I’m a relentless counter. I count lighthouse, ferries, waterfalls, breweries and even nineteenth century coastal fortifications during my travels. I used to count states but it became pointless when I reached all fifty so I switched to counties. Last summer I hit my 1,000th county and I’ve continued onward from there. Chances are good that if it can be counted then I’m probably counting it… or so I thought.
That’s why I was a bit surprised when loyal reader Jon Persky suggested a new way to count, one that should have been intuitively obvious to me but somehow I’d overlooked all these years. He collects each state border crossing, specifically each possible combination of crossings between adjoining states. For example, and let’s use an easy one, if one were to "complete" Florida, one would have to cross its borders with Georgia and Alabama.
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Jon adds a little twist to this game and also includes any possible combination of border crossing between each of the U.S. states and individual Canadian provinces and Mexican states. If one were to complete Vermont under these rules, a traveler would need to cross its borders with New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York and Québec.
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See how the game works? The same counting method could also be applied to any secondary units of government in any country. Whether one wanted to play this with counties of Ireland, départements of France, states or territories of Australia, or whatever, the possible crossings could be calculated and tracked. This could be transferred easily enough to an international level too. To complete Luxembourg, for example, one would need to cross its individual borders with France, Belgium and Germany (I’ve actually finished this one!).
This game is insidiously difficult even thought it has such basic rules and seems so easy on its surface. Simply clipping a territory doesn’t generate much progress. Admittedly it adds a single crossing to the total but players have to cover large distances to complete even the smallest of states because the object is to work the perimeter.
Jon put together a map for the United States with individual state crossing, including those with Canadian provinces and Mexican states. He believes the total comes out to 138. I could count them myself on his map or I could take his word for it, and well, I’m generally lazy so I’ll trust him.
The red dots are land or bridge crossings and the green dots are direct ferry links. Notice that via ferry one can cross between New York and Rhode Island (Long Island to Block Island), Ohio and Ontario (Sandusky to Pelee Island) and between Maine and Nova Scotia (Portland or Bar Harbor to Yarmouth). Don’t get too hung up on the exact placement of the dots. They’re simply intended to signify that a crossing is possible between adjacent geographical entities, not that this is the exact place where a traveler must cross.
I’ve shrunk this image down to fit within the borders of the blog but it should download to its larger size if you want to use this for your own personal tracking purposes.
So how did I do? Better than I expected since I’ve never counted my travels this way before, but pretty lousy overall. I’ve done about half the possible crossings. I’ve marked my progress with black dots on the map below and I think the total comes out to about 75. I think I’ve completed only 6 states though (and a couple more if I don’t count Canada). I’ll have to take a closer look and ponder this some more.
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. However, now that I’m aware of this method of counting I’ll follow it a lot more closely. Had I been thinking about this last summer I could have snagged Iowa to Illinois with little difficulty. Oh well. Now I have another hobby.
Jon also provided me with a list of every possible crossing between individual counties found within each of the states. The total comes out to an amazing 9,229 possible border crossing possibilities that should satisfy anyone’s need to count for a lifetime. Please contact me directly if you would like a copy. I think that list goes beyond even my relentless need to count!