Footloose

On November 11, 2015 · 12 Comments

I thought I’d sliced-and-diced my county counting exploits in every way imaginable by the time I posted Counting Down, my account of barely crossed and airport only captures. Loyal reader and fellow county counter Andy begged to differ. He discovered one more dimension when he noted, "Probably 99% of what you or I color in on the map has been driven over or flown into, even if we got out of the car to touch ground with our own feet. But — have you visited any counties /only/ on foot?" On foot, eh? Now that was something I’d never considered.

I knew it couldn’t be very many instances. I’ve lived a pretty sedentary life devoid of strenuous hikes over vast distances. Friend-of-12MC Steve from CTMQ.org (formerly Connecticut Museum Quest and now much more broadly focused) once completed a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. I created an article on counties he’d hiked through hoping he’d pick up the county counting hobby, although it just wasn’t his thing. I’m sure Steve drove through a few of the 87 AT Trail counties on other journeys although I’d also guess that his "only-on-foot" tally would be substantial. Mine, not so much.

San Juan County, Utah


4 Corners
Four Corners – Summer 1992.
Utah, Colorado, New Mexico & Arizona come together at a single point

I think I have two only-on-foot counties. One for sure. That would be San Juan County which was Utah’s contribution to the sole state quadripoint of the United States, Four Corners. Notice my right foot touching said county in the photograph above from a long-ago road trip. I circled around the marker any number of times, traveling through that tiny bit of Utah on foot each time.



Four Corners

I had confidence in my memory although I consulted maps extensively to confirm it. Apparently I drove on all sides of San Juan Co. without actually crossing the border except on foot at the Four Corners marker. Even the road leading up to the marker remained completely outside of Utah. So that’s ONE. Absolutely.


Nantucket County, Massachusetts


Cisco Brewers
Visiting Cisco Brewery.
That is NOT the pedaled vehicle we used.

Might it be possible to bend the rules a little? I’d have a second example from one of my more recent travels if that wish were granted. Massachusetts’ island of Nantucket fell within its own county. I never used a motorized vehicle anywhere on Nantucket. However, we rented bicycles and pedaled a few miles into the countryside to the Cisco Brewery for an afternoon of tastings and entertainment during our stay (map). I think I deserved at least partial credit or an honorable mention for getting everywhere on Nantucket under my own personal muscle power.

Incidentally I couldn’t make the same claim a day earlier in Dukes County (Martha’s Vineyard, primarily). We rented a car in Oak Bluffs and drove all over the island.


Municipio de Juárez, Chihuahua, México


Av Juarez to S El Paso Crossing
Av Juarez to S El Paso Crossing by Aquistbe on Flickr (cc)

I wondered if I could expand the game into foreign countries. I’ve been to México twice, neither time using engine power so I felt I might meet the rules for an entire nation. It involved two separate Mexican states so I should also get credit for Chihuahua and Coahuila. However I decided to focus on counties for this exercise, or in this instance their Mexican equivalents, municipalities (municipios).

Several years ago on a business trip to El Paso, Texas, a group of us decided to walk across the bridge into Juárez (map). The smarter bunch hopped into a taxi as soon as they crossed the border and went to a restaurant in a nicer part of town. Others, myself included, just sort-of milled around the border area checking out the scene. I thought it was pretty seedy, with a bunch of shops selling liquor and discount drugs that would need prescriptions back in the United States. I lasted about ten minutes before I grew bored and walked back into the U.S., although apparently it added Municipio de Juárez to my very short only-on-foot list.


Municipio de Ocampo, Coahuila, México


Boquillas del Carmen, Coahuila, Mexico
Boquillas… and the burro I rode in on

How about an even better rule bender than Nantucket? Several years ago I wrote about my technically illegal (albeit tolerated) dodge across the border into México while visiting Big Bend National Park in Texas. I visited tiny Boquillas del Carmen (map) in Municipio de Ocampo. I never used a motorized vehicle during that visit although I didn’t remain entirely on foot either. I rode a burro into town after disembarking a rowboat that ferried me across the border. Yes, a burro. I’m fairly certain it was the only time I’ve even ridden a burro. I should get double points for that effort.


Elsewhere


Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls. My Own Photo.

