New reader "Thomas" sent an email to 12MC concerning an institution of higher learning seemingly out of place geographically. The University of California has a number of affiliated campuses, although none of them are located in Pennsylvania. Yet, oddly there’s a California University of Pennsylvania. As always, there was a twist to the situation as I looked closer. The university was placed in a town called California outside of Pittsburgh. The town was founded in 1849, presumably in commemoration of the California Gold Rush that was happening at the same time. The university simply took the name of the town and the state. I replied that it reminded me of another geographically counterintutive institution from the same state, Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
California University… of Pennsylvania
This could provide an exceptional opportunity for mischief, I thought as I considered the possibilities further. What if people wanted to misrepresent where they earned their diplomas, maybe pad a résumé or impress their friends, or for some other unknown reason? Maybe it would be easier or cheaper to attend a soundalike institution instead. If miscreants said that they’d graduated from Cal, would it be their fault if others assumed they were referring to UC Berkeley instead of lesser-known Cal U in PA?(¹).
I am certain that all of the similarly-named colleges and universities are perfectly fine places with solid reputations. However, the better known versions could convey additional benefits or prestige whether academic or athletic if used deceivingly. Those of questionable moral standing could easily employ a bait-and-switch.
I was curious to discover the prevalence of such opportunities even though I don’t condone improper use. The examination began with a listing of colleges and universities in the US, UK and Canada. I sorted for similarities and compiled a lot of close matches in a shared Google Doc. I distilled that down to a handful of optimal deceptive options.
Spring @ Cornell by matt.hintsa, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license
Several options presented themselves for those unable to gain admission to an Ivy League school or those unwilling to shoulder a six-figure student debt upon graduation. I called these choices the "Cheap Ivies" (not to be confused with the Public Ivies).
How about Cornell College in Iowa instead of the Cornell University in New York? They were founded by distant cousins from the same family so they’re practically the same. Any of the Columbia Colleges (Missouri, South Carolina, Illinois) could substitute for Columbia University. Finally, nobody would really need to know that Penn referred to William Penn University instead of the University of Pennsylvania.
Notre Dame Band, Notre Dame Stadium, University of Notre Dame DDZ_0303 by NDomer73, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0), license
Not everyone will want to attend a big-time athletics school. Those universities tend to have tens of thousands of students. They can be very impersonal places. However everyone wants to be associated with a winner, right? A certain image would come across if someone mentioned he was a Notre Dame grad. It could quickly become a launching point for a thousand barroom conversations (or brawls) as long as he didn’t mention his preference for the Notre Dame Falcons from Ohio instead of the Fighting Irish. Similar situations existed for Georgetown in Kentucky, and Miami University of Ohio. How about Pitt? One could easily substitute Pittsburg State University in Kansas for the University of Pittsburgh.
Was it be Seton Hall University or it’s nearly identically-named Seton Hill University? They’re both named for the same person, Elizabeth Ann Seton, so go for it.
Cambridge University by Caffeinehit, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license
The University of Cambridge and its 31 constituent colleges in England are known throughout the world. There have been 90 Nobel laureates affiliated with the university. Stephen Hawking has long been associated with Cambridge. Isaac Newton went there. Its long list of famous alumni have made some of the most important contributions to mankind for the last several centuries. Wouldn’t it be so much easier to pursue a degree from Cambridge College in Massachusetts? "I completed my studies at Cambridge" would be a completely true statement.
Other substitutions could include Ottawa University in Kansas in lieu of the University of Ottawa in Ontario, Canada. Then there were the Yorks. There are York Colleges in Nebraska, New York and Pennsylvania, along with York University in Ontario and the University of York in England. Go ahead and substitute any one for any other.
Guess I should use one of my own photos while I’m at it
I found a similar situation with the Lincolns. There were Lincoln Universities in Missouri and Pennsylvania and a University of Lincoln in England. None of those were the unusual one. That honor went to Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee. Someone could have so much mischievous fun with Lincoln Memorial.
It wasn’t their fault, though. The founders established Lincoln Memorial University in 1897. The Lincoln Memorial — the edifice in Washington, DC — wasn’t constructed until 1922.
