That’s a Wrap

On January 1, 2017 · 2 Comments

Finally, 2016 ended. That’s a wrap.

Then I went down a little tangent wondering about that particular expression. Fortunately there were sources such as the late William Safire who explored That’s/It’s a Wrap in 2005. It did refer to the movie industry as I believed although of more recent vintage than I imagined, perhaps dating back only as far as the 1950’s. Some sources considered it an acronym for "Wind, Reel and Print" the film; others considered that explanation a contrivance created after the fact.

Either way, with the year so recently concluded, it seemed like a good opportunity to take stock of my most recent efforts. The Twelve Mile Circle put another year in the books. How did 2016 perform?

Most Read Articles

Braniff International Airways
Braniff International Airways. Image provided by Boston Public Library on Flickr (cc)

I’ve posted 1,320 articles so far, which is crazy. I didn’t really think about that total much, considering it a testament to small actions taken over long periods. The drip-drip of my incremental efforts eventually filled a large bucket. Articles served two very distinct audiences actually, regular readers like you and the ephemeral search engine crowd. It pleased me that the main 12MC page registered the most views again this year. The freshest content rolled through there, the logical place where regular readers naturally congregated.

The one-and-done readers would land, so I figured, directly atop a specific article page as directed by Google or whatever. This naturally skewed page views to older articles that the algorithms already knew about. Sure enough, Chesapeake Bay Car Ferries from 2010 continued its historic domination. It got steady hits all year long, many from people who wanted to ride the ferry. Too bad the last one sailed across the Bay more than a half century ago.

If I looked solely at articles posted in 2016, the award for most readers went to Residual Braniff posted fairly recently in October. That caught me by surprise. I didn’t think many people would care about an extinct airline that couldn’t survive deregulation. I’ll repeat the old mantra once again — I have no idea what interests the 12MC audience. It always seemed to be the most unexpected articles that attracted the most eyeballs.

Most Comments

Counties with Interstate Highways

WordPress powers 12MC and I couldn’t find an easy way to generate statistics about comments so I followed a bit of a manual method. I wasn’t about to go through all 5,245 of them, that’s for sure. The previously-mentioned Chesapeake Bay Car Ferries probably still retained the all-time lead with 27. I turned my attention solely to articles published in 2016.

Interstate Highway Counties grabbed the lead with 13 comments. That one took some effort. I had to create a map and everything. What a pain. A lot of the comments said something like, "you missed such-and-such." Even so, I appreciated the input because of the time I put into it. Second place went to Odds and Ends 12, my occasional series where I talk about topics that don’t seem to fit anywhere else. It’s been awhile. I think I may be due for another one soon.

Next came a bunch of articles with 9 comments each.

Most Viewed Map

I created a map on Google Maps in 2014 that generated more than 1.3 million page views. It continues to grow at a healthy clip. The map illustrated an article about Interstate Highway Time Zone Crossings.

View Interstate Highway Time Zone Changes in a larger map

To be completely candid, I designed the map for my own selfish purposes. I drive long distances on some of my county counting adventures and I like to know when I need to change my watch. It didn’t bother me one way or the other if anyone else found it useful. Apparently no other utility quite like this existed elsewhere on the Intertubes. As of this morning Google ranked it as the #1 search result for interstate highway time zone map. It gets steady hits with spikes clustered near 3-day weekends and during holidays periods such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. You know, popular times for road trips.

Eventually I added a little note on the map hoping to persuade viewers to jump over to 12MC and give it a try. Maybe 20-30 people per day do that, just a tiny fraction of those who view the map on Google. Perhaps one or two may have become regular readers as a result? Who knows. It’s a bit frustrating that something like twice as many people view this single map I created on Google on any given day than every single page on my humble 12MC combined.

Push Pin Progress

The Fairfax Stone

Everyone knows that I’ve mapped every location ever mentioned in a Twelve Mile Circle article, right? Sometimes I wonder. They’re all included in the Complete Index. I mention that because the tally now stands at 3,350 places. I always check it when I plan my routes. That’s how I remembered to go to the Fairfax Stone on a trip to West Virginia last October.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year Creek, Alaska

Maybe I should include some real content today instead of just rehashing all of my old material?

I found quite a number of geographic places in the United States and beyond named for the New Year. This included various foreign language equivalents like Año Nuevo. However only a single place on the planet — as far as I could tell — bore the name Happy New Year. The US Geological Survey listed a Happy New Year Creek in Alaska:

Prospectors’ name shown on a 1902 manuscript map by E. J. Chamberlain, U.S. Deputy Surveyor… flows N to Slate Creek, 40 mi. SW of Eagle, Yukon-Tanana High. 5 miles long.

Hopefully that will be considered geo-odd enough to jump-start another successful year of Twelve Mile Circle exploration. I have big plans. Thanks for riding along.

