A Local Journey Briefly Through Time

On May 6, 2014 · 5 Comments

Google released its back catalog of Street View images recently, allowing users to understand locational changes since the introduction of Street View in 2007. I figured I’d let the hype die-down a bit and check it out.

Succinctly, I considered it an interesting novelty and probably not much more than that at the moment. How many observable physical changes happened over the last few years at most locations? The real benefit will accrue as decades and then generations pass. Professional historians, and even armchair genealogists and aficionados like myself will discover increasing enjoyment as time passes and the archive expands. I only wish I could see my great-grandparent’s home in southeast Washington, DC at the turn of the last century, for example, as it evolved over the years they lived there. That doesn’t exist of course. Right now Street View covers three fixed points in time at that location; 2007, 2009 and 2011. My descendants on the other hand will get what I wish I had for my ancestors, although it will be I who will be the subject of their curiosity. Google’s imagery will become an historical treasure and assuredly a valuable collection within the National Archives even if Google morphs into something completely unrelated in the meantime.

Operating under a theory that somehow even Twelve Mile Circle will be captured and preserved for posterity within that same Google cloud, maybe I can give my great-grandchildren a head start on some observational elements. For even in my own tiny yard I’ve noticed ever-so-subtle changes over the last several years, and the Street View cars captured them faithfully in their glorious monotonous insignificance.


View from 2007
Google Street View, November 2007

It seemed like I waited forever for Street View coverage to finally arrive in the Washington, DC area when I chronicled the roll-out with enthusiasm back in November 2008. The photos seemed grainy and blurry. Coverage was spotty. Nonetheless it represented a revolutionary idea. I could drive vicariously down a street I’d never seen in person and understand the neighborhood, its topography, its physical characteristics, maybe what it meant to live there in a visual sense. We all remember the fan sites that sprouted soon thereafter with images of automobile accidents, of crack houses, of people caught in delicate personal situations and the like.

The new timeline feature brought back memories of the first images recorded at my home, an autumn day in November 2007. One can barely notice a twig sprouting on the right side of the foreground, a product of leaves already dropped for the winter plus poor camera resolution. That was a young Tulip Tree, Liriodendron tulipifera, a species native to eastern North America sometimes called a tulip poplar although it wasn’t closely related to tulips or poplars. One day it simply appeared in the yard, a sprout less than an inch high with two tiny leaves. Ordinarily I would have pinched it with my thumb and forefinger and yanked it out as just one more weed to remove. My older son wouldn’t let me do that so I mowed around the pathetic stem very carefully all summer and it became "his" tree.



View from 2009
Google Street View, August 2009

Google improved its technology by the time its car passed through my neighborhood again in August 2009, recording and posting much improved imagery. The tulip tree started to seem like an actual tree. This species is noted for its quick growth and that’s confirmed after the passage of only two years. It’s a very ancient type of tree related to Magnolia, extending back to the Lower Cretaceous period when Dinosaurs roamed the earth. Apparently tulip trees do best in the earlier periods of forest succession before other hardwoods start to block the sun and crowd them out. That was the exact niche it exploited on my lawn, a sunny spot with little competition.

I also noticed my old Jeep Cherokee in the driveway. My job moved back downtown to a different office and public transportation became an option again on days I didn’t telework. I sold it to a cop. Thankfully it continued to perform well afterwards.



View from 2012
Google Street View, June 2012

Another couple of years passed, now jumping to June 2012, and the tree continued to grow. I noticed that this image had to represent a Thursday morning. See the blue recycling bin next to the curb on the left? Pickups were Thursday. The bin had already been emptied and not yet returned to its rightful spot next to the house. That would make it early in the day. Also the last of the blossoms remained on our late-blooming azalea shrubs and the upstairs windows were open. That signified very early in the month assuming Google’s June accuracy. I’m going to guess the car came through on Thursday, June 7, 2012 around 8:00-9:00 am.



