By George

On April 27, 2016 · 1 Comments

What were the odds of seeing Twelve Mile Circle visitors from George, South Africa and George, Washington, USA on the same day? I found the coincidence fascinating. The city of George in Washington was, of course, named for George Washington. That other George in South Africa’s Western Cape Province, I suspected, must have been named for one of the several King Georges who ruled Great Britain. Which one though? There were six such kings over a span of more than two centuries. That led me to wonder if I could find a geographic place named for each one of them. I uncovered more than I expected so I had to split the topic into two articles. This post will cover George I, II and III. The next one will discuss George IV, V and VI.

George I (reigned 1714-1727)


King George County Court House
King George County Court House by Jimmy Emerson, DVM on Flickr (cc)

George didn’t become King until he was well into his 50’s upon the death of Queen Anne. He’d been born in Hanover and spent his time as Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg growing up. There were numerous members of the extended royal family more closely related to Anne that George, however they were all Catholic so they didn’t qualify to succeed her. Being of Protestant faith, the throne came to George, the first king of the House of Hanover. His age pretty much guaranteed that he wouldn’t reign long and it limited the opportunity for places to be named in his honor.

A section of Richmond County in Virginia (referenced in Not the City) became King George County (map) in 1720. The county website confirmed that it was named for George I. That would make sense because its founding happened right in the middle of his reign.

Not much happened in King George County although a future President of the United States, James Madison was born there in 1751. That was impressive although I discovered another person born in the county that interested me even more, a man with the unusual nickname William "Extra Billy" Smith. He had quite a distinguished career, serving in the United States Congress, the Confederate State Congress, the Governor of Virginia both for the United States and for the Confederacy, and as a Major General in the Confederate Army. He tried his luck in California during the Gold Rush and he operated a postal service that ran from Virginia to Georgia. The postal operation earned him his unusual nickname. It seemed that he created a bunch of unnecessary side routes to collect additional fees. Friends and foes alike began to call him "Extra Billy" after authorities discovered his scheme, a name that followed him for life.

I noticed that there’s an Extra Billy’s Smokehouse and Brewery in Midlothian, Virginia. I’ll have to put that on my list of places to visit.


George II (reigned 1727-1760)


Welcome to Georgia
Welcome to Georgia by Paul Hamilton on Flickr (cc)

Next came George II, son of George I, who ruled for a much longer period. A longer reign equaled more opportunities for places named for him, and that’s exactly what I found. The state of Georgia (map) in the United States may have been the most significant. James Oglethorpe founded the Georgia colony in 1733 under a royal charter issued by George II, and it was always a good idea to flatter one’s patron. A beautiful lake in the Adirondacks of New York, sometimes called the Queen of American Lakes, also took his name: Lake George (map). The lake got its name during the era of the French and Indian War when Sir William Johnson occupied the territory and won the Battle of Lake George. The Georgetown neighborhood (map) of Washington, DC, however, may or may may not have been named for George II. It’s founding certainly dated to his reign. Nonetheless the founders and primary land owners were George Beall and George Gordon so those could have inspired the named too.

George II also had a war named for him: King George’s War, (1744–48), the North American campaign of the War of the Austrian Succession.


George III (reigned 1760-1820)


Suite Balcony at Hyatt Regency Oubaii - George, South Africa
Hyatt Regency Oubaii – George, South Africa by TravelingOtter on Flickr (cc)

George II’s son Frederick died before him so the succession went to his grandson, George III who was only 22 years old. George III also lived a very long time. He reigned for nearly sixty years so his name got affixed to lots of places although few of them existed in the United States. He was viewed as an oppressor when the nation fought for its independence so his name may have been expunged. I couldn’t find a single instance although I’m sure some must have survived somewhere.

Elsewhere, however, his named flourished in places across the British Empire. George, the South African city referenced previously was a shining example. George became quite a lovely tourist destination in the Garden Route, wedged between the Outeniqua Mountains and the Indian Ocean. More unlikely was George Town (map), the capital city of the state of Penang in Malaysia. The naming traced to Captain Francis Light who founded a settlement there in 1786 on behalf of the British East India Company.

Other places named for George III included: George Town, Tasmania, Australia; South Georgia Island; Prince George, British Columbia, Canada; Georgetown, Guyana, and undoubtedly many other places too numerous to mention.

Appalachian Loop, Part 2 (Vistas)

On March 30, 2016 · 5 Comments

Notions of endless horizons came to mind as I prepared for an Appalachian Loop. We would cross mountaintops, dip into hollows and follow valley flatlands along tumbling rivers amid early signs of spring. This journey promised stunning scenery in a little-visited and often under-appreciated rural preserve. People who ventured into Appalachia as tourists usually came in summer. Nobody would be silly enough to come in March — nobody — unless they wanted a reasonable chance of miserable weather, or they had an ulterior motive like I did. Some of the places surely must see crowds later in the year. Not in March. That was just the way I liked it; 12MC zigs when everyone else zags.

