or white varieties. You can make your own by shaking coarse ground whole-wheat flour through a kitchen sieve to remove the coarser bits, or you can grind wheat bran and wheat germ into a powder in a blender, then sift it through regular white flour. Use 2 tablespoons of  powder for each cup of flour.


(Answers provided by the Davenport Public Library reference department and Times community editor Linda Watson.)