Several years ago, way back in November 2009, Twelve Mile Circle published an article called Counting Border Crossings. It revealed a new way to track travels suggested by loyal reader Jon Persky. Many people count countries, states, provinces, département, territories, counties or whatever. Jon’s method counted a place only when an adventurer traversed each border that it shared with every one of its neighbors. Refer to that original article for additional explanation. It’s not that complicated. Anyway, his analysis resulted in a comprehensive map of possible crossings for the internal state-level divisions of the United States.
Possible Border Crossings
The map included crossing between individual states as well as with provinces of Canada and states of México. Some efforts could be completed only by ferry as designated by green dots.
I seemed smitten with the concept at the time and I vowed to track my personal progress. Then I promptly forgot about it until I stumbled upon that old article recently. I still loved the premise and I decided to update my personal map. This is how it looks now.
My Crossing Marked with Black Dots as of September 2016
In 2009 my tally stood at 75 crossings with only 6 states completed. My 2016 results improved to 95 crossings and 17 states completed without any conscious effort. I said at the time, and I still agree, that "this game is insidiously difficult… players have to cover large distances to complete even the smallest of states because the object is to work the perimeter." Many possibilities will also remain uncounted on my map until I take a lot more trips into Canada and México.
Those Geography-Based Running Trips
Pretending I’m a runner
The secret to my success happened by accident as I chauffeured a participant in several Mainly Marathons race trips. Longtime 12MC readers probably remembered the premise. These races catered primarily to a very specialized subset of marathoners who wished to complete a course in all 50 states. Others had completed literally hundreds of marathons and simply wanted to increase the lifetime totals. My participant specialized in half-marathons and insisted she was only "half crazy."
Each series featured back-to-back races in different state on subsequent days. For example, the New England Series I wrote about in May included seven races in seven days in seven states (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York). I’d also served as driver for other races including the Center of the Nation, Riverboat and Dust Bowl series. All told, those races involved 23 separate states. The whole premise of race site selections focused on minimizing driving distance while crossing between numerous states, a perfect combination for Jon’s concept. How else would I reasonably expect to find a reason to cross between New Mexico and Oklahoma, as an example?
Shhh… don’t tell anyone. I actually started running the 5K’s each day beginning with the Center of the Nation series. That made me about 12% crazy by my calculations. It was the only way I could stop eating piles of snacks at the aid table as I waited for my runner to finish.
Back then I said, "I haven’t even completed my own home state of Virginia where I’m missing its border crossing with Kentucky and I doubt that I’m going to get this one anytime soon." I couldn’t have been more wrong. Immediately thereafter I began an effort to capture every county and independent city in my beloved Commonwealth, although the effort lasted several more years. However, for this purpose, the quest drew me to the isolated counties at the far southwestern corner of Virginia. There I crossed the Kentucky-Virginia border at the KYTNVA Tripoint in 2013.
Other tripoints offered additional border crossing opportunities. I crossed Massachusetts-New York for the first time at the CTMANY Tripoint, thanks to Steve of CTMQ. I also leveraged an amazing three tripoints on the Dust Bowl trip for additional first-time crossings; Colorado-Oklahoma at CONMOK, New Mexico-Oklahoma at NMOKTX and Colorado-Kansas at COKSOK.
A couple of new crossings stood out above the rest. Kentucky-Missouri might have been the best. These two states shared a very short border along the Mississippi River. Anyone looking at a map would see that no road crossed the river anywhere between them. However, a dry-land border still existed! The river shifted at some point leaving a small part of Kentucky stranded on the Missouri side (map). It retained the curious name Wolf Island even though it wasn’t an island anymore. I found a gravel road leading to a pasture where I could cross from Missouri into Kentucky via Wolf Island. Any hour later I crossed between the two states again, this time over the Mississippi River on the scenic Dorena-Hickman Ferry (my video). I felt proud that I completed the border crossings using the only two means available, both creative and completely non-traditional.
A second favorite might have been my crossing between Utah and Nevada. I took the family to Utah in 2011. One morning, while the family slept, I decided to drive 150 miles (250 kilometres) each way from Ogden to West Wendover, Nevada. Why? To visit the only place in Nevada that legally recognized Mountain Time. That was completely nuts, and that’s what made it so memorable.