West Virginia State Capitol


West Virginia State Capitol

I’ve been to Charleston three times in as many years. The city offered an odd hybrid of small town feel with urban amenities, and fewer than a quarter-million residents in its larger metropolitan area. Yet, it was West Virginia’s capital and largest city. I mentioned our Charleston plans to acquaintances and they nodded heads approvingly. South Carolina should be so nice at that time of year, they said. Then I noted wryly that it was the other Charleston, the one in Appalachia, and waited for their confused expressions. I rather enjoyed that.

We arrived on a Friday afternoon at what should have been the height of Rush Hour and barely slowed down, a nice change from terrible traffic back home. Charleston sat along both sides of the Kanawha River, with tough rocky terrain hemming it in. Yet beside the river where the city sat, there was hardly a hill to be found (terrain). It was flat. This fascinated me during every one of my visits, driving hours through mountains and arriving at a city as flat as a tabletop.

The dome of the state capitol building (map) rose over the riverbank, this photo taken from the far side of the Kanawha River at dawn from the campus of the University of Charleston. We got an opportunity to tour the capitol complex and the state museum later in the day. I’d recommend the museum, by the way. It was extremely well done.


Pikeville Cut-Through


Pikeville Overlook

Scenic views filled our dashboard multiple times along the route, simply driving around. However I knew nothing about the overlook atop Bob Amos Park in Pikeville, Kentucky until 12MC reader "Andy" suggested it. The precipice perched high above what was officially called the Pikeville Cut-Through (map). Pikeville, like Charleston, hugged the relatively level lands along a river. The town followed a U-shaped bend on the Levisa Fork of the Big Sandy River. The river used to flood into Pikeville’s streets and homes occasionally because there wasn’t anywhere else for the water to go when it rose. That was simply a hazard of living within a narrow Appalachian valley. People in town simply endured it for the first hundred and fifty years.



Pikeville Still has it’s U-Shape while US Highway 23 Runs Straight

The mayor came up with an audacious plan. Why not simply cut through a mountain and remove the U-shaped bend, and straighten out the river? It sounded crazy although the Army Corps of Engineers picked it up in 1973 and finally finished it 1987. A marker at the site described an effort to remove 18 million cubic yards of earth, "the largest engineering feat in the US and second in the world only to the Panama Canal." Now a highway, a railroad and a river passed through the cut instead of downtown Pikeville. Meanwhile the town earned some nice parkland where the river once flowed, plus an artificial oxbow lake, and a River Drive (terrain) no longer crossing a river.

The overlook gave excellent views of Pikeview and the Cut-Through.


Them’s the Breaks


Breaks Interstate Park

Reader Andy also suggested Breaks Interstate Park. The interstate portion of its name came from its location, crossing the border of Virginia and Kentucky. The two states offered a single highland experience, cooperatively. Breaks seemed a bit more confounding, providing a name both to a park and to a town just outside of its limits. Once again an on-site marker offered an explanation: "The name ‘Breaks’ was derived from a break in Pine Mt. created by the Russel Fork of the Big Sandy River as it carved a 1000 ft. deep gorge on its way to join the Ohio River." That actually made sense.

The park offered several distinct scenic vistas. The one in this photo was called Stateline Overlook (map). I’d actually like to return to Breaks Interstate Park someday when the weather is nicer. We barely scratched the surface of what would be available at warmer times of the year.


The View that Got Away


Alleghany Highlands View

It rained as we approached Bluefield, a town bisected by the border of Virginia and West Virginia. It rained the only other time I visited Bluefield so I guessed the town had it in for me. Still, I’d heard good things about its East River Mountain Overlook and I felt optimistic as we drew closer. Then I noticed low clouds brushing against nearby mountains. We still drove to the top — one never knows when clouds might cooperate or not — and discovered a great white wall of icy fog. I’m sure it would have been a lovely experience. Not this time.

That was far from the only opportunity for impressive views so we pushed father along Virginia’s Appalachian spine the next morning. That’s when we entered the Alleghany Highlands north of Covington and I took the photograph above (map). It was a worthy consolation prize.


Falling Spring Falls


Falling Spring Falls

A little farther down the path, still within the Alleghany Highlands, crashed Falling Spring Falls (map). It certainly deserved an award for convenience, within easy eyesight of US Route 220 and adjacent to convenient parking. That was my kind of waterfall, a single 80 foot (25 metre) drop with no physical effort required. Even so I overcame my inherent laziness and scrambled down a path to get a photo from the bottom. I wasn’t quite sure if that was allowable. It felt ambiguous. A fence separated the parking area from the falls although visitors could circumvent the barrier easily enough with a short walk, and no signs prohibited it. The path seemed well-trodden. I figured it was an "at your own risk" activity so I went for it. No harm no foul, I supposed.


Shenandoah Caverns


Shenandoah Caverns

On the final day we pushed into Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley on the way home, a rolling plain sandwiched between Appalachian Mountains and the Blue Ridge. It featured one of my favorite topographies: karst. Wherever one finds karst one also finds limestone, and water bubbling through limestone dissolving it. That meant caves. I’ve toured caverns in many different places and I’ve always thought that some of the best could be found along this strip of Virginia. However, I’d never been to Shenandoah Caverns before (map). We had a little extra time, It fell directly along our path, and even the kids loved caves, so why not?

