Center of the Nation, Part 6 (Inspirations)

On October 14, 2015 · 4 Comments

I made it to the final installment of the Center of the Nation articles at long last. I hope the Twelve Mile Circle audience enjoyed riding along vicariously. I included links to all of the previous articles at the bottom of the page for those who may have missed a few. I figured I’d wrap things up with a catch-all, with ideas that inspired some of the routes and topics that didn’t fit cleanly into any of the earlier narratives.

Rest Stop


Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Panoramic View from a Rest Stop in North Dakota

Six years ago I posted an article called "No More Rest." It focused on the impending demise of public rest stops along Interstate highways during the prevailing economic malaise of the time, the Great Recession. The article mentioned several examples of unusual or remote waysides including one constructed a few miles east of Medora, North Dakota (map).

I consulted the 12MC Complete Index as I always do before I start an adventure, and noticed that my intended path would intersect with the same remote rest stop. In person, it wasn’t nearly as forlorn as my original research led me to believe. Rather, it blended in nicely with Theodore Roosevelt National Park, an overlook with excellent views of the Painted Canyon. It also included a visitor center and hiking trails down into the canyon itself although we only stopped long enough to enjoy the view. None of those possibilities were known to me when I wrote the original article. It was a rest stop definitely deserving a stop.

With that, I’ve now visited all of the rest stops featured in that earlier article. The I-95 stop in Ladysmith, Virginia reopened once the economy improved. I purposely targeted the wayside on the Bonneville Salt Flats during my 2011 Utah trip. Later I stumbled upon the historic rest area outside of Mt. Sterling, Kentucky while exploring Appalachia and beyond in 2013, simply by chance.

This achievement — of all 12MC possibilities — would have seemed one of the more unlikely scenarios at its time of publication. It’s funny how things worked out.


Mammoth Site


Mammoth Site
Mammoth Bones at the Mammoth Site

The Mammoth Site (map) first appeared on these pages only recently in Hot Springs Everywhere. I’d planned much of the Center of the Nation trip by that point and the reference to the Mammoth Site was completely coincidental. I’d never heard of it before I wrote the article. Only then did I notice that it fell within the same general neighborhood as my upcoming adventure. At the time I wrote:

A more recent find actually fascinated me more, the Mammoth Site discovered in the 1970’s when a new housing development was being built on the edge of town (map). Excavators stumbled upon the remains of a karst sinkhole that had once been a spring during the Pleistocene era about 26,000 years ago. Megafauna, particularly Columbian and Woolly Mammoths, occasionally wandered too far into the spring and couldn’t escape. Their skeletons were beautifully preserved where they died. It remains an active archaeological site.

It didn’t disappoint. I’d recommend a detour to Hot Springs, South Dakota for anyone wandering through the Black Hills.


Pigtail Auto Loops


The Road to Mt. Rushmore
Notice how the road loops over itself

I featured loop roads several years ago. It sprang from a reader suggestion included in one of those "Odds and Ends" compilations that I pull together when I have a bunch of thoughts too brief for individual articles. That led to several more readers’ discoveries and eventually a guest post on Google Sightseeing. Those pigtail auto loops have fascinated me ever since. I had to visit one of the more noteworthy clusters, the one near Mount Rushmore. They were located just south of the park on Iron Mountain Road, U.S. Route 16A (map). I drove a different loop the next day when leaving Custer State Park.

Truth be told it wasn’t all that much different than driving loops in a multi-level parking garage. However, genuine auto loops were found outdoors on public roads and that made all the difference.


Spearfish Canyon


Spearfish Canyon
Spearfish Canyon; Spearfish, SD

Reader "Pat D" suggested Spearfish Canyon when I announced my 2015 travel intentions and put the call out for Center of the Nation ideas. I can cite dozens of times when generous 12MC readers influenced my journeys. I am always grateful for ideas that have been shared with me. Spearfish Canyon proved to be an excellent case in point. I likely would have taken the shortest route back to the Interstate highway without the advice. The longcut definitely shifted my path towards some amazing scenery.



Custer State Park
Custer State Park; Custer, SD

The same held true for Custer State Park (map), suggested by readers hipsterdoofus, Michael K, and Mike Lowe. Custer generated the animal jackpot covered in much more detail in Part 5. I received way more recommendations for the Black Hills than my schedule could possibly accommodate. My only regret was that I couldn’t spend a week-or-so in western South Dakota during my whirlwind journey through the Center of the Nation. It pained me to leave behind such an overwhelming concentration of attractions that so completely aligned with my interests.


