I’ve Barely Been There

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.


45th Parallel at Yellowstone Montana

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.

Rhode Island

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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.

23 Replies to “I’ve Barely Been There”

  1. I can claim a visit to every one of the lower 48 except Florida, but to do so I have to count cutting the corner of Idaho while leaving Yellowstone Park. Didn’t even stop to buy gas or take a picture.

    On a related note, don’t you sometimes feel that you haven’t really been to a place because you have only visited one unrepresentative corner? I have that feeling about Washington State where I have only been to Tacoma-Seattle, which is like visiting DC and claiming you understand United States.

    P.S. I have lived in Lil’ Rhody for years and I can say with authority; every trip in Rhode Island is an experience in brevity. I can’t recommend Providence for a quick visit for it’s own sake because this is a city that hides its best side. But try and hit Newport off season. It is a showplace.
    P.P.S. Rhode Island no longer has counties, technically.

  2. I’ve got three quick-trip states.

    Mississippi: drove over the state line while on a visit to New Orleans in 1989 or 1990, just to say I was there. I-10 exit 2 to MS 607 to US 90. I stopped for gas at a station in Waveland, near a Wal-Mart, and had a few anxious moments when a man at the next pump was puffing away on a cigarette when he filled his car’s tank. I don’t recall the entire amount of time spent in Mississippi, but it couldn’t have been more than an hour.

    Kansas: while visiting a friend in Nebraska in April 1996, we took a short drive through Kansas at my urging, she had just bought a new Mustang and was happy to comply. As best I can recall, our route was south on US 73/159 into Hiawatha, west on US 36 (the “Pony Express Highway”) to Marysville, then north on US 77 back into the Cornhusker State. The highlight of the trip through Kansas was when my friend pulled off 36 to show me the town of Oneida, just to the north. While it might be an exaggeration to say that it was a ghost town, it was very, very close, not a person to be seen. We spent maybe an hour to 90 minutes in Kansas.

    West Virginia: I drove through the eastern panhandle on I-81 sometime in the early 1990’s. It would have been the shortest of these trips, except that I stopped at a McDonald’s in Martinsburg.

    While in Seattle for several days in August 2001 I debated making a quick trip to Oregon, but decided to go to Vancouver instead.

  3. A few years ago my wife and I made a trip to south Texas so I could bag a bunch of counties. This was before I learned of the Mob Rules site. Except for Corpus/Padre, I needed pretty much every county south of US 90/I10. We did it over Easter weekend. To prevent multi-hour extra driving, I had to enter two counties and then turn around again.
    I made sure I could see a few miles of countryside. It still feels weird though.

    My only time in Minnesota is at the MSP airport (four times). The last time I made the extra effort to look through a window at land (not that easy). I also looked at the state through the plane window from low altitude. I count that county and state with a clean conscience now.

    1. I have two purely "airport only" captures in the United States: SLC – Salt Lake City (which I hope to remedy this summer); and MEM – Memphis. I also have a bunch of disconnected chunks where I’ve flown-in and then driven to multiple places within the area. Of course I count all of them! Oh, internationally my only visit to Ireland would be at SNN – Shannon Airport. That’s another place on my shortlist to build upon too.

      1. I spent two days in SLC and loved it. I have a trip for you. Get the best-handling rental car you can. One day we drove from SLC to Logan. Then we drove up Logan Canyon to gorgeous Bear Lake (Google it). The lake is on the UT/ID border and is near WY. You can get several counties that way. The family would like the drive and the lake.

        After that, we drove back to SLC, around the lake and did a banzai run to the Bonneville Salt Flats. After a top-speed run in my turbo PT Cruiser (122 mph limiter = boring!), we went back to the hotel in SLC.

        Unfortunately, this was all before my epiphany as a state and county counter. I was only a few miles from Wendover, UT/NV. I know your story of that place. It will be hard to get near that NV county again.

  4. My wife and I visited friends in Memphis years ago. We had them take us across the Mississippi for a brief visit to Arkansas and then back across the bridge and then south to the State of Mississippi. Total time in each state, about 10 glorious minutes!

    My wife’s only visit to Utah was on our trip to Four Corners. Her total time in Utah can’t be more than half an hour.

  5. I just can’t consider changing planes at an airport to count as a visit to a state. Most countries (with the glaring exception of the United States) do not require airline passengers changing planes en route to other countries to pass through their customs and immigration procedures so long as they remain in airport transit lounges. It’s as if an airport is “neutral ground” of a sort. Despite the different context, I believe this concept should be carried over for purposes of state-counting.

