There was a book, then a movie called "The Bridges of Madison County." The story was set in Iowa and the bridges refrenced were covered. The plot involved a love affair or so I’ve inferred from summaries. I neither read the novel nor saw the film because I never felt I was part of the target audience I supposed. Nonetheless I thought about the title and stole it for today’s Twelve Mile Circle. The rest of the article had no relation whatsoever.
I felt a bit skeptical when a friend invited me on a 50-mile bike ride through northern Frederick County, Maryland one recent Saturday morning. I’m an urban biker primarily — with one notable recent exception — and I try to stick to paved off-road trails. I tend to stay away from actual roads unless they have dedicated bicycle lanes for fear that someone might plow into me while texting behind the wheel or something. Traffic is heavy and dangerous where I live so I wasn’t sure how I felt about an extended ride on streets, even rural ones. I’ve been converted, though. The roads east of Thurmont were exceptionally well maintained with minimal traffic. They were better than my local trails. I think I saw more bikes than cars during the ride.
My friend chose a route that featured four of Frederick’s historic bridges. The map above showed their relative placement although that wasn’t the actual route we biked. I’m not sure where we went exactly, to tell the truth. We meandered around until we hit the desired distance; I simply played follow-the-leader. The course involved a roughly counterclockwise oval north of the City of Frederick and east of U.S. Route 15, crossing paths with the bridges in succession as the morning unfolded.
We first encountered the LeGore Bridge over the Monocacy River (map). A steep downhill led to a pull-off where I stopped for photos. The website Historic Bridges noted that James LeGore built this bridge around 1900 to provide a convenient path to his nearby stone quarry. Naturally, owning a quarry, he favored stone construction for his imposing five-arch structure. There was also one horrible twist of fate involved. His son George jumped from the bridge, committing suicide in 1930.
Had I taken this photo maybe 3 or 4 seconds later, I would have captured a scary bicycle wreck. Some guy barreled way too fast down the steep rightward slope approaching the bridge and couldn’t hold the curve. He flew across the opposite lane and whacked into a guardrail immediately behind me as I stood there taking pictures. He spilled onto the deck, tumbled a couple of times and somehow suffered only a bent wheel plus an unpleasant scrape on his forearm and damage to his pride. His fancy multi-thousand dollar bike might have been toast too. We didn’t stick around long enough to find out after making sure he was okay. It was entirely his own fault. He ignored the ominous road signs leading up to the bridge.
Roddy Road Bridge
We rambled on for awhile until we approached the Roddy Road bridge over Owen’s Creek (map). This marked the first of three covered bridges in Frederick County, with only three or five other bridges like that in the entire state of Maryland (sources vary). The most direct automobile route could be found on the county’s Historic Covered Bridges Driving Tour if one wanted to take the easy way out.
The Roddy family built their bridge across Owens Creek circa 1856. It was the smallest of the three covered bridges in Frederick, only 40 feet long. Rumor had it that "Confederate General JEB Stuart and his cavalry crossed Roddy Road Covered Bridge on July 5, 1863 during the Gettysburg campaign of the Civil War." Of course, just about every spot in this corner of Maryland had a Civil War connection. Troops routinely traipsed through here between major campaigns like Antietam and Gettysburg. I imagine I could draw a mile-wide circle anywhere in the county and find something of Civil War significance there.
Loy’s Station Bridge
If JEB Stuart crossed the Roddy Road bridge then one shouldn’t be surprised that Union general George Meade allegedly crossed Loy’s Station Bridge over Owen’s Creek a few days later in pursuit of fleeing Confederates after the battle (map). This would have been a new bridge at the time, having been constructed circa 1860. Unfortunately an arsonist torched the structure in 1991. The rebuilt bridge incorporated as many elements as possible from the original bridge, including "hardware, rafters and braces."
This was probably the most impressive of the bridges we saw during our ride. It looked like what would be expect of a covered bridge, and placed in a beautiful setting with an adjacent park.
