Heartland, Part 3 (Foiled by Memorial Day)

On June 15, 2017 · Comments Off on Heartland, Part 3 (Foiled by Memorial Day)

I figured I’d have to give this article a sneaky title or nobody would read it. Once again I decided to focus a portion of my journey on local breweries and brewpubs found along our route. These posts tend to underperform as some of the least popular items on Twelve Mile Circle. I know that because I review the access logs. Unfortunately this activity also tends to be one of my favorites. It’s my website so I write about what I enjoy. Feel free to come back in a few days if this doesn’t interest you. I won’t take it personally. There will be plenty of geographic goodies as the rest of the series unfolds.


Three Floyds Cases
It will have to do.

Now, back to the title. How could Memorial Day possibly mess things up? After all, it existed for such a noble purpose, to remember those who gave their lives during military service to the country. Lots of businesses closed for the holiday as a sign of respect.

I’d been planning to visit 3 Floyds Brewing for several years. It was one of those iconic names in brewing circles, a place of beery pilgrimage, renowned for its craftsmanship as well as for its famous Dark Lord Day. Finally my path brought me within striking distance of Munster, Indiana and the famous brewery. On Memorial Day. The only day that fit into our schedule. Of course it was closed. Our stop at a nearby liquor store so we could load up with a couple of cases of 3 Floyds’ signature beers to take back home served as a sorry substitute. I’ll make it back to Munster again someday, mark my words.


My 400th Brewery


Father John's Brewing Company

Longtime 12MC readers already knew many of my idiosyncrasies. Not only did I like breweries, I liked counting things. Naturally I’ve recorded all of my brewery visits both with a list and on a map. I’d been approaching my 400th visit for awhile and I finally crossed the threshold at the first brewery we visited during the trip. That honor went to Father John’s Brewing in Bryan, Ohio (map). I enjoyed the setting, in the basement of a former Methodist church built in 1895. We also glanced into the sanctuary on the main level. It looked pretty much like a typical church although with pews removed and a bandstand installed.

Bryan seemed like an unlikely destination, tucked away in the northwestern corner of Ohio. The first race in the series place there on a Sunday morning so that’s how we found ourselves in a decommissioned church on Saturday evening. However, Bryan did have a couple of tenuous claims to fame. Spangler Candy, known for its Dum Dums lollipops, ran a factory in town. Dum Dums brought back childhood memories of Halloween trick-or-treating. We didn’t take the factory tour because they closed on the weekend, though. I started to sense a theme.

Remember Etch A Sketch? Those came from Bryan too, as a reader who followed the 12MC Twitter account informed me. The Ohio Art company started making them in Bryan in 1960. However they sold their Etch a Sketch brand in 2016 to focus on their metal lithography business.


LaOtto Brewing


LaOtto Brewing Company

Many of our adventures offered at least one unexpected brewery surprise. LaOtto Brewing in LaOtto, Indiana (map) served that purpose on the Heartland trip. The town of LaOtto didn’t have much, just a few quiet blocks along Old State Road 3, bypassed to the east by a highway heading towards Fort Wayne. We’d been driving all day collecting previously unvisited Indiana counties and it seemed like a good time to stop for a break. Craftbeer.com said we could find a brewery in LaOtto so we pulled over. It turned out to be a nice place with a friendly, informative staff. We also got a suggestion to visit Shoreline Brewery in Michigan City, Indiana to try their Big Bella Heavy Scotch Ale. I’d already planned to visit Michigan City the next day so fate looked like it might work out for us for once.

I never uncovered the etymology of the town’s name so that remained a mystery. Apparently a local Lutheran minister suggested LaOtto in 1875 because nobody liked the previous name, Simonsville. Was it a biblical reference? I don’t know.


Shoreline Brewery


Shoreline Brewery

I wanted to visit the lighthouses in Michigan City, and I’ll talk about those in a future article. Shoreline Brewery sat practically within walking distance of both of them. Memorial Day didn’t stop Shoreline from opening, as I noted for the record, not that I’m bitter or anything. No, not me. I know, I need to put things in perspective and get over it.

We found our Big Bella Heavy Scotch Ale offered for sale in take-home bomber bottles. The brewers aged each batch in bourbon barrels for a year prior to bottling it. They also offered several vintages. I’ve maintained a cellaring program in my home for quite awhile so I thought this would be a fine addition to my collection. We asked about the years available and they listed bottles going all the way back to 2010. There wasn’t any price difference between vintages either. That was a no–brainer. Someone already aged it for me? Of course I went for the 2010. It will be fine some winter evening a few months from now.