Crystal City

On December 23, 2016 · 0 Comments

Familiar place names always catch my attention. Often they share a bond with locations near my home in the Washington, DC area. Several years ago I wrote about one such situation in A Tale of Three Ridges. This time Crystal City served as the common denominator.

Crystal City, Virginia

Arlington Crystal city (1)
Arlington Crystal city. Photo by DymphieH on Flickr (cc)

Virginia’s Crystal City abuts Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. However, most flyers probably never noticed it. Minds tend to wander across the Potomac River to the famous monuments on the National Mall. However, a glance in the opposite direction would show large blocks of office towers and apartments instead. That skyline marked Crystal City.

Crystal City didn’t exist until the Cold War. This unplanned creation handled the overflow of Federal agencies, government contractors, and residents. Jackson City once stood there in the mid 19th Century, providing space for two forts during the Civil War. Then the area declined.

After the war ended, it devolved into a seedy red-light district, complete with saloons, betting parlors and brothels — most of which were burned down in 1904 by a self-appointed cleanup crew known as the "Good Citizens League." From those ashes rose an industrial sprawl of brickyards, warehouses, iron-fabricating factories and junk lots that spread south.

The revival began with the construction of the Crystal House apartments (map) in the 1960’s. It happened to feature an ornate crystal chandelier. That started a naming trend for new construction in the area — everything became Crystal something-or-another.

I used to work in Crystal City. The old American Meridian ran directly through it. I drove across it every day, living in the former Western Hemisphere and working in the the Eastern Hemisphere. Twelve Mile Circle even sponsored a Happy Hour gathering back in 2010 at a Crystal City pub almost directly atop the Meridian. I had fond geo-geek memories of the place.

Crystal City, Texas

Crystal City Popeye
Crystal City Popeye. Photo by Jerry and Pat Donaho on Flickr (cc)

The Crystal City in Texas provided the excuse for this article. My genealogy hobby uncovered a distant relative in that town in Zavala County. He lived there in 1910, working in a livery stable. It seemed odd that the town shared a name with a place in Virginia. The city explained its origin:

Two land developers, Carl F. Groos and E. J. Buckingham, developed the town in the early 1900s. In 1905 they purchased the 10,000-acre Cross S Ranch, sold off most of the land as farms, and platted the townsite of Crystal City, named for the clear artesian water of the area.

Usually when I describe little places like this I struggle to find much of historical value. Crystal City defied that trend. It became known for several reasons in the last few decades. First, it served as one of the largest internment camps for Japanese-Americans during World War II. Then it received a lot of coverage in early 2016. Federal agents arrested almost every top official. They allegedly took bribes from a guy called Mr. T. who ran an illegal gambling scheme. Those indicted included the mayor, mayor pro tempore, city manager and two of three councilmen.

I preferred to recognize Crystal City for its motto, as the "Spinach Capital of the World." They even placed a statue of Popeye the Sailor Man in front of city hall (map) and included him on the city seal.

Crystal City, Missouri

Ford Crown Victoria
Crystal City-Missouri Police. Photo by World Police Vehicles on Flickr (cc)

However, the fun didn’t end there. I discovered additional Crystal Cities. One of them landed in Missouri (map). That city said,

Around 1843 an Eastern company conducted a search in this area of Missouri, looking for land with valuable minerals. In 1868 Forrest Sheppards, a mineralogist and geologist, located silica (sand rock) near the mouth of Plattin Creek. The sand was of superior quality for glass manufacturing. What followed was an enthusiastic pursuit of development, and The American Plate Glass Company was founded here by Captain Ebenezer B. Ward of Detroit, in 1871.

Crystal City began as a company town named for the glass. The factory remained until 1990, or nearly 150 years. However, the company controlled every facet of life for the first few decades. An independent town grew immediately to its west, with privately owned homes and business, particularly saloons. The two came to be known as The Twin Cities, Crystal City and Festus (Minnesota’s Minneapolis and St. Paul might disagree). Festus supposedly got its name from a lady who opened her bible onto a random page. Her finger landed on Acts 25:1 and the name Festus. This replaced Tanglefoot. It didn’t seem like much of an improvement.

They could change Crystal City to Cletus and create the perfect hillbilly combination, though.

Crystal City, Manitoba

we built this city on grain (and rock 'n' roll)
Grain elevator in Crystal City, Manitoba. Photo by Agent Magenta on Flickr (cc)

Canada included a Crystal City too, in Manitoba (map).

Greenway proceeded to map a street layout for a "city" south and east of Crystal Creek. The idea of our "town" being a city in the then future was not so far-fetched. Crystal City had a population of 230 plus, with Brandon recording around 100, while even Winnipeg numbered in at 400 in 1878. Greenway had seen Ontario towns with less, become great, simply due to time, immigration and internal growth. The dream for the town was to become a city, a leader in the southern prairies, maybe even the provincial capital.

