81 on 81

On October 12, 2014 · 7 Comments

I’m planning a quick trip down to southwestern Virginia and neighboring West Virginia, intending to count some new counties along the way although primarily for other purposes. I wish I could say it was entirely about the counties and I could finally finish Virginia. That will have to wait for another day.

Being true to my nature, I’ll completely over-prepare with multiple maps, both electronic and paper, even though I’ve driven the vast preponderance of the route multiple times and understand it intuitively. I’ll have lat/long coordinates prerecorded in my GPS, turn-by-turn directions printed from my preferred map website, and a battered dogeared Triple-A road atlas as a backup should a solar flare destroy every navigational satellite and should an asteroid bust the car window and suck the printouts from the dashboard. Nobody will be getting lost. No way, no how. Logic has no bearing here. Preparations will be ridiculous.

Patterns often appear on 12MC and another one emerged as I plotted waypoints. Most of the path involved Interstate 81, the primary route along the western diagonal of Virginia (map). Many of those waypoints fell awfully close to longitude 81 West. This type of reasoning often leads me to trouble. Was there a place, I wondered, where 81 West crossed Interstate 81? It seemed like it would offer a nice bit of numerical symmetry.

In fact a golden spot existed at 36.938110°,-81.000000°, just a stone’s throw from the Wilco Hess Truck Stop – Wytheville. Or the Flying J. Or Galewinds Go Carts & Mini Golf although apparently it’s closed now so scratch that suggestion.

Were there other Primary (e.g., one or two-digit) Interstate Highways equally blessed with similar golden spots? Why yes there were. Longtime readers already knew that I’d have to map them.



View Interstate-Coordinate Confluences in a larger map

I noticed that spots concentrated in the eastern half of the nation, many in the Upper Midwest. I think I found all of the possibilities although there might be others lurking out there. Let me know if you find any that I overlooked and I’ll add them to the map.


Interstate Longitude Confluences


Chicago Skyline During Sunrise from Lombard, Illinois
Chicago Skyline During Sunrise from Lombard, Illinois by Corey Seeman, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Longitude possibilities were limited to feasible values between 67 (easternmost whole number longitude) and 99 (highest possible 2-digit Interstate Highway). I found a total of seven places where a longitude crossed an Interstate highway with the same number, including the original example I discovered on I-81.

Some of those spots saw more traffic than others although I’d be surprised if even a single person recognized the significance. Why would they? Only a geo-oddity aficionado would find the topic even mildly interesting. One such location fell in Lombard, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. I was surprised to find a photo of the Chicago skyline captured from an upper floor of a hotel less than a mile away from I-88/88°. That amused me for some weird reason.


Interstate Latitude Confluences



Lincoln Village, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin

There were fewer latitude opportunities, limited to values between 25 (southernmost whole number latitude in the Lower 48 states) and 49 (northernmost). I found only two occurrences.

Once again I was lucky to find something to illustrate a nearby area, the Lincoln Village neighborhood in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I-43 formed its eastern boundary including the segment with I-43/43°.

The overall champion had to be Interstate 94. It shared a confluence with longitude 94° West. It was also concurrently signed with a stretch of I-43/43° North and I-90/90° West.


Confluences Outside of the United States


Penllergaer
Penllergaer by stu, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Similar confluences existed outside of the United States. I found a couple of occurrences between motorways and longitudes in the United Kingdom. One fell near a lovely waterfall at Penllergaer Valley Wood (M4/4° West).

I even discovered one in Ireland, M8 and 8° West: 52.356181°,-8.000000°.

Then I grew tired of the exercise.

Skewed Perspective

On September 24, 2014 · 10 Comments

There was a time in the early days of Twelve Mile Circle when I used to devote entire articles to differences in distances that didn’t seem plausible, although of course the actual measurements didn’t lie. For example, sticking with the Twelve theme, the twelfth article I ever posted on 12MC all the way back in November 2007 dealt with a whole list of state capitals located closer to southwestern Virginia than to its own capital in Richmond. I loved those little counterintuitive notions although I haven’t posted any in a long time probably because they’re kind-of mindless.

I recalled some of my Riverboat Adventures the other day while speaking with some friends and remarked how crazy-long it took to drive across the entire length of Tennessee. We drove through only two states on the way back, Tennessee and Virginia, and it took something like thirteen hours. That prompted me to hit the maps and resurrect the long-neglected genre.

Driving from Memphis


Mud Island
Memphis. My own photo.

The Tennessee leg of our return followed Interstate highways from Memphis to Bristol, specifically I-40 and I-81. I used one of my favorite mapping tools to create a circle around Memphis that extended to Bristol. That’s where the fun began. Memphis was closer to Oklahoma City, Dallas, New Orleans or Kansas City than it was to Bristol. It was even closer to Davenport, Iowa!

Two could play at that game so I created a similar circle around Bristol extending to Memphis. Bristol was closer to Detroit and Jacksonville than it was to Memphis, and about the same distance to Chicago or Philadelphia.


Back in Virginia


Casbah, Algiers
Casbah, Algiers by Nick Brooks, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license

I then drew some latitudes, returning my focus to the Commonwealth of Virginia. I noticed that there were parts of Africa farther north than parts of Virginia. I let that rattle around in by brain for awhile. Sure the overlap wasn’t much although definitely factual. Algiers and Tunis on the African continent were farther north than Danville and Suffolk in Virginia.


