Twelve Mile Circle loves its borders, and probably none more than the border between Canada and the United States (for instance). The statistics are impressive: 119 border crossings; 39,254,000 trips by Canadians into the United States in 2009; and nearly $500 million in international trade passing every day on the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, Michigan.
Those are great. I rather enjoy examining the other end of the spectrum even more. Not every crossing can be as popular as the Ambassador Bridge. What about some of the lesser-known ports of entry? Fortunately the U.S. Department of Transportation funds a Bureau of Transportation Statistics deep within the bowels of its bureaucracy, which offers a convenient Border Crossing/Entry Data website. Let’s take a peek.
First thing, I noticed that it’s difficult to determine which crossing might be the least popular. Should I count people, vehicles, cargo containers, or what? I decided to select a few choice categories and let them stand on their own rather than force apples-to-oranges scenarios. All figures were compiled from the perspective of the United States government for the year 2011.
It’s important to note that these are all the lowest non-zero values. Most ports of entry lack train traffic as an example. Zero values were excluded from my search.
View Larger Map
Fewest Trains (25th place) – Calais, Maine International Avenue / New Brunswick. This border crossing recorded 77 trains. There are train tracks in the immediate area although I can’t seem to find where they cross the border. Does anyone know how this works? Does the train cross elsewhere and then check-in at Calais because that’s the closest location that’s staffed by border officials? Why did they record so few trains?
Fewest Train Passengers (25th place) – Laurier, Washington / Cascade, British Columbia. This is why it’s so difficult to draw comparisons between categories or in aggregate. One would expect a correlation between trains and train passengers, however that overlooks the simple fact that many trains haul freight exclusively. Thus the place with the fewest cross-border train passengers traversing the border takes place on the other side of the North American continent.
Fewest Trucks (79th place) – Ferry, Washington / Midway, British Columbia. A grand total of three trucks crossed there in 2011. That’s one truck every four months. I imagine that this would be a very poor choice for a smuggler. Trucks are so rare that it’s an event. I bet customs agents scrutinize them intensely just to have an opportunity to do something a little different. It’s not hard to see why trucks don’t generally pass through here. It’s a little out the way and several larger, more truck-friendly roads cross the border to the east and west.
View Larger Map
Fewest Buses (3-way tie for 64th place) – Pinecreek, Minnesota / Piney Manitoba, Bridgewater, Maine / Centreville, New Brunswick, and Hannah, North Dakota / Snowflake, Manitoba. Each of these locations recorded a single bus. That’s right, only one bus passed each of these locations in all of 2011.
I wonder if this included a bus full of geo-oddity tourists on the way to see the bi-national airport runway at Pinecreek?
View Larger Map
Fewest Pedestrians (43rd place) – Noonan, North Dakota / Estevan, Saskatchewan. Seriously, I’d love to know the story behind the single pedestrian who crossed here. Just look at the Street View image. It’s remote. It’s empty. Why would anyone be walking through here and where would they be going?
View Larger Map
Fewest Personal Vehicles (85th place) – Whitlash, Montana / Aden, Alberta. This might be my favorite proxy measure for the least popular border crossing. Passenger vehicles are by far the most common way to cross between the two nations. Only 656 used Whitlash in an entire year. Two per day. Wow. I’d probably cross here if I were in the area just to inflate their statistics.
Foreshadowing. I’ll perform a similar exercise on the U.S. – Mexico border in the next installment.
Totally Unrelated. Remember Pinwheel? I just received another batch of invitations for their private beta. Let me know if you’d like one and I’ll send it to an email address of your choice.
A natural bridge or natural arch is described accurately by its name. It’s a geological formation eroded in such a way as to leave behind an opening below stone that continues to stand. Water seems to be the most common denominator. Before today I never realized that a Natural Arch and Bridge Society existed "to support the interests of both amateur arch enthusiasts and serious researchers of natural arches and bridges alike." It does, however, as I soon discovered during my search and it provides an excellent resource for these topics including a picture gallery.