Utica Mills Bridge
Near the end of the ride we rumbled through the Utica Mills bridge over Fishing Creek (map). This structure had an interesting history. A bridge had been built nearby on the Monocacy River sometime around 1850, however it washed away during the same deluge responsible for the horrific Johnstown Flood of 1889. Wood salvaged from that earlier bridge was recycled to form the Utica Mills crossing. It was getting a fresh coat of red paint the day we cycled over its planks.
I think I’ll have to return to northern Frederick County for further biking adventures sometime soon.
I joked as I wrote More Presidential County Sorting that no county will likely ever be named for disgraced former U.S. President Richard Milhous Nixon who resigned in 1974 in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal. That led me to wonder, well, had anything ever been named for him? Maybe I was being overly harsh? Actually I learned that if someone would like to undertake one of the loneliest search engine queries in history, try variations on "named for [after, in honor of] Richard [M] Nixon." There were precious few results.
Nixon and Elvis via Wikimedia Commons in the public domain
The pickings were so slim that I had a difficult time finding photos to illustrate the article so I decided to use this iconic image of Richard Nixon meeting Elvis Presley in 1970. Enjoy that for a little while as I attempt to unspool the very small set of actual confirmed places named for Tricky Dick.
Yorba Linda, California
I began with the obvious.
Yes, naturally there was a Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum that was named for Richard Nixon (map). Obviously that was true by definition so I’m not even sure it should count. It was established in Yorba Linda, California, the town where Hannah Milhous Nixon gave birth to a son in 1913.
Looking northwest along garden at museum – Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum by Tim Evanson, on Flickr (cc)
Nixon established his presidential library on land adjacent to his childhood home, a prominent feature of the museum complex. There used to be a Richard Nixon elementary school nearby although it closed in 1988 due to declining enrollment. Nixon had the distinction of being the president who died farthest from his birthplace (as proven by 12MC — a great circle distance of 2,436 miles / 3,920 kilometers). He made up for that by being buried on the grounds of his library within feet of his birthplace.
In addition, a stretch of Imperial Highway through Yorba Linda was renamed The Richard M. Nixon Parkway.
Twelve Mile Circle wasn’t overly surprised to see a few Nixon tributes scattered about his home town. What about other places though?
Elsewhere In the United States
Nixon Elementary School & Park, Hiawatha, Iowa
Loyal 12MC reader Calgully noted that in Australia they don’t name things for living people just in case they become embarrassments later. Those were wise words indeed, a fact that others should have considered before referencing Nixon.
There were plenty of features named Nixon although usually for different Nixons. It wasn’t an entirely uncommon surname. Most of them made it clear that they were NOT named for Richard Nixon. However I found two elementary schools definitely named for Richard Nixon, both bestowed before he became a national disgrace. The school district in Hiawatha, Iowa opened Richard M. Nixon Elementary School in 1970. The adjacent park had the same name. Another Nixon Elementary School was built in Roxbury Township in Landing, New Jersey (map). Nowhere on its website did it mention that it was named for that Nixon although clearly it was. I’d try to ignore or deny it too.
Other than that I saw a reference to a "President Richard Nixon’s Iowa Ancestor Historical Marker" listed in the Geographic Names Information System. It was located in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Cemetery, Indianola, Iowa (map). I also found a few minor streets. That was it.
International tributes were even more scarce. I found a mention of Richard M. Nixon High School, in Monrovia, Liberia in the Autobiography of John Wulu, Sr.
I wrote him a letter. In my letter I stated, "Mr. President, to you defeat means success. You were defeated two times for the office of the President, you did not allow that to deter or discourage you… My entire family and I have strong admiration for you… I decided to rename my school in your honor and call it Richard M. Nixon Institute. The school is located in Monrovia, the capital city of Liberia, West Africa." President Nixon replied to my letter through the American Embassy in Monrovia, Liberia, and said it was okay for me to name my school in his honor.
The school still existed as recently as February 2015. It was mentioned in a BBC article, "Ebola outbreak: Liberia schools reopen after six months."
There also used to be a Nixon Library in Hong Kong according to the U.S. National Archives. Nixon visited Hong Kong while he was Vice Presidential in 1953.
