Geo-BREWities

On February 4, 2014 · 7 Comments

My interests collide every once in awhile. I’ve mentioned my unnatural compulsion to visit breweries several times before so an overlap shouldn’t come as a surprise to regular readers. This time, an industry publication mentioned a beer dinner where courses were paired with beverages from Oxbow Beer in Maine. A brewery named for an oxbow — how intriguing — I do have a thing for oxbows. I wondered if I could find that aforementioned oxbow.



Where’s the Oxbow in Newcastle, Maine, USA?

That led me to ponder the possibility of other geo-oddity-themed breweries which I conveniently decided to call geo-brewities. I turned to the Brewers Association, an organization representing "small and independent American brewers" for a complete list. They referenced 2,722 brewing facilities in the United States at the end of 2013, an increase of nearly 400 establishments in a single year.

I dug into the list — even though it was dated 2012 and had since grown — since I figured I’d still find plenty of suitable examples. I’ll mention a few favorites uncovered while noting that many more had to be cut from my review because of space limitations. Also, I examined only names. I’ll let others judge taste and quality. That matters in the real world. It didn’t matter for this exercise.

Then I returned to Oxbow Beer and found an article in The Lincoln County News

The brewery is run out of a converted barn at Masland’s home on Rt. 215 in Newcastle. Oxbow’s beer, their name, their logo – an owl carrying a keg – and their motto – loud beer from a quiet place – are all inspired by the rural location.

This led me to wonder whether the brewery name reflected an actual oxbow lake. It may have been named for a genuine oxbow, like what a farmer would hang around the neck of an ox to pull a plow. I’d already become completely cross-eyed reviewing a couple of thousand brewery names by that point, with commensurate emotional investment, so I continued with my quest for geo-brewities. After all, this effort could form the backbone of a brewery-related geo-oddity driving tour someday, ignoring the obvious distances involved. That’s how I rationalized it.



Stateline Brewery, South Lake Tahoe, California, USA

Twelve Mile Circle loves borders and the notion of Stateline Brewery in South Lake Tahoe, California seemed promising. Their logo even incorporated the California-Nevada border within its design. Only a single building, an Embassy Suites Hotel, stood between Stateline Brewing and the actual state line. Impressive.

Then I spotted Latitude 33 Brewing Company in San Diego, California (map). Did someone mention latitude? Why yes, that’s another common 12MC topic. I was about to bust them when I measured the actual geographic placement of 33° North and it fell about ten miles south of the brewery (which was at 33° 8′ 10.46″ or thereabouts). However the brewers already knew that and posted their perspective, preventing geo-geek nitpickers such as myself from bothering them.

The obvious answer is, of course, that the 33rd parallel runs smack dab through the heart of San Diego County, and our brewing facility is just a hair north of being directly on the line. But there’s actually more to it than that. If you look back through the history books you’ll find the 33rd latitude has been right there in some of the world’s most significant events… Distilled to one word, Latitude 33 is “Adventure”

Good save, Latitude 33. Good save.



Confluence Brewing, Des Moines, Iowa, USA

Confluences don’t have a separate tag on 12MC although they have appeared as a regularly recurring topic. I prepared myself to be disappointed by the explanation offered by Confluence Brewing from Des Moines, Iowa, when it noted, "The brewery is itself a confluence of John and Ken’s love for Iowa and craft beer." Looking at its location a little more closely, the brewery can’t be more than maybe a mile-or-so from the confluence of the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers. That was a pivotal spot in the city’s history. The State Historical Society of Iowa said, "The City of Des Moines developed from a small frontier fort at the confluence… ", and thus the city would not have existed without them. I’ll bet the river confluence inspired the name of the brewery at least a little even if I couldn’t find it stated explicitly.

I’ve also noted elevations on a number of occasions. Breweries seemed enamored of elevation too, albeit choosing names that tended to favor specific landmarks, mountains or peaks. Only one bucked the trend in a fascinating way, Elevation 66 Brewing in El Cerrito, California (map). The Examiner said Elevation 66 was "named after El Cerrito’s altitude" That may be true for the city overall or perhaps at some key location, however, I dropped the brewery coordinates into an altitude finder and it listed 8.759 metres / 28.738 feet. What’s a few feet amongst friends? I still applauded the effort.



Dry County Brewing, Spruce Pine, North Carolina, USA

I focus often on counties and Dry County Brewing Company sounded rather paradoxical. How could one brew in a dry county? Wikipedia came to the rescue: "Mitchell County was one of the three dry counties in North Carolina, along with Graham and Yancey, but in March, 2009, after much controversy, the Town of Spruce Pine approved beer, wine, and ABC store sales." It didn’t take long for a brewery to fill that void either — it looked like Dry County opened in late 2010 or early 2011 — nestled safely within a wet enclave, and circled entirely by an otherwise prohibitionist county.