Of course, this Crystal City never grew into that great city. Fewer than 400 people live there today.

Better Geographic Portmanteaus

On December 18, 2016 · 2 Comments

Longtime readers of Twelve Mile Circle know that I love a good portmanteau, the smooshing together of two distinct words to form a new word that combines their meaning. These occur geographically too. The best example may be the adjoining towns of Mexicali and Calexico on the border between Mexico and the U.S. state of California. I discovered a much less elegant example a few months ago that I described in the Rise and Fall of Idahome. It combined the state of Idaho with home. That one seemed rather lame by comparison.

With that in mind, I wondered if I could come up with my own completely fictional geographic portmanteaus. I wanted my creations to be better than the real ones. And by "better," I meant much worse. Idahome would look positively inspired compared to mine. That would make them perfect. Those involving bad puns or Dad Jokes would receive double credit. A strange number of them involved food for some reason. I must be Hungary.

I discovered that I wasn’t particularly creative although I kind-of knew that already. Maybe some (all?) of you can do better.


    Oji zoo, Kobe, Japan
    Oji zoo, Kobe, Japan. Photo by pelican on Flickr (cc)

  • Chinapple: True Fact — China grows more apples than any other nation (37 million tonnes). However they import most of their pineapples.
  • Cubanana: "In Cuba, you have three types of bananas"
  • Denmarket: Where does a Dane shop?
  • Gabonbon: A place for west Africans that crave little chocolates.
  • Great Britangerine: A branding opportunity after citrus trees grow in the UK due to climate change.
  • Guatemalacarte: Examining a nation’s 22 departments and 334 municipalities one-by-one.
  • Iranaway: Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, fled Iran in 1979. The Islamic Republic led by Ayatollah Khomeini took over from there.
  • Japanda: Now on exhibit at the Kobe Zoo.
  • Kenyahoo: Verizon might be balking at its pending purchase of Yahoo. What if Kenya stepped in?
  • Kuwaitandsee: Kuwait’s new tourism slogan.
  • Lebanonsense: Sectarian violence in Beirut
  • Madagascarface: A movie remake where the homicidal title character smuggles lemurs
  • Mexicocoa: Celebrating the Aztecs of Pre-Colombian Mexico and their chocolate beverages.
  • Panamama: Yo mama is such a geo-geek that she wants to take a freighter across Central America (where the Pacific Ocean entrance is further east than the Atlantic).
  • Perumor: Fake news in South America.
  • Singaporous: It’s easy getting in and out of the world’s only island city-state.
  • Sudandelion: Do dandelions even grow in Sudan?
  • Ukrainium: Russia knocked its neighbor upside the head and seized Crimea in 2014.


Ming dynasty urn
Ming dynasty urn. Photo by Peter Jackson on Flickr (cc)

  • Coloradoughnut: Duncan Doughnuts decided to franchise in the Mountain West.
  • Connecticutthroat: Be careful where you travel in New England; some places are more dangerous than others.
  • Iowall: The exact opposite of Idahome. In Iowa they try to keep people out.
  • Manitobama: The 44th President of the United States decided to relocate to Canada after leaving office.
  • Tasmaniac: Psychotic island-based Australians.
  • Tennesseesaw: A very low budget theme park in the Great Smoky Mountains with little chance of putting Dollywood out of business.
  • Wyomingdynasty: An antique dealer in Cheyenne specializing in Chinese porcelains crafted between 1368 and 1644.
  • Yukonquistadors: They plan to take over North America despite their limited population.


Bangkok. Photo by velo_city on Flickr (cc)

  • Amsterdamage: If the flood walls fail in the Netherlands.
  • Bangkokadoodledoo: A poultry market in Thailand.
  • Beijinglebells: The Christmas spirit sweeps China.
  • Bucharestaurant: Where to find goulash.
  • Cairomeo: Egyptian gigolo.
  • Columbustop: Where to catch public transportation in central Ohio.
  • Frankfurtunecookie: Diners at Chinese restaurants in Germany end their meal with this treat.
  • Gibraltarnished: Parts of The Rock need a makeover.
  • Hanoiying: Spending one day too many in Vietnam.
  • Kathmandudu: When Sherpa fail to clean up after walking their dogs.
  • Monacocacola: A wealthy city-state that sold its naming rights to a major corporation.
  • Nassauna: How to attract Finns to the Caribbean.
  • New Delhicatessen: An odd restaurant concept specializing in Matzo Kebabs.
  • Olympiano: A music recital in the capital city of Washington State.
  • Ottawaffle: Belgian restaurant in Canada.
  • Sacramentomato: The headquarters of the California Tomato Growers Association. Seriously, they’re really located in Sacramento.
  • Santa Festival: Santa Fe, New Mexico also decided to go all-out for the Christmas holiday this year.

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An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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