Dueling Portlands


Keep Portland Weird
Keep Portland Weird by Christopher Porter, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

Again with the latitudes, I compared Portland, Oregon with Portland, Maine. It reminded me of a quote in a guest post that Marc Alifanz contributed to 12MC in March 2011, Geo-Oddities of Portland, Oregon:

Portland was originally founded by Asa Lovejoy from Boston, Massachusetts and Francis W. Pettygrove of Portland, Maine. Each wanted to name the new town after their place of origin. They flipped a coin, and Portland won. It’s probably a good thing it worked out that way, because two Bostons of very large size would have created more confusion than big Portland, OR and littler Portland, ME do now.

That was an interesting aside, although referring back to the latitudes, Portland in Oregon is actually farther north than Portland in Maine. That seemed odd because Maine bordered Canada and Oregon had an entire state (Washington) between it and Canada. Yet, that’s what the line revealed.

And speaking of Portland, Maine, I drew another circle and examined the results. Portland Maine was closer to Caracas, Venezuela than to Portland, Oregon.


A Canadian Example


old cayenne 6
old cayenne 6 by Nicholas Laughlin, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license

All of the results seemed astonishing to me although I recognized that a lot of this had to do with my very specific geographic perspective. I doubt the measurements and observations had anywhere near the same impact for people living elsewhere. So I tried an example in Canada. St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador was closer to: Bratislava Slovakia; Murmansk, Russia; Cayenne, French Guiana; or anywhere in Western Sahara as it turned out than it was to Vancouver, British Columbia.

Similar observations could be made about the distance between Vladivostok and Moscow, Russia, I supposed. Ditto for Sydney and Perth, Australia. Have fun and let me know the most counterintuitive observation you discover.

Hardly Tropic

On September 14, 2014 · 1 Comments

Technically, the tropics would be an area hugging the equator between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, between approximately 23°26′-or-so north and south. The two latitudes marked the extent the sun might appear directly overhead if only briefly on a single day, the summer solstice. Tropics also had a more widespread definition that included mild, lush areas in general. I could understand placenames in South Florida incorporating Tropic, Tropical or Tropicana, for example, because the Tropic of Cancer almost clipped it. Utah? Not so much.

Tropic, Utah


View near Tropic, Utah
View near Tropic, Utah by Texas Dreaming, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

Yet, that’s what I noticed in the Twelve Mile Circle reader logs. The visitor arrived on the site from Tropic, Utah (map). I’m sure it was a fine town full of lovely people in a wonderful setting. I had no quarrel with the town although its name surprised me.

Tropic was a gateway to Bryce Canyon National Park. I’ve been to Bryce and it’s great, albeit not what most observers might consider tropical, geographically or stereotypically. It snows in Bryce Canyon. Roads close. Rangers lead snowshoe hikes. The park holds a winter carnival. That didn’t sound like The Tropics to me.(¹)

The Town of Tropic did its best to put a happy face on its inherent contradiction.

It was suggested by Andrew J. Hansen to call it "Tropic". To support the suggestion, he stated that people would come to their little valley where peaches, apples, grapes and other semi-tropical fruits would be found. The name Tropic was adopted; with the population of about 15 families.

The name appeared to be a late 19th Century marketing ploy. Town founders focused optimistically on the warmer months and ignored the rest of the year. That didn’t make it tropical though. For Tropic, Utah to be genuinely tropic it would need to be relocated to a latitude at the southern tip of México’s Baja Peninsula.

Let’s go ahead a flog that dead horse a bit longer because, honestly, I don’t have anything better to do this morning.


Tropic of Cancer Beach, The Bahamas



There were precious few places named for the magical lines that marked a tropical transition. One was Tropic of Cancer Beach on Little Exuma in The Bahamas (map). It was truth in advertising too. The Tropic of Cancer did indeed cross through the beach. A line marking the approximate location could be seen in the first few frames of the YouTube video I borrowed.

It might be ill-advised to draw a comparison between the name of the beach and the harmful effects of long-term overexposure to sunlight. Nonetheless I shall note that it was probably a better option than Melanoma Beach. Ignoring that inconvenient fact, its shimmering blue waters, white sand, and light breeze certainly seemed stereotypically tropical!


Hualien, Taiwan


Tropic of Cancer - Valley_01
Tropic of Cancer – Valley_01 by Vincent's Album, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

Of course the world wasn’t filled solely with sandy beaches and there were plenty of tropical places that one didn’t necessary think of as meeting the palm tree and umbrella drink stereotype. For instance, the Tropic of Cancer cut through Taiwan, placing half of the island nation within the tropics. Taiwan recognized the line with several markers spread geographically across its landmass including a remarkable specimen in Hualien (map).

The most amusing notion of tropical latitude would be that the boundaries drift over time. Currently the lines are moving slightly towards the equator by a few feet each year as part of a complicated cycle. Any monument marking the actual Tropic of Cancer would become noticeably incorrect almost immediately unless it could be moved. That won’t work for the Taiwanese monument. It’s already on the wrong spot by definition.

However, it’s been done correctly along a highway in Mexico, Carretera 83, near Victoria (map) in the state of Tamaulipas.


America’s Most Spurious



Tropic, OHIO?!?

Utah may not be the tropics although it was still better than a considerably more confounding occurrence I discovered in the Geographic Names Information System: Tropic, Ohio. That was quite the oxymoron. A little additional research traced its name to a nearby coal mine. I guess they ran out of suitable names.


(¹) That’s not to say it never snows in the tropics as defined geographically. There are exceptions. If all these years of writing 12MC have taught me one thing, it’s that very few statements are absolutes.

Purpose
12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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