I couldn’t think of any other examples. I’ve traveled into Canada using seven different border stations. For a moment I thought I might be able to claim the Regional Municipality of Niagara in Ontario because I walked across the border from New York for a better view of the falls. Then I remembered I drove up to Toronto on a different trip and would have passed through the same municipality by automobile. No dice. I also looked at my travels to Europe, Asia and Australia and found nothing.

The final tally in the United States: one county solely on foot; one on foot and bicycle. In México, one municipio solely on foot; one on foot and burro.

Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah

On December 10, 2014 · Comments Off on Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah

I pondered Zip Lines recently. Actually I’d been researching postal ZIP Codes and wondering how I’d missed the 50th Birthday of the system in 2013. Then I noticed an auto-suggestion for Zip Lines and it zipped me straight down a protracted tangent metaphorically speaking. I decided to find the longest Zip Line in the world, a feat more difficult than I anticipated. I turned to several sources including Zip Line Rider.

That’s when I learned a dark secret. Companies that provided these services were marketeers as much as entertainers. They wanted to find creative ways to attract riders to their often remote, sometimes nearly inaccessible locations. There were plenty of financial incentives to exaggerate their achievements. Who was going to be able to pull out a tape measure and test their claims? These competitors also seemed to be locked in a protracted arms race to construct the longest ride. One company would grab the title only to have another eclipse its achievement a few months later, except the original group that previously held the crown would continue to claim it anyway. I did uncover what I believed were some of the longer Zip Lines on the planet bearing in mind the caveat of inflated superlatives. Actual results, and of course future results, will vary.


ZipRider®, Parque De Aventura, Copper Canyon, México



The longest Zip Line uncovered during my investigation pointed towards Parque De Aventura within Barrancas del Cobre (Copper Canyon) in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. It was operated by ZipRider®, a company with locations in several parts of the world. The total length claimed at Copper Canyon extended to 2,515 metres (8,350 feet). Most people arrive at Parque De Aventura by train using the Ferrocarril Chihuahua al Pacífico, better known as the Chepe for its abbreviation CHP. The "El Divisadero" station (map) unloaded passengers directly on the canyon rim at Parque De Aventura.

Copper Canyon would be an amazing place to visit even on its own and it did attract a lot of tourists who were not there for Zip Lining. The canyon was larger than Arizona’s Grand Canyon, and even deeper in places.


Flying in the Sky; Rocca Massima, Italy



Originally I though Italy’s Flying in the Sky facility might have been the longest Zip Line available until I came across Copper Canyon, so let’s call it the longest in Europe instead (at least for today). It was nearly as long at an impressive 2,213 m (7,260 ft). However it was considerably faster with a top speed of 140 kph (87 mph) vs. 105 kph (65 mph). This was probably because Flying in the Sky harnessed people vertically rather than in a sitting position. Riders screamed down the slope of Monte S. Angelo near the community of Rocca Massima (map), southeast of Rome.

The Italian websites didn’t translate well. From what I could gather, several local citizens and entrepreneurs banded together to find a way to attract visitors, especially younger ones, to come to their rural enclave. A Zip Line seemed to be a natural fit.


The Eye of the Jaguar; Urubamba Valley, Perú



Easy come, easy go. The Eye of the Jaguar in Perú was once the consensus longest Zip Line (map). However while impressive at 2,130 m (6,990 ft), it continued to tumble down the list as new facilities opened in other parts of the world. Maybe it’s safe to call it the longest Zip Line in South America. It flies across the Urubamba Valley (Sacred Valley). There would be many reasons to visit the area in addition to simply seeking thrills. This was where the ancient Inca Empire held its firmest control. Their capital city Cusco was located nearby as was the renowned Machu Picchu.


ZipRider®, Icy Strait Point, Alaska, USA



The longest ride I found in the United States was another facility operated by ZipRider®. This one was located at Icy Strait Point, Alaska, just outside of Hoonah. It was an obscure spot on Chichagof Island about fifty miles from Juneau (map). That would seem to be an odd choice for a playground until one considered its placement along the Inside Passage, a popular route for summertime cruise ships. That was their prime audience, too. Their website noted that the facility opened only on days when ships landed at Hoonah. Those not booking admission through a cruise line would be accommodated only on a space-available basis, at the back of the line behind all of the cruise ship passengers.

This was another sit-down line. Perhaps that was why Icy Strait, while an imposing 1,675 m (5,495 ft) in length had a top speed of "only" 105 kph (65 mph). On the other hand, it featured six side-by-side lines so an entire family of cruisers could experience the thrills all at the same time.