And the Rest

We collected a total of eight breweries and brewpubs during this trip. I’m sure I could come up with stories about the remaining five although I’ve run out of space so I’ll simply list them here.

  • Mad Anthony Brewing; Ft. Wayne, Indiana
  • Byway Brewing; Hammond, Indiana
  • Tangled Roots Brewing / Lone Buffalo Restaurant; Ottawa, Illinois
  • Green Tree Brewery; Le Claire, Iowa
  • The Brew Kettle; Strongsville, Ohio

I’d call that another successful tasting adventure.


Articles in the Heartland Series:

  1. Why, oh Why?
  2. How Not to See a City
  3. Foiled by Memorial Day
  4. Beyond Covered
  5. Not Just Farmland
  6. Americana

See Also: The Complete Photo Album on Flickr

Any Excuse for a Road Trip, Part 1 (The Premise)

On April 23, 2017 · 3 Comments

People following Twelve Mile Circle’s Twitter account knew something must be happening. Suddenly tweets tagged to places like Ste. Genevieve and Cape Girardeau in Missouri began to appear on my feed just before Easter. I hadn’t announced the trip ahead of time although I’d been planning it for several weeks.

I’ve been aiding and abetting my wife’s scheme to run a race in all 50 states for quite awhile. Now she wanted to add Missouri, otherwise she’d face an alarmingly obvious Midwestern doughnut hole by the end of the summer. That seemed like a great excuse for me to do some exploring, and I hatched a crazy plan. I had to work most of the week so I’d fly to St. Louis on Friday morning to meet my wife who’d already be there, then we’d drive to Cape Girardeau to be ready for the race the following morning. After the race we’d drive as far as the middle of Ohio, stay overnight, then drive the rest of the way home to Virginia to celebrate Easter with family. A two-day road trip covering a thousand miles (1,600 km) plus a half-marathon, then dealing with dysfunctional relatives? What didn’t sound great about that?


Breaking it Down


Route from Missouri
The Route. New Counties in Dark Blue

All reservations melted away when I discovered that I could tweak the route and add 19 new counties on Saturday while driving only 20 minutes extra. I could also grab five new Missouri counties on Friday. My county counting list would jump by 24 over the course of a single weekend. I plotted a route on the special Mob Rule page that I use for experiments. Previously unvisited counties appeared on my map in dark blue while those I’d visited before appeared in light blue.

I didn’t have a lot of time to play around so the preponderance of new pickups would have to be Interstate Highway counties. That seemed a fair trade-off. I needed to capture them eventually so I might as well take advantage of the opportunity now. The basic route left Missouri, went over to Interstate 57 in Illinois, then to I-64 crossing Indiana, leading to I-71 in Kentucky and Ohio, then on to I-70 heading east out of Ohio, and finally home.

I also added a couple of new "overnight" counties; Cape Girardeau, Missouri and Muskingum County, Ohio . I considered those new members of the gold standard of county county visits. In my mind, staying overnight added a much higher level of prestige and credibility to a capture than simply crossing the border for literally a few seconds as happened with some of the others. I’ve now completed an overnight in 227 counties. I don’t think I could ever finish that odd quest though. It would take 8.6 years to spend the night in every county if I slept in a different one every night until completed. I’m not nearly that obsessive.


Jogging Not Racing


County Jogs
Jogging to Counties

The racing would take place on Saturday morning on foot. However, that still left plenty of time for jogging, and definitely not the kind on foot. Those involved little jogs that I took as we leveraged our proximity to snag a handful of additional counties. Two of those happened on Friday. With minor detours, really just a couple of miles out of the way, I captured Bollinger and Scott Counties in Missouri. The next day I took a similar short diversion and captured Hamilton County, Illinois. As I said to my son, "it would be a crime to come so close to (Bollinger/Scott/Hamilton) and not cross the border." The family collectively rolled their eyes even though I knew they’d appreciate it someday.

Oh, I guess I forgot to mention that the kids participated in this adventure too. They were on spring break from school so mom drove out with them to St. Louis. They took a nice, leisurely route getting there and then they went sightseeing for a few days. Their friends all went to Florida or the Caribbean or Europe, while they had to go county counting in the Heartland. I’m sure their therapist somewhere in the distant future will get an earful. Whatever.

