(Mostly) Fictional Ferries

On May 9, 2013 · 4 Comments

I receive an inordinate amount of visitor traffic on my Ferry Maps of the World site. Very few of those hits come from 12MC readers. It’s basically a lot of one-and-done landings from people who never return to the website ever again. Google decided it didn’t like me about a year ago or I was SEO’ed into irrelevance so the traffic has dropped considerably, however, it still doubles or triples the volume of what I see on Twelve Mile Circle on any given day.

The 12MC audience doesn’t have a reason to know or care about this curious circumstance other than it offers a fascinating insight into the random travel thoughts of the larger world. The site answers most visitor questions with ease. It doesn’t deal well with certain esoteric queries. I’ve observed and compiled a list of frequently requested "wishful thinking" ferry lines that do not exist. Some of them have a grain of truth behind them while others are rather more fanciful. The common denominator is that many people believe these routes exist, or perhaps want to hope that they exist, and seek to know how to take advantage of them.

Ferry lines are expensive. I don’t suggest that any of these fictional lines might ever be feasible financially or geographically. My point is that I wish they existed because they sound interesting and because they’d have an immediate set of customers based upon my observation of search patterns.

Galveston – New Orleans Line

View Fictional Ferry Lines in a larger map

A Galveston, Texas to New Orleans, Louisiana ferry has never existed to my knowledge. Nonetheless, this is by far the most commonly requested fictional route. I’ve observed a lot of chatter about the Galveston-Port Bolivar Ferry over the years. It offers a convenient means to bypass Houston traffic for those living on the southern side of the city who wish to travel onward to Interstate 10, heading to New Orleans or beyond. However, the queries I’ve seen are something different. Lots of people seem to want to avoid I-10 altogether by hugging the Gulf of Mexico shoreline in a boat for hundreds of miles.

It could be done. Ships navigate the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi River all of the time. Personal watercraft also Cruise the Intracostal Waterway from Galveston to New Orleans albeit with some inconveniences:

At the moment there are no marinas along the 350-mile stretch — all the recreational boating facilities that once existed were wiped out by the series of powerful hurricanes (Katrina, Rita, Gustav, and Ike) that have battered the area. What’s more, there are plenty of obstacles in these waters, including commercial shipping traffic, barges, and off-shore oil-field equipment.

Traffic will need to hit a much higher degree of gridlock I believe, before it reaches sufficient critical mass to justify a ferry.

New Orleans – Key West Line

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A ferry line between New Orleans, Louisiana and Key West, Florida comes up less frequently than the Galveston route, although it still makes regular appearances. This one also arrives with a number of variations. Sometimes the embarkation point is farther east than New Orleans while debarkation points range along the entire length of Florida’s Gulf Coast, with Key West the logical extreme.

This one has a grain of truth. Ferry service exists from Fort Myers Beach and San Marco Island to Key West on Key West Express. The route eliminates a 300 mile drive including the entire Overseas Highway that hops atop the Keys (map). That’s often touted as one of the most beautiful drives in the world. However, from repeated experience, I can say with all honesty that it can also be a traffic-clogged multi-hour nightmare. The Overseas Highway provides more than abundant incentive to justify a ferry.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could string Galveston to New Orleans to Key West together into a single line, and cruise the entire northern arc of the Gulf of Mexico? Yes, it would. It’s also never going to happen.

Trans-Caribbean Route

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I simply love the thought of a Trans-Caribbean Route. Imagine rolling onto a ferry and skipping from island-to-island, driving off at the paradise of your choice, dawdling as long as you liked before moving on, and having your own automobile with you the whole time. That would be wonderful. It would also be wishful thinking.

The fictional routes I’ve observe tend to vary. Often they start at Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands although more ambitious fantasies begin all the way back in Florida and island-hop the entire length of the eastern Caribbean to South America.

Ferry service in the Caribbean tends to be spotty and subject to frequent change. It’s hard to maintain up-to-date maps of what even exists at any given time. It’s not practical to cobble together a trans-Caribbean route, much less with an automobile. Ferry boats can’t replicate cruise ships in these waters.

Chesapeake Bay Route

View Fictional Ferry Lines in a larger map

Chesapeake Bay car ferries once existed as I’ve noted previously. They became obsolete overnight due to the bridges — amazing engineering marvels really — that were strung across the mouth of the bay and the midpoint. That doesn’t stop people from searching for those old ferry lines, whether from a feeling of nostalgia or an ancient lingering memory. I receive lots of hopeful visitors hitting the site for that purpose.