I knew natural bridges existed in multiple places and I’ve visited several of them including some of the famous ones located at Arches National Park (my visit). I didn’t realize they were actually somewhat common and examples are located throughout the world. I’ll feature several instances located in the United States, all of which feature the phrase "Natural Bridge" in their their official names. That still leaves many worthy candidates untouched in spite of my attempt to keep the list down to a manageable size.
View Larger Map
The natural bridge in Virginia may be THE natural bridge, not because it’s necessarily the most impressive but because it has quite an historical pedigree. It’s believed that George Washington surveyed this site personally in 1750. It later became part of property owned by Thomas Jefferson. He purchased it from the crown in 1774 when Virginia was still a British colony. This stone arch lent a name to surrounding Rockbridge County which receives a 12MC seal of approval for that wonderful geo-recognition.
Natural Bridge appears in Google Maps satellite view. It’s easy to see the small river that carved a path and created the arch. U.S. Route 11 drives directly across it although that doesn’t make much difference to tourists: fences have been constructed on both sides of the highway to keep visitors from stopping atop the bridge, peeking over the side and becoming a road hazard (street view).
Natural Bridges National Monument
Owachomo. SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons in the public domain
Natural Bridges National Monument appears within Utah’s portion of the four-corners area (map). Flash floods rather than regular stream flow contributed to the creation of three major arches. These period floods undercut stone walls over time. The National Park Service describes the names of the arches:
… the General Land Office assigned the Hopi names “Sipapu,” “Kachina” and “Owachomo” in 1909. Sipapu means “the place of emergence,” an entryway by which the Hopi believe their ancestors came into this world. Kachina is named for rock art on the bridge that resembles symbols commonly used on kachina dolls. Owachomo means “rock mound,” a feature atop the bridge’s east abutment.
Natural Bridges State Beach
View Larger Map
It’s hard to find natural bridges on Google Maps street view because they’re frequently located in hard-to-reach spots away from roads. Fortunately that’s not the case with Natural Bridges State Beach in Santa Cruz, California. Here the eroding water comes from the wave action of surrounding Monterey Bay.
This beach, with its famous natural bridge, is an excellent vantage point for viewing shore birds, migrating whales, and seals and otters playing offshore. Further along the beach, tidepools offer a glimpse of life beneath the sea. Low tides reveal sea stars, crabs, sea anemones, and other colorful ocean life.
Natural Bridge Caverns
SOURCE: Flickr via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license
Natural Bridge Caverns (map) isn’t actually a natural bridge inside a cavern, sad to say. Rather, it’s a feature located just outside of the entrance to this largest commercial cave in Texas. The formation has an interesting evolution. In this instance water created a sinkhole and the natural bridge remained when surrounding terrain fell into the hole.
Natural Bridge Battlefield
View Larger Map
This is the only battlefield I know of that’s associated with a natural bridge. It’s located near Tallahassee, Florida where the St. Marks River falls into a sinkhole and reappears a little while later. Notice the water on the Google Maps satellite view and you can see where that happens. The battle is commemorated by Natural Bridge Battlefield State Historic Site:
During the final weeks of the Civil War, a Union flotilla landed at Apalachee Bay planning to capture Fort Ward (San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park) and march north to the state capital. With a timely warning, volunteers from the Tallahassee area – Confederate soldiers, old men and young boys – met the Union forces at Natural Bridge and successfully repelled three major attacks. The Union troops were forced to retreat to the coast and Tallahassee was the only Confederate capital east of the Mississippi not captured by the Union.
Natural Bridge Avenue
View Larger Map
What’s the deal with Natural Bridge Avenue in St. Louis, Missouri? There’s no natural bridge here. That’s because the road used to extend much farther. Portions were obliterated by the expansion of Lambert Airport and the routing of Interstate 70. The reason may no longer exist but the name remains.
Remember the story of Delmar Delaware/Maryland and the cross-border services they shared? I found another example elsewhere in the news recently although the reasons are considerably different.