My county counting total stood at 1,390 (or 44.2% of all counties in the United States) as the trip concluded.


Uh Oh, Doughnut Hole


County Left Behind
Pulaski County, Illinois – Doughnut Hole

Solving one problem can sometimes create other problems, and that happened here too. My frenzied pace and inability to deviate much from the most efficient route created a clearly visible doughnut hole. Someday, and I don’t know when, I will need to return to this area to cross the border into Pulaski County, Illinois. However, it will have to stand alone at least for the foreseeable future. Who knows? Maybe someday I’ll find myself unexpectedly near the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers again. I never expected a second opportunity only three years after my original visit to the area. Lightning could strike a third time.


Any Excuse for a Road Trip articles:

Centers of Michigan

On December 8, 2016 · 2 Comments

For once I wasn’t looking for the geographic center of something, as problematic as that could be given various definitions. Not in Michigan. And for the record, the town of St. Louis claimed to be the "middle of the mitten." It moved to a spot a few miles north-northwest of Cadillac taking the Upper Peninsula into account. However, that was beside the point. Instead I came across two Michigan place names while searching for completely different things. Their similarities deserved closer scrutiny.

Center Line



Center Line, Michigan

Actually I started by investigating Warren, Michigan and I noticed a hole. A big one. A nice rectangle right in the middle of it (map). Naturally I drilled down and discovered the town of Center Line. The much larger city of Warren completely surrounded it. Center Line described itself as "a small close-knit community of 8,257 residents… nestled inside the state’s 3rd largest city"

Warren and Center Line both began as villages in a rural corner of Macomb County. However, Center Line incorporated first, becoming a city in 1936. Warren also started growing rapidly around that same time. Warren Township minus Center Line incorporated as a city in 1957. It simply exploded in population to the point that it completely overshadowed Center Line over the next couple of decades.

I also wondered about the name. There didn’t seem to be any line and it certainly didn’t seem to be the center of anything other than the city of Warren itself, which it predated anyway. The town’s website mentioned "several theories" which also meant nobody really knew the answer. The most plausible explanation seemed to be,

There were three Indian trails leading from the fort at Detroit to other trading posts in the northern wilderness. The first was the river trail which followed the river and ended at Port Huron; the second was the Saginaw trail and ended at Mackinaw at the Straits of Mackinaw. Through the center of the two trails, the Indians had beaten a trail which followed the "center line" [as observed] by the French.

The trail became Sherwood Avenue (map).


Michigan Center



Michigan Center, Michigan

Later I also discovered Michigan Center. Center Line and Michigan Center fell nowhere near each other. A good 85 miles (140 kilometres) separated them. Nonetheless finding a second Center in Michigan excited me. It doesn’t take much to get me going.

The name derived from the Michigan Meridian. Benjamin Hough surveyed the meridian in 1815, marking 84° 21′ 53″ west longitude. Settlers then moved into the area and platted Michigan Center a few years later in 1837. However, the meridian didn’t pass directly through Michigan Center. I measured it. The meridian ran between Michigan Center and the neighboring town of Jackson. I guess they figured it was close enough. Who would really know? Seriously.


Fort Defiance


Fort Defiance,  Defiance Ohio
Fort Defiance, Defiance Ohio. Photo by Tim Tonjes on Flickr (cc)

Then I went down a little tangent. I wondered why Hough followed such an odd longitude when he surveyed the Michigan Meridian. The line actually pointed farther south into a neighboring state. There stood Fort Defiance at the confluence of the Auglaize and Maumee Rivers (map). A town called Defiance, Ohio later grew up there.

General "Mad" Anthony Wayne built Fort Defiance in 1794.

Following the Battle of Fallen Timbers, Wayne utilized Fort Defiance as his base of operations. He ordered the destruction of all American Indian villages and crops within a fifty-mile radius of the fort… Until the War of 1812, Fort Defiance served as one of America’s western-most outposts in the Ohio Country and helped protect local citizens from American Indian attacks…

Fort Defiance also figured in the 1807 Treaty of Detroit. The United States negotiated the treaty with several Native American tribes, namely the Chippewa, Ottawa, Potawatomi and Wyandot. Land to the east of a line drawn due north of Fort Defiance came under American control. That’s why Hough needed to survey that line. It served briefly as an international boundary.

Purpose
12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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