2016 Travel Plans

On February 10, 2016 · 9 Comments

A new year dawned on Twelve Mile Circle as I turned my eye towards another batch of travel adventures. Plans began to fall into place. They won’t approach the stratospheric heights of a very ambitious 2015 travel season although they’ll still be substantive from my perspective. As always, I like to post my general plans ahead of time to solicit recommendation from the 12MC audience. I’ve visited many places I never would have known about otherwise without reader suggestions. I’ve even been lucky enough to meet some of you in person when we’ve crossed paths along our separate trails. Feel free take a few moments to examine these proposed routes and offer any suggested geo-oddities, roadside attractions, dubious historical landmarks, obscure parks, or other weirdness I shouldn’t miss.


Finish Virginia



I’ve wanted to visit every county and county-equivalent in my home state of Virginia for the longest time. It didn’t help that Virginia included 95 counties and 38 independent cities necessary to complete the quest, a total of 133 separate geographic entities. Each and every border had to be crossed. Those independent cities were the worst, with many of them scattered haphazardly around the Commonwealth in tiny out-of-the-way enclaves. I’ve chipped away at the total with determination over the last three or four years, and I finally came within striking distance after my drive back from western North Carolina last summer. I managed to knocked the total down to five remaining counties: Bath, Buchanan, Craig, Dickenson, and Highland. Those residual counties were all set deep within the rugged Appalachian spine bordering West Virginia and Kentucky, far away from any easy access. I will never hit them randomly; they will need to be tracked and hunted.

That will happen in mid-March if my plan unfolds as intended. I will drive to Charleston, West Virginia, then head down into Hatfield & McCoy country to capture several West Virginia and Kentucky counties, and finally loop back into Virginia to pick-up the remaining five. This one is actually the most uncertain plan at the moment. Much of the path involves minor roads through mountains and hollows. It’s possible that freezing rain or drifting snows could accumulate here during that period. I’ll have to watch the weather closely and maybe cancel the trip at the last minute. The plan itself is pretty solid and I can always shift it to a better time of year if necessary.

However, I want to get this done. Those five remaining counties are starting to bother me.


New England



What would I do without Mainly Marathons? Their back-to-back races in multiple states have entertained me for years. I’m a driver and a cheerleader for a specific runner, and in turn I get a valid excuse to poke into lightly traveled corners of the United States. So far we’ve completed the full set of multi-day Dust Bowl, Riverboat and Center of the Nation races. We will embark on the New England Series in May, covering those six states plus New York thrown in for good measure: seven races in seven states in seven days. It kind of reminded me of 12MC’s Easiest New England article except that it will take seven days. Oh, and it requires seven races.

I’ve never heard of any of the towns where races have been scheduled. That makes them perfect.

  • Day 1 (May 15): Sanford, Maine
  • Day 2 (May 16): Greenfield, New Hampshire
  • Day 3 (May 17): Springfield, Vermont
  • Day 4 (May 18): Northfield, Massachusetts
  • Day 5 (May 19): Coventry, Rhode Island
  • Day 6 (May 20): Simsbury, Connecticut
  • Day 7 (May 21): New Paltz, New York

I’ve been persuaded to run the 5K each day, which is a far cry from the efforts of most participants who will be completing either a half-marathon, a full marathon, or a 50K ultra marathon each day. My seven-day mileage will total less than most participants’ single day efforts! Are there any Twelve Mile Circle readers who would like to join me for a day? If I’m capable of running a 5K — and I use that term loosely because I plod along pretty casually — then certainly many other people can as well. It’s a nice supportive community of runners regardless of the distance one chooses to cover. I’ve really come to enjoy this group.

My county counting map of New England looks pretty solid although I can still use this trip to fill-in a few doughnut holes. That will leave plenty of time for other roadside diversions because the distance between towns isn’t much. Jerimoth Hill comes to mind.


Michigan


Lake Michigan Sand Dune
Sleeping Bear Dunes; my own photo

Each year I select a U.S. state for special attention. This time it will be Michigan, using Grand Rapids as our base. Grand Rapids might sound like an unusual choice to many in the 12MC audience. Those of you who follow my brewery adventures or who follow the photos on the 12MC Twitter account will understand the significance. In previous years I selected Oregon (Bend) and North Carolina (Asheville) for similar reasons. Founders Brewing put Grand Rapids on the map and countless amazing breweries followed suit. Do any of the beer geeks in the audience have any "can’t miss" recommendations besides the obvious?

