I know there are several regular readers of the Twelve Mile Circle who are fascinated with the county level of government in the United States. Some of you are county counters, others of you are county highpointers, and still others might be county radio hunters. All of you are aficionados of this phenomenon of one sort or another and today’s post is intended for you. Don’t worry, other of you will probably enjoy this too.
I confess that I share elements of this fixation as if that wasn’t already self-evident.
What’s in a Name
I found myself on the National Association of Counties website recently and I came across an interesting page called, What’s in a Name? A Look at County Names. I won’t spoil all of the surprises in case you want to check it out yourself but here are a few of the highlights.
Sunbury, Pennsylvania; seat of Northumberland County
- The longest county names have fourteen characters. This happens twice, a tie between Northumberland County, Virginia and Northumberland County, Pennsylvania. I’d have collected that Pennsylvania county if only I’d crossed the river.
- There are county names that begin with every letter of the alphabet except for X. I wonder, with the state of the economy and all, if a county might consider corporate naming rights. It’s acceptable for sports arenas so I figure its only a matter of time before a cash-strapped locality puts its name out for bid too. Maybe Xerox could take care of this particular situation?
- The most common name for a county is Washington, found in thirty States. Paradoxically one of the states that doesn’t have a Washington County is the state of Washington.
- The shortest county names have only three characters. Twenty seven different counties fall into this category. Most but not all of them are Lee and they do tend to congregate in the South.
My Latest County Counting Adventure
I struggled mightily as I tried to figure out what I could do with a few precious moments of spare time available to me on my recent trip to Orlando. I received various suggestions from readers. In response I did decide to pursue a brief road trip and I selected the tiny interior town of Lacoochee, Florida as my destination. I didn’t attach much significance to the actual town of Lachoochee. Historically it was the site of a large lumber mill but there’s nothing much geographically unique or unusual about it. Oh, it’s located in the northeast corner of Pasco County and I’d never been to Pasco County before, so that right there was the entirety of the reason.
I’d also never been to Lake, Sumter or Hernando Counties either. I added four new counties to my life list during my brief jaunt due was from Orlando along Route 50. The total one-way distance extends about fifty miles and lasts about an hour.
I found much of the drive rather enjoyable. The Florida Turnpike portion was typical highway and it at least provided rapid progress. I also had the road to myself the last few miles heading into Lacoochee itself as I wound through orange groves and the Withlacoochee State Forest. It was downright pleasant.
The middle portion, however, was utterly annoying. The entire section through Clermont, Groveland and lasting to about Mascotte presented all the worst attributes of badly-zoned exurb: homes constructed in a manner abetting cul-de-sac sprawl; continuous bland strip malls of generic shops that could be anywhere America, a single contiguous traffic-chocked thoroughfare with little route diversity, and long stoplights were every lane got its own turn arrow at every conceivable intersection. That was about fifteen miles of completely awful driving.
I tailor my driving behavior to the cues offered by locals. If everyone drives ten miles above the speed limit then I’ll do the same. Here, however, everyone traveled directly at the speed limit or even a little below it. That’s generally a sign of aggressive police patrols with little buffer.
True to form, I’ve never seen so many speed-traps in such a short distance outside of a holiday weekend. I can definitely confirm that I visited four new counties because I saw the name of each county emblazoned on the side of at least one sheriff’s deputy squad car from each location. Perhaps it’s a sign of low crime and bored cops, or perhaps it’s intended to fill municipal coffers during a tough economy?
This leaves Pinellas as a stranded county on my tally map. That shouldn’t be too much of a problem though. St. Petersburg is located here and I’m sure a trip will bring me there someday.