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.
It must be depressing, I considered, to live in a former capital city. Once it served as the centerpiece of a sovereign nation, a focus of governance, a diplomatic hub, and now maybe only a provincial power or possibly much worse. I wondered what the saddest case might be, the one that fell the farthest and the hardest. I had a tough time narrowing it down however because of the huge number of formerly sovereign states that no longer existed. There were plenty to select amongst.
I considered several factors. Longevity was key. A city that served as a capital for centuries would score higher than one that lasting in an exalted position for only a few years. I also examined recency and tried to find instances that stretched into the 20th Century, more or less. Finally, the completeness of the fall should play a role. It’s hard to cry for Budapest or Prague — capitals of various former nations — when they continue to serve as capitals of existing nations for example.
There were so many wonderful candidates and I tried to spread my selections over a wide geography. For 12MC readers who may be wondering why I didn’t pick “city so and so” it’s only because I didn’t have enough space. I could have doubled or tripled the size of this list.
Free City of Lübeck
Lübeck was a city-state, the Free City of Lübeck, a sovereign space almost contiguously from the 13th Century until 1937. It also served as the focal point of the Hanseatic League beginning in the late Middle Ages. This defensive and commercial confederation dominated trade along the Baltic coast and beyond for centuries. The Nazis finally ended Lübeck’s sovereignty, allegedly because Hitler wanted to punish the town for slighting him a few years earlier.
Today Lübeck is split between two German states, Schleswig-Holstein (primarily) and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. It is the capital of neither. Lübeck dropped from multi-hundred-year sovereignty to… just another port city.
Ha’il served as the capital of the Emirate of Jabal Shammar, an Islamic monarchy lasting nearly a hundred years until 1921. The Emirate covered a big chunk of the interior of the Arabian Peninsula. The House of Saud and the Emirate’s House of Rashid bickered frequently over their respective territorial boundaries within the desolate interior, the Nejd region, without any definitive resolution until World War I. The House of Saud allied with Britain during that conflict and the House of Rashid chose the Ottomans. This weakened the Emirate of Jabal Shammar as the war concluded. The Saudi campaign of 1921, with British military assistance, erased it for good.
Today Ha’il is a provincial capital, an agricultural center, a university town, and that’s about it.
I had a particularly difficult time selecting an African example because there were so many empires that lasted for multiple centuries before being erased by infighting or by European colonialism. I think Ngazargamu (Gazargamo) would be a particularly noteworthy example. It served as the capital of the Bornu Empire in the African interior in the general vicinity of Lake Chad from the 14th Century until 1893. After Bornu’s defeat, Ngazargamu fell to ruin and decay.
Today Ngazargamu is a brown patch of rubble in the middle of nowhere.
India also included a large number of very prolific empires. I selected the Kingdom of Mysore that lasted from the 14th Century until 1947, which also had its capital in the town of Mysore (and in Srirangapatna at times). The Kingdom tussled with Britain in four separate Anglo-Mysore wars. Mysore won the first two rounds and the British won the all-important second two, lessening Mysore’s importance when the British installed a new Prince. Mysore limped along as a diminished power until joining newly-independent India in 1947.
Today Mysore is the headquarters city of the Mysore District, one of 30 such districts in India’s Karnataka state. It is also the lead city of the Mysore Division which includes a collection of several surrounding districts. However it’s not even the state capital, which is Bangalore.
I had a hard time with Oceana for an entirely different reason. Lots of south Pacific history went unrecorded so it’s hard to tell when dynasties actually began. I’ll go with Mu’a though, the capital of the Tu’i Tonga Empire which may have started as early as the 10th Century and lasted through 1865.
Today Mu’a is a small town on Tongatapu, the principal island of Tonga. Maybe 5,000 people live there. It’s not the capital. That’s Nuku’alofa.
All good things come to an end and before long our Kentucky adventure approached its natural conclusion. It was time to return home. I still had some parting opportunities as I left the state and then again as we steered through West Virginia towards the Mid Atlantic.
