Skewed Perspective

On September 24, 2014 · 10 Comments

There was a time in the early days of Twelve Mile Circle when I used to devote entire articles to differences in distances that didn’t seem plausible, although of course the actual measurements didn’t lie. For example, sticking with the Twelve theme, the twelfth article I ever posted on 12MC all the way back in November 2007 dealt with a whole list of state capitals located closer to southwestern Virginia than to its own capital in Richmond. I loved those little counterintuitive notions although I haven’t posted any in a long time probably because they’re kind-of mindless.

I recalled some of my Riverboat Adventures the other day while speaking with some friends and remarked how crazy-long it took to drive across the entire length of Tennessee. We drove through only two states on the way back, Tennessee and Virginia, and it took something like thirteen hours. That prompted me to hit the maps and resurrect the long-neglected genre.

Driving from Memphis


Mud Island
Memphis. My own photo.

The Tennessee leg of our return followed Interstate highways from Memphis to Bristol, specifically I-40 and I-81. I used one of my favorite mapping tools to create a circle around Memphis that extended to Bristol. That’s where the fun began. Memphis was closer to Oklahoma City, Dallas, New Orleans or Kansas City than it was to Bristol. It was even closer to Davenport, Iowa!

Two could play at that game so I created a similar circle around Bristol extending to Memphis. Bristol was closer to Detroit and Jacksonville than it was to Memphis, and about the same distance to Chicago or Philadelphia.


Back in Virginia


Casbah, Algiers
Casbah, Algiers by Nick Brooks, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license

I then drew some latitudes, returning my focus to the Commonwealth of Virginia. I noticed that there were parts of Africa farther north than parts of Virginia. I let that rattle around in by brain for awhile. Sure the overlap wasn’t much although definitely factual. Algiers and Tunis on the African continent were farther north than Danville and Suffolk in Virginia.


Dueling Portlands


Keep Portland Weird
Keep Portland Weird by Christopher Porter, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

Again with the latitudes, I compared Portland, Oregon with Portland, Maine. It reminded me of a quote in a guest post that Marc Alifanz contributed to 12MC in March 2011, Geo-Oddities of Portland, Oregon:

Portland was originally founded by Asa Lovejoy from Boston, Massachusetts and Francis W. Pettygrove of Portland, Maine. Each wanted to name the new town after their place of origin. They flipped a coin, and Portland won. It’s probably a good thing it worked out that way, because two Bostons of very large size would have created more confusion than big Portland, OR and littler Portland, ME do now.

That was an interesting aside, although referring back to the latitudes, Portland in Oregon is actually farther north than Portland in Maine. That seemed odd because Maine bordered Canada and Oregon had an entire state (Washington) between it and Canada. Yet, that’s what the line revealed.

And speaking of Portland, Maine, I drew another circle and examined the results. Portland Maine was closer to Caracas, Venezuela than to Portland, Oregon.


A Canadian Example


old cayenne 6
old cayenne 6 by Nicholas Laughlin, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license

All of the results seemed astonishing to me although I recognized that a lot of this had to do with my very specific geographic perspective. I doubt the measurements and observations had anywhere near the same impact for people living elsewhere. So I tried an example in Canada. St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador was closer to: Bratislava Slovakia; Murmansk, Russia; Cayenne, French Guiana; or anywhere in Western Sahara as it turned out than it was to Vancouver, British Columbia.

Similar observations could be made about the distance between Vladivostok and Moscow, Russia, I supposed. Ditto for Sydney and Perth, Australia. Have fun and let me know the most counterintuitive observation you discover.

Frank Sinatra’s Drive

On December 23, 2012 · 6 Comments

As Ol’ Blue Eyes — Francis Albert “Frank” Sinatra — so famously sang:

If I can make it there
I’ll make it anywhere
It’s up to you
Hoboken, Hoboken

Say what?!? Frank Sinatra was born in Hoboken, New Jersey in 1915, not New York City, and that’s where he lived his first couple of decades including his formative years as a performer.

(Now I can’t get that blasted song out of my head. Maybe you should turn it on in the background and join me.)



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The fine residents of Hoboken don’t want anyone to forget that point, or be overshadowed by their rivals directly across the Hudson River either. Sinatra is their son despite what the song may imply. I’m pretty sure I had a general awareness of the Hoboken connection although it didn’t have much meaning to me until I noticed Frank Sinatra Drive (above) and the park of the same name that runs along its edge while updating my United States Ferry Map.(1)


Hoboken wasn’t the only place to claim a slice of the Frank Sinatra legacy. He was also intractably intertwined with Las Vegas, Nevada. Unsurprisingly, Sin City played homage to the crooner through a broad avenue hugging the eastern edge of Interstate 15, paralleling the western side of the Las Vegas Strip. It provides easy backdoor access to many of the famous Vegas Strip casinos including of course New York New York. I guess that makes sense too. Once again, Frank Sinatra can be found just to the west of New York. Hoboken needs to tip its hat to its friends in Nevada for geographical accuracy.