Tulip Tree
My own photograph, May 2014

Two more years ticked away quickly. The Street View car should be expected to pass through once again anytime now. In its absence I went ahead and photographed the tulip tree yesterday although the new springtime leaves haven’t completely opened yet. The tree kept growing, actually quite an impressive amount over such a small number of years.

I wish I knew when Google would sweep through my neighborhood again. I’d make sure I stood outside waiving my arms for a fleeting moment of Internet glory. Does anyone have any Google connections? Certainly someone should be able to hook me up with a schedule given all of the geo-geeks in the 12MC audience. I’m afraid to even ask what I’d have to do to score a ride-along.

Riverboat Adventure, Part 5 (Americana)

On April 29, 2014 · 1 Comments

One of the reasons I enjoyed the various marathon series offered by Mainly Marathons — other than the fact that I didn’t have to run them — was that they provided an opportunity to see parts of the country not normally encountered by casual tourists. I’ve done this twice now, first with the Dustbowl Series and now with the Riverboat Series. I chauffeured a runner from one obscure locale to another, and in return I could tweak the path to count new counties, capture geo-oddities, and experience undiluted Americana. I called that a fair bargain.

Graceland



Graceland, well Graceland, certainly wasn’t an obscure destination lacking for tourism. I would have gone out of my way to visit Graceland eventually anyway so maybe it wasn’t the best example to begin this article. However it was the complete embodiment of Americana so it had to rise to the top of my list. The Cult of Elvis always fascinated me so Graceland (map) required my careful, respectful attention.

How could I possible choose a single photograph to represent such an astonishing cultural touchstone? Every single item, from the house itself to its outlandish furnishings of the Jungle Room, to the walls of platinum records, to the customized jet airplane with gold bathroom fixtures, simply everything shouted Elvis Presley. I selected the jumpsuits although feel free to scroll back-and-forth for other images. One exhibit included an entire series of jumpsuits and it was fascinating to observe when they first appeared in the early 1970’s as very simple designs, and progressed over the years with Elvis adding ever-increasing amounts of elaborate decorative elements including capes, rhinestones, embroidery and cowboy-sized belt buckles.

Travel Tip: arrive at Graceland just as it opens for the day and purchase Platinum tickets instead of VIP, then board the shuttle for the mansion grounds as the very first activity. This costs about half the price of VIP and an early arrival practically guaranteeing "front of the line" access offered by the VIP tour.


Low Clearance



Of course I consulted 12MC’s Complete Index map before I left on my grand adventure. Doesn’t everyone? I wanted to see if I’d written about oddities along my expected path and whether they might merit a personal visit. I noticed a reference to Low Clearance, an article posted in February 2011. The story was all about extremely low overpasses, the kind that might rip the top off of a box truck like a can opener. One such example happened to be found in Henning, Tennessee and I would be driving directly past it (map). Typically I wouldn’t go out of my way just to see an 8’0″ (2.44 m) railroad trestle underpass, however this one involved a measly 30-second detour so why not?

I tweeted the photograph later that day as a victory salute, prompting an even more impressive return tweet from @mapman85 of a better example near Greenfield, Ohio: 7’5″!


Tire Man



I titled this photo, "Random creature made from tires outside of Dumas, Arkansas" (street view) and that pretty much described it. This wasn’t the best of photos although not so bad considering that it was captured from a moving automobile with a mobile phone; notice the side-view mirror in the lower left corner.

I never could understand what an oversized rubber humanoid had to do with a TV Repair business although that didn’t really matter either. That was the kind of whacky non sequitur I’d come to expect in these out-of-the-way places. Some guy wanted a giant tire sculpture in his front yard, and darn it, that’s what he was going to build right there.

Do people still get TV’s repaired anymore? Maybe he had a lot of time on his hands.


Devil’s Crossroads



Two legendary highways intersected in Clarksdale, Mississippi (map). US Highway 61 ran north-south. We drove it from Vicksburg to Memphis through the heart of the flat, empty floodplain of the Mississippi Delta. This was the storied "Blues Highway," probably second only to Route 66 for its revered place in American nostalgia and culture (e.g., Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited).



