On March 12, 2017 · Comments Off on Regurgitated

Twelve Mile Circle goes back into its vault every once in awhile to offer little addenda to earlier articles. Sometimes it involves a flash of brilliance that I wish had come to mind during the creation of the original. Other times something new comes to light that didn’t exist beforehand. Still in others instances, it relates to trivial items that nobody cares about except for me. Guess which category prevailed today. Please feel free to indulge my personal whims or go ahead and skip to the next article that will appear in a few days. I won’t feel bad either way.


Duckpins Beer
Duckpin Pale Ale and Double Duckpin IPA

I mentioned an unusual variation of bowling found in the Mid-Atlantic and New England states not long ago called Duckpins. I said that it always seemed to be a "Baltimore" thing to me. Now I have more proof.

Look what I found sitting in my refrigerator when I came home from work a couple of days ago. Not one, but two beers with a duckpins theme. I guess my wife must have fixated on it after our recent journey to the duckpins lanes in Maryland. She explained that she got into a conversation with a brewery representative stocking the shelves at our local bottle shop, as she often does. He recommended Duckpin Pale Ale and Double Duckpin Double IPA, both made by Union Craft Brewing in Baltimore (map). I loved all of the duckpins that decorated the bottles, especially the Double.

The brewery certainly enjoyed this local connection, saying things like "the pins may be small but the flavor is huge" and "danker than a rental shoe and rolling with ten frames of juicy, resinous hops down a solid lane of malted barley and wheat." I couldn’t help feeling maybe they missed a marketing opportunity. Wouldn’t it be great to purchase bottles shaped like duckpins? Then I considered that nobody would collect and place them on a shelf like I would. Drinking and glass bowling pins might not be an ideal combination.

This wasn’t the first time a local beer made the pages of 12MC either, by the way (e.g., 12 Mile Circ… no wait, 16!)


Four Miler Elevation
Four Courts Four Miler Elevation
via Pacers Running

One time 12MC focused a series of pages on various natural forces including gravitation. I had my own experience with gravity yesterday. Seriously though, why would my wife sign me up for a 4-mile (6.4 km) running race with that awful hill in the elevation chart shown above (map)? Sure, running downhill would be great. However the uphill return began to haunt me in the days leading up to the event. Just to make things even more special, winter decided to return this weekend with a race-time temperature of 26° Fahrenheit (-3.3°C) and sustained winds of 14 miles per hour (23 k/hr). Guess which way the wind blew. Directly down the hill and into the faces of people climbing back up to the finish line.

Four Courts Four Miler
A Guinness at 10:00 a.m.? Sure. May I have another?

I didn’t have much of a plan although it went beyond my usual "Run Like Hell" strategy that wasn’t really a strategy. I did use Run Like Hell on the way down, then switched to "Catch Your Breath" on mile 3 because I knew I would have to revert to "Suck it Up" for the final mile. I wanted to break 30 minutes and I did manage to accomplish that, just barely, at 29:42 (a 7:26 min/mile pace).

That was good enough for first place in my age category although I didn’t have a lot of additional competitors in my bracket. We live in a very young area so it was me and a bunch of 20-somethings. Plus the really good runners skipped this little neighborhood jog for a large marathon taking place at the same time across the river in nearby Washington, DC. At least I scored a legitimate victory this time. My wife signed me up for the local Turkey Trot last Thanksgiving and I "won" my age category… because she accidentally signed me up as a woman.

The course actually involved a bit of geographic trivia. This hill — part of the Arlington Ridge — marked a transition between two of Virginia’s physiographic regions, the Coastal Plain and the Piedmont. That little nugget didn’t propel me uphill any faster although the free pint of Guinness waiting at the end did serve as decent motivation. After all, the race started and ended at a local Irish pub.


I explained my fear of the hill to a coworker a couple of days before the race. Nervous? Me? Really, it turned out to be a lot easier than the tricks it played on my mine beforehand. Don’t get me wrong — it was still dreadful — although I got through it mostly unscathed. He said it reminded him of a hill during his army training days. The soldiers wore heavy packs while they ran so that put things back into perspective for me. He couldn’t remember the nickname they gave the hill although it probably involved cursing. We decided a fine fictitious name would be something with a little play on words, like Damn it to Hill. That reminded me of the amusing Damfino Street in San Antonio, Texas.

Could there actually be a hill with that name, perhaps shortened to something like Damita Hill? Well no, and I checked the Geographic Names Information System carefully. The closest I got was The Dam Hill in Essex County, New York (map) and Dam Hill in Wyoming County, Pennsylvania (map). I similarly found Pull and Be Damned Point in Skagit County, Washington (map) and Give-A-Damn Canyon in Lincoln County, New Mexico (map).

I also learned that there were at least several people named Damita Hill.

A Tale of Three Ridges

On May 24, 2011 · Comments Off on A Tale of Three Ridges

I’m not sure if I’m totally captivated by Google’s ability to suggest plausible answers while I type a query. Sometimes it’s a shortcut, other times it’s amusing, but more often than not it’s annoying. I seem to enjoy the feature more in Google Maps. It seems to geo-locate based on IP address when making suggestions so it can save a lot of typing when I look for nearby spots. Sometimes even the incorrect assumptions can lead to interesting places.


View Larger Map

I wanted to look at an image of the Arlington Historical Society in the old Hume School built in 1891. It was an easy identification when I typed in Arlington Ridge Road and entered Street View mode.