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Notice how Dean Martin Drive hugs the other side of I-15 and then crosses beneath the interstate to join Frank Sinatra Drive? They join and become Industrial Drive. There was a "push to change Industrial Drive to Sammy Davis Jr. Parkway" as recently as 2011.

If the Davis name change is approved, he would join a growing list of Strip entertainers whose names grace the valley street signs: Elvis Presley Court, Jimmy Durante Boulevard, Debbie Reynolds Drive, Jerry Lewis Way, Mel Torme Way, Wayne Newton Boulevard and Roy Horn Way.

I don’t know whether this effort will succeed although the proposal gained support and began fundraising to pay for signage. It would be great cosmic justice to reunite the three leading members of the Rat Pack in Vegas, even figuratively. The intersection seems otherwise unremarkable on its own merits (street view) and could use some improvements or at least a little notoriety.




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Additionally Sinatra had an association with Rancho Mirage, California where he lived in "The Compound" at 70588 Frank Sinatra Drive, along a fairway of the Tamarisk Country Club.

Sinatra built this sprawling 2.5 acre residence in 1954 to include a main house, movie theatre, five guest houses, an actual train caboose turned into a barbershop and sauna, two swimming pools, tennis courts, and a personal art studio. Each building was named after one of his songs: New York, New York, High Hopes, The Tender Trap, Send In the Clowns, Chicago, and My Way.

This period coincided with the golden age of Palm Springs at the midpoint of the Twentieth Century when movie stars and entertainment legends gathered in the desert east of Hollywood for drinking, carousing and golf.


Various roads named for Frank Sinatra span the globe, with no discernible connection to his legacy beyond a simple memorial placed by appreciative fans. I found Frank Sinatra Place in El Paso, Texas (map) along with various other tribute streets (Cheryl Ladd? Really?). Frank Sinatra can also be found in a trailer park in Mesa, Arizona (map) where he’s paired with Rin Tin Tin and Lassie, but also with Marilyn Monroe and Mae West (shortened erroneously by the map bots at Google to "May W."(2) Both were uncovered with just a few minutes of searching. There must be considerably more Sinatra this-that-or-the-other detritus scattered about the United States.



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International tributes can be discovered easily, too. I think I’m partial to Frank-Sinatra-Straße, in Steinheim an der Murr, Germany were he keeps good company with John Lennon, George Harrison, Louis Armstrong and Janis Joplin plus a raft of classical music composers. Rua Frank Sinatra in São Paulo, Brazil probably comes in a close second (map) were he’s paired with Martin Luther King and Che Guevara. Frank Sinatra, Martin Luther King and Che Guevara would have been a much more interesting Rat Pack. It sounds like the setup for a bad joke: "Frank Sinatra, Martin Luther King and Che Guevara walk into a bar…"


(1) I always reserve the most onerous chores for the holidays when I can put some concentrated hours and effort into them. I’ve finally started updating from v2 to v3 of Google’s JavaScript Maps API. Yes, I know, I should have done that a couple of years ago. That would have required effort and energy so instead I procrastinated until Google sent me a reminder saying that they could pull the support plug as soon as May 2013. This ferry page is my initial v3 prototype and I still have some link checking to complete and such. I’m not happy with the bass-ackwards way I had to code it so maybe I’ll come up with a more elegant scripting effort later. Whatever. It’ll work for now and it buys me some more time. I can kick-the-can down the road just like the best politicians. Those of you that have been begging for better NYC ferry coverage also get your wish. That was a complete freaking nightmare. Don’t expect anything fancy either. I know that ferries don’t cross overland through the tip of Manhattan.
(2) I’m not sure why I find it so funny. In this instance shortening West to W. is completely inappropriate because West is a surname in this context rather than a cardinal direction. I’d like to think it’s an Easter Egg placed by Google Maps although the stupid bot theory is considrably more likely. Occam’s razor and such. My amusement probably has more to do with the bottom entry on this old article.

Arizona Strip

On November 1, 2012 · 2 Comments

Arizona’s observance of time demonstrates considerable weirdness. This article isn’t about time, however, although it’s about Arizona. I think of Arizona at least twice a year, in Spring and in Autumn when the United States toggles between standard and daylight saving time. A disconnected memory triggered by the upcoming time change floated back into to my mind.