The Ones that Got Away
I paid a steep price when I forgot Jon’s game. A couple of opportunities wriggled away while I wasn’t paying attention. Last summer I went to Asheville, North Carolina and captured a slew of new counties. I was pretty close to Georgia and I could have snagged the Georgia-North Carolina crossing. I don’t know when I’ll get that chance again. Ditto for Nebraska-Wyoming and Montana-South Dakota when I took my Center of the Nation trip. Those may be too remote to hit without special effort, especially Montana-South Dakota. That one would require a drive over many miles of gravel road (street view). Missouri-Tennessee, on the other hand would have been an easy pickup. Alas I missed that opportunity too.
I still loved the concept. Maybe this time I won’t forget about it for several years. No promises.
Washington State provided a nice example of presidential layering down to a county, a community and ultimately to a body of water. I couldn’t find any better example. However, I wondered whether I might be able to do something similar on a different tack. Many eastern states reflected another set of leaders, the noble men and women who ruled the mother homeland as the North American colonies arose.
Potentially, it might be an easier investigation too. Several states gained their names from nobility. These included Delaware (Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr), Georgia (King George II), Louisiana (Louis XIV of France), Maryland (Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of King Charles I), New York (Duke of York, later King James II of England), Virginia (Elizabeth I of England, the Virgin Queen) and West Virginia (also Elizabeth I). I checked them all. The best example I could find came from the Carolinas, from North Carolina specifically (map).
North and South Carolina derived their names from the same monarch, King Charles II. I consulted one of my favorite sources, the Online Etymology Dictionary. It explained that the name Charles began as Karl in Middle High German, meaning "man" or "husband." In Medieval Latin this became Carolus, then Charles in French and then English adopted it. Early explorers and settlers used the Medieval Latin variant when naming the Carolina colonies.
Naturally, noble names extended downward to the county level although not necessarily in recognition of a reigning monarch. North Carolina’s Mecklenburg County (map) offered an excellent example. This county grew in importance in recent decades as a financial and banking center, recently achieving a population of more than a million residents. However it began humbly on the Piedmont frontier, carved from an earlier existing county. Mecklenburg recognized Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz who married King George III just before the county formed.
Charlotte seemed an odd choice as a wife for one of the most powerful men in the world. She came from a minor German duchy far removed from Europe’s powerful families and she spoke no English. Royal Central explained,
As a young woman, Charlotte received a very meager education, and what few opinions she had, she kept to herself. This quality of hers appealed to the young King George III, who desired a wife who had no experience of power politics and party intrigue.
George III married his German fiancée site unseen. She undertook the journey from her home duchy and the marriage took place six hours after she arrived at St. James’s Palace in London. That’s how they did things in royal circles back in the day with those arranged marriages. It was more important for George to start expanding his royal lineage than worry about niceties like getting to know his prospective bride. Apparently they got to know each other pretty well because Charlotte bore fifteen little princes and princesses.
I cheated a little. I already understood that the city of Charlotte (map) in Mecklenburg County also got its name from Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. That little peculiarity served as a minor footnote in an earlier Twelve Mile Circle article, Ten Seats in North Carolina. A better example would avoid repetition, however I didn’t find any of those. Maybe someone in the audience can enlighten us with a different set of layering.
It surprised me that the places named Charlotte and Mecklenburg survived the Revolutionary War. The county formed in 1762 and the city in 1768, just a few years before the United States declared its independence. The Revolutionaries hated King George III and everything he represented. They had a perfect opportunity to dump his wife’s name and yet it persisted.
Then I started stretching the layers, maybe past their natural breaking points on North Carolina’s Highway 27. NC 27 "has had a tumultuous history through Charlotte. It has always served as a major east–west route through the city, but it has been rerouted numerous times on different city streets as traffic patterns changed." Since 1924, the route included Albemarle Road. Various Dukes and Earls of Albemarle existed as a peerage of England and the name reflected in several places on the colonial landscape.
The most significant usage in North Carolina happened on the body of water separating its string of barrier islands from the mainland. It became Albemarle Sound. This recognized George Monck, 1st Duke of Albemarle. I found no evidence although I suspected Albemarle Road derived its name from Albemarle Sound. Even if it didn’t it must have come somehow from the extended family of Albemarle nobility. An odd name like Albemarle wouldn’t crop up completely by chance.