  6. I flew once from Santiago de Chile to Boston, MA with a flight change in Toronto, ON.
    The funny thing is that in Toronto, I never crossed any Canadian border: I was sent directly to the U.S. customs, and that was a little deception for me as I would have loved to get a Canadian stamp in my passport. I was then legally in the United States and physically in Toronto, how would you count that? I personally consider I’ve never been to Canada.

    (I’m French and I live in Albania. I discovered your site a few days ago and from now, you can probably count on me as a regular reader, I’m just happy I’ve several months of archive left to read)

    1. Welcome, Jean. Reading the archives, you probably learned that I enjoy watching my website traffic on Google Analytics. True to form I’d noticed an increase in traffic coming from Tirane in the last few days so it’s nice to meet the person behind the trend!

  7. Does driving across the Texas panhandle, through Amarillo, count as having barely been to Texas? They have bigger standards there, I hear. Plus, I can’t recall a single thing about it. We were in Oklahoma City and then, after a blank spell, Tucumcari, NM, which at least had a small but scenic mountain.

    My Virginia experience (apart from a childhood visit to DC I barely remember) took most of a day’s driving, but encompassed only the westernmost tip–Damascus, Abingdon, Norton, Cumberland Gap. I’m guessing this part of Virginia differs somehow from the Chesapeake Bay area…

    Kentucky likewise; a couple hours near Cumberland Gap, then, some days later, a quick crossing at the other far end, from Land Between the Lakes to Paducah.

  8. Great site. Glad I stumbled upon it. Pleased to know I’m not the only one with a US county map and colored pencils! I have 44 states down, missing the 5 between New York and Maine plus Hawaii.
    My 2 “Barely been there” are SC and Maine. Drove 10 miles into SC, stopped at a flea market and headed back to Asheville. In Maine I never got off a Canadian train going from Montreal to Nova Scotia. I feel guilty for saying I’ve been there since it never stopped and was dark, but I’ll take it until I can get there again.
    Hypothetical question: If a new state formed tomorrow from part of an existing state and I had been to that area, could I count it? Or do I have to visit it again?

    1. Greetings KCJeff — welcome to the site! In the case of your hypothetical question, I’d count the new state. In the opposite situation, if as state I’d visited previously split and I’d never been to the portion that formed the new state, I’d feel obligated to go there.

  9. I totally forgot about a special grab-a-state trip I did and the state that got away. One day my boss told me to grab a bag and my steel-toes and get on some planes and get to the Seabrook nuke plant in New Hampshire _now_.
    I collected Pennsylvania for the first time. The Philly airport runway crossed into another county and I count it. I know my plane circled over the Delaware river and New Jersey but I don’t count it.
    Then I flew into Manchester, NH and drove to Seabrook. That’s all new state and counties. After visiting the plant, I slept over in Portsmouth a few hours. After the nap I drove over a bridge and a couple of miles into Maine (new to me).
    My return trip went through Baltimore so a new county (but not the independent city/county equivalent) was bagged.
    After I returned home and got real sleep, I realized that I was _that_ close to visiting MA for the first time. Argh!

    At least I got paid for all that.

  10. I have a similar situation to you KCJeff. Have I been to Sweden or haven’t I? I travelled by overnight train from Oslo Norway to Copenhagen Denmark via Sweden. I never got out of the train, and my passport was never checked – but I did glimpse a Swedish flag flying in the front yard of a house, so I suppose I was there.

    Similar situation with somr US States – I have travelled on Amtrak from Washington DC to Albany NY. Never got off – but travelled through a few States including Delaware and New Jersey that I have not otherwise visited – so have I ever visited Delaware and New Jersey?

    Another conundrum – have I ever been to Spain? I have never been to mainland Spain but I have been to Teneriffe, Canary Islands – which is a Spanish territory.

    As an aside, one of the more surreal experiences on my European travels, was waking up early morning on a moving train, having travelled overnight – and not knowing what country I was in. That was really unnerving.

  11. I’ve been to 48 of the 50 US states, but only an hour or so in South Carolina, just to pop in its extreme NW corner and visit Sassafras Mtn, the state highpoint. On that same trip I visited Florida, Alabama and Mississippi all in less than 36 hours, spending about 6-12 in each.

    Internationally, I have “been” to Belgium connecting planes, total time about 4 hours, and a “gas stop” in Athens, Greece, where we never actually left the plane itself. I count it as a visit since it’s too tempting not to. My wife and I travelled through Slovakia while on the train from Budapest to Prague. The Slovakian immigration people boarded just to make sure we had passports, but were not stamping them until a Japanese woman asked very kindly if she could have hers stamped simply for the stamp itself. We were right behind her and we asked for the stamps too. The Slovakian immigration lady was very sweet and complied without any argument.