I recalled a comment left on 12MC several months ago by "Page" that referenced the curious "Arizona Strip." The contributor left only one other comment ever, on that same day, so I don’t know if this was a random fly-by or a regular reader who mostly lurks. Either way, I found the topic fascinating and I tucked it away for further examination later.



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The Arizona Strip isn’t a high desert variation of a burlesque show. Rather it refers to the northwestern corner of the state above the Colorado River. It is almost completely cut off from the remainder of Arizona by the Grand Canyon. It’s not quite a practical exclave because two roads on the far eastern end connect the Strip to the larger portion of Arizona — Route 89 at Glen Canyon and Route 89a at Marble Canyon (map) — although it has similar characteristics in a general sense because one has to swing around the Grand Canyon regardless.

For instance:

  • A drive from Grand Canyon Lodge on the north rim to Bright Angel Lodge on the south rim will take 213 miles (343 km) over nearly five hours (map). The air distance between those points is probably about a dozen miles.
  • A resident of Colorado City who wishes to visit the Mohave County seat in Kingman will need to drive more than 250 miles (400 km). That person would likely have to drive into Utah and Nevada first to do that, and swing all the way out to Las Vegas using the most logical route (map).
  • People living in the towns of Littlefield or Scenic where Interstate 15 clips the corner of the state are effectively cleaved from the rest of Arizona unless they wish to leave the state first or traverse dangerous and hellish 4-wheel drive tracks instead.

I’ve been to the the Arizona Strip twice although I didn’t recognize it as such at the time. One involved the aforementioned stretch of Interstate 15 between St. George, Utah and Mesquite, Nevada. I remember those two points clearly. I can’t seem to recall anything about my 30-mile crossing of the Arizona Strip except that I know I must have been there because I took I-15.

The other one involved a visit to the north rim of the Grand Canyon. Most visitors go to the south rim which by itself is an itself an excellent reason to consider heading into the Arizona Strip to see the north rim instead. It’s much less crowded and considerably more relaxed. It was here that I infamously (embarrassingly) found an hour so obviously I have very conscious memories of the Arizona Strip from that time. Plus it was the Grand Canyon! Who could ever forget about that?

One might wonder why a state would be created with such an obvious anomaly. Geography implies that it would make much more sense to include the Strip as a southern extension of Utah.



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The early Latter Day Saints pioneers thought likewise. They expanded southward into the Arizona Strip starting in the 1850’s and founded several settlements including Littlefield and Fredonia. The Strip was included in the Mormon’s ambitious 1849 State of Deseret proposal that was rejected by the U.S. Congress. Lawmakers were wrestling with a larger issue at the time. A delicate balance of places that allowed slavery and those that did not was beginning to unravel with the absorption of new territory in the wake of the 1848 Mexican-American War victory.

The Compromise of 1850 reset the balance, albeit temporarily. One provision created territorial boundaries for Utah and New Mexico (with Arizona later cleaved from New Mexico) and established Utah’s southern border. Thus an argument over slavery, not the logic of geography, created the Arizona Strip. It became somewhat of a "no-man’s land," not a part of Utah and far removed from Arizona’s civic reach.

The United States would not accept Utah as as state until the Latter Day Saints disavowed polygamy. This happened in the Manifesto of 1890. This same prohibition also had to be written into the Utah constitution as a condition of statehood. With those hurdles cleared, Congress accepted Utah’s application and it became a state in 1896.



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The polygamy disavowal was not acceptable to certain Mormons who formed breakaway sects in response. Some of them moved to the Arizona Strip where Utah’s lawns did not apply to them and where they were left largely alone by Arizona authorities located too far away to bother. Even today Colorado City, AZ and the adjoining town of Hildale on the Utah side of the border are essentially controlled by a polygamist sect, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS):

The FLDS Church set up shop in Short Creek [e.d., now Colorado City], largely due to its isolation. Buffered by the Grand Canyon and with a hundred miles of barren desert between them and the nearest law enforcement in Kingman, Arizona, they felt comfortable there. These polygamists also knew they were near a Stateline, which could easily be strategically crossed if there was trouble.

Colorado City is the largest town in the Arizona Strip with 5,000 of the Strip’s 8,000 residents. The situation has devolved in recent years and it’s attracted the attention of the U.S. Department of Justice. Steps have also been taken by the State of Arizona to wrestle control of the town away from the FLDS. A geographic anomaly created in an attempt to deal with issues of slavery reverberates more than a century and a half later.

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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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