Roads and associated infrastructure? Of course I talk about those. Bridge and Tunnel Brewery in Queens (Maspeth), New York, may not have been named for a specific bridge or a specific tunnel. The name seemed to refer to the whole set of them in New York City: "because it’s the bridges and tunnels that unite this city, not divide it." Nonetheless the nearest bridge and tunnel into Manhattan were probably the Queensboro Bridge and the Midtown Tunnel. The NYC contingent of 12MC readers would have better insight into that calculation. This was a nanobrewery, even smaller than a microbrewery, that produced only 1.5 barrels (47.25 gallons / 179 litres) in each batch. I couldn’t find a location other than that generic Maspeth placement though (map). I guessed maybe the brewery was so small that it didn’t have a permanent facility.


Breweries with Coincidental Connections to Specific 12MC articles

I could also make a case to add any of the following breweries to a beer and geo-oddity driving tour. Each had a tenuous serendipitous alignment with an article published previously on Twelve Mile Circle.

Now I’m thirsty. Cheers!

Geography

Middle of Nowhere

On October 20, 2013 · 2 Comments

I once searched for and found the Center of the Universe. Never mind that there were plenty of other claimants, I found the one true center naturally because the Intertubes confirmed it and of course that made it unquestionably reliable. It was much more difficult to find the middle of nowhere. First one must discover the exact placement of nowhere and then travel to the middle of it to verify the claim. Unfortunately the great body of Internet knowledge didn’t help much. A bazillion different people asserted that their measurement of nowhere was best despite relying on wild assertions or idiomatic usage. The Twelve Mile Circle took an equally futile stab at it, searching for places literally called "Nowhere."

Success! I found three candidates in three different countries using official geographical databases and national gazetteers. Nowhere could be found in the United States, Canada and Australia. It’s probably located in other nations too and described by different languages (e.g., Nirgendwo, Hvergi, Askund) so I’ll leave that to the 12MC audience.

Nowhere, Oklahoma



Nowhere, Oklahoma

I discovered arguably the biggest, most significant, most well-known Nowhere in the world in Oklahoma. The USGS Geographic Names Information System located it precisely within the heart of the state and it was very much a populated place. In fact the USGS’ coordinates 35.1592256°, -98.4422802° fell pretty much right in the midst of various structures located therein, offering a solid proxy for the United State’s Middle of Nowhere.

This candidate location even had it’s own Wikipedia entry, albeit a stub, which I’ve reproduced in its entirety:

Nowhere is an unincorporated community in Caddo County, Oklahoma, United States. Nowhere is located at the southeast end of Fort Cobb Reservoir 5.5 miles (8.9 km) south-southwest of Albert and 14 miles (23 km) northwest of Anadarko.

Albert and Anadarko aren’t exactly bustling metropolises (metropoleis?) themselves, lending further credence to the claim.



As if that weren’t sufficient evidence, Nowhere appeared in an episode of Discover Oklahoma. According to the video, a couple from California moved to the area and bought a general store many years ago. The wife complained to the husband, "you brought me here to nowhere" and the name stuck. A dissenting etymology also existed, as I learned in the comments section of that same video. A viewer claimed to be the daughter of the California transplants and noted, "My father came up with the name on a harshly cold winter’s day while standing in the parking lot and no one to see for miles in all directions. He said, ‘we’re in the middle of nowhere’. We all agreed." Either way, Nowhere definitely existed in Oklahoma and it contained an identifiable middle.

USGS suggested several other Nowhere possibilities in the United States including a ridge, a dam, a meadow and several creeks. The Oklahoma village, however, was the only populated place.


Nowhere Island, Ontario



Nowhere Island, Ontario

Then I began to discover truly nowhere places. The only nowhere in Canada — an otherwise vast expanse that should have had plenty of nowhere — was an island in western Ontario. It led to a spot within Rainy Lake near the watery borderlands between Canada and the United States. Fort Frances was the closest Canadian town at about ten kilometres to the southwest, with it’s cross-border cousin International Falls, Minnesota just a klick farther away.

I found no other salient information about Nowhere Island. It was an otherwise nondescript isle on a large lake, along with dozens of other nondescript isles. That made it an excellent candidate. Canada considered the middle of Nowhere, the eponymous island, to be 48.658884°, -93.218204° so that’s what I used.


Nowheres, Western Australia



Nowheres, Western Australia

The Gazetteer of Australia Place Name also narrowed down the possibilities to a reasonable handful, with Nowheres, Western Australia perhaps the best candidate (along with Nowhere Else in Tasmania which actually seemed to be proclaiming itself as somewhere). I wasn’t sure how I felt about that extra "s" appended to Nowhere. After all I wanted to find the Middle of Nowhere not Nowheres if one were to be a stickler. I decided to keep Nowheres on the list because it retained the right spirit. I could envision surfer slang morphing pronunciation over time to reference a place of multiple nowhere; so remote that it became nowhere’s nowhere.

