Of course you are not a "nobody," it’s meant in a statistical sense. Sure, you and I both stopped here today although we might be the only ones; visitors totals will still come mighty close to zero. Who’s going to read these words I’ve posted on Christmas Eve? Twelve Mile Circle has a diverse audience, and I’m sure even those of different faiths, practices or beliefs will likely have something better to do when everything shuts down around them. Twelve Mile Circle website traffic typically nosedives at this time of year.
No-see-um Lake, Shoshone Co., Idaho, USA
That’s liberating in a sense. I don’t have to develop a real article or wonder whether the topic be a hit or a dud. Instead I’ll share a few statistical tidbits and some upcoming travel plans, and if nobody likes it then it won’t matter. Come back in a few days if you’d prefer.
I began Twelve Mile Circle in November 2007 so it just passed its sixth-year anniversary, an uninterrupted string of aimless muttering that I still find difficult to believe. I remember thinking that I shouldn’t start this thing. I was unsure if I’d have enough material or sufficient dedication to last even a month. Maybe it would become a sad, bit-rotted ghost site. That’s irrelevant I suppose since blogs as a format have been declared dead. Again. It’s a good thing I write for myself and not for money or recognition. I’d starve to death while wallowing in my own tears.
Wow, what a cynical introduction. The whole point of this was supposed to announce that I’m expecting to hit 1,000 articles sometime around the end of February if I continue at the current pace. A decent length novel might clock in at around a hundred thousand words. The complete 12MC body of work would hit somewhere around six or seven hundred thousand words. Crazy. I’ll probably have to do something special for that 1,000th article.
Reader-submitted comments will hit 4,000 any day now, so I receive about four comments per article. That’s growing. It was closer to three comments per article a couple of years ago. That increase can be attributed to a loyal group of readers submitting thoughtful and respectful comments regularly. Those often lead to spin-off articles and are always appreciated.
The 12MC Twitter experiment launched in the Spring seems to be going OK. Just OK. I haven’t used Twitter much except to announce new articles, making it somewhat redundant for anyone using an RSS newsreader. I don’t make any special efforts to build followers. I’ll save that for the celebrities. However, I’ve been stuck on 99 Twitter followers for the last couple of weeks and it’s starting to bug me. Won’t someone subscribe already and push that into triple digits so I can ignore it again?
Riverboat Marathon Series Route
I had such a great time during the Dust Bowl Marathon Series last year that I decided to do it again. I’m not a runner, nor was I last time. I’ll be a driver who transports a runner safely between races.
I think I already mentioned that Mainly Marathons is now sponsoring a Riverboat Series for April 12-16, 2014. That’s five races in five states (Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana) in five days. The only new development for me to note is that I’m definitely going. Plans have been made and reservations have been set. I’m expecting an excellent opportunity for intense County Counting because I have to drive all the way out there. Airline schedules and fares don’t seem to be working out.
Please take a look at the map and let me know of any suggestions for geo-oddities or other cool things to see. I received some great recommendations last year including several places I would not have known about otherwise (e.g., Capulin Volcano). Don’t worry, Bubbleland is already on the agenda. Maybe an adventurous 12MC runner might be interested in one or more half- or full-marathons and/or assorted weird geography?
I pick a different state each year for concentrated travel. Previously I’ve focused on a diversity of places such as Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, Utah’s Great Salt Lake, Oregon’s volcanic interior, and Kentucky’s Appalachian foothills. 2014 will be a little different. I won’t be selecting a state. Instead we’re heading to Ireland in late June or early July, within the vicinity of Killarney. My father will join us and we will visit with his cousins for part of that trip. I’m looking forward to meeting some of the distant relatives, and of course giving Ireland a proper 12MC treatment.
It should be an exciting 2014 on Twelve Mile Circle.
It’s like going to a fancy new restaurant with a months-long reservation list. You finally get through the portal, anticipating a remarkable culinary experience from a renowned celebrity chef. The waiter carries an enormous plate across the dining room, removes the cover from the dish with a flourish, and presents a tiny two-bite morsel plated exquisitely. "Where’s the rest of it?" you ask in bewilderment. "That is the rest of it, Sir," responds the waiter with disdain since you obviously can’t appreciate the gift that’s just been bestowed upon you. Right. That’s my initial impression of the new Google Maps.
That’s my nicer description. I’ve warmed up to it slightly over the last couple of days. It’s a step forward in some regards and a step backwards in others. I do enjoy the redesigned street map layer and the stripped-down screen that offers wider coverage. Directions between points provided new options including airline directions, with a link to low-priced airfares. I also found Street View easier to navigate and the recent imagery is stunning. Let’s just say I’m glad I weeded the flower bed in front of my home before the Street View car drove through a few months ago. It offered amazing resolution.
Is it possible to be too stripped down? Couldn’t Google add a vertical pop-up menu bar on the left or right side of the screen, like its new Explore bar along the bottom of the page, with a selection of common functions? Beyond that though, there were functions and features from the previous version of Maps that I couldn’t find anywhere. In fairness, and before I gripe too much, I recognize that my operating system and software configuration supported only "Lite Mode." Perhaps the features I missed so dearly will reveal themselves in the full-blown version or maybe they’ll roll out with the final release, or maybe they’re all right there today and hidden in some odd way?
- I couldn’t find a way to generate HTML code to embed maps in an external website. That’s a huge problem for 12MC which uses that capability extensively
- The terrain layer seemed to have been removed.
- I couldn’t find a print button with the exception of a single place — after I generated directions between points and selected the step-by-step instructions link.
- The pan disk, slide bar, and drag-and-drop man were all removed. Only a +/- zoom option remains. Actually, I probably won’t miss those much.