East Wasn’t East
SOURCE: Generated from the U.S. National Atlas Map Maker
Long ago in the early days of Twelve Mile Circle, all the way back in 2009, I posted an article I called USA Time Zone Anomalies, Part II. I examined places where one could travel east or west and cross into counterintuitive time zones. I’d mentioned that the Eastern and Central time zones split Kentucky into distinct portions. The article included an unusual occurrence I’d spotted on a map that fell along the line.
I consulted the 12MC complete index map before I departed on the trip and noticed that the anomaly fell cleanly along our path. I made a note of it so I could experience it in person if the right opportunity happened.
I’ve reproduced the setup in a map of central Kentucky, above. The light green counties are located in Eastern Time. The tan counties are located in Central Time. Notice how the triangular shape of Taylor County dips down between Green and Adair Counties. Theoretically, one should be able to move due east from Taylor (in Eastern Time) into Adair (in Central Time). Move east but move backwards in time, or do it in reverse. That’s the anomaly. Generally that should never happen.
It wasn’t simply theoretical. I accomplished that exact feat in person although I didn’t bother to change my watch. I drove from Taylor County into Adair County on Coburg Road (at this spot) just as I’d described as a possibility in the earlier article. It was easy. I only hoped that nobody would run into our rear bumper while we stopped to take the photo. Imagine the explanation I’d have to give to the nice officer investigating the accident. "You see, I was simply trying to go backwards in time right here at the Adair County border…" Right. They probably would have locked me up overnight for observation.
This was one of those instances where the family didn’t have the same level of appreciation although they were willing to go along. They’re generally good sports about my geo-oddity detours. I might have gotten more resistance had the alternate path lasted more than a few minutes.
Déjà Vu Rest Stop
Interstate 64 East of Lexington
We took a brief break at a highway rest stop along Interstate 64, east of Lexington, Kentucky. I stepped out of the car and experienced the weirdest sense of déjà vu. I knew immediately that I’d been there before, except I knew that it wasn’t possible. I’d gone down this stretch of highway only one other time in my life and it was when I was a child. I had no recollection of ever stopping there.
Then it dawned on me. It was nothing supernatural. I’d featured this spot on 12MC before, coincidentally also in 2009. This was one of the rest stops from the article No More Rest?. Well, actually it was the companion of an identical rest area a couple of miles farther down the Interstate on the other side of the road. However, architecturally, they were spitting images of each other. I’d marked the spot on my complete index map years ago although I hadn’t noticed it recently because it fell well outside of the target area. It was a complete surprise. I stopped in my tracks and pulled out a camera.
The stop had been referenced in a Wall Street Journal article that discussed a looming demise in roadside rest areas:
There is one old rest area that appears safe: a circular building, put up in 1964 on Interstate 64, near Winchester, Ky., featuring a roof with multiple triangular folds. It was placed under the umbrella of the National Historic Preservation Act when the interstate system turned 50 in 2006.
That description sounded exactly like the building I saw.
It was a strange layout by the way. People walked through a common entrance, with ladies heading towards the left curving hallway and gentlemen to the right. Both restrooms were in the middle, separated by a wall of course, and semi-circular. Imagine experiencing a facility with very few straight lines. Bizarre.
Soon we left Kentucky for good and entered West Virginia.
Cathedral Falls, Gauley Bridge, WV
Driving narrow winding country roads, we entered a small town named Gauley Bridge, set in a narrow river valley where the New and Gauley Rivers joined together to form the Kanawha River (map).
Completely randomly, we spotted a large waterfall crashing from the hillside easily visible from U.S. Route 60, the Midland Trail. A quick tap on a mobile phone provided a name: Cathedral Falls. That was awesome. The town created a little park at the base of the falls, and visitors could walk right up and splash in the pool at its base.
New River Gorge
New River Gorge
Our final destination that day, however, was the New River Gorge.
We’d been there plenty of times before (in case you want to read about it) although our last visit occurred more than a decade ago. It was nice to taste some serious New River whitewater again. A thunderstorm the previous evening raised water levels into massive rapids, and the weather was perfect. What a wonderful way to finish our latest adventure.
Kentucky Adventure articles: