Heartland, Part 1 (Why, oh Why?)

On June 8, 2017 · 2 Comments

Here we go again! I just finished a drive through the Midwest, all the way out to Iowa and back, and returned on Saturday. We didn’t stay anywhere for very long and kept moving most of the time. We also stayed in different hotels seven of the eight nights, and covered about 2,200 miles (3,500 kilometres) all told. Readers who enjoy Twelve Mile Circle’s road trip adventures will like the next several articles. The rest of you may want to return in a couple of weeks instead.

The Route and the Count


Route Into the Heartland
The Route. New Counties in Dark Blue

A simple map might be the easiest way to describe my trip. It seemed like a fairly straightforward route although I threw in a few twists to increase county counting opportunities. Light blue counties represented those I’d visited before. Readers with discerning eyes probably figured out the rationale of those earlier visits already. Major interstate highways ran through them, specifically the Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana turnpikes. My new captures, those marked in dark blue, represented efforts to shave off the next level of counties towards the south as well as fill in a couple of troublesome doughnut holes.

The revised tally reached 1,416 counties as I finished the trip. I also broke the 45% barrier of United States counties visited. I’m not sure if the results encouraged or depressed me though. I started doing a little math. My 1,000th county visit happened in June 2009 during a trip along the Great River Road. That’s when I crossed the border into Crawford County, Wisconsin. I should finish in about 35 years if I keep going at that pace. It’s doable although I’ll be really old when I’m done. I think I need to speed it up. Nonetheless, I managed to pick up 26 new counties on this trip and I’m proud of my effort.


There for the Races


Heartland Marathon Series - Day 4

New county captures served as a nice side benefit although they weren’t the primary purpose of my drive. Once again, the trip involved a Mainly Marathons event, this time the Heartland Series. We’ve done several of these before as I’ve recounted in previous 12MC articles (i.e., Dust Bowl, Riverboat, Center of the Nation, New England). This time things went a little differently. We participated in only four of the seven races because my runner didn’t need the other three states on a quest to finish a race in all 50. That’s how we found ourselves in Bryan, Ohio; Portage, Indiana; Fulton, Illinois; and Clinton, Iowa. We skipped the Michigan race and headed into Indiana to capture more counties instead, and later went home after the Iowa race, missing events in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

I did things a little differently too. In the past I’d often been happy to stand on the sidelines while my runner finished a half-marathon each day. Most people selected the full marathon option and a few hearty soles selected the ultra-marathon. That made me feel downright lazy so I started doing some of the 5k’s. I did that again during most of the Heartland series. However, I also got talked into running a half-marathon for the Illinois race. I did pretty good for an old guy and I finished my first ever half-marathon at 1:53:29.

Now, however, I knew I could do better because I used all of the excuses. I’d never run that distance before, I had tired legs from races over several previous days, the course included a lot of hills, the wind blew pretty hard, and so on. Is this how addictions begin? I may try the occasional half-marathon in the future although I don’t have any plans to go overboard with the seven races in seven states in seven days thing.


Experiencing Nowhere



The drive didn’t follow a straight line all of the time. I also deviated for specific geo-oddities. For example I got to experience the Highway to Nowhere in person. I stumbled across a reference to it several years ago and featured it in a 12MC article. Feel free to check that one out if you want to learn how a town with fewer than 800 residents got its own interstate highway to its doorstep. The map showed it clearly; Interstate 180 appeared as an L-shaped spur south of Interstate 80 in central Illinois. Supposedly fewer than 2,000 vehicles per day used this highway. I drove its full length of course.

On my side of the road, along the entire distance, I saw only one car and one truck. The car passed me, doing something considerably faster than the posted 70 miles per hour.


A Tripoint Too

I also wanted to go a little out of my way for a state tripoint. It would be such a tragedy to drive within a few miles of such a spot and fail to reach it. So we deviated down a gravel road for this important oddity and stopped there for a few moments. It seemed only fitting to stand upon the singular spot where Indiana, Michigan and Ohio all joined together (map). Tripointers called the marker INMIOH in the naming shorthand they liked to use.

Although where might it be, exactly?


INMIOH Tripoint

There seemed to be some controversy on the Intertubes. Did it fall within the middle of the road or off to the side a few feet farther east? Adherents seemed to take sides. I decided to go with Jack Parsell’s Tri State Corners in the United States. I’ve used that source plenty of times before and it generally seemed to be the most accurate. It stated that surveyors in 1999 placed a commemorative metal plate within a small crypt about a foot below the road surface, covered by a protective steel cover. Dutifully, I put my foot up to the cover to touch all three states simultaneously.


INMIOH Tripoint

Then, to hedge my bets, I also found the broken stone marker on the downward-sloping eastern embankment. Some people said that this spot actually marked INMIOH. However Parsell and others claimed that it was merely a witness post. Before something cut it down to a nub it once said something like, hey the tripoint is in the middle of the road. Anyway that’s what the old-timers said. I found those explanation more convincing than the counterarguments. That didn’t stop my from taking a picture of it anyway "just in case."

This seemed to be one of the lamer tripoint I’ve seen during my wanderings. I’ve hiked to other tripoints in much more obscure locations that put this one to shame. Sure, it fell within the middle of the road although someone should make a nice roundabout there with a better marker as its centerpiece.


Articles in the Heartland Series:

  1. Why, oh Why?
  2. How Not to See a City
  3. Foiled by Memorial Day
  4. Beyond Covered
  5. Not Just Farmland
  6. Americana

See Also: The Complete Photo Album on Flickr

An Arm and a Leg

On May 7, 2017 · 2 Comments

I stumbled upon Joe Batt’s Arm again. I first became acquainted with Joe Batt and his arm when Twelve Mile Circle investigated Mundane First Name Places about a year ago. The settlement grew along an inlet, colloquially called an arm, that formed a part of its name. It still amused me all these months later when I came across it once again. However, I couldn’t repeat what I’d reported before so I decided to find additional appendages.

Arm


The pub with no beer
The pub with no beer. Photo by Jules Hawk on Flickr (cc)

Towns featuring Arms appeared all along Canada’s North Atlantic coastline, although particularly in Newfoundland and Labrador. Joe Batt’s Arm fell within that category, of course. Sporadic instances of Arms could be seen in other parts of the world although not nearly enough to create a trend except in Australia. There, another concentration of Arms appeared on the eastern edge of New South Wales and Queensland so I decided to concentrate my efforts there. I could have selected any number of Australian locations, however I focused on Taylors Arm for a particular reason. It featured The Pub with No Beer. Paradoxically, the Pub with No Beer (map) not only served beer, it even brewed its own beer.

The Sydney Morning Herald explained the odd designation.

The history of The Pub With No Beer dates back to 1943, when farmer Dan Sheahan went to the Day Dawn Hotel in Ingham, north of Queensland, only to find American soldiers had drunk the pub dry of beer. With a glass of wine in hand instead, he penned A Pub Without Beer. Country singer Gordon Parsons adapted the song to A Pub With No Beer, basing it on his own local at Taylors Arm, then called the Cosmopolitan Hotel. When his friend Slim Dusty recorded the song in 1957, it became an Australian chart-topper.



It’s lonesome away, from your kindred and all
By the campfire at night, where the wild dingoes call
But there’s nothing so lonesome, so morbid or drear
Than to stand in a bar, of a pub with no beer

Slim Dusty, Australia’s "Father of Country Music" passed away in 2003 although the Pub with No Beer continued to live on in Taylors Arm.


Leg


DWÓR W ŁĘGU TARNOWSKIM, fot. M. Klag (MIK, 2009)
DWÓR W ŁĘGU TARNOWSKIM. Photo by mik Krakow on Flickr (cc)

Done with Arms, I switched to Legs. However Legs didn’t appear nearly as frequently as Arms. I found only a single nation with lots of Legs. Poland contained several villages simply called Łęg. It also had several instances of Łęg combined with other identifiers (e.g., Łęg Ręczyński, Łęg Starościński, Brzozowo Łęg). I tried to find what Łęg meant, even turning to Polish-English dictionaries. I figured it must be a noun although I couldn’t determine if it represented some sort of geographic feature or something completely unrelated. Also it appeared to be pronounced something like "wenk" not leg. Still, Łęg looked close enough to Leg so I went with it.

I found only one Łęg photograph with a creative commons license, a place called Łęg Tarnowski (map). That prompted me to turn to the Polish version of Wikipedia for more information. Polish differed from English so completely that I couldn’t even find cognates. Nonetheless, assuming the accuracy of Google Translate, it seemed the town along the Dunajec River dated back to the 16th Century.


Hand


Fingerpost at B2102/Warren Lane, Cross-in-Hand
Fingerpost at B2102/Warren Lane, Cross-in-Hand. Photo by Matt Davis on Flickr (cc)

Thank goodness for England. I didn’t think I would find a decent Hand or Foot. England provided both.

Hand came in the form of Cross in Hand (map). You know, the village just down the road from Blackboys and Uckfield? Cross in Hand seemed to be quite the Christian name. What religious source, I wondered, led to such an explicit reference? I found a number of references although they all seemed to begin with the infamous "legend says" qualifier. With that in mind, and with the proper asterisk in place, I decided to repeat the supposed explanation. There was a general belief that Crusaders met there as they began their journey to the Holy Land during the Middle Ages. There didn’t seem to be much of a compelling reason to meet at that particular spot although maybe it seemed more conducive a few centuries ago.

In fairness, I did find a Hand in the United States too. It came in the form of Hand County, South Dakota (map). As explained,

Hand County was created in 1873 and organized in 1888. It was named for George W. Hand, a native of Akron, Ohio, and a Civil War Veteran. He came to Yankton in 1865. In 1860 he was appointed United States Attorney for Dakota Territory, serving until 1869. From 1874 to 1883, he was Register of the Yankton Land Office and Secretary of Dakota Territory.

That occurrence seemed considerably less dramatic than the legend of Cross in Hand. Just about anybody, it seemed, could get a South Dakota county named for them in the late Nineteenth Century.


