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.
The Twelve Mile Circle now has Twitter presence. I began a soft launch with 12MC’s Google+ followers two weeks ago so I could work out the details. I’m now able to post a variety of ways including by mobile phone, and I’ve successfully posted a photo from that source as well. I’m ready to take the next step and open this account to the general public. I do want to take a moment to recognize my Google+ circle — yes, I have a Twelve Mile Circle circle — for bearing with me while I worked out all of the peculiarities on my end. Thank you all for helping me with the launch.
You can find the 12MC Twitter feed at TheReal12MC.
There’s a whole story behind that account name. Obviously lots of names were unavailable because I came to the party so late. This included the existence of a musical group called Twelve Mile Circle. I first floated the Twitter idea about a year ago and loyal reader Greg posted a prescient comment: "It looks like twitter.com/TheReal12MC is available." There you go Greg, you get full credit for naming the 12MC Twitter site.
WordPress software allows an author to select the date and time and article will post to the Internet. I wrote this article on Thursday evening. Right now — if you’re reading this article the day it posts — it’s Sunday. I am on the road somewhere within the vicinity of Dust Bowl on my way to Dalhart, Texas. I have embarked upon the Dust Bowl trip that I’ve been talking about since August.
View Dust Bowl Destinations in a larger map
Why does that matter? Other than it’s totally cool and I’ve been planning it for months? Because I wanted to time the Twitter rollout with the trip so I could live tweet from the road. Expect a steady stream of random observations and blurry photographs all week long (March 18-22, 2013). Follow along while I provide commentary from a different state for five straight days. That’s your incentive to head over to Twitter right away and start following TheReal12MC. I’m probably already tweeting.
Let me shift topics just a little to comment on Google Reader. I think many of us were taken by surprise when Google announced their plan to shut down Reader on July 1, 2013. This situation has not been resolved as of the time I write this (on Thursday). It’s possible that Google may have had a change of heart when this posts on Sunday, or a better RSS reader alternative may have emerged. A huge number of 12MC readers follow this site on Google Reader. I use it myself to keep track of dozens of geo-geek sites so I face the same dilemma. I can say with certainty that the Twelve Mile Circle will continue to publish an RSS feed as long as people are able to read it, regardless of whether Google Reader exists or not.
I will also try to figure out other simple, reliable, convenient ways to share content with you. I guess I’m fortunate with the coincidental timing of my Twitter rollout because that’s one avenue the Intertubes are suggesting. G+ may figure into this too. Maybe Reddit would be another path. I will also explore whether I can set up an email subscription option. Your ideas and suggestions for sharing 12MC content in a world without Google Reader would be much appreciated.
Longtime readers may recall my fascination with people who come to the Twelve Mile Circle, click on the search box on the upper-right corner of the page and then search the word "search." I don’t pretend to understand the logic although I’ve come to accept it. There is an odd chink in the human psyche that compels people from all backgrounds, experiences and locations to want to search specifically for appearances of the word "search" on 12MC. I stand by my original theory that they want to see how the feature works and they use the default already suggested by the page. Maybe I should test the theory — change it to banana and see if banana takes off?
Brush all of that aside, though. I was curious to see what search terms other than search (by far the most popular) seemed to resonate with visitors. Here are the Top 15 terms that people actually took the time and effort to type into the 12MC search bar over the last year, in order of popularity:
- Time Zone
- Smallest County
I am favorably impressed by the list, especially with exclave leading the way and tombolo in the top tier. That makes me happy. It does seem to have a U.S. Great Plains flavor to it too with Kansas, Dakota, Oklahoma and cornfield making appearances.
I’ve tried to incorporate multiple ways for people to find topics on the site. It might have been more efficient for a hypothetical visitor to select Canada as a category (89 articles currently with that tag) instead of searching on it, or to use the complete index map to hone in on some or all of those U.S. Great Plains states more efficiently, however not everyone searches the same way so I like to offer options.
Some searches are so broad it’s hard to imagine the results were even remotely effective. This morning, for example, I noticed that someone searched on the term "unusual." Well, 12MC is nothing but one big collection of unusual. The motto — An Appreciation of Unusual Places — appears on every single page. I’m not sure what they expected to find beyond a whole lot of what they were already reading.
I don’t know where I’m going with this other than to note my oddball fascination with other peoples’ interests and habits as they comb through the site’s pages.
Has anyone else ever thought that Wawa was a really strange name for a chain of gas station / convenience stores? Maybe not. It appears to be a U.S. mid-Atlantic plus Florida thing, which I didn’t realize until I went onto their website and noticed their limited geographic reach. I thought they were more national given their carpet-bomb saturation level of advertisements. Alright, so I guess this topic will only interest the 12MC audience from Delaware, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The rest of you can skip down to the next section where I have some burning questions for you.
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I had two theories. My initial thought turned to geography. [sarcasm alert] You’re shocked, I know.
I was thinking maybe it was an abbreviation for Walla Walla, Washington? That theory dissipated after I learned that the nearest Wawa was an entire continent away. My second thought was maybe it had a cute kid tie-in (Wawa sounds a lot like a toddler asking for a glass of water). Certainly there’s precedence for an owner’s child influencing the name of a commercial establishment. The Wendy’s fast food chain came to mind.
My gut instinct was right. However I never considered the possibility of an actual community named Wawa. It’s in Pennsylvania, just a few miles north of the Twelve Mile Circle. Somehow it always comes back to the Twelve Mile Circle. Wawa, the company, is headquartered in Wawa, the place. The company also explains, "’Wawa’ is a Native American word for the Canada Goose that was found in the Delaware Valley, that’s why we use the goose on Wawa’s corporate logo."
To Twitter or Not to Twitter. Is that even a question?
I’ve been hemming and hawing about whether to open a 12MC Twitter account. I’ve received a lot of positive feedback in the comments and in off-line email messages. I’m trying to figure out how to use it best before flipping the switch. For example, several people remarked that they’d like it to send notice of the latest 12MC articles so they don’t have to access the RSS feed or check the site every couple of days. They’d also be able to retweet links easily. I’ve always kind-of thought of that as self-promoting although it does seem to be a common practice on many Twitter feeds. I would also insert various geo-observations and non sequiturs similar to what I do currently with G+ although I wonder if I’m beginning to spread myself too thin. I don’t have all that many germane or pithy things to say.
Is Twitter something readers want, and would a stream of article announcements, offbeat geography news and weird user statistics (probably no more than about one per day on average) be sufficiently interesting?