(¹) Actually that would be completely and utterly wrong so don’t do that.
There are very few places in the world that have never sent a visitor to Twelve Mile Circle in the several years since I started the site. Nonetheless I check my access statistics for any new arrivals occasionally along with all the rest of my borderline obsessive-compulsive reader behavior examinations. I conducted the last comprehensive check for first-time countries in April 2013 and I expected few additions. A handful of locations continued to cling stubbornly to the No Visitors list. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I’d added seven new locations since that time as the map slowly nears completion. I’d observed a couple of them when they arrived while the others somehow slipped past my attention. The most recent additions were Burundi, Cape Verdi, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Norfolk Island, Saint Helena and South Sudan.
I was particularly pleased by the African additions. I’ve attracted very fewer readers from Africa per capita most likely for a variety of reasons, probably involving the rate of Internet penetration in some of the less affluent corners of the continent combined with large percentages of people speaking languages other than English. A site such as mine oriented towards geo-oddities primarily within North America and Europe and written completely in English would be less relevant to much of that audience than perhaps to other topics.
The Burundi hit may have been the most interesting of the new batch from Africa. The reader appeared to have a fascination with U.S. county boundaries as displayed on Google Maps. What was the story behind the story? What unusual set of circumstances led that reader to 12MC? Was this the sign of a budding County Counter? An American expat planning a return trip to a native land? Those are the kind of topics that run through my mind whenever I spot a visitor anomaly like this one.
The hit from South Sudan was also a great pickup. I’d already captured Sudan, the larger version, before South Sudan seceded in 2011. I’m sure that people of South Sudan had bigger issues on their mind than the hole their independence created on my African visitors map. Nonetheless a large empty spot appeared that day and it took two years to finally fill it back in.
I also continued to capture various islands although they didn’t have quite the dramatic visual impact on my map since they were so small and widely scattered. A couple of them fit both the African and island definitions, though. Cape Verde is an archipelago off the coast of western Africa originally settled by the Portuguese. Also, Equatorial Guinea includes both an island component and mainland component, and it’s one of the few areas of Africa where Spanish has been among its official languages. I can’t comprehend why my visitor from Equatorial Guinea wanted to take a ferry from Maryland to Virginia although that’s what he or she apparently hoped to do, so best of luck on that idea. It’s not an easy feat to complete even for those of us living in close proximity.
Then I got to the truly crazy catches: Norfolk Island, a largely self-governed area of Australia; and Saint Helena, part of a British Overseas Territory. Granted, English would be an official language on either island and that should increase the odds of attracting readers, however Norfolk had only 2,300 residents and Saint Helena 4,200. That led me to speculate whether one or both may have involved a regular 12MC visitor on holiday who happened to know I enjoyed hits from odd places. It’s happened before so a big Thank You if that’s the case.
The 12MC family likes to go to the beach in the Winter. I realize that sounds completely counter-intuitive, to put it nicely. However, the crowds are gone, hotels are available and at much cheaper rates, and I don’t enjoy lying on the sand in the sun anyway. Sitting in a single spot actually increases my anxiety. We went to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware for the weekend, returning early on Sunday morning to avoid an ice storm.
16 Mile Brewing Company
What does that have to do with anything?
That allowed us to chart a course through Georgetown, Delaware, the location of an article I posted called 12 Mile Circ… no wait, 16!. I love it when I’m able to visit a place in person that I’ve featured online.
It also combined two things of interest to me, geo-oddities and beer. Georgetown was the home of the 16 Mile Brewing Company, a microbrewery (not a brewpub). There I enjoyed a beer sampler at their attractive tasting room. That’s a fairly recent trend, by the way. Microbreweries used to not cater much to beer tourism. They’ve become more like vineyards in recent years, learning from their wine making cousins that tasting rooms serve as excellent advertising and as a means to cut-out the middleman.
Of course, my mind was drawn to a large map posted on a nearby wall explaining the significance of the 16 miles, which matched with what I reported in the earlier article. I’ll note that I was the only person standing in front of the map, gawking. Everyone else seemed happy to sit at the bar or at a table and sip their samples.
