I wonder if I’ve observed a genuine phenomenon or if I’m falling into a confirmation bias trap. Everywhere I travel, and I meander through extremely rural areas as a matter of preference, I notice Chinese restaurants.
This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned this peculiarity. I posted Not Fusion, CONfusion a couple of years ago. The subject matter differed — I focused on oddly bifurcated business in that instance — although Meh’s Canadian & Chinese Cuisine in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia would certainly qualify as an example of a Chinese restaurant in a rural area. I wrote at the time, "I’m continuously amazed to find Chinese restaurants in even the smallest, most remote and undoubtedly obscure towns that I’ve ever visited." That odd fixation of mine hasn’t dissipated over time.
It came back to life when I was in Guymon, Oklahoma recently.
View Larger Map
I noticed a Chinese buffet practically across the street from our hotel. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been too surprised by the Guymon occurrence. It’s the "big city" of the Oklahoma panhandle with nearly 12 thousand residents. About 2.7% of the population (~300 people) self-identified as Asian in the most recent census albeit many of them Burmese not Chinese. Guymon probably fit within the definition of confirmation bias now that I’ve had an opportunity to consider the math. To my credit though, we’d been driving through empty terrain for several hours and the juxtaposition flashed on my conscious brighter than a neon sign.
It’s hard for me to conceive of the cultural isolation that these proprietors must endure in the most extreme examples. I came across one article that highlighted the story of a family of Chinese immigrants with US-born children that settled in Lexington, Nebraska. The ability to own one’s own business and earn a decent living in small town America provided an enticing option to urban problems, so maybe the American Dream makes up for the difference. They seemed to be assimilating just fine.
There are several dimensions one could use to determine the most remote Chinese restaurant in North America. I’m not sure I’ll ever answer the question to my complete satisfaction although I offer a few tantalizing possibilities. Obviously I’ve never been to any of these places and I have no idea if the limited online reviews I could find are even remotely true. I’m also sure theses places represent the most bastardized version of westernized Chinese cuisine imaginable to match the tastes of their clientele, and I’m a sucker for that. I enjoy authentic cuisine too. I try to appreciate the dichotomy separately for what it is, and recognize that they should never be compared.
Hong Kong Chinese Restaurant, Glasgow, Montana
View Larger Map
Glasgow has about 3,200 residents with 0.3% of the population (about 10 people) self-identified as Asian. That’s not to say that every one of those residents identify as Chinese of course, a distinction I’ll note similarly for the remainder of the article, although it does provide an indication of the potential population pool.
The Google Street View image led me to wonder if the Hong Kong Chinese Restaurant was still open. Reviews in Yelp dated as recently as 2011 however and Street View dated to 2008. Maybe it simply needed a good coat of paint.
One person said, "This is the most awful restaurant I’ve been to." Another said, it was "One of the best meal[s] I had in Montana." Turning to Urban Spoon, a reviewer noted, "Average is ok in this case — I didn’t get sick after eating here either. This is my first criteria when writing a review for any Eastern Montana restaurant." I learned a couple of things. First, Chinese food in Glasgow, MT is either excellent, terrible or average. Second, the standard of excellence might not be very high in Eastern Montana. I wonder if Weekend Roady would agree?
Golden China Restaurant, Nome, Alaska
View Larger Map
Nome has 3,700 residents with 1.54% of the population (about 55 people) self-identified as Asian. That’s both a larger town and a higher percentage than the previous example. I’m including it on my short list anyway because anything in Nome has to be considered remote by definition.
Golden China Restaurant has some photos on Yelp and a small number reviews on Google+. One said, "The waitress never smiles, she looks mean." There was also a review in Korean which Google translated with the usual mangled results: "Korean pineapple chicken boss recommended. Tang manipulative called look. My Mongolian beef was too salty and sweet taste. Atmosphere clean and good music."
In Nome, be sure to look for the surly waitress and stick with the Korean pineapple chicken boss.
Viking Chinese Restaurant, Viking, Alberta
View Larger Map
Viking has about 1,000 residents. However it’s in Canada and I don’t know enough about the Canadian census to determine demographics. I highlighted this location primarily because I was amused by the possibility of Viking-Chinese fusion cuisine. It’s too bad Viking is the town’s name and not an indicator of culinary style.
I couldn’t find any online reviews. However, strangely enough, two people checked in with foursquare from Viking Chinese. You can do the same if you need to kill some time in Edmonton and want to take a 137 kilometre road trip.
Ying Bin Restaurant, Kenmare, ND
View Larger Map
Is Ying Bin Restaurant the champion of remoteness? Kenmare has 1,000 residents with 0.7% of the population (about 7 people) self-identified as Asian. That’s a tad better (meaning fewer) than Glasgow, MT. Conceivably, just about every person in Kenmare of Chinese heritage could be associated with the Ying Bin Restaurant. I found only one brief review: "Food is superb, when made fresh."
Those are my candidates for the most remote Chinese restaurants in North America. Can the 12MC audience do better? — double bonus points if you’ve actually eaten there. Triple points if you’re the restaurateur.
The Intertubes wants to know and I’m happy to oblige. This is one of those occasional articles that regular 12MC readers may want to skip because it doesn’t involve much from an intellectual standpoint. I keep receiving search engine queries about the 100th meridian west of Greenwich, specifically the list of United States counties that the line intersects as it splits the nation figuratively into eastern and western halves. I can’t figure out why anyone would want or need to compile such a list, however, Google and the like believe that it exists and that I own it. I don’t, or rather I didn’t. Now I do. It’s here at the bottom of this article.
View 100th Meridian West – twelvemilecircle.com in a larger map
The 100th meridian fascinates many people in a mystical Great Plains way. I’ve written about it previously, both from a Canadian perspective and a USA perspective. Not only does the meridian cleave nicely through the middle of the North American continent geographically, it creates a divide meteorologically. The landscape tends to be wetter on the east side and dryer on the west, resulting in differences in farming, settlement, ecosystem and ultimately culture. The 100th meridian is so much more than an arbitrary line, albeit that’s exactly what it is from a technical perspective, it serves as a vague psychological transition.
This is the result. Feel free to open the image in another tab and view it in full size. I’ve compressed it here for purposes of squishing it into a blog format. I’ve color-coded it by state to make it easier to follow.
I rather enjoyed drawing the map even if it was a bit tedious at times. Mapquest was actually more useful to this effort than Google Maps. Mapquest provides all county lines automatically. I had to check county-by-county to confirm that I was still straddling the 100th meridian. Borders don’t always run straight and sometimes I had to check multiple county locations or even consult other sources. I’m pretty sure this is a definitive list although errors always seem to find a way to creep-in. I’ll be glad to make corrections as necessary.
The meridian passes from north to south through North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. I found some interesting peculiarities along the way. You’ll notice a few clusters of side-by-side counties. Those are locations where a county may have only a tiny knob clipped by the line.
Gosper County, NE was a good example of that. It’s roughly rectangular with a small square appended to its southwestern edge, almost as an afterthought (map)(1). The meridian passed through part of the square. Harper/Ellis and Beaver Counties in Oklahoma also raised an eyebrow. It appeared that the meridian ran right down the eastern edge of Beaver. However — and I checked this in a couple of different places — Beaver fell completely west of the line by a few hundred feet. Notice how Beaver Co. doesn’t extend quite as far east as the Texas-Oklahoma border when it cuts south, which absolutely does follow the 100th meridian.
Speaking of that, does the meridian cut through those Texas-Oklahoma border counties or not? Some people may say that it does not because the theoretical width of the meridian is infinitesimally small approaching zero, and the two states and their respective border counties only "touch" not "cross" the meridian. I’m inclined to say that it does happen although for a more practical reason: I’m willing to bet that there are enough minor border oscillation due to tiny surveying errors that someone could find genuine instances of those counties actually crossing the meridian (maybe by only a few feet) if we looked hard enough. I’m too lazy to confirm that, though. Bear in mind that there is plenty of precedence in U.S. law to recognize these kinds of surveying errors as true boundaries if they’ve been observed as such historically.
Finally, there was also good reason for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad to put the two sundials in their Dodge City, KS railroad station. The meridian fell only a mile away from the station (map) even though Central Time has crept slowly towards the western edge of Kansas over ensuing years.
Here is the list, from north to south.
- Keya Paha
- Ellis, OK
- Lipscomb, TX
- Hemphill, TX
- Roger Mills, OK
- Wheeler, TX
- Beckham, OK
- Collingsworth, TX
- Harmon, OK
- Childress, TX
(1)I discovered a neat little trick I spotted on some random website while researching this article. Did you know that you can perform a Google Analytics review on any link created by the Google URL Shortener? Maybe I was the only one who didn’t know that? Anyway, all you need to do is append either a "+" or a ".info" to the shortened URL. For example, here is a shortened URL I created for Kansas Mountain Time: For a map = http://goo.gl/maps/073xz; for Analytics = http://goo.gl/maps/073xz+ or http://goo.gl/maps/073xz.info. I’m not sure whether I’ll ever have any practical purpose for this feature, however it’s an interesting oddity to pack away in my toolbox. And who was the person from Argentina that clicked on the link, I wonder?
I learn the most amazing things as I delve into topics. For instance, thanks to Kansas Mountain Time, I now know how to change an area from one time zone to another should the need ever arise. I was actually surprised. It seemed much easier and less bureaucratic than I would ever imagine.
Let’s recap, briefly. Time Zones in the United States fall within the responsibilities of the Department of Transportation due to historical ties to railroads. It would be difficult to move passengers and freight on any semblance of a schedule if every location observed its own interpretation of celestial time. The Federal government established a series of four standard times across the Lower-48 and later fixed geographic areas to each one, creating distinct Time Zones as a result.
View Larger Map
Stanton, County Seat of Mercer Co., ND; the most recent to switch time zones (2010)
DOT’s notion of Uniform Time included a fascinating concept they called "Convenience of Commerce." In other words, it’s more about maintaining an efficient marketplace than accommodating personal or community preferences. Important considerations included patterns and relationships shaping the movement of goods and supplies, workplace locations, transportation networks, television broadcast footprints and community services. Those factors in close alignment would tend to support the case for a common observed time.
Things get fuzzy along the edges. DOT examines Convenience of Commerce to decide whether a community should fall on one side of a boundary or the other.
View Recent Time Zone Proceedings in a larger map
Convenience of Commerce changes over time. It’s not unheard of, in fact it’s surprisingly common, for communities to grow closer figuratively to neighbors on the other side of a Time Zone boundary than their own. The Department of Transportation realizes that relationships change. They’ve established orderly procedures to move communities from one Time Zone to another. It can be accomplished a couple of different ways, either by statute or by regulation. The first involves an act of Congress and obviates any further analysis, although it’s also quite rare. The second is much more common and can be initiated by a state government or a local government like a county board of commissioners. In that case DOT will examine the application, gather input from parties that might be affected, gauge Convenience of Commerce and make a decision. That usually happens in just a few months, a lightning-fast process for a government agency.
The Federal Register Notices of recent proceedings were surprisingly readable and usually just a couple of pages long. I reviewed each of them and mapped all of the Time Zone changes since 1999 on the embedded image, above. Many of these changes had back-stories that could only be uncovered by reading the details in the Notices.
View Larger Map
For example, only a portion of Sioux County, North Dakota switched to Central Time in 2003 although the Chairman of the Board of County Commissioners originally requested a boundary relocation for the entire county. Sioux County west of Highway 31 remained in Mountain Time.
The decision for the eastern side of the county was obvious. Bismarck, the state capital, wasn’t very far away and it’s in Central Time. That satisfied Convenience of Commerce. However, if one ever doubted the impact a single voice, one will be gratified to learn that an individual made all of the difference for the western side:
Frank Tomac, a resident living in western Sioux County, concurred with most of the arguments presented by the County Commissioners. He suggested, however, that the time zone boundary be placed at State Highway 31, rather than the western border of the county. Mr. Tomac noted that the western part of the county is rural and very sparsely populated. He noted that there is no road going east to west in this part of the county. Residents must either go into South Dakota or drive a considerable distance into Grant County to get to the eastern part of the county. Because of the proximity with the South Dakota border, Mr. Tomac noted that many of the public services in this area are provided in South Dakota. Other services are provided in Grant County, which is on mountain time. In response to his comments, the Commissioners decided to amend their request.
View Larger Map
The recent proceedings captured part of the madness that is time in Indiana. Daviess, Dubois Knox, Martin, Pike, and Pulaski Counties all switched to Central Time in 2006 and switched back to Eastern Time again the following year. It’s an unusual case. Chicago, IL tugs the northwestern corner of Indiana towards Central Time. Evansville, IN in the far southwest anchors a tri-state area where the other two states follow Central Time. Cincinnati, OH tugs the southeast towards Eastern Time. Louisville, KY towards the south also pulls towards Eastern Time. No single Convenience of Commerce serves to unify time in Indiana.
Attempts to explain the complexities of time in Indiana are beyond the scope and space limitations of 12MC. Entire books could be written on the subject and emotions run high. You’re better off consulting "A Brief History of Time (in Indiana)" from the Indianapolis Star newspaper or Wikipedia’s Time in Indiana if you’d like to review the countless twists, turns and permutations. It’s mind-boggling.
I’d almost rather read those Federal Register notices.