- Remember how hard we pushed for county lines? Gone.
The new version of Google Maps was not designed for map-heads and geo-geeks. Instead, Google’s definition of social networking takes the center stage. I understand the world marches on and I don’t want to become the person who mourned the past simply because something changed. I wanted to give the new Google Maps a fair shake and meet it on its own terms.
I attempted to share a map with my 12MC Circle on Google +. This is how it appeared on my screen:
I was hoping that I could post the results of a simple mapping exercise to a wider audience. The text (and only the text) forwarded to my G+ circle and that was the extend of it. I couldn’t find a way to send the underlying map to my Circle. Either the interface wasn’t intuitive enough or I wasn’t advanced enough in the intricacies of social networking to grasp its essential functionality. This is supposed to be a big step forward as a means to infuse geographical dimensions within social settings and I don’t know how to make the leap. Google has charted a direction and I’ve been left behind.
The new Google Maps does have a toggle that brings one to a feature they call Classic Maps. Here’s my concern: understanding that Google had no problem abandoning Reader and its millions of users, how long should one expect a toggle to remain in place for an obviously deprecated version before Google decides to pull the plug on that one too?
OpenStreetMap is Looking Better and Better
I’m left to figure out how I can replicate the functionality of what has now been typecast as Classic (a.k.a. "Old") if I want to keep producing mapping content for 12MC. Self-designed maps will be supported by Google’s Maps Engine Lite which is currently in Beta, so I think I’m safe there. However, if I need to embed a simple map — and most of what I produce falls within that category — then maybe it’s time to switch to OpenStreetMap. The example above looks pretty good, doesn’t it? Maybe that’s what I’ll do. Cobble together functionality from a bunch of different places. And yes, I’d still use the new Google Maps to create a set of directions for personal use outside of 12MC because I do like that set of features and I feel it’s genuinely improved.
My needs are simple. When I need to seek advice — like Kentucky vacation recommendations — I post a request to my website. I don’t think it’s fair to require all of you to subscribe to Google+ and then join my Circle for me to be able to do that. Therein lies my dilemma. Google seems to be refocusing Maps as a tool to push everyone in that direction.
I only want to share my little geographic discoveries. I hope the final version of the new Google Maps retains some of the prior functionality that made it so wonderful for geo-geeks. Nobody would be happier than I if I had to eat crow because my initial reactions were proven wrong.
Twelve Mile Circle picks a different state for its vacation each summer, and concentrates on an aspect of it intensely. Previous examples have included Alaska, Utah, and Oregon. The ultimate purpose of these holidays is to focus on unusual or oft-overlooked sites within the United States while sprinkling-in a few of the more famous sites as well.
The state selected for the 12MC treatment in 2013 is KENTUCKY, specifically the far southeastern corner.
View Kentucky Thoughts in a larger map
Diverse factors went into this decision. Key amongst them was my lack of county counting coverage. I’ve driven Interstate 75 through the target area and I’ve also nibbled on its western edge. As a whole, however, my time on the ground there was minimal and my county count has been decidedly lacking.
Southeastern Kentucky also offers the ability to avoid airline travel. I am completely fed-up with the airlines. I am annoyed by overly-abundant airport security hassles, I am disgusted by a complete lack of customer service and I am tired of being nickel-and-dimed with an endless parade of airline fees, each one more outrageous than its predecessors. This summer, 12MC will give the airlines the old One Finger Salute by selecting an automotive destination. It should take about nine hours — a long but manageable single-day drive — which compares favorably to dealing with an airport, flying cross-country, grabbing a rental car, and driving to a hotel.
The target area I’m anticipating includes a 20-ish county area that avoids major cities as represented on my crudely-drawn map: Adair; Barren; Bell; Casey; Clay; Clinton; Cumberland; Edmonson; Green; Hart; Knox; Laurel; Lincoln; McCreary; Metcalfe; Pulaski; Rockcastle; Russell; Taylor; Wayne; Whitley. I won’t hit every one of those counties, and I’ll probably stray outside of those boundaries for the right opportunities (including into Virginia or Tennessee). I’m still early in the research process so it’s in flux. I’m using it focus my concentration for the moment and using it as a starting point, primarily.
The map presents several possibilities even in its embryonic stage. My attention has already been drawn to all things Cumberland (e.g., Cumberland Gap, Cumberland Falls, Lake Cumberland), as well as to the Daniel Boone National Forest and to Mammoth Cave National Park. I visited Mammoth as a kid and I want to return as an adult to see if my pint-sized memories hold true. Plus, my kids love going on cave tours and Mammoth is the king-of-kings for the eastern United States.
My 12MC Complete Index didn’t present an abundance of geo-oddities within the target area, although there are a couple. I’ve shaded the map in yellow and blue to split the target between Central Time and the Eastern Time. We’ll be bouncing between time zones like on the Dust Bowl trip and that always provides a level of amusement. Plus, a time zone anomaly exists within the target area with a chunk of central time farther east than a chunk of eastern time. I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to experience the anomaly although I’d probably do it for grins if I happened to be nearby for some other purpose.
Here is the part where I consult with the wise and all-knowing audience. You’ve come through for me several times in the past, suggesting great places to visit that I never would have learned about without your input. Some of those included Capulin Volcano in New Mexico, gas stations in Oregon where I could pump my own gas, Timpanogos Cave National Monument and the ATK Rocket Park in Utah. I am certain that there must be people in the 12MC universe who have either lived in or who have vacationed in southeastern Kentucky.
What "can’t miss" spots have I overlooked? You may see your recommendation mentioned in a 12MC article in July.