The Twelve Mile Circle audience seems to enjoy little contests or puzzles interspersed within the usual healthy dose of geo-oddity goodness. Actually, sometimes I think the community relishes interactive topics even more than the purely informational ones based upon sheer number of comments posted to each article. Hopefully today will provide another opportunity for that. I’ve had some fun with my latest curiosity question over the last couple of days.
How many individual states in the United States can someone visit in a single day by automobile? My personal theoretical best result was eighteen states — counting the District of Columbia as a "state" for this purpose — in 23 hours and 59 minutes. Yes, we all realize DC isn’t a state although it’s often considered a state-equivalent for various demographic and statistical purposes so it will count similarly for this exercise.
View Larger Map
My solution is:
- A = White River Junction, VT
- B = Dover, NH
- C = Eliot, ME
- D = Revere, MA
- E = Cranston, RI
- F = Stamford, CT
- G = New Rochelle, NY
- H = Elizabeth, NJ
- I = Port Richmond, PA
- J = Brookside, DE
- K = College Park, MD
- L = Washington, DC
- M = Leesburg, VA
- N = Charles Town, WV
- O = Erwin, TN
- P = Woodfin, NC
- Q = Greenville, SC
- R = Lavonia, GA
I also used a variation on this theme where I diverted west after reaching West Virginia (map) rather than heading south. I captured only seventeen which again included the District of Columbia.
The rules of the game are simple.
- The journey has to be completed in less than 24 hours according to default automatic directions calculated by Google Maps. 23 hours and 59 minutes is perfectly acceptable. 24 hours and 0 minutes crosses into the next day and is not acceptable. I realize that Google Maps directions change over time so some results may have a shelf life. Let’s not stress about that. No result lasts forever.
- The District of Columbia, as I mentioned previously, counts as a state-equivalent here. Nonetheless, solutions that do not include the District will be considered more impressive with all other factors equal.
- Only one destination per state may be used on the list. That will make it more challenging. It will also make it easier to grade. Thus if the last pushpin is "R" we’ll know immediately that the value must be eighteen and then only have to check whether it happens to include the District or not.
- Only place names can be used as destinations. It doesn’t matter if it’s a town, a park, a neighborhood, an airport, or something else. It can be used as part of a solution if Google Maps considers it a destination. Specific street addresses, business locations or Latitude/Longitude coordinates cannot be used. Just place names. Keep it simple like the list I used.
- The route cannot be manipulated manually. Google Maps allows one to create intermediary points between destinations. Those are not allowed for this exercise.
- Minimize backtracking. Notice that I am specifically allowing incidental backtracking. The Google Maps routing algorithm would make it extremely difficult otherwise. Just try to keep backtracks to reasonable distances, perhaps on the order of a couple of miles or fewer. Zero-backtracks will serve as a tie-breaker. I’d consider a solution more elegant if someone went to the effort of removing all backtracks.
- I reserve the right to clarify or create rules if readers discover bizarre or "unfair" loopholes.
View Larger Map
This is an example of "acceptable" backtracking. A traveler would cover a 200 foot stretch of 16th Street NW in Washington, DC twice in my solution. I suppose one could search for specific neighborhoods to remove the backtrack but that would then add more words to the list and increase clutter. It’s all about tradeoffs.
The current target is eighteen (counting DC) at 23 hours 59 minutes as described above. The goal is to either reach more than eighteen states (or find an eighteen state solution bypassing DC) or reduce the amount of time necessary. One could start with my route and shave a few minutes off of it. I think there might be a little slack left in it — I stopped shaving it down as soon as I generated a value below 24 hours — although I will be more impressed by solutions that exhibit individual creativity.
Feel free to expand this to other nations such as Canada or Australia and lay-down the gauntlet for other challenges, or focus on international border crossings such as the number of European countries that could be visited in a single day and do the same. Have fun with it!
Place a Google Maps "Short URL" in a comment when you defeat my solution. I know there are better answers lurking within the 12MC audience.