Washington and Idaho seemed to have a little bit of a romance going on with a couple of their towns. Their names could stand alone, however they were paired rather nicely in the form of meaningful symmetry. Those names weren’t accidental either. They were completely intentional.
New and Old
First came the curious case of Newport, Washington and Oldtown, Idaho.
Newport, WA and Oldtown, ID
Newport and Oldtown were contiguous, both situated along the banks of the Pend Oreille River. The distinction between them was somewhat artificial though. They were located on either side of North and South State Avenue and otherwise appeared as a single entity except that one part fell within Washington and the other fell within Idaho.
Newport City Hall by Jimmy Emerson, DVM, on Flickr (cc)
Of the two, Newport was the newer. That made perfect sense. New should be new and old should be old. It happened to be the second town with that exact name in the area. Oldtown was once Newport before Newport became Newport.
HistoryLink provided an explanation:
Newport, originally in Idaho, acquired its name by virtue of being the "new port" when Albeni Poirier (1861-1936) established a trading post and port on the Pend Oreille River in the 1890s. Upon moving the short distance into Washington, Newport soon became the major town in Pend Oreille County, the last homestead frontier in the United States… During its frontier days, Newport was a steamship port serving the settlers in the Pend Oreille Valley. In 1892, with the arrival of the Great Northern Railway, the town was able to link river with rail, relieving the isolation of its people and eventually transporting Pend Oreille County’s wealth of mine and forest products to distant markets.
Albeni dam pano by Jasper Nance, on Flickr (cc)
Newport, Idaho — the original Newport — gradually dwindled to the point where residents felt it should be renamed Oldtown in 1947.
Lewiston, ID and Clarkston, WA
The pairing of Newport and Oldtown was certainly appropriate although there was an even better pairing along the shared border: Lewiston, Idaho and Clarkston, Washington. It even had an accurate historical context.
Lewiston, Idaho by Andrew W. Sieber, on Flickr (cc)
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark led the Corps of Discovery Expedition between 1804 and 1806, a journey also known by many as the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The two adjoining towns on opposite sides of the state border were named in commemoration of the Corps’ passage. I probably would have placed Lewiston in Washington and Clarkston in Idaho so it could be read Lewis-Clark from west to east on a map, however I wasn’t consulted so it looked more like Clark-Lewis. I’m sure William Clark would have been happy to receive top billing for once.
Tidewater tug at Clarkston Washington by Richard Bauer, on Flickr (cc)
Lewis and Clark actually traversed through the future location of their namesake towns between October 7-10, 1805. As the Lewis and Clark Trail described it:
A succession of treacherous rapids damaged the canoes, and while the canoes were being repaired the Corps dined on fish and dog. It was then that the Captains made the discovery that their Shoshone guide, Toby, had slipped away during the night to rejoin his nation.
Lewis and Clark stopped at the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater Rivers on October 10, 1805. That’s where the towns would be founded later, Lewiston in 1861 and Clarkston in 1862.
I tried to see if there were other paired towns situated between Idaho and Washington, or perhaps their neighbors and came up short. The closest example I discovered was The Dalles, Oregon and Dallesport, Washington. I’ve not seen other pairings like these elsewhere although I’m sure they must exist.
Every once in awhile I receive an overwhelming number of excellent finds from the Twelve Mile Circle community. Last time I called the collection "Reader Mailbag." I simply tacked the number 2 onto that older title in a nod to my lack of creativity for the current installment. To be considered for the Reader Mailbag an item had to be unknown to me previously and it had to be able to stand on its own. Actually the bar wasn’t that high — as you will see soon enough with some of them, well, one in particular — so keep your suggestions heading towards me because I love getting them. Maybe you’ll become a 12MC star!
I might add a little text to add context although all credit should go to the site’s loyal contributors with my sincere appreciation.
Consecutive Highway Numbering
I-70 to I-170 to I-270 to Rt. 370
First I heard from "Glenn" who recounted an unusual numerical arrangement along a sequence of roads he took recently in and around St. Louis, Missouri. He drove in progression numerically: Interstate 70 –> Interstate 170 –> Interstate 270 –> Missouri Route 370. Glenn didn’t stop there, however. He then tried to determine the longest numerically progressing route anywhere.