Nobody said that a scenic vista couldn’t be subterranean.


Appalachian Loop articles:

See Also: The Complete Photo Album on Flickr

Odds and Ends 12

On March 23, 2016 · 10 Comments

It’s been quite awhile since I posted one of the recurring Odds and Ends articles. I had a bunch of small items to share, so why not? People seemed to like them. I considered that #12 must have been special because it was twelfth in line and Twelve Mile Circle liked to celebrate all things twelve, although honestly the number really had no greater significance. Readers who wish to see the previous eleven articles can always find them in the Complete Index.

Even Lower Clearance


Low Clearance
Tunnel Under C&O Canal. My own photo.

I discovered a number of roads with particularly Low Clearances several years ago. Later I had the privilege of visiting one of those sites in person while traveling through western Tennessee, a road with an overpass only eight feet (2.4 metres) of clearance. I went several miles out of my way to chronicle the site. Obviously I had an affinity for such things.

Little did I know that an even lower overpass lurked practically in my back yard and I’d passed within eyesight of it at least a hundred times. One of my regular bicycling routes through Washington, DC took me down the Capital Crescent trail sandwiched between the Potomac River and the historic Chesapeake & Ohio Canal heading northwest out of Georgetown. Recently I’d noticed a parking lot at Fletcher’s Boathouse. Then, for some inexplicable reason, I began to wonder how cars got into it. The lot didn’t seem to have an obvious outlet to a road. I spotted the exit a few days ago, perhaps because the trees didn’t have leaves yet, and saw an amazing sign out of the corner of my eye: "Tunnel Clearance 7 Ft" (2.1 metres). A tunnel beneath the C&O Canal let an access road connect to Canal Road (map). That’s how cars got into the parking lot. It felt tight even on a bicycle.

Comments on that earlier article implied even lower clearances (perhaps as low as 2 metres / 6.5 feet), nonetheless the Fletcher’s Boathouse tunnel was now the lowest automotive clearance I’ve seen in person.


Disputanta



Disputanta, Virginia

I noticed a small settlement southeast of Petersburg, Virginia, oddly named Disputanta (map). There had to be a story. What kind of dispute would lead to Disputanta? I prepared to give it the full 12MC treatment as I rolled up my sleeves and started searching. The story seemed tantalizingly good as it emerged. William Mahone built the Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad. He and his wife Otelia supposedly rode along the newly-opened tracks, naming stations in succession. She had been reading Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe and suggested placenames based on the book. William agreed and a string of stations became Wakefield, Windsor, Waverly, and [Mc]Ivor. Then they ran out of worthy candidates and it led to a bit of a disagreement. They memorialized their tiff with Disputanta. The story probably wasn’t true although it sounded good.

Then I stumbled upon an article in the Virginia Pilot, What’s in a name? — Disputanta. I’d been beaten by about four years and I couldn’t add anything to it. I hate it when that happens.


Coded Places


312 Urban Wheat Ale
312 Urban Wheat Ale by Frank Gruber on Flickr (cc)

Has anyone been following the great comments on the recent article called Mike? I mentioned that Milwaukee’s IATA airport code, MKE, was used as a surrogate for the city name in certain circumstances. Readers Philip Newton, Rhodent and John Wood pointed out other examples – PDX (Portland, OR), LAX (Los Angeles, CA), RDU (Raleigh-Durham, NC), and OKC (Oklahoma City, OK).

That also got me thinking about different abbreviations and codes used in a comparable manner, including those that I’ve referenced on 12MC before. For example, Chicago’s 312 telephone area code was adopted by the Goose Island brewery for its 312 Urban Wheat, sparking similar land grabs by other breweries in different cities as in More Geo-BREWities. I’d also referenced the postal Zip Code made famous by a 1990’s television series in 90210: Myth and Reality.

I wondered if there were other abbreviations or codes used in a similar fashion.


Iqaluit’s Road to Nowhere


iqaluit: road to nowhere
iqaluit: road to nowhere by Agent Magenta on Flickr (cc)

Iqaluit (or ᐃᖃᓗᐃᑦ in the Inuktitut language) was the largest settlement and capital of Canada’s Nunavut Territory, with nearly seven thousand residents. I grew more curious about the city as I researched Sawtooth Elsewhere. Iqaluit offered a What to Do page on its website that included a "Road to Nowhere." That was its actual name and the road truly led nowhere (map).

Every city has its most famous road and ours is the Road to Nowhere. Most tourists want a picture under the road sign. If you’d like to actually experience the Road to Nowhere, you can hike or walk it year-round, ski it in the winter or drive in the summer. This scenic route will take you just outside of town on a winding road that goes by lakes, rolling hills and tundra until it eventually ends, in the middle of nowhere!

I’d drive it if I ever visited Iqaluit. I did pretty much that exact same thing when I went "out the road" in Juneau, Alaska.

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