Trivial Chicago

On September 25, 2016 · 2 Comments

A most wonderful website caught my attention as I researched Connecting Through Midway. I don’t like to recommend websites because they seem to disappear right after I mention them. Seriously, my endorsements create a cloud of bad luck that jinxes any site unfortunate enough to receive one. The Chicago Public Library produced this site however and the author published more than a hundred articles over the previous two years. It should be safe. I’d uncovered the Municipal Reference Guy.

The specific entry that piqued my interest bore an enticing title, Do You Know Chicago’s Streets?. Well, no I didn’t. That’s why I found it particularly interesting. I "borrowed" three of the items I found most fascinating and decided to research them further. All due credit should go to the original author, the Municipal Reference Guy. It doesn’t count as plagiarism if someone elaborates upon the original version and provides full disclosure, right?

O’Hare International Airport

ORD from the air
ORD from the air. Photo by BriYYZ on Flickr (cc)

The page referenced both of Chicago’s major airports, Midway and O’Hare. That’s the connection that led me to discover it. Both of their names traced to a World War II theme although I focused on another feature for today’s purpose. The International Air Transportation Association used the code ORD for O’Hare. If the "O" stood for O’Hare, then what did the other two letters mean? Trick question! ORD didn’t reference O’Hare at all. The airport started operating before World War II, or several years before Butch O’Hare lost his life while earning a Medal of Honor as a Naval aviator. O’Hare didn’t become O’Hare until 1949. It first went by a less remarkable name, Orchard Field. This reflected its position on the outskirts of a village called Orchard Place.

O’Hare began as an airstrip in the area known as Orchard Place. It became a Douglas aircraft manufacturing plant during World War II. It is unclear if the D stands for Douglas or Depot, or simply is the final D in Orchard.

Orchard Place started as a small farming community settled by German immigrants in the 1830’s. It all but disappeared in the 20th Century as the airport expanded and an Interstate highway plowed through part of it. Suburban Chicago grew and absorbed the rest of it, forming the southern edge of Des Plaines. Its name lived on in the IATA Code ORD and at a local school, Orchard Place Elementary (map).

Meet Me at Broadway and Sheridan

If someone in Chicago asked you to meet them at the corner of Broadway Street and Sheridan Road, he might be trying to ditch you. The two streets, as noted by the Chicago Public Library, actually intersect three different times. It’s been awhile since I made my own Google Map although it seemed a perfect opportunity to illustrate the intersections.

Generally they roads ran parallel to each other, north-south. Nonetheless, both took strange angles at places that forced them to intersect repeatedly. This happened at the 3900 North, 4350 North and 6400 North blocks.

I wondered about their names as I naturally do. Sheridan Road derived from General Philip Sheridan who gained his fame during the Civil War. However, the street didn’t relate to his service during the war. Sheridan happened to be stationed in the city when the Great Chicago Fire destroyed more than three square miles of it in 1871. He quickly took control of the situation, dynamiting buildings to create fire breaks, and restored order after the mayor declared several days of martial law. The disaster, awful as it was, would have been considerably worse without Sheridan in command. Chicago did not forget his actions.

Broadway Street apparently got its name from the famous Broadway in New York City in 1913.

All Four Cardinal Directions

Wacker Drive map
Wacker Drive map on Wikimedia Commons. In the public domain.

Wacker Drive should be renamed Wacky Drive in my opinion. I’m not sure if similar examples existed elsewhere — maybe the wise 12MC audience can find other occurrences — because Wacker featured street addresses with all four cardinal directions. Chicago used a numbering system that designated addresses as north-south or east-west. Generally it didn’t pose a problem because streets tended to run in fairly uniform directions. Wacker did not. It followed the Chicago River where it bent around downtown. That created a nice curve in Wacker Drive that resulted in both a north-south segment and an east-west segment. Thus, legitimate street addresses included North, South, East and West Wacker Drive.

Anyone visiting Chicago probably noticed that Wacker featured upper and lower levels. The upper level handled through-traffic. The lower level allowed trucks to make deliveries to nearby buildings. I didn’t know that Wacker also included a short third level known as Lower Lower Wacker Drive. Secret drag races became a problem there in recent years.

Who was Wacker? Charles Wacker chaired the Chicago Planning Commission that came up with city infrastructure improvements in the early 20th Century.

Bonus! The Midway Plaisance

Fall Day on the Midway
Fall Day on the Midway. Photo by feministjulie on Flickr (cc)

I discovered some bonus trivia on another article on the site, Streets of Chicago: Midway Plaisance. This Midway, unlike the airport, did not reference the Battle of Midway or Midway Atoll. Actually I couldn’t find the definitive reason why they called it Midway although it dated to the mid-19th Century. Plaisance came from a French version of pleasant, in other words a nice place to spend some time. The World’s Columbian Exposition happened there in 1893. Chicago wanted to create an iconic statement like Paris had done with the Eiffel Tower at the 1889 World’s Fair. A revolving circular tower rose at the center of the mile-long Midway Plaisance, the world’s first Ferris Wheel (map).