Van Buren, Maine by Doug Kerr, on Flickr (cc)
I’ll shamelessly steal Glenn’s findings verbatim because I couldn’t find any better way to portray it.
US 1: Van Buren, Maine at the Canadian border, to Houlton, ME (77 miles)
US 2: Houlton, ME to Lancaster, NH (300 miles)
US 3: Lancaster, NH to Boscawen, NH (113 miles)
US 4: Boscawen, NH to White River Junction, NH (56 miles)
US 5: WRJ to Hartford, CT (155 miles)
US 6: Hartford to near Danbury, CT (60 miles)
US 7: Danbury to Norwalk, CT (23 miles)
The comprised an astounding seven consecutively-numbered roads stretching almost 800 miles! I invite anyone to improve upon that result. Well sure, someone could start with Route 1 in Key West, take that up to Van Buren, Maine and follow the rest of the sequence. Let’s try to be a little more original though. I’d be more impressed with the greatest number of consecutive roads (something more than seven) rather than the total distance covered.
Another United States Practical Exclave
Goodness knows I’ve explored all manner of oddities along the border between the Canada and the United States (e.g., Canada-USA Border Segment Extremes) as well as any number of practical exlaves (e.g., Practical Exclaves of Andorra). I thought I’d plumbed the depths of both topics a long time ago, and yet apparently there’s always something more to be found. Someone could probably write a blog with nothing but oddities along the border between Canada and the United States.
Check what "Gerard" found on Lake Metigoshe on the border between North Dakota and Manitoba. Indeed, it appeared that the backyards of several Canadian citizens included boat docks on the U.S. side of the border. I checked this anomaly on several mapping sites and it appeared to be accurate, not just another Google Maps error. I’m not even sure how this would work in practicality. The border seemed downright porous at that point. Here was a sizable community without any border controls whatsoever? Did the residents have to notify the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection every time they wanted to walk to the back of their yard and use their boats? Did they have to pay taxes to North Dakota each year for the sliver of property they owned there? So many questions came to mind.
Source: Wikimedia Commons (cc)
I’m fine with weird somewhat tangentially-related topics. Reader "Jonathan" brought a medical condition to my attention called Geographic Tongue. Don’t worry, it won’t kill anyone. The Mayo Clinic described it thus:
Geographic tongue is a harmless condition affecting the surface of your tongue. The tongue is normally covered with tiny, pinkish-white bumps (papillae), which are actually short, fine, hair-like projections. With geographic tongue, patches on the surface of the tongue are missing papillae and appear as smooth, red "islands," often with slightly raised borders. These patches (lesions) give the tongue a map-like, or geographic, appearance.
A more scientific name was Benign Migratory Glossitis. Feel free to drop that into your next cocktail party conversation and get some tongues wagging. Several versions of the Rolling Stones logo appeared to suffer from Geographic Tongue. Maybe that explained something.
There comes a time every once-in-awhile when Twelve Mile Circle feels it’s necessary to provide abundant advanced warning to readers who happen to have good taste and refined manners. This would be one of those times. The red lights are flashing. That’s why I saved this entry for last. Now might be an excellent opportunity to stop reading and move on to a different article because we’re about to have a Beavis and Butthead moment.
Weiner Cuttoff Road; Weiner, Arkansas, USA
Courtesy of reader "John," 12MC presents the stupendous Weiner Cuttof Road in Weiner, Arkansas. Thirteen year old boys nationwide rejoiced.
The final day, like the end of all great adventures, was bittersweet. Nobody wanted to stop and yet we all had our lives to get back to and our responsibilities awaiting us that needed attention the next day. Most of the day’s ride would fly noticeably downhill. All of the gradual elevation we’d earned over many strenuous hours would come back to us in a 23-mile joyride into Cumberland. All we had to do was reach the final crest a few miles farther down the path. Mother Nature envisioned one more little trick. Prevailing winds cranked up to a sustained 20 mph with gusts even higher, and blew from the opposite direction than usual. Heading out of Meyersdale going uphill with a strong headwind after riding so many miles seemed unusually cruel.
Eastern Continental Divide
Which Way Will the Water Flow?
A little wind couldn’t stop us though. It felt like conditions that I’d biked through all winter long so I pushed forward to the highest point along the trail, the Eastern Continental Divide (map), and waited for my companions. Loyal followers of Twelve Mile Circle will understand my excitement. This was a genuine geo-oddity of some significance. Water poured directly atop the divide would roll either towards the Gulf of Mexico or towards the Atlantic Ocean; two very different locations determined solely by the simple fate of how it teetered along a razor-thin line. I sacrificed a small stream to the Geography Gods from my water bottle and wondered about the journey it would take. Actually it probably evaporated on the spot although I didn’t want to spoil my little fantasy moment.
The keepers of the GAP Trail obviously understood the importance of the Divide too. The small tunnel at this pivotal spot included an elevation map (photo) as well as several murals outlining the history of the area and the trail.
Now the well-deserved downhill sprint could begin.
Big Savage Tunnel
Big Savage Tunnel
Remember my long list of worries during the planning? The Big Savage Tunnel (map) was right near the top. I didn’t have a fear of tunnels even though this one was particularly long, and the longest on the trail at 3,300 feet (one kilometre). Rather I feared it might be closed. There wouldn’t be an easy detour if its imposing steel doors were padlocked.
Its restoration took two years and $12 million so the Allegheny Trail Alliance wasn’t in any hurry to go through the trouble again. They closed the tunnel every winter to prevent ice damage. The tunnel would open again in early April or "sometime" in April or definitely before May, according to various websites I consulted. We’d had a particularly cold winter and I figured it might delay the schedule. I watched the trail alerts anxiously until I saw an announcement saying it had opened for the season on April 3, 2015; two weeks before we would need it. I could relax.
The tunnel was in great shape, well lighted and a smooth ride.
Mason & Dixon Line
Mason & Dixon Line
Another fascinating geographic division appeared just after we passed the landmark tunnel, the renowned Mason & Dixon Line (map). Twelve Mile Circle readers should be well acquainted with the line so I won’t go into great detail (e.g., surveyed by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon circa 1763-1767, the traditional dividing line between north and south in the United States, the state boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland). For me, it provided a great opportunity to take a bunch of photographs of our bicycles in two states at the same time. Shouldn’t bikes get a little geo-oddity love too?
It was bound to occur. Oddly the first and only bit of misfortune during our entire trip happened a mere fourteen miles from our goal. One of our group ran over a twig at the exact same time as a gear shift. A twig hitting at that vulnerable point must have acted as a lever, twisting the chain and locking the pedals. Even so we were lucky in adversity. This happened right before the Frostburg trailhead. We walked our bikes into town, had lunch, and made arrangements for a bicycle shop in nearby Cumberland to pick up the bike for repair while dropping-off a rental for the remaining few miles. We lost very little time, thankful that it hadn’t happened on an earlier day several miles from the nearest town.
Finishing the GAP
Mile 0 in Cumberland, Maryland
On the Maryland side, the trail followed active tracks of the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. Active, yes, although not very frequent. The WMSR was a weekend excursion line operating only during the warmer months. I would have been overjoyed to see a vintage steam engine chugging up the mountain directly next to the bike trail. I’m not sure I’d have felt the same way if I’d been in the Brush Tunnel at the time — bikes and trains share the same tunnel (photo) — although seeing an antique train in general would have been nice. Unfortunately the first train of the season wouldn’t run for another couple of weeks.
I pedaled past the town of Mount Savage (photo) which I mentioned in an earlier article, Savages. It was pretty enough sitting way down in the valley although we were on a mission at that point, nearly finished and I kept going. One last attraction did entice us to stop, the Bone Cave only four miles from our destination. Workers constructing a railroad cut stumbled upon the cave in 1912. They found fossilized bones from Pleistocene-era animals dating back 200,000 years. Fossils included cave bears, saber-toothed tigers, mastodons and wolverines, some forty different species according to a marker placed at the entrance.
Finally the surface turned from gravel to asphalt, an oddly quiet situation after riding on rougher road for most of the last four days. People began to appear on the trail in abundance for the first time; walkers, joggers and recreational bikers. This offered another tantalizing clue that civilization couldn’t be too far ahead. Cumberland appeared on the horizon and we rolled into town for our final mile. The trail ended at Canal Place, back where we’d caught our shuttle four days earlier. The countdown to Mile 0 finally ended. We offered congratulations to each other, took plenty of photos as evidence and headed towards our cars. Two hours later I was back home, still feeling great and wondering when I might be able to do something like that again.
The Great Allegheny Passage articles: