I’ve been to all of the 50 United States as is true with several others of you who read the Twelve Mile Circle regularly. In fact, that’s what got me started on the strange hobby of County Counting. I ran out of things to count so I had to break the individual states into their subunits and try again.
Within my odd set of rules as I interpret them, it’s acceptable to barely touch a landform and count it as "completed." I can’t fly over it. That doesn’t count. That would be silly. But changing flights at an airport counts. If I cross it on foot, by automobile, by train or any other means connected physically to the ground, no matter however fleeting, that’s acceptable. Some people apply more stringent definitions, and good for them, but I play it loose.
By any measure, there are states that I’ve explored in detail and others that I’ve barely touched. I’ve not spent a single night in only four states. My coverage of those areas stinks and frankly it’s a bit embarrassing. Some would argue that I haven’t really been to those states at all except in the strictest technical sense.
I present the four, the least of my least visited.
I barely clipped Montana a single time while visiting Yellowstone National Park, making my way specifically to the northern end of the park for that exact purpose. This provided a two-for-one opportunity since it also allowed me to cross the 45° North line of latitude.
This provides an opportunity to amaze friends and families with some geo-oddity trivia. They won’t care but they’ll be a captive audience in the car and have to listen to the facts whether it actually amazes them or not. It’s for their own good. The Wyoming-Montana border here doesn’t follow the 45th parallel precisely. There are kinks in the boundary that separate the two lines by about a mile through much of this area. The Park Service provides a nice explanation as well as an interesting map.
My Montana status is more likely to change before the other three states for a variety of reasons, primarily because it’s been on my short-list of holiday destinations for awhile. I was hoping to make it there this summer. That’s unlikely to happen although I think it will take place sometime in the next couple of years.
Total lifetime spent in Montana: less than a half-hour; maybe less than fifteen minutes.
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Open my County Counting Map in another tab and you’ll notice a vertical line of captured counties heading due south along the Kansas-Missouri line, barely into Oklahoma and Arkansas.
I had been involved in a two-week project in Kansas City and it wasn’t cost effective for my employer to send me home for the weekend. With nothing better to do, I consulted my maps and decided to launch an expedition on Oklahoma and Arkansas. They were two of a very small handful of states that I still hadn’t visited at the time.
I hit the road with the first flickers of dawn and didn’t return until dusk. I covered about five hundred miles in a single day simply to touch two new states briefly. I took roads on the Kansas side on the way down and the Missouri side on the way back to maximize my county count, too. That’s either supremely dedicated or totally foolish. I can argue it either way. All the County Counters in the audience have wrestled with these dueling issues before and know exactly what I’m talking about.
Total lifetime spent in Oklahoma: about an hour, although I did have the satisfaction of covering two counties during my brief visit (Ottawa and Delaware).
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I spent considerably more time in Arkansas during that same road trip because I actually got out of the car and walked around. No, I didn’t stop at Wal-Mart, which is headquartered in the single county I crossed (Benton). Instead I satisfied my historical inquisitiveness by visiting the Pea Ridge National Military Park. This is a little-known Civil War battlefield perhaps most notable for the several hundred Native American, primarily Cherokee, forces that fought on the Confederate side. The Union victory here pretty much took this entire section of the country out of the strategic equation for the remainder of the war. It also shows, contrary to popular belief, that important battles did happen west of the Mississippi River.
Total lifetime spent in Arkansas: probably two or three hours.
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I wish I had an interesting story to tell about Rhode Island. Sadly, the only times I’ve been there have coincided with drives through the god-awful Interstate 95 corridor, a purgatory reserved for only the worst of sinners.
I’ve done that drive a number of times over the years so it probably adds up to several hours cumulatively. It may not happen again. I’ve become rather fond of swinging to highways well to the west, covering a considerably longer distance, simply to avoid the hassle of I-95 entirely. That’s what we did on our trip to Maine in the summer of 2009 and again to New Hampshire & Vermont in the fall of 2010.
Sorry Rhode Island. I’ll have to make a special trip if I want to see you again. I’ll keep my eyes open for those last minute airline deals to Providence because I’m not driving. I’ve been burned by traffic nightmares too many times along the way.
Rhode Island is so small that I’ve actually been to more than half its counties (three of five) simply by using it as a transit point to get somewhere else.
Total lifetime spent in Rhode Island: forty-five minutes to an hour at a shot, several times.
Please feel free to post your tales or maps of extremely short trips to geographic entities that you "count" as a visit.