We’ve all seen lists created from Google’s unusual auto-search recommendations. I noticed a few entertaining results while I was looking for Streets Named After… well, I forget what I was searching for exactly because I was so enthralled by the false positives. Some were mundane. I expected streets named after celebrities, trees, birds, presidents and such, and of course all of those were suggested. Others seemed downright odd. I’m not sure what Google thinks of me due to the wide array of subject matter I pour into its maw as I research articles for Twelve Mile Circle. Maybe my results were atypical although I have no way of knowing that for certain. It might be interesting to run this same experiment again in a different physical location or several months from now and see if anything changed.
Streets Named After Harry Potter
Muggle Lane, Missoula, Montana, USA
I’m guessing lots of people searched for streets named after Harry Potter and that’s why it came up as one of the top suggestions. I can’t recall focusing an inordinate amount of attention on Harry Potter in 12MC so I don’t think my search habits resulted in the hit. It led me to a BuzzFeed article, There’s A City In Montana With A Neighborhood Full Of Harry Potter-Themed Street Names. Sure enough someone could live at the intersection of Muggle Lane and Potter Park Loop in Missoula, Montana if one found that notion appealing.
Streets Named After Obama
Obama and the Pope: a mural in Arusha, Tanzania by Roman Boed, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
It somehow seemed more natural to have streets named after Barack Obama and indeed I found quite a nice list. The most far-flung instance occurred in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. President Obama visited several African nations including Tanzania in July 2013 to meet with business leaders and "demonstrate the U.S. interest in trade and investment." As a result the government of Tanzania renamed one of its primary streets, the road leading to its State House no less, as Barack Obama Drive. Imagine changing Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House to Jakaya Kikwete Drive!
The name change was reflected accurately in Google Maps. It was still listed by its previous name, Ocean Road, in OpenStreet Map at the time of publication (November 2014).
Streets Named After Packers
Trip to Green Bay by Santiago Bilinkis
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)
On the other hand, I had no clue why Google thought I’d want to search for streets named after Packers, as in the Green Bay Packers of American Football fame. It did lead to a Wall Street Journal article, "More Legends Than Streets: Green Bay Is Running Out of Roads to Name After Packer Legends." That seemed to be quite a conundrum in a "first world problem" sort of way. Green Bay wasn’t a large place. Barely a hundred thousand people lived there, making it the smallest U.S. city with a National Football League team. There were only a handful of suitably grand streets for residents to name for their gridiron stars.
Green Bay football quarterback legend Brett Favre garnered only a short block. Granted it was practically next door to Lambeau Field and it led directly to the eponymous Brett Favre’s Steakhouse (3.5 stars on Yelp) so that counted for something. The name of the street? Brett Favre Pass. That created a certain poetic sense because Favre currently holds the record for most career passing yards in the National Football League (71,838).
Streets Named After Rizal
Rizal Monument by Benson Kua, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Streets named after Rizal was a fascinating suggestion. José Rizal was a 19th Century nationalist and intellectual in the Philippines who sought a peaceful end to Spanish colonial rule. In return, Spain sentenced him to death and executed him by firing squad in 1896. He became a Filipino national hero and he was widely regarded as an early powerful force in the independence movement. His body now rests in the Rizal Monument in Manilla, complete with an honor guard offering symbolic protection around the clock.
I believe this came up because his 150th birthday celebration happened a couple of years ago. One site offered A José Rizal @150 Tribute and included a list places named for him. I expected numerous honors and commemorations in the Philippines. It was a little more unusual to see a park in Seattle, Washington (map). Apparently Seattle had a large, active Filipino community. Also there was a José-Rizal-Straße in Wilhelmsfeld, Germany (map). It turned out Rizal had lived nearby while he attended medical training in Heidelberg.
Streets Named After Lord of the Rings
Laan van Tolkien, Geldrop, The Netherlands
If Harry Potter can have streets, so can Lord of the Rings. A housing development in Geldrop, The Netherlands borrowed that theme. I noticed that many of the streets seemed to have been constructed on Woonerf design principles. I’ve been wanting to use my newfound favorite word Woonerf again in context, and there was my chance.
Streets Named After Countries in Glasgow
India Street, Glasgow, Scotland
Apparently there are fourteen streets named after countries in Glasgow, Scotland. I’m not sure why anyone would want or need to know that, and none of the streets seemed all that remarkable. Nonetheless, it came up on the list and who am I to judge?
The trails and breadcrumbs left behind by random one-time electronic visitors sometimes remind me of interesting things I’ve discussed previously and forgotten. Witness the recent query "boomerang" that led one anonymous reader to Fraser Island in Australia, the world’s largest sand island, and its amazing perched dune lakes. As I noted when I drafted the article back in the earliest days of 12MC,
A perched dune lake forms when wind blows an indentation in the sand that then gradually fills with decaying vegetation. Over time the decaying organic matter creates a watertight mat that eventually permeates the sand to form something similar to concrete, almost like a swimming pool… on Frasier Island can be found Boomerang Lake, the world’s highest perched dune lake at 130m above sea level.
The person wanted a boomerang and 12MC delivered a boomerang. Now it was time for a bit of fun and a little boomerang overkill. Were there other boomerangs, I wondered?
In Australia, yes of course, there was a stupendous overindulgence of boomerang hills, streams, islands, lagoons, lakes and anything else geographic that one could possibly imagine. The device was a hunting tool and weapon for many Australian Aboriginal groups so of course occurrences there should be expected. The most significant, or at least most populous example, might very well be Boomerang Beach in the Mid North Coast of New South Wales. Even one of its primary roads, Boomerang Drive, displayed a roughly boomerang shape.
Boomerang Beach, New South Wales, Australia
Boomerang Beach bordered on Booti Booti, an Australian national park. So many awful puns came to mind at that moment although I promised myself that I would behave. It became even more difficult when I learned that the "name comes from ‘butibuti,’ the local Worimi Aboriginal word meaning ‘plenty of honey.’" Must… resist… Booty… jokes.
Setting aside Australia — where boomerangs were entirely too pedestrian — I focused my attention farther away in order to see if the theme had spread elsewhere. Well of course it had or I would have stopped typing right here.
Some Reasons Were Obvious
Boomerang Lake, Runnymede, Saskatchewan, Canada
Plenty of features actually resembled boomerangs. I spotted this great example, Boomerang Lake, on the far eastern edge of Saskatchewan. Actually I was hoping the provincial border might split through the lake as I zoomed-in. That was not the case once I looked closer. Nonetheless, it was a nicely representative instance of boomerang-shaped geography.
Other Reasons Were Enigmatic
Hotel Boomerang, Bagni di Tabiano, Parma, Italy
via Google Street View, November 2010
I scratched my head as I pondered Hotel Boomerang in Parma, Italy. They certainly seemed enamored of their boomerangs. I figured maybe they hoped to focus attention on the physics of a properly-thrown boomerang. Perhaps, using that logic, guests would enjoy their lodging and someday "return" to the hotel?
And I Filled In a Hole
Boomerang Run, Red Lodge Mountain, Montana, USA
I saw plenty of boomerangs in the United States. This one was a little different, a black diamond ski run at the Red Lodge Mountain Resort and roughly boomerang-shaped I guess although maybe they were talking about bouncing off trees or something. I didn’t realize Google Maps included ski trails. That reminded me — I also noticed traffic lights on one map I saw recently (for example). Maybe they’re rolling out some new features?
The primary reason for including this boomerang instead of other instnaces in the United States was to fill an empty space on my Complete Index map. There, I admit it. I need to spread the geo-oddity love around.
I was encouraged to see that I wasn’t the only person fascinated by weather extremes in So Hot, So Cold. Reader "zxo" had been thinking along similar lines a few months ago and created a series of related maps. One of those compared the differences between the highest and lowest temperatures recorded in each state. Check it out. It even showed the approximate location where each state record was set. I’ll use that as the basis for the remainder of this article. Thanks for the inspiration, zxo.
The Weather Channel took a similar tack in July 2013. They had the ability to produce prettier graphics with professional equipment although I still find zxo’s all-encompassing map more useful than trying to scroll through a strip of fifty images. However the Weather Channel did provide three fairly intuitive reasons to account for states with the most extreme differences of extremes:
- A wide range of elevations, e.g., "California… with Death Valley sitting 282 feet below sea level while 14,000-foot mountain peaks sit less than 100 miles away"
- A long distance from large bodies of water that "heat and cool slowly, keeping adjacent land areas milder in winter and cooler in summer"
- Latitude. Variability increases as one moves away from the equator, with additional hours of sunlight in summer and longer nighttimes in winter
As before, I’ll use Wikipedia’s chart of U.S. state temperature extremes. I’ve noticed slight variations between this list and some others I’ve consulted on the Intertubes. I’m not able to compare these against the official list at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration due to the government shutdown (October 2013) so I’ll have to consider Wikipedia close enough as a proxy and plow forward.
Fort Yukon Sign by Mozul, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license
My rule of thumb is to begin with Alaska reflexively whenever I play "guess the state." It seems to be the one that provides the geo-oddity answer more often than not. It would appear to score very high on all three factors for this exercise too, ranging from sea level to 20,237 ft (6,168 m) at Denali; having parts of the state hundreds of miles distant from the nearest shoreline due to its immense size; and featuring latitudes farther removed from the equator than anywhere else in the nation. As expected, Alaska scored very well with an extreme temperature range of 180°F (100°F / 38°C at Fort Yukon on June 27, 1915 and -80°F / -62°C at Prospect Creek on January 23, 1971). However it’s not the champion, nor does it even capture second place.
(A) Medicine Lake to (B) Rogers Pass
Would you believe… Montana? I was surprised. Sure, one would expect it to score high on all three criteria although I didn’t expect it to beat Alaska, and rather convincingly too. Montana’s difference of extremes was an astounding 187°F. The mercury rose to 117°F / 47°C most recently on July 5, 1937, at Medicine Lake, and previously at Glendive in July 1893. Both of those places are found at the far eastern edge of the state, a semi-arid extension of the Great Plains baked by searing summer heat.
Medicine Lake by cm195902, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license
The etymology of Montana traces to the Spanish word Montaña referring to a mountainous area, and there are plenty of higher elevations on the western side of the state. It was at Rogers Pass where Montana set its lowest temperature extreme on January 20, 1954, a bone-chilling -70°F / -57°C. Rogers Pass is actually one of the lower elevations through Montana’s mountains and over the Continental Divide (5,610 ft / 1,710 m) — after all that’s why it’s called a pass — so one can only imagine what the temperature would have hit had it been recorded on any of the nearby summits another thousand feet up, instead.
North Dakota scored higher than Alaska too, at "only" 181°F difference. The state recorded 121°F / 49°C on July 6, 1936 at Steele and -60°F / -51°C on February 15, 1936 at Parshall. Hawaii, perhaps more obviously, recorded the least amount of difference, a mere 83°F. Hawaii was also the only state that had never recorded a temperature below zero on the Fahrenheit scale.
All of these extreme thoughts led me to wonder about the maximum difference for a single location. Unfortunately there aren’t handy lists of such things available. My initial guess would be Fairbanks, Alaska, with a difference of 159°F (99°F / 37°C and -60°F / -51°C). Another site said 96°F and -62°F so who knows? It’s a big difference, whichever source happens to be correct. Perhaps there are location even more extreme found elsewhere in Alaska, or maybe in Siberia or the Canadian Arctic?