Look closely at Nowheres. The point referenced by the official gazetteer seemed to fall within water, just offshore by about a hundred metres at -33.89215°, 114.984°. This could have happened for a number of reasons including that the coordinates provided by the database were within a margin of error and actually represented placement onshore. Another explanation could be offered by the descriptive code used in the database, LOCU ("Feature Code ‘LOCU’ includes the following features: Locality (unbounded), Place name, Road corner, Road bend, Corner, Meteorological station, Ocean place name, Surfing spot, Junction"). Nowheres could be a beach, a water feature or even a surfing spot

Where is the Middle of Nowhere? It couldn’t be Oklahoma. Readers didn’t actually expect me to select a settlement with its own Wikipedia entry and coverage on YouTube, did they? Canada seemed more reasonable although the conjoined border towns nearby had a combined population of about fifteen thousand residents; hardly nowhere. For pure remoteness, for complete obscurity, for embodying absolute nowhere-ness to the point that a middle became meaningless, the Twelve Mile Circle selected the spot in Australia even with the problematic extra "s."

The middle of nowhere is about three kilometres south of Gracetown, Western Australia.

Latitudinal Border Station Extremes

On April 30, 2013 · 9 Comments

I’m not sure the title adequately conveyed what I’m trying to describe, although I can’t think of a better concise title to replace it either. Conceptually, I wanted to know the northernmost and southernmost places in the world and in the United States where one could cross an international border by automobile via a road connected to the larger grid. There are plenty of places farther north where a crossing could be accomplished on foot, perhaps after a long ship voyage or an airline flight, but not by a motorized vehicle on an established road. Those road crossings would be cardinal direction border extremes for the average tourist as opposed to the adventurous explorer. You know, ones that I might actually experience someday.

These were the best examples I could find. I’d love see improvements.

NORTHERNMOST



View Larger Map

The absolutely farthest northern road that crossed an international border that I found occurred between Polmak, Norway and Nuorgam, Finland at an astounding 70 degrees north of the equator. By contrast the Arctic Circle is at about 66.56 degrees north. Barrow, Alaska — about as far north as one can get in the United States — is only slightly farther north (71 degrees) and it’s not connected to anything by road, much less internationally. This is crazy far north.

Both nations are part of the Schengen Area so one could cross the border freely. It looked like a former border station had been converted into shops in the Street View image.


NORTHERNMOST UNITED STATES (AND CANADA)


(Old) Poker Creek Customs Station
Flickr by jimmywayne via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) License

The United States and Canada share the same northernmost international border crossing at Poker Creek, Alaska / Little Gold Creek, Yukon (map) along the Top of the World Highway. It’s located at about 64 degrees north.

This also demonstrated how few roads crossed this rugged, isolated terrain because the border extended another 380 miles (612 kilometres) due north without a single other road crossing it. This border station closes in the winter so I’m willing to concede that purists may wish to look farther south to the Alaska-Canadian Highway for a more complete example, one that remains open 24X7 all year long (map).

What about the Lower 48 states? I think the northernmost crossing would be the place where the border jogs around to form the Northwest Angle (map). Weekend Roady visited this one in person and I won’t try to improve upon his first-hand description.


SOUTHERNMOST



View Larger Map

The record wasn’t clear-cut at the southern end, nor was it quite as extreme. I think it may be a spot on Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego around 54 degrees south, although it’s not even as far south as Ushuaia (featured on 12MC previously), the southernmost town of significance in Argentina. There may also be an error on the Google Map too. Google seems to have issues with borderlines, a condition I’ve observed before. Notice the vertical fence line about 100 metres west of Google’s line. Could that be the true boundary?



View Larger Map

I thought perhaps there might be a car ferry between Ushuaia, Argentina and Puerto Williams, Chile. It seemed natural and I’d be willing to bend the "road" rule to accommodate a ferry. It wouldn’t violate the spirit, right? Nonetheless, Wikipedia said of Puerto Williams, "There is no regular link with Argentina and connection to Ushuaia is restricted." Puerto Williams exists primarily for the Chilean navy to assert national sovereignty at the farthest tip of South America. It was once a rather sensitive military area although tourism has begun to creep in.

Another source said it was possible to travel between the two places albeit not very conveniently, "Ushuaia Boating in Ushuaia, Argentina, has regular zodiac service to Isla Navarino October-March or April. The trajectory is boat from Ushuaia to Puerto Navarino (40 minutes, immigration), then minibus to Puerto Williams." However that wouldn’t qualify as an automobile crossing by any stretch of the imagination so I’m not going to count it.


SOUTHERNMOST SOUTHMOST USA

Eyeball estimates led me to believe that the southernmost border crossing in the United States would be found at Brownsville, Texas where it provided access to Matamoros, Tamaulipas, México. That was located at about 25.9 degrees north. A whole bunch of the world can be found farther south than that.



View Larger Map

That’s not what I enjoyed the most, though. I was amused by Southmost Boulevard. That’s southmost not southernmost. A shorter word with the same meaning. It sounded a little odd. Maybe I could get used to it?

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