Breweries


Firehouse Brewing Company
Firehouse Brewing; Rapid City, SC

I know most of the 12MC audience doesn’t really care about this topic so feel free to jump further below. There weren’t a lot of breweries or brewpubs on our route with the exception of Denver. We flew in and out of Denver although we didn’t spend much time there, stopping just long enough to hit Avery Brewing in Boulder, Colorado on the way out of town. Much of the rest of the Northern Plains were devoid of breweries just as they were devoid of people. I didn’t sense it was cultural resistance because I found plenty of craft beers on tap at local restaurants. Rather I thought it might have been related to population. Breweries needed local audiences and those were rather scarce in these wide, empty space.

I found a nice brewery cluster in the Black Hills. The area benefited from seasonal tourist crowds and a fairly sizable city nearby. One might not consider Rapid City, population about 70,000, as all that large. However it was a megalopolis way out there in the empty spaces with nothing rivaling its size for literally hundreds of miles in any direction. We were able to visit Firehouse Brewing, a brewpub in downtown Rapid City (map), as well as three breweries; Miner Brewing and Sick-N-Twisted in Hill City, and Crow Peak in Spearfish.

Adding five new breweries to my visit list wasn’t so bad, all things considered.


Chinese Restaurant



Hibachi House; Bowman, ND

I guess I’ll mention one more oddity. Awhile ago I stated that Chinese restaurants seemed to open in the most unusual out-of-the-way places imaginable. My fascination never evolved past that point. I’d never actually dined at one of those seemingly misplaced establishments. Until now.

The Mainly Marathons group arranged a casual dinner each evening before its races. Participants were free to attend when feeling sociable or physically able, and I guess we made about half of them. One took place at Hibachi House in Bowman, North Dakota. I supposed by the name that it might be more Japanese than Chinese. However the menu skewed much closer to Chinese in the typical "Americanized" manner (think General Tso’s chicken, Beef & Broccoli and such). It certainly fit the bill after a long day of running and driving, so no complaints and I could now check the box on another activity on the long 12MC list.

Bowman County recorded 3,151 residents in the 2010 U.S. Census. Of those, 0.03% self-identified as Asian. That worked out to about ten people. I believed it was likely that the entire Asian population of Bowman County consisted of people affiliated with the restaurant.


Center of the Nation articles:

See Also: The Complete Photo Album on Flickr

Southern Swing, Part 1

On January 7, 2015 · 2 Comments

I still hate airlines. I don’t fear flying, I simply want to withhold as much of my money as I can from those greedy [censored] until the tight squeeze of market forces compel them to start treating their passengers with a little respect. I’m pretty much at the point where I’ll drive to any destination of a thousand miles or so instead of fly. That sentiment led to another grandiose road trip over the winter holidays. Of course, the handful of readers who follow the 12MC Twitter feed already figured that out. That’s an incentive for the rest of you to subscribe to my Twitter page I guess, or maybe it’s a disincentive. I don’t know.



DC to Florida to Mississippi and Back

We took a rather unusual route to the Mississippi Gulf Coast this time, via St. Augustine, Florida. I know many readers would think of that as a crazy detour. I rationalized it a couple of different ways. First, there wasn’t a completely straight route between the Mid Atlantic and the Mississippi Gulf so the detour didn’t make all that much difference in the larger trip. Was it the most direct route? No, of course not. It wasn’t totally insane either.

Second, there were lots of cool things to see and do in St. Augustine and I knew the boys would love it. My wife actually nailed it on the head, though. "Is this a county counting thing?" she asked. Well, ahem, yes that might have had something to do with it. She was fine with the idea once I confessed the ulterior motive. We’ve been married long enough by now that she accepts my weird hobby even if she doesn’t completely understand it.

We left on Christmas day to avoid the worst of the soul-sucking horror of Interstate 95 traffic and stopped overnight somewhere in North Carolina. That evening, with few restaurant options, I chose shrimp and grits for my Christmas Dinner. That’s a thing, right? The traditional shrimp and grits Christmas Dinner? I enjoyed it anyway, and it reminded me that we were in the South. I washed it down with a Sweet Tea since we were way below the Sweet Tea Line by that point. The next day we continued to Florida and all went smoothly except for some bad traffic for the final forty-five miles of South Carolina. We made it safely to St. Augustine (map) by late afternoon.



Castillo de San Marcos National Monument



Castillo de San Marcos

We stopped first at Castillo de San Marcos National Monument (map).

Americans often think of Plymouth, Massachusetts (established 1620) or Jamestown, Virginia (established 1607 – and visited by 12MC) as the "oldest" successful European settlements in the continental United States. That’s because people of English descent wrote many of the history books. As a point of fact, that honor should go to St. Augustine instead which was founded by Spanish settlers in 1565.