The First Nixon Library — Except for its name, there was little remarkable about the modest library that stood in the neighborhood of Yuen Long on the outskirts of Hong Kong from 1954 until 1977. It held only a few thousand books and employed just one librarian, and its patrons were mostly schoolchildren, farmers, and shopkeepers. Nevertheless, the humble building was a monument to Richard Nixon.
Nixon passed through Hong Kong several times after his initial visit, and even toured the library in person in 1966. He may not have been there to see the library though. There were rumors that he was having an affair.
In Popular Culture
The Simpsons Springfield expansion phase 2 at Universal Orlando by Ricky Brigante, on Flickr (cc)
I discovered an entire list of pop culture references to Nixon. My favorite one by far drew inspiration from his middle name, Milhous. The writers of The Simpsons added an "e" to his name to create the character Milhouse (full name Milhouse Mussolini Van Houten).
Twelve Mile Circle has received a steady drip of visitors who seem to want to know the shortest automobile route that could be taken to touch all of the New England states. I don’t see these queries every day although they comprise a consistent two or three every month-or-so and they have been landing on 12MC for years. I don’t know if they traced back to some long-forgotten Internet trivia contest or where they originated. It’s been on my list of potential topics for a very long time and I kept telling myself that I’d have to get around to it eventually. I wasn’t feeling particularly intellectual today so I passed the time fiddling around with Google Maps instead. This became the day to answer the query.
“New England USA” by MissMJ – Own work by uploader, Image:Blank US Map.svg, Britannica Online Encyclopedia. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Many 12MC readers hail from international destinations so I’ll begin with a definition of New England for their benefit. The rest of you can skip to the next paragraph. In the United States, New England consists of six states: Connecticut; Maine; Massachusetts; New Hampshire; Rhode Island and Vermont. It’s the red area marked on the map, above. New England was settled by English colonists in large numbers — thus the name — beginning with the Pilgrims landing at Plymouth in 1620 (my recent visit). Let’s move on to the real question now that everyone understands the challenge.
I manipulated Google Maps several ways and the shortest distance that touched all six New England states came to 227 miles (365 kilometres). I’d embed the map directly within this page except that it differed from the one I created for some odd reason. That’s just one more limitation of the current version of Google Maps. Instead, I embedded a photo that I took during my recent trip to Cape Cod that looked quintessentially New England-ish and I invite the audience to open the map in a different tab to follow along.
Notice how I straightened the lines to minimize distances. I’m sure readers could find slightly shorter routes using my map as a starting point and then selecting even more obscure local roads, or perhaps by attempting something completely different. Be sure to post any solution in the comments with a link to the resulting Google Map. My solution should take about 5 hours and 6 minutes without traffic, which means that someone would have to time this journey carefully since it would involve a jaunt directly through the middle of Boston. That would work out to an anemic 45 miles per hour-or-so (72 km/hr) even under the absolute best of conditions. Could the same objective be completed faster? Of course it could.
I threw the back roads out the window and focused on Interstate Highways as much as I could instead to find the quickest solution. Google Maps liked that solution better and embedded it correctly. It was longer, 253 miles (407 km), although highway speeds more than made up the difference. The route began farther north in White River Junction, Vermont (I rode a scenic train there once), followed I-89 to Manchester, New Hampshire, cut east to barely touch Maine, swung around Boston rather than drilling through it and then ran downward to Rhode Island and due west to Connecticut. This solution should clock-in at 4 hours and 1 minute during optimal conditions with a much hire average speed, about 63 mph (101 km/hr). I tried repeatedly to get it below 4 hours even though I knew it was a meaningless psychological barrier. Maybe someone else can find a quicker solution. Your challenge is to find one that’s 3 hours and 59 minutes or less. That would make me happy.
Hopefully this post will satisfy the multitude of anonymous visitors who want to know the shortest/quickest route through all six New England states, even though none of them will ever return to 12MC again. I enjoyed the mapping challenge. Maybe someday someone will attempt these solutions in the real world. It might make a nice Sunday drive.