Foot


Luddendenfoot
Luddendenfoot. Photo by Tim Green on Flickr (cc)

I also found a foot, specifically Luddenden Foot (map). Sometimes this appeared without the space between the two as in Luddendenfoot. To understand Luddenden Foot, one must first understand Luddenden.

The name means Ludd valley, or valley of the loud stream and refers to the Luddenden Brook. An alternative meaning refers to the Celtic water god Lud, who gave his name to many water-related features. This was a Brythonic area, speaking a form of primitive Welsh, until perhaps the 9th century as a relict of the kingdom of Elmet.

Luddenden Foot was situated adjacent to and downhill from Luddenden. In other words, it grew at the foot of Luddenden. I guess that made it the town at the foot of the town in the valley of the loud stream, at least by one interpretation. I loved that name.

Any Excuse for a Road Trip, Part 1 (The Premise)

On April 23, 2017 · 3 Comments

People following Twelve Mile Circle’s Twitter account knew something must be happening. Suddenly tweets tagged to places like Ste. Genevieve and Cape Girardeau in Missouri began to appear on my feed just before Easter. I hadn’t announced the trip ahead of time although I’d been planning it for several weeks.

I’ve been aiding and abetting my wife’s scheme to run a race in all 50 states for quite awhile. Now she wanted to add Missouri, otherwise she’d face an alarmingly obvious Midwestern doughnut hole by the end of the summer. That seemed like a great excuse for me to do some exploring, and I hatched a crazy plan. I had to work most of the week so I’d fly to St. Louis on Friday morning to meet my wife who’d already be there, then we’d drive to Cape Girardeau to be ready for the race the following morning. After the race we’d drive as far as the middle of Ohio, stay overnight, then drive the rest of the way home to Virginia to celebrate Easter with family. A two-day road trip covering a thousand miles (1,600 km) plus a half-marathon, then dealing with dysfunctional relatives? What didn’t sound great about that?


Breaking it Down


Route from Missouri
The Route. New Counties in Dark Blue

All reservations melted away when I discovered that I could tweak the route and add 19 new counties on Saturday while driving only 20 minutes extra. I could also grab five new Missouri counties on Friday. My county counting list would jump by 24 over the course of a single weekend. I plotted a route on the special Mob Rule page that I use for experiments. Previously unvisited counties appeared on my map in dark blue while those I’d visited before appeared in light blue.

I didn’t have a lot of time to play around so the preponderance of new pickups would have to be Interstate Highway counties. That seemed a fair trade-off. I needed to capture them eventually so I might as well take advantage of the opportunity now. The basic route left Missouri, went over to Interstate 57 in Illinois, then to I-64 crossing Indiana, leading to I-71 in Kentucky and Ohio, then on to I-70 heading east out of Ohio, and finally home.

I also added a couple of new "overnight" counties; Cape Girardeau, Missouri and Muskingum County, Ohio . I considered those new members of the gold standard of county county visits. In my mind, staying overnight added a much higher level of prestige and credibility to a capture than simply crossing the border for literally a few seconds as happened with some of the others. I’ve now completed an overnight in 227 counties. I don’t think I could ever finish that odd quest though. It would take 8.6 years to spend the night in every county if I slept in a different one every night until completed. I’m not nearly that obsessive.


Jogging Not Racing


County Jogs
Jogging to Counties

The racing would take place on Saturday morning on foot. However, that still left plenty of time for jogging, and definitely not the kind on foot. Those involved little jogs that I took as we leveraged our proximity to snag a handful of additional counties. Two of those happened on Friday. With minor detours, really just a couple of miles out of the way, I captured Bollinger and Scott Counties in Missouri. The next day I took a similar short diversion and captured Hamilton County, Illinois. As I said to my son, "it would be a crime to come so close to (Bollinger/Scott/Hamilton) and not cross the border." The family collectively rolled their eyes even though I knew they’d appreciate it someday.

Oh, I guess I forgot to mention that the kids participated in this adventure too. They were on spring break from school so mom drove out with them to St. Louis. They took a nice, leisurely route getting there and then they went sightseeing for a few days. Their friends all went to Florida or the Caribbean or Europe, while they had to go county counting in the Heartland. I’m sure their therapist somewhere in the distant future will get an earful. Whatever.

My county counting total stood at 1,390 (or 44.2% of all counties in the United States) as the trip concluded.


Uh Oh, Doughnut Hole


County Left Behind
Pulaski County, Illinois – Doughnut Hole

Solving one problem can sometimes create other problems, and that happened here too. My frenzied pace and inability to deviate much from the most efficient route created a clearly visible doughnut hole. Someday, and I don’t know when, I will need to return to this area to cross the border into Pulaski County, Illinois. However, it will have to stand alone at least for the foreseeable future. Who knows? Maybe someday I’ll find myself unexpectedly near the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers again. I never expected a second opportunity only three years after my original visit to the area. Lightning could strike a third time.


Any Excuse for a Road Trip articles:

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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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