St. Augustine didn’t incorporate a magnificent fort from its inception. Rival European nations and their privateers conducted raids up and down the Atlantic coast. St. Augustine was sacked a couple of times by the English and threatened by the French. Spain finally had enough after the 1668 attack by Jamaican privateer Robert Searle. Construction of Castillo de San Marcos began in 1672, a full century after the original settlement of the city.

The National Park Service discussed the architecture and construction of this oldest masonry fort in the continental U.S., and its only surviving specimen from the Seventeenth Century:

… It is a prime example of the "bastion system" of fortification, the culmination of hundreds of years of military defense engineering. It is also unique for the material used in its construction. The Castillo is one of only two fortifications in the world built out of a semi-rare form of limestone called coquina… A cannon ball fired at more solid material, such as granite or brick would shatter the wall into flying shards, but cannon balls fired at the walls of the Castillo burrowed their way into the rock and stuck there, much like a bb would if fired into Styrofoam. So the thick coquina walls absorbed or deflected projectiles rather than yielding to them, providing a surprisingly long-lived fortress.

Castillo de San Marcos was constructed in a star shape with four bastions. This allowed defenders to create deadly crossfire for anyone hoping to to attack. The fort never fell during battle, however it changed hands a number of times because of political changes.

  • Florida became a British territory in 1763 as part of the settlement of the Seven Years’ War.
  • Florida returned to Spanish control in 1783 at the end of the American Revolutionary War (Spain had been a supporter of American independence and this was its reward).
  • Florida became part of the United States through the Adams–Onís Treaty in 1821.
  • Florida seceded from the U.S and joined the Confederate States of America in 1861.
  • Union troops seized the undefended fort in 1862 and held it for the remainder of the war and ever since.

During all that time and up until 1933, it remained a military garrison. Only then did the property convey to the U.S. National Park Service.



Saint Augustine Lighthouse



St. Augustine Lighthouse

Our other primary stop that day was the Saint Augustine Lighthouse (map).

Everyone else, it seemed, had a similar idea. The weather was absolutely perfect on the Saturday after Christmas. All the sites were mobbed. We drove onto Anastasia Island and noticed a line of traffic stretching at least a half-mile in the opposite direction, backed up by a traffic light at the end of the bridge in St. Augustine proper. Getting onto the island was easy. Getting back would be a problem. We couldn’t do anything about it so we headed towards the lighthouse anyway. We feared the worst when we were forced to park down the street because the parking lot was completely full. Tons of people mingled around the lighthouse base although few of them ventured to the top. I suppose the 219 steps in the spiral staircase separated the tourists from the lighthouse nerds. From there, 165 feet (50 metres) above the fray, we spotted another bridge several miles away. We enjoyed a panoramic lighthouse view of the Florida coast and discovered a way to avoid the dreaded stoplight. Pro Tip: maybe skip the extra helping of mashed potatoes on Christmas so one can climb to the top of the tower and find the secret escape route.

A lighthouse stood at this spot even during the Spanish period. It was an important structure marking the inlet between two barrier island, Anastasia and Conch, so that ships could enter the Matanzas River and approach St. Augustine safely. This version was constructed in 1874 and continues to remain an active navigational aid. According to Lighthouse Friends, the tower was built using brick from Alabama, granite from Georgia, iron work forged in Philadelphia, and a first-order Fresnel lens crafted in France."



And More


A1A Ale Works
A1A Ale Works

We also visited a couple of brewpubs including A1A Ale Works in downtown St. Augustine (map).

Imagine that. Somehow we ended-up at a fort, a lighthouse, and a brewpub — all things that I "collect" and count. It sounded pretty self-indulgent although we also did plenty of things enjoyed by the other members of the family too. I’ll talk about some of those in the second part.

More Geo-BREWities

On August 7, 2014 · 3 Comments

My geography and brewery interests collided a few months ago. The happy result produced Geo-Brewities. Google says I own that term now, a pseudo-portmanteau of geography + brewery + oddities. I don’t expect it to become part of the popular lexicon. It’s not that catchy.

I took a different approach on the second and possibly final round of this series. The renewed effort began as I noticed a lot of breweries and brewpubs with numbers incorporated into their names. Once again I started with the Brewers Association directory of breweries. It included 5,309 listings for the United States alone. That’s why this might be the last time. If I check again will be more — a lot more — and I’m not sure I can withstand that level of tedium one more time.