Hundreds of exhibits lined the Midway Plaisance during the Columbian Exposition. It became such a sensation that just about every circus, fair or exposition afterwards took the idea along with its name, creating their own Midway.

On September 25, 2016 · 2 Comments

Connecting Through Midway

On September 22, 2016 · 2 Comments

I hadn’t flown through Chicago’s Midway Airport much until recently. Then Southwest Airlines started offering flights at my local airport and many of its connections passed through Midway. I always hated connecting flights, and flying in general, although I admitted a preference for Midway over O’Hare. I never thought about its name though.


Battle Of Midway Memorial Located In The Midway Airport Terminal
Battle Of Midway Memorial Located In The Midway Airport Terminal.
Photo by AmateurArtGuy on Flickr (cc)

Chicago, Illinois seemed to be a perfect spot for an airport named Midway, being placed just about midway across the continent (map). That’s where I thought the name would lead like the Definitely Halfway article. I’ve been wrong so many times before it shouldn’t surprise me anymore when something takes a strange turn. This one still caught me off guard. It began service as Municipal Airport in 1927. The named changed to Midway in 1949, not because of its geography but to honor the Battle of Midway.

In May 1942, Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto sought to draw the US Pacific Fleet into a battle where he could overwhelm and destroy it. To accomplish this he planned an invasion of Midway Island which would provide a base for attacking Hawaii. Using decrypted Japanese radio intercepts, Admiral Chester Nimitz was able to counter this offensive. On June 4, 1942, US aircraft flying from USS Enterprise, USS Hornet, and USS Yorktown attacked and sunk four Japanese carriers, forcing Yamamoto to withdrawal. The Battle of Midway marked the turning point of World War II in the Pacific.

Midway Atoll marked an approximate midway point between North America and Asia (map), thus the name.

Midway Ships

USS Midway / San Diego
USS Midway / San Diego. Photo by Michael Mayer on Flickr (cc)

Did the Battle of Midway inspire other names? Yes, of course.

A few months ago my transit through Midway Airport took me onward to San Diego, California. I’ve always enjoyed San Diego and its downtown waterfront. Visitors there can see lots of attractions including the USS Midway Museum. It’s a vintage aircraft carrier converted into a massive floating exhibit.

The Naval History and Heritage Command’s Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships noted three ships with the Midway name. The War Shipping Administration first pressed a private freighter into service in 1942, naming it the Midway (AG-41). It operated mainly along the Pacific coastline and later became the Panay because the Navy wanted to use Midway for a more important ship. That first Midway got its name from the atoll anyway, not the battle, so the battle needed to be commemorated. The second Midway (CVE-63), an escort carrier, got its name in 1943 and it definitely honored the battle. Its name changed in 1944, however, so an even larger aircraft carrier could become the Midway. The second Midway became the St. Lo to honor Saint-Lô, a town in France in the crosshairs of the Normandy Invasion A kamikaze attack sank the St. Lo at the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

The final Midway (CVE-63) eventually became the museum that graced the San Diego waterfront (map). Its commissioning came a few days too late for World War II. However it served valiantly for nearly a half-century thereafter. The Midway ended its service as the flagship of the Persian Gulf fleet during Operation Desert Storm before its 1992 decommissioning.

Midway Streets

I couldn’t simply check every Midway Street to see if it traced back to the Battle of Midway. That would have involve thousands of data points. However, I did find a suburb of Adelaide, South Australia called Elizabeth East. The street names reflected the battle. Very quickly, I spotted Halsey Road, Nimitz Road, Hornet Crescent, Saratoga Road, and of course Midway Road. There were many others. These reflected the commanders and ships of the winners. I wondered how many of Elizabeth East’s four thousand residents understood the theme.

There must have been more. I couldn’t find them. They were lost amongst many more streets called Midway for other reasons.

Midway Theater

The Midway Theatre Forest Hills Queens NYC - IMGP0420
The Midway Theatre Forest Hills Queens NYC. Photo by BEVNorton on Flickr (cc)

However, I did find an interesting movie theater that opened in 1942. Thomas White Lamb designed this wonderful Art Moderne structure placed in the Forest Hills neighborhood of Queens, New York (map).

[It] was named after the World War II battle, opened later that year as a single-screen 1,933-seat theater, but it was converted to a nine-screen multiplex when United Artists took control of the building in 1998.

Midway seemed as good a name for a theater as an airport.

On September 22, 2016 · 2 Comments

Counting Border Crossings – Updated

On September 18, 2016 · 6 Comments

Several years ago, way back in November 2009, Twelve Mile Circle published an article called Counting Border Crossings. It revealed a new way to track travels suggested by loyal reader Jon Persky. Many people count countries, states, provinces, département, territories, counties or whatever. Jon’s method counted a place only when an adventurer traversed each border that it shared with every one of its neighbors. Refer to that original article for additional explanation. It’s not that complicated. Anyway, his analysis resulted in a comprehensive map of possible crossings for the internal state-level divisions of the United States.

