The Pitch

On April 10, 2014 · 2 Comments

A long-term member of the 12MC community and I were discussing dream jobs lately, ones that combined our slightly obsessive-compulsive list-making tendencies with our respective divergent interests. Mine focused on geographic and historical oddities of multiple flavors tied together with a healthy string of County Counting progressions. The trick, as we thought about it, was to find a way for someone else to finance our peculiarities and allow us to pursue our hobbies professionally. I couldn’t find a feasible solution for my personal situation at the time although I have one now. I simply needed to add my fondness for trashy television to the mix.

Right, it would have to be a pseudo-reality show where I’d travel the countryside in a customized RV, pursing all 3,142 counties and county-equivalents, stopping at geo-oddities while providing historical context, and meeting interesting characters along the way. I’m thinking it would be targeted at the History Channel or its ilk. It might be an amalgamation of How the States Got their Shapes combined with American Pickers and maybe Only in America with Larry the Cable Guy.

I’d need a clever title. "County Counter" might be sufficient. It’s short. It’s descriptive. I think it needs a pun though, and maybe even a double entendre with a salacious second meaning that arouses curiosity and builds an initial audience. Suggestions are welcome.

I’d also need a logline. "Traveling through hidden corridors in pursuit of the real American; one man’s quest to explore the story behind every U.S. county." That’s not catchy enough. I need to find a better hook.

Then I’d need to film a pilot episode. Actually, that already began. I wrote this article in advance and set it to post on Thursday evening thanks to the magic of WordPress software. I’m already on the road heading towards the Riverboat Marathon Series. I’m not a runner, just a driver delivering a runner from site-to-site. Last year I drove between sites at the Dust Bowl Marathon Series and had a wonderful set of adventures (beginning here). One participant even self-published a book about the races. I made a minor appearance as a character known as "Beer Geek." Imagine that.

This is the basic route for the Riverboat Series. Well, not Graceland. I threw that one onto the end for my own enjoyment.



The Basic Route

I appreciated the ideas and suggestions provided by the 12MC audience and some of those will happen during the trip. I’ve done a lot of research and believe everyone will be pleased with the itinerary and the geo-oddity surprises that are likely to unfold in these pages over the next several days. Readers who are anxious to learn the plotline and maybe a few spoilers in near real-time should follow the 12MC Twitter Page (you don’t have to subscribe to Twitter; you can check that link manually). Tweets may have already begun. I guess. I can’t be certain because I wrote this days ago. Certainly I would have tweeted something by now.

I’m not fooling anyone and I don’t plan to quit my day job. My wife has stated on multiple occasions that if I want to travel full-time by RV and become a professional County Counter that it would have to be done with my NEXT wife. Point taken. For the sake of family harmony I hereby release my idea for a television pitch to the public domain. If one of you actually makes it happen, all I request in return is a nice brewpub dinner. Oh, and mention 12MC in the credits. And maybe a guest appearance.

Interstate Highway Time Zone Crossings

On April 6, 2014 · 7 Comments

I’ve been noticing search engine queries lately seeking additional information about points along US Interstate Highways where travelers cross from one time zone into another. I’m going to do that myself soon on my upcoming trip and I couldn’t find a comprehensive resource either. Maybe there’s one out there hidden away in a lonely corner of the Intertubes. Maybe not. I didn’t see it so I decided to create my own. Hopefully others will find this compact reference useful too.

Yes, I understand that mobile phones and other networked devices grab time changes automatically without human intervention from nearby cell towers as one drives merrily down the highway. However some of us like to by hyper-prepared before embarking on a journey. I even recorded the lat/long coordinates so travelers (OK, maybe just me…) could drop the waypoints into their GPS receivers and know exactly where the time change would happen well in advance.



View Interstate Highway Time Zone Changes in a larger map

Readers will want to open this map in another tab or window. It’s not very useful in its present scaled down version that is included for illustrative purposes. Others may prefer the even more detailed Google spreadsheet with links that I prepared. The spreadsheet layout mimicked the geographic footprint of the United States in rough terms, for example I positioned Idaho at the top-left (northwest) and Florida at the bottom-right (southeast). That was also the reason why Interstate numbers on the spreadsheet and the lists below were ordered from large to small (I-94 to I-8). I didn’t reverse the order just to be obstinate. Even-numbered Interstates run roughly west to east across the nation with the 2-digit numbering increasing from south to north. There were also a handful of odd-numbered highways that crossed time zone boundaries too and muddied the construct a bit. Again, the rules applied in general terms only.

This exercise was a lot more tedious than I imagined. Believe me, I’d use much more colorful language if this wasn’t a family-friendly website. I’d assumed quite foolishly that the preponderance of time changes would happen at state borders, and simplify my task. Some do, although many more switch at random county borders which were much more difficult to pinpoint on a map. That’s why I think people have trouble tracking time zones as they drive. Now they have a tool — this page.