From that nearly overwhelming universe, I distilled a couple of hundred breweries that matched my numerical criteria. I’ve documented them in a spreadsheet and shared it with the 12MC audience. The usual caveats applied: omissions and spelling errors were unintentional; the file is only as good as the source and it only applies now (August 2014). It will be out of date if you happen to read this article in the distant future.


16 Mile Brewing Company Bottle
This episode brought to you by the number 16; from 12MC’s private collection

That left me with a big list of breweries that incorporated numbers in their names. What should I do with it? Examine it and look for patterns that might align with 12MC’s geography themes, of course. It encompassed every cardinal number from 1 through 16. A prospective brewer wishing to be original would have to start with 17. The smallest number was fractional (several breweries with half of this-or-that) and the largest was 5050 (FiftyFifty Brewing of Truckee, California). I ignored zero and infinity although they both existed in Vermont for some odd reason.

Patterns revealed themselves.


Area Codes


312 Urban Wheat
312 Urban Wheat by david mcchesney, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license

The first time I recall a telephone area code associated with brewing was Goose Island’s 312 Urban Wheat. I’m not sure when it first hit store shelves although Beer Advocate reviews extended back as far as 2004. Since then, 312 Urban Wheat won a slew of awards at the Great American Beer Festival and became one of Goose Island’s flagship brews. Those three simple digits associated strongly with a specific geography, downtown Chicago, and resonated with a customer demographic that the brewery hoped to reach. It worked. A similar premise served as inspiration for an episode of Seinfeld that aired in 1998, focusing on the 212 area code of New York City. Clearly an area code could serve as a strong brand identifier and a marketing mechanism.

Regardless of the original inspiration, a solid association between area codes and the craft brewing industry spread nationwide.

  • 303 Brewing; Denver, CO (planned)
  • (405) Brewing Co; Norman, OK (planned)
  • 406 Brewing; Bozeman, MT
  • (512) Brewing; Austin, TX
  • 515 Brewing; Clive, IA
  • 603 Brewery; Londonderry, NH
  • 612Brew; Minneapolis, MN
  • 903 Brewers; Sherman, TX

Area code 903 covered Sherman, Texas and yet the telephone phone number for 903 Brewers listed a 214 area code (Dallas and its eastern metropolitan area). I’ve yet to figure out that paradox.


Admission to the Union


US Naval Jack.svg
US Naval Jack“. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.


Twelve Mile Circle discusses individual US states all the time so it was nice to see a set of brewers who paid attention and took lots of notes during their mandatory state history classes back in junior high school. They incorporated the correct order that their respective states joined the Union.

  • 12th State Brewing; Greensboro, NC (planned)
  • 14th Star Brewing; St. Albans, VT
  • 38 State Brewing; Littleton, CO
  • 49th State Brewery; Healy, AK
  • 1912 Brewing; Tucson, AZ (planned)

Arizona joined the Union in 1912 in case anyone wondered about that last one. Extra credit went to 1st Republic Brewing. It was named for a government that existed briefly (1777-1791) prior to Vermont becoming a US state. Before anyone mentions Bear Republic Brewing in California, let’s recognize that it didn’t have a number in its name so it fell outside of the rules for this article.

Let’s also recognize breweries that referenced the United States Constitution since we’re already on an historical theme: 21st Amendment Brewery (ended prohibition on alcohol); 1933 Brewing (year that prohibition ended); and my favorite, 8th Amendment Brewing (prohibits cruel and unusual punishment).


Highways



Highway 101

There were numerous instances of breweries named for minor streets, plus others named for street addresses, mile markers and highway exits. I wanted those associated with larger highways, a frequent 12MC topic. Like area codes, highway identifiers correlated strongly to geography and thus could target specific customers.

  • A1A Ale Works; St. Augustine, FL
  • Highway 1 Brewing; Pescadero, CA
  • Pike 51 Brewing; Hudsonville, MI
  • 101 North; Petaluma, CA
  • 101 Brewery; Quilcene, WA

Two breweries named for US Highway 101? That warranted further discussion.

Highway 101 was one of the original highways designated in 1926, running from San Ysidro, California to Olympia, Washington, nearly the entire length of the west coast of the United States from México to Canada. It invokes feelings of identity and nostalgia for many people, maybe not as great as the legendary Route 66 although certainly at a respectable level. Its endpoints changed over time in a rather confusing fashion in recent years, as noted in detail at usends.com. However, that wouldn’t change its usefulness as a marketing tool.


Somewhat Related

I have beer on my mind because I’ll be at my favorite beer festival on Saturday (Aug. 9, 2014), the Great Taste of the Midwest in Madison, Wisconsin. Send me a note if you plan to be there and I’ll try to find you. I might even do some live tweeting. That should be amusing.

Geography

Purpose
12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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