I carried the layering ever more tenuously to the Albemarle Road Playground. It seemed to be a nice place. The city of Charlotte described it as 21 acres of "picnic shelter, playground, recreation center and multi-purpose field." However, I noticed it didn’t abut Albemarle Road. On the other hand it did seem contiguous with Albemarle Road Elementary School and Albemarle Road Middle School. They sat at the end of an access road that did in fact connect to Albemarle Road.
Thus, North Carolina contained a county of Mecklenburg with a city of Charlotte bisected by Albemarle Road featuring an Albemarle School complex and a playground.
Can anyone do better? I didn’t check Canadian provinces. That could be a possibility.
Twelve Mile Circle discovered quite the layering of Presidential place names recently, completely by accident. I tried to find a better example during the larger part of an afternoon and never came close. Someone from the audience should feel free to post a comment with better results.
George Washington as the first President of the United States certainly deserved places named for him in abundance. He probably didn’t need Washington Ditch although I couldn’t fault those responsible for digging a path through a swamp for seizing the opportunity. New York City served as the US capital at George Washington’s inauguration in 1789 and it moved to Philadelphia the following year. In 1791, Washington appointed a commission to establish a new capital city in accordance with the Residence Act. The Commissioners came up with a new name for the city… Washington. I mentioned that because a really important place — namely the capital city of the United States — honored George Washington from the very earliest days of the nation.
Settlers moving to the Pacific Northwest north of the Columbia River wished to split from the previously-established Oregon Territory in 1853. They wanted to call their news state Columbia. Oregon Territory’s nonvoting representative in Congress took their case to the floor of the House of Representatives. Then things took a strange twist.
Upon the completion of Lane’s speech, a new issue was injected into the proceedings. Suddenly the question was not whether the new territory should be created, but what name it should be called. Representative Richard Stanton of Kentucky rose and moved that the bill be amended by striking the word "Columbia" wherever it occurred and substituting "Washington." The House then voted favorably on the motion.
Despite legends to the contrary, the change was actually just one of those things that happened on a whim. They weren’t trying to prevent confusion with the District of Columbia. Congress simply wanted to honor George Washington even more. Thus the US ended up with a Washington State (map) not a Columbia State.
Washington State eventually subdivided into 39 counties. Several of them honored presidents other than Washington: Adams; Garfield; Grant; Lincoln; Jefferson and Pierce. Lincoln County (map) appeared in 1883, one of many places named for Abraham Lincoln in the US in the decades immediately following his assassination. The western states settled quickly during that era. Only Native Americans lived in what became Lincoln County a decade earlier.
"Wild Goose Bill" (Samuel Wilbur Condit) might have justly claimed the honor of being the first actual white settler of Lincoln County as he claims his advent into this country as a settler where the town of Wilbur now stands in 1875. Wilbur, named for its founder in 1887, was incorporated in 1889. While out hunting Mr. Condit once mistook a settler’s poultry and shot a fat gander. Ever after he was known as "Wild Goose Bill". Before he platted and named Wilbur, his trading place was known as "Goosetown".
I liked that some guy accidentally shot a neighbor’s goose and they stuck him with a lifelong nickname. People on the frontier could be cruel.
Within Lincoln County I found a community of Lincoln. Sure, I’d prefer another president instead of the repetitious Lincoln. That didn’t happen. Lincoln County honored no presidents other than Lincoln although the notion of a President Fishtrap intrigued me. So I took what I could get. Nothing much distinguished the community of Lincoln beyond an RV Park/Campground and a post office with its own ZIP code (99147). It’s possible to send mail to people living in Lincoln, WA 99147.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt Lake
Actually one thing distinguished the tiny community of Lincoln. It stood on the banks of Franklin Delano Roosevelt Lake.
Lake Roosevelt formed as a result of the Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River (map). Construction began in 1933 at the beginning of the Roosevelt Administration and it took nine years to build. Its massive reservoir stretched 150 miles (240 kilometres), and the dam produces more electricity than any other facility in the United States even today. The President didn’t name the lake after himself, though. That happened after he died. I don’t know if this was the first place named for Roosevelt after his death although it had to be somewhere near the top of the list. Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes selected the name only five days after Roosevelt died.
The spectacular presidential layering to beat in this silly competition: Roosevelt Lake, with the community of Lincoln on its shores, in the county of Lincoln in the state of Washington.