Flying Fox; Taihape, New Zealand



I gave an honorable mention to Flying Fox Zipline at Mokai Gravity Canyon (map), in New Zealand. It wasn’t the longest by any stretch, reaching only 1,200 m (3,939 ft). However it was the fastest example that I found. It hit top speeds reputed to be around 160 kph (100 mph)! When one considers that terminal velocity for a human — the top speed of a person in a free fall — was something like 200 kmh (120 mph), the speed of Flying Fox seemed astounding. I can’t imagine Zip Lines getting much faster although I’m willing to bet someone will try.

Canada to Mexico

On October 25, 2012 · 9 Comments

The Twelve Mile Circle continues to generate all sorts of interesting search engine queries, an endless stream of potential article topics. I remember back in the early days of the blog I had to come up with everything myself. That’s rarely an issue anymore. Case in point, someone wanted to know the shortest way to drive from Canada to Mexico.

I don’t know why someone would necessarily want or need this knowledge. One would have to cross through the United States any which way one slices it. This led me to conclude that perhaps my unknown visitor had an issue with the United States. He didn’t like it for some reason. Maybe he was a wanted criminal or an aging Vietnam War draft-dodger? Are the U.S. military authorities still looking for those guys? Never mind. Let’s just say they are for the sake of this exercise.

Maybe he’s a smuggler concealing something of particular value to people in Mexico but not to people in the United States? The query didn’t provide specifics so I’ll make them up. Let’s help our draft-dodging smuggler of Chinese counterfeit soccer balls make it through the United States as quickly as possible. He’ll have to obey speed limits to avoid police attention and he’ll have to use default routes generated by Google Maps as a proxy because he’s unfamiliar with the dangerous U.S. territory he will cover.

At first I wanted to set up a matrix. I intended to calculate both the distance and time between every U.S. border crossing with Canada and Mexico. I abandoned that when I counted 117 Canadian and 47 Mexican possibilities (117 X 47 = 5,499 combinations, both for time and distance). As much as I enjoy and respect the 12MC audience, it’s not productive for me to calculate 10,998 different numbers simply to determine the absolutely minimal times and distances. I took some educated guesses instead. It’s possible that others may improve upon these marginally, and perhaps even meaninfgully.



View Larger Map

Residents of Vancouver, British Columbia probably have it the best. Traveling via the Douglas, BC crossing to the Tijuana (West) crossing in Baja California would take 22 hours and 43 minutes over a distance of 2,223 kilometres (1,381 miles). That’s less than a day! Also, now that we realize Google Maps overestimates travel times, one could probably shave another hour or two from that figure with continuous driving and make it to the safety of the Mexican border posthaste.



View Larger Map

I wondered if I could discover a shorter Pacific Coastal route. The original one swings out to the west albeit it takes complete advantage of an efficient and swiftly-moving Interstate 5. Would a shorter route, one more closely aligned with a line of longitude make a difference? Actually, no. I replicated the exercise starting from the Paterson, BC border crossing instead. Oddly, it was both longer and less timely. Examining the map (above) it seemed to unfold this way because of the wobbly nature of obscure roads selected for the trip. Notice several jogs east and west that increased the total distance (2,305 km / 1,432 mi) and time (25 hours).



View Larger Map

There was another route. It surprised me how closely it challenged the Pacific Coastal route, although it wouldn’t benefit many Canadians. Maybe residents of Regina, Saskatchewan could use it. Otherwise it’s fairly remote from population centers. This one ran from the Oungre, SK border crossing to Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, on the Bridge of the Americas crossing. Google maps predicts that the U.S. transit would cover 2,220 km (1,379 mi), over 23 hours 18 minutes. See what I mean? Three kilometers shorter although 45 minutes longer.



View Larger Map

Finally I attempted a diagonal route, taking advantage of the southern boundary dip following the contours of the Great Lakes. It’s a little longer (2,596 km / 1,402 mi) and couldn’t be done in a single day (27 hours). However, potentially, many more Canadians could take advantage of it due to its relative proximity to Toronto and Montréal. This one goes from Windsor, Ontario to Piedras Negras, Coahuila.

The worst option? It’s probably Campobello Island, NB to Tijuana (West). That’s 5,438 km (3,379 mi) over 55 hours (map).

Hopefully this will offer plenty of options for my Canadian draft-dodging soccer ball smuggler.

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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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