Here’s what I found. I’m sure errors or omissions crept into this because it was such a pain to compile. Please let me know and I’ll make corrections.

Change Between Pacific Time and Mountain Time

  • Interstate 90: Idaho <--> Montana
  • Interstate 84: Baker Co., OR <--> Malheur Co., OR
  • Interstate 80: Unincorporated Elko Co., NV <--> West Wendover, Elko Co., NV(1)
  • Interstate 40: California <--> Arizona (Standard Time); Eastern Arizona <--> SE corner of Navajo Reservation in AZ (Daylight Saving Time)(2)(3)
  • Interstate 15: Nevada <--> Arizona (Standard Time); Arizona <--> Utah (Daylight Saving Time)(2)
  • Interstate 10: California <--> Arizona (Standard Time); Arizona <--> New Mexico (Daylight Saving Time)(2)
  • Interstate 08: California <--> Arizona (Standard Time); no change during DST(2)(4)

Change Between Mountain Time and Central Time

  • Interstate 94: Stark Co., ND <--> Morton Co., ND
  • Interstate 90: Jackson Co., SD <--> Jones Co., SD
  • Interstate 80: Keith Co., NE <--> Lincoln Co., NE
  • Interstate 70: Sherman Co., KS <--> Thomas Co., KS(5)
  • Interstate 40: New Mexico <--> Texas
  • Interstate 10: Hudspeth Co., TX <--> Culberson Co., TX

Change Between Central Time and Eastern Time

  • Interstate 94: Indiana <--> Michigan
  • Interstate 90: LaPorte Co., IN <--> St. Joseph Co., IN(6)
  • Interstate 85: Alabama <--> Georgia(7)
  • Interstate 80: LaPorte Co., IN <--> St. Joseph Co., IN(6)
  • Interstate 74: Illinois <--> Indiana
  • Interstate 70: Illinois <--> Indiana
  • Interstate 65: Jasper Co., IN <--> White Co., IN /AND/ Hart Co., KY <--> Larue Co., KY(8)
  • Interstate 64: Perry Co., IN <--> Crawford Co., IN
  • Interstate 59: Alabama <--> Georgia
  • Interstate 40: Cumberland Co., TN <--> Roane Co., TN
  • Interstate 24: Marion Co., TN <--> Hamilton Co., TN
  • Interstate 20: Alabama <--> Georgia
  • Interstate 10: Jackson Co., FL <--> Gadsden Co., FL

Bonus Roads(9)

  • Western Kentucky Parkway: Grayson Co., KY <--> Hardin Co., KY(10)
  • Cumberland Parkway: Russel Co., KY <--> Pulaski Co., KY(11)

Footnotes

(1) West Wendover is the only part of Nevada that officially observes Mountain Time, primarily so gamblers from Salt Lake City — the nearest large town — won’t have to deal with a time change and can focus on losing their money without distraction. This was described in (West) Wendover: What Time? What State?
(2) Arizona does not recognize Daylight Saving Time, meaning that for practical purposes the spot where the time zone change takes place shifts in the Spring and the Fall. This can sometimes lead to embarrassing situations.
(3) The exception to the "Arizona doesn’t recognize DST rule" is the portion of the sprawling Navajo Nation that crosses into Arizona. The Navajo did this to assert their sovereignty as well as to keep their tri-state Nation on the same time all year.
(4) Interstate 8 extends from San Diego, California to south-central Arizona; fairly short by interstate standards. Therefore it does not experience a time change when the two states observe the same time (i.e, when the Pacific Time Zone switches to DST and Arizona remains on Mountain Standard Time)
(5) I crossed this one during my Dust Bowl trip. See Kansas Mountain Time.
(6) You’re not seeing things. Interstates 80 and 90 are repeated with the same information here. That’s because they’re co-signed at this spot.
(7) Interstate 85 is the best example of an odd-numbered Interstate messing up my chart. The time change happens at a very southern segment of this very eastern highway.
(8) Interstate 65 starts in Central Time in an Indiana suburb of Chicago, switches to Eastern Time as it heads south, then switches back into Central Time in Kentucky
(9) I included Kentucky parkways because they’re significant roads albeit they’re not Interstate highways (not even Secret Interstates). I probably could have added other roads too.
(10) I will be crossing here on an upcoming trip. This was the spot that inspired me to go ahead and compile the list.
(11) I crossed here in the summer of 2013 during my Kentucky Adventures.

Full Name Counties

On April 1, 2014 · 1 Comments

Almost exactly a year ago, 12MC published Jeff Davis, a treatise on the use of the Confederate leader’s full name as a geographic identifier at the county level of government. Davis County wasn’t a good enough name for some of those deeply-Southern states, it had to be Jeff Davis or the more formal Jefferson Davis, to make sure everyone clearly understood the defiant reference. I intended to list other full-name (first name + surname) county combinations later and then it slipped my mind as the months passed.

Let’s begin with basic ground rules and caveats. I searched for first and last names only. I’m sure Pocahontas (Iowa, West Virginia) the great Powhatan Indian chiefs’ daughter had only one single name and technically might qualify as a "full name county" However in my own defense I also discounted royalty (sorry Prince William) and religion (ditto St. Louis) so hopefully I won’t be criticized too harshly as unduly Eurocentric.

I’ll highlight some of my favorites and list the rest.


Wade Hampton



Governor Wade Hampton by Wofford Archives on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) License.

Wade Hampton III served as a cavalry officer in the Confederate Army, and later as the governor of South Carolina and then a United States Senator. That would seem like an unlikely choice to inspire the name of a remote, frozen corner of western Alaska on the Bering Sea (map). Fewer than 10,000 people live in Wade Hampton. Its principal town, Hooper Bay (or Naparyarmiut in Yup’ik), barely registered as more than a small cluster of homes.

What did a South Carolina soldier and politician have to do with Alaska? Absolutely nothing, well, except for one tiny tenuous thread. His daughter Mary Singleton Hampton married John Randolph Tucker, a well-connected politician, and a real Virginia gentleman who descended from one of the Commonwealths most established families. President Woodrow Wilson, another Virginia native, appointed Tucker to the bench of Alaska Territory’s United States Court Division 2 in 1913.

After arriving in Nome some of his first few official acts dealt with the large St. Michael mining district south of Nome. He divided the district in half. The new recording precinct was named for his wife’s father, Wade Hampton… Judge Tucker served exactly four years on the bench at Nome but his father-in-law’s name has lasted to present day…

More properly the place is known as the Wade Hampton Census Area of Alaska’s Unorganized Borough so some might scoff at including it on the list. I liked the story so it remained.


Jim Hogg



Ima Hogg by Kent Wang on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) license

The Texas State Historical Association’s Handbook of Texas included a lengthy article on Jim Hogg County "in the Rio Grande Plain region of South Texas." (map) as well as an extensive biography of the man himself. James Stephen Hogg became the first governor of Texas who was actually born in Texas.

Jim Hogg is probably better know for what he did to his daughter. He named her Ima, as in Ima Hogg ("I’m a Hog" for those in the 12MC audience for whom English is a foreign language). Essentially he bestowed upon his daughter a name that declared that she was a pig. Sources differed as to whether he fully realized the implications at the time or not. The handbook said,

According to family history, Ima was named for the heroine of a Civil War poem written by her uncle Thomas Elisha. Her name became a part of Texas folklore, along with the myth of a fictitious sister supposedly named Ura. Ima Hogg was affectionately known as Miss Ima for most of her long life. She was eight years old when her father was elected governor…

Her unusual name certainly never hampered her success. Ima Hogg became a philanthropist, a patron of the arts, a master gardener and a force for historic preservation in Texas and beyond. Many referred to her as "The First Lady of Texas."


Ben Hill



Wouldn’t it be hilarious if Ben Hill County (map) in Georgia was named for Benny Hill? Sadly, it wasn’t. This Ben Hill was Benjamin Harvey Hill, a 19th Century politician who "actively opposed disunion until the secession ordinance" and then served in the Confederate Congress. After the war he served in the US House of Representatives and Senate. I’m beginning to detect a pattern with all of these old Confederates and their full name counties.

I don’t have anything more to add except that — thanks to the Benny Hill reference — I have Yakety Sax stuck in my head.

There. Now you can suffer too.


And the Rest

  • Anne Arundel County, Maryland (map): Anne Arundell (with two l’s unlike the county named for her) was wife of Lord Baltimore, founder of the Maryland colony. She was also the only woman I found on the Full Name Counties list. (source)
  • Charles Mix County, South Dakota (map): Probably named for a Commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (source)
  • Deaf Smith County, Texas (map): Erastus "Deaf" Smith was a hero of the Texas Revolution. (source)
  • Jim Wells County, Texas (map): James Babbage Wells, Jr., was a judge in south Texas and a Democratic party boss (source)
  • Jo Daviess County, Illinois (map): All of the counties named for Joseph Hamilton Daveiss spell his name incorrectly; only one included both his first and last name though. He commanded the Indiana Dragoons at the Battle of Tippecanoe, where he died. People who died in battle often got more counties named for them than those who survived (unless they subsequently went on to become President or something, like Jackson and Grant). (source)
  • Kit Carson County, Colorado (map): Christopher "Kit" Carson was a mountain man who gained renown as a guide for the Fremont expeditions and later as a frontier soldier; his highly fictionalized exploits were mainstays of numerous 19th Century dime novels. (source)
  • Roger Mills County, Oklahoma (map): Roger Quarles Mills was another one of the former Confederate officers that later served in the US House of Representatives and Senate. (source)
  • Tom Green County, Texas (map): 12MC already featured this place in an earlier article.

I can’t guarantee I found every example although this list should be pretty close. I examined the full set of US counties manually, and that’s 3,142 at the moment I think, so I could have missed one or two.

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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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