US Highway 49 — while not as well known culturally as US 61 — also ran through the Delta. It would have crossed familiar territory to classic Blues musicians such as Big Joe Williams and Howlin’ Wolf who sang about it.

The Clarksdale, Mississippi intersection of these two storied highways came to be known as the Crossroads, and sometimes the Devil’s Crossroads. Legends pointed here as the place where bluesman Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil in return for his musical skills, as supposedly referenced in his 1936 recording of "Cross Roads Blues." Of course that assumed one believed in such things, and if so, understanding that there were multiple Delta locations all laying claim to the actual Devil’s Crossroads. Tourism, you know.


Giant Mailbox



Like the Tire Man, this Giant Mailbox didn’t seem to serve any purpose other than standing by the roadside whimsically and entertain passersby. One can appreciate the sense of scale by comparing it to the flagpole and the stop sign. We stumbled upon it unexpectedly as we drove up US Highway 65 in northeastern Louisiana. Well done Ben Burnside of Franklin Plantation, Newellton, Louisiana (street view).


Rest Stop Sundial



I suppose I became sensitized to sundials when I wrote Remarkable Sundials last year. We stopped at an otherwise unremarkable wayside along Interstate 40 in Tennessee as we returned home. I spotted a sculpture with a familiar shape from the corner of my eye, walked over to investigate it, and figured it to be a sundial of a sort (satellite view). I searched for it on the Intertubes when I returned home. It was a work called "Marking Time" by Preston Farabow installed in 2007.

A press release from the Tennessee Arts Commission provided all of the particulars, and noted that it "incorporates markers representing all 95 counties of the state." A county-counting sundial? That practically defined perfection in the Twelve Mile Circle universe.


The Riverboat Adventure articles:

Interstate Highway Time Zone Crossings

On April 6, 2014 · 7 Comments

I’ve been noticing search engine queries lately seeking additional information about points along US Interstate Highways where travelers cross from one time zone into another. I’m going to do that myself soon on my upcoming trip and I couldn’t find a comprehensive resource either. Maybe there’s one out there hidden away in a lonely corner of the Intertubes. Maybe not. I didn’t see it so I decided to create my own. Hopefully others will find this compact reference useful too.

Yes, I understand that mobile phones and other networked devices grab time changes automatically without human intervention from nearby cell towers as one drives merrily down the highway. However some of us like to be hyper-prepared before embarking on a journey. I even recorded the lat/long coordinates so travelers (OK, maybe just me…) could drop the waypoints into their GPS receivers and know exactly where the time changes would happen well in advance.



View Interstate Highway Time Zone Changes in a larger map

Readers will want to open this map in another tab or window. It’s not very useful in its present scaled down version that is included for illustrative purposes. Others may prefer the even more detailed Google spreadsheet with links that I prepared. The spreadsheet layout mimicked the geographic footprint of the United States in rough terms, for example I positioned Idaho at the top-left (northwest) and Florida at the bottom-right (southeast). That was also the reason why Interstate numbers on the spreadsheet and the lists below were ordered from large to small (I-94 to I-8). I didn’t reverse the order just to be obstinate. Even-numbered Interstates run roughly west to east across the nation with the 2-digit numbering increasing from south to north. There were also a handful of odd-numbered highways that crossed time zone boundaries too and muddied the construct a bit. Again, the rules applied in general terms only.

This exercise was a lot more tedious than I imagined. Believe me, I’d use much more colorful language if this wasn’t a family-friendly website. I’d assumed quite foolishly that the preponderance of time changes would happen at state borders, and simplify my task. Some do, although many more switch at random county borders which were much more difficult to pinpoint on a map. That’s why I think people have trouble tracking time zones as they drive. Now they have a tool — this page.

Here’s what I found. I’m sure errors or omissions crept into this because it was such a pain to compile. Please let me know and I’ll make corrections.