View Larger Map

It certainly makes sense to have an Arlington Ridge Road at this location. It’s placed in Arlington County, Virginia so that’s an obvious distinction. Also it’s located along a ridge as one can see quite clearly from within terrain mode. This ridge is actually the very first edge of the Piedmont region of Virginia as it rises from the coastal plain. There are great views from this vantage including Crystal City, Pentagon City, the airport and points across the Potomac River in Washington, DC. It’s a nice place. You should visit the historical society museum here someday.

However, paradoxically, Google Maps suggested two other Arlington Ridge Roads in farther-flung locations. Arlington Ridge Road seems to be a rather specific to be repeated in multiple places. It’s not Elm Street or Main Street, or something obviously repeatable like that. How many Arlington ridges could there be?


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One of them is located outside of Erin, Tennessee. The Arlington designation may be obscured by time, meaning I couldn’t find a simple answer in a thirty-second Internet search, but it definitely follows a ridge. Perhaps I shouldn’t be too surprised by the use of Arlington, though. It’s the 10th most common place name in the United States. Maybe there should be more Arlington Ridge Roads?

North Carolina

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Another one is located in Cary, North Carolina, a rapidly growing suburb in the Raleigh-Durham metropolitan area. This one doesn’t even have a ridge, much less an Arlington, yet mysteriously there’s an Arlington Ridge Road. Then something on the map caught my eye: I spotted developments called Fairfax of the Parkway, Woods of Fairfax, and Shenandoah. Some searching found that these are all part of the same homeowners association called the Parkway Unit Owners Association which were all developed by a partnership called Parkway Associates.

I know what readers from Northern Virginia are already thinking: how much do you want to bet that someone working for the developers grew up in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC? Streets and subdivisions named for Arlington, Fairfax, and Shenandoah? That seems a little too coincidental. It doesn’t explain the "ridge" but perhaps our original Arlington Ridge provided a more direct inspiration than might be readily apparent on the surface.


Google Maps didn’t suggest any other Arlington Ridge Roads. Using general search engines, however, I discovered all manner of Arlington Ridge occurrences in other forms.

That’s a lot of Arlington Ridges!

Has anyone else used the automatic suggestions from Google Maps to discover new worlds? Is your unusual street name repeated elsewhere?

Geography as Pitcher Plant

On April 27, 2009 · 2 Comments

A pitcher plant feeds carnivorously on unsuspecting insects. Bugs crawl, fly or fall into the plant. They cannot escape. Soon victims drown and slowly dissolve into a soup absorbed by the plant for nutrition.

I read a great article in the Washington Post over the weekend that is still available online: "Drunk Drivers Find Pentagon’s Maze of Roads Leads to Court." Like the insect and the pitcher plant, drunk drivers become disoriented within the spaghetti of roadway surrounding the Pentagon. They cannot find an exit as they attempt to extricate themselves from this heavily patrolled security zone. Their frantic, erratic late-night behavior attracts quick police attention and soon they find themselves in handcuffs before a Federal judge.

Unlike the hapless buggy casualties of the pitcher plant, these are not innocent victims. They could have caused all kinds of mayhem had they not fallen into the unintended Pentagon trap. I am not a neo-prohibitionist and in fact I am an absolute beer snob but I do believe in responsible behavior.

The article goes on to mention that an astounding 75% to 80% of arrests made by the 1,000 officers of the Pentagon Force Protection Agency are for drunk driving offenses. That’s an amazing statistic considering the stated purpose of a force that has everything to do with securing the headquarters of the Department of Defense and very little to do with thwarting alcohol abuse.

So why am I bothering to cover all this when you can read the article for yourself? It’s because the article covered more of the WHAT than the WHY. True, it does cite the confusing road system surrounding the Pentagon but stops short of addressing the underlying geography and terrain that lays the trap. That’s not meant as a criticism. I really did like the article. Maybe that was due to editing or available column inches.

Arlington Ridge behind the Pentagon
Source: Screen Print from Google Earth

The Pentagon was constructed along the flats of the Potomac River barely above sea level. This is a very narrow shelf of land hemmed-in between the river and a steep hillside called the Arlington Ridge. It is located at a point where the coastal plain begins to give way to a Piedmont region that serves as a doorstep to the Appalachian Mountains further west. It’s a situation found in several other cities along the Atlantic seaboard of the United States. Logically, this was the furthest point inland that ships could navigate without difficulty. The ridge can be discerned in the Google Earth screenprint I’ve provided above, with elevation greatly exaggerated so that hopefully you can actually make it out in the background.

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Arlington House, also known as the Custis-Lee Mansion, sits atop this same ridge with commanding views of Washington, DC. Robert E. Lee resided here at the outbreak of the Civil War before vacating it. You can see the change in elevation quite readily in this Street View image. Look at the stone entryway in the distance and then notice the mansion on the hillside above it. No, this isn’t Mount Everest, but it’s a rapid enough change in elevation to pose a challenge to any prospective road-builder. Plus I doubt anyone would tolerate road construction through the hallowed grounds of Arlington National Cemetery. These conditions confine roads to the narrow plain along stretches of the Potomac River.

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That’s the setup. A narrow strip of bottomland hemmed in tightly on both sides by barriers of water and earth. Access can only occur at either end of the plain. So imagine a tube with the Pentagon serving as a plug, constricting or diverting nearly every available path from one side to the other. Three major roads and a network of bridges cram in alongside it, practically guaranteeing tightly constructed turns, confusing interwoven paths and little margin for error. One small turnoff and a driver unwittingly enters the reservation.

The pitcher plant snares another pest.

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