This trip will take place in July so I haven’t thought about it much. I do want to get back up to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore again. We’ll probably have to visit Holland, Michigan too, because it’s cheesy and touristy. I’ll just have to see how research unfolds over the coming months. It’s still a little hard to concentrate on summer when there’s snow on the ground.

On February 10, 2016 · 9 Comments

9 Responses to “2016 Travel Plans”

  1. Mike Lowe says:

    I fully understand hunting down the last few counties in a state. My last four counties of Texas were in the middle of nowhere north of Abilene. I finally got them. I wound up getting my last four New Mexico counties that same day.

    Now I have two remaining counties in Arizona taunting me. We were going to get them last month on a trip to Las Vegas. My broken ankle had complications and I had to stay home. Sigh.

    I wonder if Frankenmuth, Michigan is close enough to Grand Rapids for your trip. It’s a bit of a stretch at 137 miles give or take. My mom had fun there.

  2. January First-of-May says:

    You might want to ask the 12MC guy (perhaps invite him too) for Connecticut day. (Is there anything obvious you missed on the Geo-Oddity Adventure?)

    As for the place of special attention – Grand Rapids makes perfect sense when one looks at the Complete Index. There are pretty much no pushpins there in the northern half of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan – as in, literally only three north of Grand Rapids (and that includes Lapeer which is almost directly east); the resulting gap is the largest one east of the Mississippi (and looks even larger on the map because it’s surrounded by Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, which obviously don’t have many pushpins either).

    • You mean Steve from CTMQ? I’ve met him in person a couple of times before, and we do plan to get together on the Connecticut day.

      • January First-of-May says:

        Yes, I meant him 🙂 can’t believe I made such a ridiculous mistake!

        • CTMQ says:

          Amazingly, literally the ONE “special place” we missed was the CTMARI tri-point which, as luck would have it, the 12MC crew will be passing very near on 395!

          It’s not far off the highway and then MAYBE 40 minutes worth of almost flat walking to nab it. It’s a lovely 4 foot obelisk.

          And Tom, I swear, this one is WAY easier than the CTMANY one we did!

  3. Michael says:

    Ah, Coventry, RI. Lots of history in that section of the state. If you’re interested, you may want to visit the Nathanael Greene Homestead in Coventry. Yep! The famous Revolutionary War hero was from Rhode Island, and he lived in that house for most of his life. Really nice folks at the museum, very proud of their town’s history and claim to fame.
    I never realized how lucky I am to live in a state with 5 counties–I’ve never had to deal with the annoying issue of never having visited every county in my state!

  4. Andy says:

    Your stop in NH takes you extremely close to Pack Monadnock, the Hillsborough County high point, and a very worthy stop for a visit. Mount Wachusett (Worcester MA COHP) might also be an option. You can drive pretty much to the top of both.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pack_Monadnock
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Wachusett

    Obviously Jerimoth is a must! I don’t know how exactly you’re planning to get up to the first part of the trip, but the short stretch along the NH seacoast is an awesome and beautiful drive if you have time. Portsmouth/Kittery are fun to drive through also, especially if you take the old lift bridge.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memorial_Bridge_%28Portsmouth,_New_Hampshire%29

    I had a trip that got cancelled last year (the one that was going to include Mount Mitchell) with plans drawn up for a part of SW Virginia / SE Kentucky that you’ll be going through. Pikeville looks like an interesting city — the geography of it is bizarre. You’ll for sure want to visit the Pikeville Overlook (N37.47271 W82.53819) for a view of the Pikeville Cut-Through.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pikeville_Cut-Through

    I had also intended a trip to Birch Knob, on Pine Mountain about 10 miles northeast of Pound Gap. It’s a double-county high point (Pike KY / Dickenson VA) and another near drive-up!
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pound_Gap
    http://www.summitpost.org/birch-knob/225841

    Haven’t looked into it as heavily, but I’ve come across suggestions for Breaks Interstate Park from time to time, so it might be worth investigating.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breaks_Interstate_Park

    Are you planning any time in Michigan in the southeast part of the state? That’s home for me, and where I’m most familiar.

    Apologies for the COHP-heavy post. I reserve the right to be jealous if you complete any of these before I do.

  5. Alex says:

    This may be too obvious, but I haven’t seen it in the comments yet: Left Brain Brewing in Traverse City is probably the most innovative brewery I’ve been to. I was there 5 or so years ago, so the details are foggy, but I’ve been to breweries all over the country before and since and that one really stands out. Traverse City is of course a skip and a jump from Sleeping Bear, too. Michigan is full of great breweries though, so you’ll do fine no matter where you go.

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