Border Crossings 2016
Possible Border Crossings

The map included crossing between individual states as well as with provinces of Canada and states of México. Some efforts could be completed only by ferry as designated by green dots.


I seemed smitten with the concept at the time and I vowed to track my personal progress. Then I promptly forgot about it until I stumbled upon that old article recently. I still loved the premise and I decided to update my personal map. This is how it looks now.

Personal Border Crossings 2016
My Crossing Marked with Black Dots as of September 2016

In 2009 my tally stood at 75 crossings with only 6 states completed. My 2016 results improved to 95 crossings and 17 states completed without any conscious effort. I said at the time, and I still agree, that "this game is insidiously difficult… players have to cover large distances to complete even the smallest of states because the object is to work the perimeter." Many possibilities will also remain uncounted on my map until I take a lot more trips into Canada and México.

Those Geography-Based Running Trips

New England Marathon Series - Day 1
Pretending I’m a runner

The secret to my success happened by accident as I chauffeured a participant in several Mainly Marathons race trips. Longtime 12MC readers probably remembered the premise. These races catered primarily to a very specialized subset of marathoners who wished to complete a course in all 50 states. Others had completed literally hundreds of marathons and simply wanted to increase the lifetime totals. My participant specialized in half-marathons and insisted she was only "half crazy."

Each series featured back-to-back races in different state on subsequent days. For example, the New England Series I wrote about in May included seven races in seven days in seven states (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York). I’d also served as driver for other races including the Center of the Nation, Riverboat and Dust Bowl series. All told, those races involved 23 separate states. The whole premise of race site selections focused on minimizing driving distance while crossing between numerous states, a perfect combination for Jon’s concept. How else would I reasonably expect to find a reason to cross between New Mexico and Oklahoma, as an example?

Shhh… don’t tell anyone. I actually started running the 5K’s each day beginning with the Center of the Nation series. That made me about 12% crazy by my calculations. It was the only way I could stop eating piles of snacks at the aid table as I waited for my runner to finish.

I Loved the Tripoints

KYTNVA Tripoint
KYTNVA Tripoint. My own photo.

Back then I said, "I haven’t even completed my own home state of Virginia where I’m missing its border crossing with Kentucky and I doubt that I’m going to get this one anytime soon." I couldn’t have been more wrong. Immediately thereafter I began an effort to capture every county and independent city in my beloved Commonwealth, although the effort lasted several more years. However, for this purpose, the quest drew me to the isolated counties at the far southwestern corner of Virginia. There I crossed the Kentucky-Virginia border at the KYTNVA Tripoint in 2013.

Other tripoints offered additional border crossing opportunities. I crossed Massachusetts-New York for the first time at the CTMANY Tripoint, thanks to Steve of CTMQ. I also leveraged an amazing three tripoints on the Dust Bowl trip for additional first-time crossings; Colorado-Oklahoma at CONMOK, New Mexico-Oklahoma at NMOKTX and Colorado-Kansas at COKSOK.


Wolf Island
Wolf Island on the KY/MO border. My own photo.

A couple of new crossings stood out above the rest. Kentucky-Missouri might have been the best. These two states shared a very short border along the Mississippi River. Anyone looking at a map would see that no road crossed the river anywhere between them. However, a dry-land border still existed! The river shifted at some point leaving a small part of Kentucky stranded on the Missouri side (map). It retained the curious name Wolf Island even though it wasn’t an island anymore. I found a gravel road leading to a pasture where I could cross from Missouri into Kentucky via Wolf Island. Any hour later I crossed between the two states again, this time over the Mississippi River on the scenic Dorena-Hickman Ferry (my video). I felt proud that I completed the border crossings using the only two means available, both creative and completely non-traditional.

A second favorite might have been my crossing between Utah and Nevada. I took the family to Utah in 2011. One morning, while the family slept, I decided to drive 150 miles (250 kilometres) each way from Ogden to West Wendover, Nevada. Why? To visit the only place in Nevada that legally recognized Mountain Time. That was completely nuts, and that’s what made it so memorable.

The Ones that Got Away

I paid a steep price when I forgot Jon’s game. A couple of opportunities wriggled away while I wasn’t paying attention. Last summer I went to Asheville, North Carolina and captured a slew of new counties. I was pretty close to Georgia and I could have snagged the Georgia-North Carolina crossing. I don’t know when I’ll get that chance again. Ditto for Nebraska-Wyoming and Montana-South Dakota when I took my Center of the Nation trip. Those may be too remote to hit without special effort, especially Montana-South Dakota. That one would require a drive over many miles of gravel road (street view). Missouri-Tennessee, on the other hand would have been an easy pickup. Alas I missed that opportunity too.

I still loved the concept. Maybe this time I won’t forget about it for several years. No promises.

On September 18, 2016 · 6 Comments
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