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.
I Loved the Tripoints
KYTNVA Tripoint. My own photo.
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.
Wolf Island on the KY/MO border. My own photo.
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.
I came across an interesting naming string as I researched Noble Layers. It didn’t quite fit the definition of that earlier article. Even so I found it fascinating in its own right, and it deserved to be highlighted.
Richemont mairie [town hall]. Photo by Gjv76 on Wikimedia Commons (cc)
It began, maybe, in a remote corner of Normandy a millennia ago. There stood the village of Richemont (map), now a commune in the present-day Seine-Maritime department of France. Richemont in the old Norman language translated to something like Strong Hill. It never grew into much. Fewer than 500 people lived there even in the modern era.
Richmond, North Yorkshire
Richmond, North Yorkshire. Photo by Ian Britton on Flickr (cc)
Sources diverged on whether the Norman Richemont inspired the name of Richmond in North Yorkshire, England (map). Maybe it did, or maybe North Yorkshire’s Richmond truly served as the "Mother of All Richmonds." A long line of Earls and other nobles of Richmond hailed from Yorkshire’s Richmond starting in 1071. William the Conqueror bestowed the initial title of 1st Lord of Richmond upon Alan Rufus (Alan the Red) of Brittany who lived in Richmond after the Norman conquest of England.
Richmond Palace, London
GOC Richmond 010: Gate House. Photo by Peter O’Connor aka anemoneprojectors on Flickr (cc)
Earls of Richmond existed through several creations, held by more than twenty men over the next four centuries. Henry Tudor claimed the title indisputably in 1485. He went on to win the Battle of Bosworth Field to effectively end the War of the Roses, becoming King Henry VII of England. Henry VII moved to the royal palace of Sheen outside of London. It burned down in 1498 so he replaced Sheen with a new palace on the same spot. He called it Richmond Palace (map) after his Earldom. Very little of Richmond Palace survived besides its original Gate House. The rest was demolished soon after Charles I died in 1649.
A town formed around Richmond Palace and remained there after the demolition of the castle. It carried the same name, Richmond.
Richmond on the James. Photo by Mobilus In Mobili on Flickr (cc)
Across the Atlantic Ocean, adventurers streamed into the Virginia Colony. They focused their settlements along the James River. They brought familiar place names with them too.
It took more than a century for a town of significance to form along the James River’s fall line. A prominent colonial plantation owner, William Byrd II, provided the necessary land in 1737. He named it Richmond (map). The view of the James River supposedly reminded him of the view of the Thames from the Richmond near London.
Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. Photo by Don McCullough on Flickr (cc)
Richmond, Virginia existed before most of the places in the new United States. It also served as the capital city of the Confederate States. Its longevity and significance inspired people to name newer communities in its honor. Thus, Richmonds sprouted successfully in Kentucky, Missouri, Oregon, California and many other states. The one in California arose soon after California gained statehood.
California’s Richmond later included several neighborhoods incorporating the Richmond name. These included Central Richmond, East Richmond, Richmond Annex, Richmond Heights, and Southwest Richmond Annex. I wondered if people living in any of those places realized the unlikely string that connected their communities back in time a thousand years.
Several other Richmond strings existed to lesser degrees. I also found Richemont, Seine-Maritime, France –> Richmond, North Yorkshire –> Duke of Richmond –> Richmond Co., New York (Staten Island) –> Richmond, Alabama. In addition there was Richemont, Seine-Maritime, France –> Richmond, North Yorkshire –> Duke of Richmond –> Fort Richmond –> Richmond, Maine.
So many Richmonds existed that the possibilities seemed endless.
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 Carolina State Capitol. Photo by Bill Dickinson on Flickr (cc)
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.
Mecklenburg County Court House. Photo by Jimmy Emerson, DVM on Flickr (cc)
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,
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.
Charlotte skyline. Photo by James Willamor on Flickr (cc)
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.
Albemarle Road Park & Recreation Center
Albemarle Road Playground
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.