Change Between Pacific Time and Mountain Time

  • Interstate 90: Idaho <--> Montana
  • Interstate 84: Baker Co., OR <--> Malheur Co., OR
  • Interstate 80: Unincorporated Elko Co., NV <--> West Wendover, Elko Co., NV(1)
  • Interstate 40: California <--> Arizona (Standard Time); Eastern Arizona <--> SE corner of Navajo Reservation in AZ (Daylight Saving Time)(2)(3)
  • Interstate 15: Nevada <--> Arizona (Standard Time); Arizona <--> Utah (Daylight Saving Time)(2)
  • Interstate 10: California <--> Arizona (Standard Time); Arizona <--> New Mexico (Daylight Saving Time)(2)
  • Interstate 08: California <--> Arizona (Standard Time); no change during DST(2)(4)

Change Between Mountain Time and Central Time

  • Interstate 94: Stark Co., ND <--> Morton Co., ND
  • Interstate 90: Jackson Co., SD <--> Jones Co., SD
  • Interstate 80: Keith Co., NE <--> Lincoln Co., NE
  • Interstate 70: Sherman Co., KS <--> Thomas Co., KS(5)
  • Interstate 40: New Mexico <--> Texas
  • Interstate 10: Hudspeth Co., TX <--> Culberson Co., TX

Change Between Central Time and Eastern Time

  • Interstate 94: Indiana <--> Michigan
  • Interstate 90: LaPorte Co., IN <--> St. Joseph Co., IN(6)
  • Interstate 85: Alabama <--> Georgia(7)
  • Interstate 80: LaPorte Co., IN <--> St. Joseph Co., IN(6)
  • Interstate 74: Illinois <--> Indiana
  • Interstate 70: Illinois <--> Indiana
  • Interstate 65: Jasper Co., IN <--> White Co., IN /AND/ Hart Co., KY <--> Larue Co., KY(8)
  • Interstate 64: Perry Co., IN <--> Crawford Co., IN
  • Interstate 59: Alabama <--> Georgia
  • Interstate 40: Cumberland Co., TN <--> Roane Co., TN
  • Interstate 24: Marion Co., TN <--> Hamilton Co., TN
  • Interstate 20: Alabama <--> Georgia
  • Interstate 10: Jackson Co., FL <--> Gadsden Co., FL

Bonus Roads(9)

  • Western Kentucky Parkway: Grayson Co., KY <--> Hardin Co., KY(10)
  • Cumberland Parkway: Russel Co., KY <--> Pulaski Co., KY(11)

Footnotes

(1) West Wendover is the only part of Nevada that officially observes Mountain Time, primarily so gamblers from Salt Lake City — the nearest large town — won’t have to deal with a time change and can focus on losing their money without distraction. This was described in (West) Wendover: What Time? What State?
(2) Arizona does not recognize Daylight Saving Time, meaning that for practical purposes the spot where the time zone change takes place shifts in the Spring and the Fall. This can sometimes lead to embarrassing situations.
(3) The exception to the "Arizona doesn’t recognize DST rule" is the portion of the sprawling Navajo Nation that crosses into Arizona. The Navajo did this to assert their sovereignty as well as to keep their tri-state Nation on the same time all year.
(4) Interstate 8 extends from San Diego, California to south-central Arizona; fairly short by interstate standards. Therefore it does not experience a time change when the two states observe the same time (i.e, when the Pacific Time Zone switches to DST and Arizona remains on Mountain Standard Time)
(5) I crossed this one during my Dust Bowl trip. See Kansas Mountain Time.
(6) You’re not seeing things. Interstates 80 and 90 are repeated with the same information here. That’s because they’re co-signed at this spot.
(7) Interstate 85 is the best example of an odd-numbered Interstate messing up my chart. The time change happens at a very southern segment of this very eastern highway.
(8) Interstate 65 starts in Central Time in an Indiana suburb of Chicago, switches to Eastern Time as it heads south, then switches back into Central Time in Kentucky
(9) I included Kentucky parkways because they’re significant roads albeit they’re not Interstate highways (not even Secret Interstates). I probably could have added other roads too.
(10) I will be crossing here on an upcoming trip. This was the spot that inspired me to go ahead and compile the list.
(11) I crossed here in the summer of 2013 during my Kentucky Adventures.

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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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