A random Twelve Mile Circle reader became an unwitting inspiration for this article simply because of where he or she lived. The little dot within Idaho on my Google Analytics dashboard mentioned State Line. That seemed too good to be true. I’ve done plenty of articles about border towns although I’d never noticed that one before. It sounded like a good excuse to peel things back a layer and take a closer look.
State Line didn’t cover much area and only 38 people lived there (map). It seemed an odd situation until I uncovered a bit of history in an old newspaper article. This creation sprang to life in 1947 and existed for a very specific reason. Quite simply, "the town was incorporated so it could sell liquor and have slot machines." End of story.
Those who incorporated the town leveraged the adjacent state border, just enough over the line to fall outside of the laws of Washington State. Residents of the region’s dominant city — Spokane, Washington — needed only a short drive to take advantage of the more liberal alcohol and gambling rules of Idaho. Apparently incorporated towns in Idaho had some legal leeway to provide these services so State Line filled that niche. The town didn’t have to worry about do-gooders interfering with its business either; it carefully corralled a sympathetic population. I’ve explored similar themes before, e.g., in Right Up to the Line.
A lot of separate sins packed into that tiny package, too. I drove down Seltice Way, the main road through State Line, vicariously using Google Street View. From the border heading into Idaho I noticed a smokeshop, a liquor store, several taverns including a biker bar, and a building with no windows advertising "Show Girls." I wonder what could possibly be going on inside there? This is a family-friendly website so I’ll leave it at that. I also found the residential area consisting of a small trailer park. Maybe the show girls lived there? If so then one of them visited 12MC and landed on the Thelma and Louise Route Map. Maybe someone was planning a weekend getaway?
Idaho didn’t contain the only town with that familiar name. Stateline existed in Nevada, too. I talked about that one briefly in the Loneliest Road in the USA and it appeared in reader comments from time-to-time as well. South Lake Tahoe, on the California side, seemed like the average ski resort town. A gondola led up to the slopes, part of the Heavenly Mountain Resort. Just down the street, however, marked Nevada. Five humongous casinos rose starkly from the pavement barely inches onto the Nevada side of the border. This grouping represented the same basic premise as its Idaho counterpart, bringing convenient "sinful" businesses closer to the masses.
A morbid geo-oddity of sorts existed in Stateline. The ski resort included trails on both sides of the border. Skiers crossed the state border on several of the runs. That was a worthwhile oddity by itself of course, although that wasn’t the morbid part. Something awful happened there in 1998. That’s when Sonny Bono, the lesser-known half of Sonny and Cher, slammed into a tree on the Orion slope (map). Bono died in Stateline on a border-crossing trail.
Stateline existed as one of thirteen townships in Sherman County, Kansas. The name went back historically to the 19th Century and simply represented its geographic placement next to Colorado. Stateline didn’t exist to entice people across the border and only 344 people lived there in the most recent Census. The township contained only one settlement of any size, Kanorado (map), the home of about half of Stateline’s residents. That still made it large enough to serve as Sherman County’s second largest town. My attention automatically focused on that spot because, as longtime readers know, I love a good portmanteau. The name combined and shortened Kansas and Colorado into Kanorado. It’s website noted that someone originally named it Lamborn. I preferred Kanorado. Excellent choice.
This one also existed in a bit of a geo-oddity. Only four counties recognized Kansas Mountain Time, including Sherman County. Of course that also included Stateline Township and the village of Kanorado. From my experience driving directly through there on Interstate 70 several years ago, I couldn’t determine why the area felt more aligned to Mountain Time. It seemed really remote, regardless. Either one should be fine. Nonetheless residents apparently felt otherwise and aligned chronologically with Colorado. Actually, as I thought about it more, Stateline should probably exist on the Colorado side instead. Colorado seemed to feature more sins than Kansas, particularly cannabis and perhaps alcohol too. The current Stateline alignment represented lost economic opportunities.
I found other State Lines and Statelines. For instance, check out State Line Pond in Connecticut. It also had its own website, believe it or not. From its description,
State Line Pond is an approximately 75 acre lake in Stafford Springs, Connecticut on the Massachusetts border at Monson, MA. The lake was formed when a stream running through a meadow was intentionally flooded approximately 150 years ago. For many years, the Stafford Ice House "harvested" ice by horse from the lake during the winter and delivered it to restaurants, homes and businesses as far away as Boston.
Even more obscure places existed in the form of State Line, Mississippi and State Line, Indiana. I couldn’t find much about either place other than their existence.
I revisited an old concept from a much earlier version of Twelve Mile Circle, the simple pleasure of wandering aimlessly through Google Street View. That’s something I used to enjoy regularly. However, life got busier and other priorities mostly prevented that luxury in recent years. They still do, although I needed to clear my mind of a million other things as the holidays approached. A couple of hours traveling vicariously online did the trick. Plus I found some interesting places.
Google Street View covered territory in many nations albeit with notable exceptions. I wanted a closer look at mysterious Myanmar (Burma) as an example, because it remained under tight control until only recently. However Street View hadn’t arrived there yet. Then I wondered if I could peer across the border from its neighbors. I began with Bangladesh. It shared a brief border with Myanmar although only a single road featured Street View coverage along the way. The road extended to the end of the Teknaf Peninsula. Naturally I lost all interest in Myanmar and fixated on that little road running to the farthest southern point of the Bangladeshi mainland.
What a road! It turned out to be a perfect place to meander, a great place for people watching. Humanity seemed to be everywhere as I followed along the Street View path. People gathered in every small patch of open space. Impossibly small roadside shops sold necessities. Animals wandered freely. I compared that with the average Western town where people hid in their homes, where public appearances limited themselves to automobiles.
In this corner of Bangladesh, the vehicle of choice seemed to be a 3-wheeled motorized rickshaw. Others made do with motorcycles, bicycles or even their own feet. A hive of activity hugged both sides of the narrow path. The Street View car must have created quite a commotion as it passed. Even so, the modern world extended all the way down here to the end of the line. A mobile phone tower in the background implied Internet connectivity. I can always hope for a 12MC visitor from Bangladesh’s Chittagong Division someday. I’ll need to think of a suitable prize.
The terrain seemed extremely flat too, and perilously close to the Bay of Bengal. I wouldn’t want to be around there during Monsoon Season.
Where would people go when the water rose? That wasn’t idle speculation. Historically floods bedeviled Bangladesh. A 1998 deluge submerged 100,000 square kilometres (38,000 square miles), forcing 25 million people from their homes. I wondered, did Bangladesh even have land high enough to avoid rising waters? Obviously it had a highpoint. Was it good enough?
The nation actually contained a mountainous region along it border with Myanmar, much to my surprise. The hills didn’t encompass a lot of Bangladesh although they certainly existed. Oddly, Bangladesh didn’t have a recognized highpoint because nobody ever bothered to measure it officially. Many geographers believed the honor went to Saka Haphong in the Mowdok range (map). It reached 1,052 metres (3,451 feet) unofficially. After I got over the shock of learning that nobody really knew the highpoint of an entire nation, I figured I’d head towards Saka Haphong should I ever find myself in Bangladesh during a monsoon.
Dirt Road Super-Highway
China didn’t have Street View either although neighboring Mongolia had a little. I followed the same process and got the same result: interesting views of Mongolia sidetracked my attempts to peer into China.
I meant "interesting" as an appreciation of its scenery completely wide-open and devoid of any features whatsoever. It reminded me of the Big Sky of eastern Montana in the United States, although amplified by an order of magnitude or two. I could almost imagine Genghis Khan galloping across the steppe on horseback with his hordes.
Looking to the horizon in any direction I saw nothing, simply nothing. Just two sets of dirt tracks across grassy fields in Mongolia’s Dornogovi province. I’ve experienced many dirt roads in my life. However, I’ve never seen one with TWO tracks. That implied sufficient traffic and speed to justify separate lanes. That seemed crazy. With vehicles stirring up easily-visible dust storms as they drove, with lines of sight across an endless horizon, with almost zero population or vehicles, with plenty of room to pull over and let occasional traffic pass, who would ever need to worry about a driver coming in the opposite direction? Yet, apparently it was necessary.
For once I wasn’t looking for the geographic center of something, as problematic as that could be given various definitions. Not in Michigan. And for the record, the town of St. Louis claimed to be the "middle of the mitten." It moved to a spot a few miles north-northwest of Cadillac taking the Upper Peninsula into account. However, that was beside the point. Instead I came across two Michigan place names while searching for completely different things. Their similarities deserved closer scrutiny.
Actually I started by investigating Warren, Michigan and I noticed a hole. A big one. A nice rectangle right in the middle of it (map). Naturally I drilled down and discovered the town of Center Line. The much larger city of Warren completely surrounded it. Center Line described itself as "a small close-knit community of 8,257 residents… nestled inside the state’s 3rd largest city"
Warren and Center Line both began as villages in a rural corner of Macomb County. However, Center Line incorporated first, becoming a city in 1936. Warren also started growing rapidly around that same time. Warren Township minus Center Line incorporated as a city in 1957. It simply exploded in population to the point that it completely overshadowed Center Line over the next couple of decades.
I also wondered about the name. There didn’t seem to be any line and it certainly didn’t seem to be the center of anything other than the city of Warren itself, which it predated anyway. The town’s website mentioned "several theories" which also meant nobody really knew the answer. The most plausible explanation seemed to be,
There were three Indian trails leading from the fort at Detroit to other trading posts in the northern wilderness. The first was the river trail which followed the river and ended at Port Huron; the second was the Saginaw trail and ended at Mackinaw at the Straits of Mackinaw. Through the center of the two trails, the Indians had beaten a trail which followed the "center line" [as observed] by the French.
Later I also discovered Michigan Center. Center Line and Michigan Center fell nowhere near each other. A good 85 miles (140 kilometres) separated them. Nonetheless finding a second Center in Michigan excited me. It doesn’t take much to get me going.
The name derived from the Michigan Meridian. Benjamin Hough surveyed the meridian in 1815, marking 84° 21′ 53″ west longitude. Settlers then moved into the area and platted Michigan Center a few years later in 1837. However, the meridian didn’t pass directly through Michigan Center. I measured it. The meridian ran between Michigan Center and the neighboring town of Jackson. I guess they figured it was close enough. Who would really know? Seriously.
Then I went down a little tangent. I wondered why Hough followed such an odd longitude when he surveyed the Michigan Meridian. The line actually pointed farther south into a neighboring state. There stood Fort Defiance at the confluence of the Auglaize and Maumee Rivers (map). A town called Defiance, Ohio later grew up there.
Following the Battle of Fallen Timbers, Wayne utilized Fort Defiance as his base of operations. He ordered the destruction of all American Indian villages and crops within a fifty-mile radius of the fort… Until the War of 1812, Fort Defiance served as one of America’s western-most outposts in the Ohio Country and helped protect local citizens from American Indian attacks…
Fort Defiance also figured in the 1807 Treaty of Detroit. The United States negotiated the treaty with several Native American tribes, namely the Chippewa, Ottawa, Potawatomi and Wyandot. Land to the east of a line drawn due north of Fort Defiance came under American control. That’s why Hough needed to survey that line. It served briefly as an international boundary.