Naturally I stopped at Dogfish Head’s brewpub Rehoboth Beach, which I’ve visited several times before, although the shark adorned festively with a Santa hat was a nice holiday touch.
As always, I enjoyed my brief visit to Delaware, the tiny state with more geo-oddities per square mile than any other place on the planet.
I have an abundance of half-formed story ideas, an overflowing mailbag and a cornucopia of reader suggestions. That means it must be time once again for Odds and Ends, my recurring series of features and topics not quite large enough to fill an entire article on their own.
A couple of interesting items came to my attention via the @TheReal12MC Twitter account, undoubtedly an increasingly important way to share geo-oddities. The first one was a tweet from @wikitravel that linked to an article in Travel and Leisure,
New Zipline Connects Spain and Portugal
This one struck a lot of my interests simultaneously. First, it was a zip-line. Need I say more?
The company Límite Zero made the adventure so much more interesting though. The line crosses the Guadiana River, the international border between Spain and Portugal. Even better, the two nations are located in different time zones. Adventurers go back in time by an hour as they zip from east to west. At the far end in Portugal, riders then take a ferry for the return trip to Spain.
A zip line, an international border, a time zone anomaly and a ferry? I need to include this adventure near the top of my international travel plans.
@Clarker sent a tweet with a photo that he found from Twelve Mile, Indiana. I’ve simulated the approximate scene in Google Street View.
Twelve Mile, Indiana
That brought back some great memories. Twelve Mile, Indiana, made an appearance in the very early days of 12MC. It’s the renowned location of the annual Twelve Mile 500 lawnmower race.
I also received input from a more traditional route, the 12MC email box. Case in point, "Joe" sent an article link, The Forgotten Giant Arrows that Guide you Across America
Go Thata Way
It was a fascinating story focused at the intersection of the U.S. Postal Service and the early days of flight in the 1920′s. As the article explained, "… the federal government funded enormous concrete arrows to be built every 10 miles or so along established airmail routes to help the pilots trace their way across America in bad weather conditions and particularly at night, which was a more efficient time to fly." Some of those arrows continued to exist nearly a century later, as confirmed by the Google Satellite Image provided in the article, and reproduced above.
I can never predict when an article will become popular. I’m almost certain that I noticed these same arrows in another article from a different source several years ago. This time however it seemed to catch-on with the public. I’ve now seen several other people reference the giant arrows although Joe was the first to tell me about it so I’m giving him credit for passing it along.
Reader "Nigel" had a question and it confounded me as well. I would have created an entire article around it if I could have solved the mystery. Reluctantly, I’ll turn it over to the 12MC community to see if anyone out there may be able to provide an explanation for the mysterious and repeated appearance of Heterodox View Avenue.
Heterodox View Ave., Houston, TX
Nigel asked, "I noticed this odd street name first as what appears to be a driveway behind a hospital in Houston. But when typing it into Google Maps, I see others all over the country. Any guesses what this could be a reference to?"
I found the same thing. Heterodox View Avenue — and it was always Heterodox View Avenue; not street, not drive, not boulevard, only avenue — appeared in various random places throughout the United States. Only rarely did it run through a residential neighborhood. Generally it led either to a park or to a shopping center. Often it seemed to be cloaked, not necessarily appearing as a named street in Google and seemingly more an access road. Nigel’s example followed a similar pattern. The avenue ran along the edge of the hospital parking lot and next to a helicopter pad.
Heterodoxy refers to beliefs that are out of alignment with prevailing opinions or interpretations, often religious. The term also turns up in the vocabulary of economists. Thus, a heterodox view would be considered unorthodox or unconventional, although not so extreme as to be heresy. I considered this an odd choice for a street name at the very least. In addition, the use of Heterodox View Avenue (and only avenue) seemed too coincidental; a single individual or organization must have had a hand in it. However I could not find any logical connection between the occurrences. That disappointed me because I think there could be an interesting story hidden behind those heterodox views.
Thank you everyone for the great suggestions. Please keep them coming by tweet, by email, or even by by carrier pigeon if you like.