    I’ve been to Mexico several times, but a couple of times I have been to the border markers in California and just walked a few feet into Mexico, then back into the US.

    1. That sort of experience will be no more now, I think, due to Schengen – since if you manage to attain Prague, you are automatically able to go to Bratislava and Budapest (and vice versa).

      I remember that in Liechtenstein, the stamp in your passport is obtained not from the border control (which there is non, since even before Schengen there were no controls between it an Switzerland) but from the tourist office in one of a small number of towns – for a fee. They do pay special attention to make sure it comes out nice and clear, since the only people who get one are those who just want it to show they’ve been to Liechtenstein, so they want it nice and readable!

      1. Schengen was just as much the case in 2011 as in 2015. If anything, now (October 2015) the whole “check to make sure they at least have passports” thing is all the more likely, because of the refugee crisis.
        I certainly know I was getting some sort of weird Bulgarian visa – not a general Schengen one – when I visited Bulgaria in 2014 (which, incidentally, upgraded my barely-been-there visit from the late 1990s).

  12. Next week I am driving my uncle’s car from Miami to New Jersey, and will be picking up one new state, Georgia. Though a good 100 miles of I-95 passes through GA, I still feel as if it’s cheating, as I nearly equate interstate driving with airline travel, very impersonal. I will probably veer off 95 a good distance and get lunch somewhere, just so I can stamp my 35th state on the map with a bit more confidence. Interesting note, I’ve SEEN Georgia before; from Hilton Head Island, SC.

    Next story involves your (if I’m not mistaken) favorite geo-oddity, the 4 corners. In April-May 2009 I took a cross country trip (you saw and commented on my blog) and I drove right by 4 corners en route to Monument Valley. I skipped 4 corners because at that very time, reports were coming out that stated the monument was in the wrong place. So instead I decided to skip it. I was a mere 5 miles from New Mexico but skipped that too as to not make NM feel “cheated”. I was also very close to Iowa while in Minnesota, but skipped that too for the same reason.

    I also clipped corners of Utah and Wyoming on my trip, but feel more confident counting them, as I saw a very prominent landform in each state; Monument Valley and Devil’s Tower.

  13. I recently found that Atlanta’s airport is not fully in Fulton county, GA. In fact, after using two sources, I found that only the northernmost runway is barely in Fulton county. All the terminals are in Clayton county.

    Yes, I do count it. I sure walked through a lot of Clayton county to reach my connecting flight.

    1. Interesting situation there. I once was flying east to Knoxville via Atlanta, and I knew beforehand that only one runway crossed into Fulton County. When I took off for Knoxville, I got a good view of the runway number and tried to remember it for later when I’d have access again to Google Earth and my online county map, months later, to check if I’d been to that county or not.

      For the life of me, I cannot remember what runway that was.

  14. During my teenage years, my mom undertook an epic road trip, from L.A. all the way up to Yellowstone and Mt. Rushmore, with me as the navigator. We “barely visited” two states on that trip, by spending the night in West Yellowstone, Montana but only visiting that one corner on the way from Idaho through to Wyoming, and then by cutting through the west end of Nebraska on the return trip. I’ve been back to explore more of Montana twice since then. But I’ve never been back to Nebraska. All I remember is cornfields.

    We briefly clipped the northwest corner of Arizona known as “the Arizona strip” while taking I-15 home, but I’d been to the Grand Canyon before that, so it doesn’t count.

    On a trip to New England a few years ago that netted me and my wife seven new states as well as Quebec, we didn’t really do much in Connecticut or New Hampshire other than stop for fast food. I wanted to visit the beach in Portsmouth, NH, just to say we’d visited the shortest coastline of any state that had one. But the traffic was horrendous on a Saturday in early fall, after a long drive down from Acadia national park that day, so we pushed on into Massachusetts instead. At the end of the trip we briefly visited Providence just to say we’d been to Rhode Island. It was a short visit but we we were intentional about stopping for dessert in Little Italy, so I’d say it’s a notch above the “barely visited” list.

    I’ve only touched down for airport transfers in Illinois and Minnesota so far. Both times on the way to Marquette, Michigan. I’ve spent more time on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula than its Lower Peninsula, where I’ve also only set foot in Detroit for a brief layover. Never done anything else in those states. For my wife, Texas is on that list. I’ve never been to Texas at all.

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