One can still cross the Chesapeake Bay by ferry today, by sailing from the western to eastern shores via Smith Island in Maryland or Tangier Island in Virginia. These are passenger-only routes (no automobiles) and they are not particularly efficient either, but it’s possible to cross the bay by ferry. I categorize the Chesapeake Bay Route within the "grain of truth" category.

Great Lakes International

View Fictional Ferry Lines in a larger map

Lots of people seem to want to cross between Canada and the United States by ferry. This has much more than a grain of truth. It happens all the time. One can cross from numerous places in British Columbia and Washington in the Pacific Northwest. There are also several ferry crossings between southwestern Ontario and Michigan’s lower peninsula, even for trucks! That’s not what my searchers seemed to want, though. They were seeking routes across the width of the Great Lakes.

And why not? A couple of different ferry lines cross Lake Michigan within the boundaries of the United States (my experience, for example). Also there was a fast ferry that ran across Lake Ontario between Toronto, ON and Rochester, NY. It lasted only three years (2004-2006) before succumbing to financial difficulties. Additionally one can hop across the western side of Lake Erie via Pelee Island, ON (map) and take an automobile.

I’m not sure it’s feasible as a shortcut or as a time-saver, which is what people seem to want, however the service does exist for one of the four Great Lakes shared by Canada and the United States. The other three? Car ferries remain fictional for now.

The East Coaster

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Wow. This one is really ambitious. I’m not sure if people seek this alternative because traffic on Interstate 95 is so awful or because they are geographically challenged, or both. The route almost always extends from some point in New York (often Long Island) to a point in South Florida, without any intermediate stops. This wouldn’t be as much a ferry as a voyage. I can’t discount the logic of attempting to avoid the monstrosity that’s known as Interstate 95; I hate it as much as anyone. Nonetheless this represents exterme wishful thinking.

Quad County Towns

On May 5, 2013 · 10 Comments

I mentioned Braselton, Georgia a few months ago in an article called "Bought the Town." In that case the person who bought the town was the actress Kim Basinger who later sold her interest for a stunning financial loss. More interestingly, I noted, the town boundaries included a county quadripoint. Braselton sprawled across Barrow, Gwinnett, Hall and Jackson Counties. The quadripoint itself fell within a creek.

View Quad County Towns in a larger map

I’ve done a couple of things since that cursory observation. First, I converted the static image from the earlier article into an interactive Google Map. Bear in mind that it’s a pain to draw town and county boundaries on this media so consider all lines approximations designed to prove a point. You’ll see all kinds of anomalies if you drill in. Town boundaries were particularly difficult to render exactly due to the haphazard nature of their annexation histories.

Second, I attempted to find additional examples of towns with boundaries that crossed into four distinct counties. I found only three legitimate instances, including Braselton.

Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

View Quad County Towns in a larger map

I’ve probably been to the Dells at least a half-dozen times over the years. It’s completely tourist-cheezy which I suppose one could view favorably or not so much depending on one’s tolerance for such things. Much of the Dells is over-the-top kitschy although the Ducks are always a good time. I also happened to be nearby in June 2008 right after a huge flood devastated the area. I wrote about Lake Delton’s destruction after the dam blew. The entire 267 acre lake dumped into the Wisconsin River right at the beginning of the tourist season, leaving behind mud, fish and tree stumps.

Nonetheless, until my recent Internet sleuthing, I had no idea that Wisconsin Dells crossed into Adams, Columbia, Juneau and Sauk Counties. The most intensive development fell within Columbia. However, land within the other counties contributed rather significantly too.

The quadripoint fell within the middle of the Wisconsin River.

High Point, North Carolina

View Quad County Towns in a larger map

High Point, North Carolina was the third example although possibly less remarkable than the other two. Certainly, it’s territory included acreage in Davidson, Forsyth, Guilford and Randolph Counties. However, the vast preponderance of High Point fell within the southwestern corner of Guilford. Land within the other three counties ranged from minor to inconsequential. It was obvious that High Point began as a Guilford County construct and sprawled only recently into the others.

Town annexations in North Carolina became rather contentious in recent years. Organized efforts such as Stop NC Annexation sprang up in opposition. The state’s law authorized forced annexations of unincorporated areas, with acquired residents suddenly hit with municipal taxes and utility hook-up charges against their will. North Carolina changed its laws in 2012 to allow people living in such areas to block annexation attempts with a majority vote.

Walkerton, Indiana

View Quad County Towns in a larger map

Walkerton, Indiana was a near-miss even though the town itself claimed, "Walkerton is uniquely located where four counties meet." No, Walkerton’s town boundaries remained within a single county, St. Joseph. Also it wouldn’t be "uniquely located" even if borders happened to cross all four because, as noted, there are at least three other instances of such.

What I will concede to Walkerton — and I still find it fascinating — is that the town fell within a little knob of St. Joseph. It’s surrounded on three sides by La Porte, Marshall and Starke Counties. One will hit another county almost immediately after leaving Walkerton heading south, east or west. Walkerton needs to grow just a little bit more to join the other quad county towns.

Postville, Iowa

View Quad County Towns in a larger map

Postville, Iowa also fell just short of the mark. It straddled the Allamakee and Clayton County lines. The quadripoint formed along with Fayette and Winneshiek Counties can be found less than a mile from town. Postville holds promise if it can grow towards the west.

I’ll include one final honorable mention, the unincorporated Citrus Ridge community (also known as the Four Corners census-designated place) in Florida. It included the quadripoint of Lake, Orange, Osceola and Polk Counties (map). However Citrus Ridge is not a town even though more than 25,000 people lived there during the last census. Citrus Ridge simply needs to incorporate. It has more than enough residents to function as a town and it would make a welcome addition to the quad county list.

It was very difficult to find examples of quad county towns. I know there are more out there. Feel free to mention your discoveries in the comments.

Public Street

On April 16, 2013 · 16 Comments

I run into various oddities as I prepare 12MC articles so I catalog them and pack them away for future exploration. This happened recently as I compiled International Capitals in the USA. I poked around a promising area in Brooksville, Florida and found something completely unexpected. A street called Public Street.

View Larger Map

This struck me as absurd. Wouldn’t just about any street clearly marked with an identifying name, lacking a No Trespassing warning or a chain across its width, generally be considered a public street? Doesn’t naming a public street "Public Street" feel completely redundant? That logic led me to proclaim that Public Street was the lamest, laziest street name on the planet.

Except that there are OTHER Public Streets and variations on that same theme! And how did I respond?

View Public Streets in a larger map

… by creating a map of every Public Street, Road, Avenue, Way, Lane, Circle, or Highway that I could find. I think there are 36 separate instances on the map, give-or-take. I don’t think the list is exhaustive by any means. Google Maps makes it very difficult to find streets with the same name. There isn’t any feasibility ability to query data comprehensively. I could only type in "Public St." and other variations into the search bar to see what Google recommended as autofill options.

Old Public Road Leads to… Public Road

The autofill algorithm appeared to favor locations closer to the geographic starting point of the search. Thus, I repeated searches in various places spread throughout the country, hoping to tease out additional examples. I noticed heavy concentrations in Illinois and New Jersey. However I doubt that those clusters represent true concentrations, and may more accurately reflect the peculiarities of Google’s autofill.

They Call This Clever?!?

I had several favorites:

  • Brooksville, Florida – the aforementioned Brooksville also had an Easy Street nearby. Originality, apparently wasn’t their strong suit. (map)
  • Evansville, IL – Public Street had a public library so I think I should cut them a little slack (map)
  • Winslow, IN – Public Street intersected with E. North Street (map). I’ve mentioned other instances like this on 12MC before. How can it be both east and north at the same time? Usually it’s because the street was named after someone with the surname North but it still amuses me.
  • Wheeling, WV – The city deserves accolades for being uninspired for multiple generations because Public Road adjoins a different street named Old Public Road. (map)
  • Epping, NH – Public Circle isn’t a circle, and in fact I’m not even sure it’s a road (map)
  • Bellmore, NY – Public Highway by no means resembles a highway (map)
  • Clever, MO – If people in Clever are so clever, then why couldn’t they come up with something more original than Public Avenue? (map). I also noticed Mop Rd. and Old Wire Rd., so it’s not helping them make their case for cleverness.

  • Completely Unrelated

    I don’t use a GPS blindly as a crutch. I have a good sense of direction, a general idea of where I’m heading before I ever get into a car, and I keep paper backup maps available just in case. Still, it’s nice to have a GPS calling out turns and street directions at appropriate times.

    My old trusty Garmin Nuvi GPS that I’ve used on many of the roadtrips featured on 12MC finally wore out the other day. I wondered what I would find to replace it. In desperation, and to help me get to a work-related meeting in a distant suburb yesterday, I decided to try Google Navigation on my Android phone. Wow. That worked great: nice turn-by-turn instructions, no annoying "recalculating" in a snooty voice; and a familiar set of maps. It looks like I found my replacement — wish I’d tried it a lot earlier although I didn’t really have much of a reason until the Nuvi died.

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