I keep a close eye on the geographic characteristics of Twelve Mile Circle visitors, which seems natural for a geo-oddity website. I also generate article topics from viewer anomalies. For example, I never knew that Mars could be found in Pennsylvania until a Martian visitor, one from a spot north of Pittsburgh as it turned out, hopped onto the site to explore a few pages.
Take Me to Your Leader
Mars, I noticed, included a Mars Picnic Shelter, a Mars Skating Rink, a Mars Athletic Field and a Mars Cemetery, so insert your preferred joke here. I kind of enjoyed the though of a burial on Mars although Martian ice skating seemed promising too.
Naturally if there’s a Mars then there must be a Venus. Colonies of Venusians lived in many places including Texas.
I wondered if I could find a town named for each planet. I managed to get about halfway through my research when I discovered that someone already beat me to it. He turned to the same U.S. Geological Survey database I would have used and completed the effort a year before 12MC even existed. View that website if you’d like a comprehensive list of planetary towns within the United States. Keep reading if you’d like the usual 12MC treatment: examining places in more detail; sprinkling in a few international locations; and lame attempts at entertainment.
Starting closest to the sun (Sun City?) and working outward, the 12MC spaceship landed first on…
Crazy ’bout a Mercury
Notice the grey coloring on the background of this map of Mercury, Nevada. Google Maps uses that particular shade to designate restricted government facilities. Indeed, Mercury is a closed town. You cannot go there. You might be able to go there if you’re a nuclear engineer working for the U.S. Department of Energy although I think it’s still safe to say that "YOU" cannot go there in a general sense.
The government built Mercury to house it workers at its Nevada Test Site, where nuclear weapons were detonated in a controlled manner. DOE provided a fact sheet (pdf) with much more detail if that interests you.
My favorite trivial moments:
- Mercury, being closest to the sun, can be very hot. So can a nuclear explosion. Mercury is an appropriate name for a town at a nuclear test site even though its naming appeared to be coincidental.
- Notice Jackass Flats Road. I don’t have anything more to add; just found it funny. It reminded me of Jackass Junction.
A View from the Surface of Venus (Bay)
I mentioned the Venus located in Texas already. One can also find a Venus, in this case Venus Bay, in Victoria, Australia. It’s a nice weekend getaway for people from Melbourne ("let’s travel to Venus for a little holiday")
Flickr by J. Stephen Conn via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license
Doesn’t Earth as a placename seem redundant? Apparently that’s not a problem for the residents of Earth City, Missouri (map) or Earth, Texas (map). The Handbook of Texas provided a common excuse, the "name already taken" dilemma, when settlers required a post office. There are three distinct apocryphal explanations. I liked the sandstorm story so let’s use that one.
Originally Halsell called the place Fairlawn or Fairleen, but it was renamed Earth, supposedly for a sandstorm blowing when storekeeper and first postmaster C. H. Reeves had to come up with a name acceptable to postal authorities in Washington.
We already mentioned MARS and there’s a well-known JUPITER with 50,000+ residents exists in Florida, so let’s blast farther into the solar system.
Canadian Mini Solar System
I found several Saturn opportunities although the best choice seemed to be Saturn Lake in Ontario. I didn’t find anything particularly remarkable about the lake itself, however it’s placed within a mini-solar system when paired with Pluto Lake. Another nearby feature was called Juniper Lake, which sounds a lot like Jupiter. I gave this cluster two-and-a-half points even understanding that Pluto was dropped from the planet list in 2006. I won’t mention Pluto again.
*** DANGER: Skip to the next section if you are offended by deliberate mispronunciations and juvenile humor ***
Mianus View Requires No Explanation
I couldn’t find Uranus but I found Mianus. Steve from CTMQ pointed to Mianus during our epic Connecticut Extremes Adventure last summer. In all fairness, we were several hours into the trip and I think fatigue had begun to degrade our conversation. We were amused by Mianus for the next several miles. Yes, I am aware that no less a paragon of wit and sophisticated humor than Jackass (speaking of Jackass) featured Mianus during one of its episodes.
I hereby nominate "Mianus View Terrace" as the most unfortunate street name in the United States.
There is a Neptune Township in New Jersey, however I think I’ll feature the Neptune Island Group in South Australia instead for a couple of reasons:
- It’s supposed to be teeming with Great White Sharks, and that piqued my interest; and
- Wikipedia said there was a ship named Venus that wrecked on Neptune in 1946
I’m sure I could have searched for various other features of our solar system. I’ll leave those for the 12MC audience.
Chicken scratch is an informal term for illegible handwriting. It is also a type of chicken feed that’s typically strewn upon the ground. Chickens then scratch around the dirt in pursuit of feed, leaving marks behind. I suppose illegible handwriting might be thought to resemble the results of hungry chickens foraging for cracked grains.
I’m much more interested in intact footprints though.
Don’t even try to make sense of 12MC today. I’m fixated on geographic features named Chicken Foot at the moment, and I don’t know why although possibly it’s because it seems so absurd. Behold the complete compendium of every Chicken Foot place name listed in the U.S. Geological Survey’s Geographic Names Information System -GNIS. I guarantee that this list has never been compiled and presented to the public before, and undoubtedly for good reason. These geographic features are found throughout the nation with a particular concentration in the southern states. I have provided the exact Lat/Long coordinates recorded in GNIS in each of the map links to prove that I’m not making these up. Many are too minor to be listed by name on the usual Internet mapping tools.
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I think the residents of Middletown Township in Bucks County, Pennsylvania must have been embarrassed by Chickenfoot Park because they didn’t include it in their list of parks. Bucks County didn’t want much to do with it either. They operate the adjacent Oxford Valley park with its golf course and swimming pool. I can only speculate that Chickenfoot didn’t convey an image they wished to portray so they dropped it. We know better. They can’t hide from their heritage.
Chicken Foot Lake
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In contrast, folks in Wisconsin don’t seem to mind Chicken Foot Lake. Maybe early residents were running out of names. What else would account for nearby Chicken Crop Lake and Deadman Lake. Chicken Foot doesn’t sound so bad when compared to lakes named for an element of a chicken’s digestive system or a dead person. Chicken Foot Lake also bears a vague resemblance to a chicken foot so it’s not completely illogical. Maybe? Just a little? In a Rorschach Test way?
Flickr by marywasadj via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
I still can’t believe I found a chicken foot photo with a Creative Commons license.
Chicken Foot Ridge
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Alabama’s Chicken Foot Ridge does indeed appear talon-like and forms somewhat of a foot when combined with other nearby ridges. Squint a little and the shape will appear. This site also includes an adjacent feature called Chicken Foot Cove (map). In this context "cove" refers to a recess in the side of a mountain rather than the more familiar watery version. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen cove used in this context before so this was a memorable find.
Alabama scores an additional time with Chicken Foot Mountain (map) and wins bonus points for being part of an animal trifecta here, with adjacent Turkey Creek and Cattail pond. It’s practically Old MacDonald’s Farm out there.
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The remaining Chicken Foot features are:
- Chickenfoot Lake, California (above) — probably the most remarkable resemblance to an actual chicken foot
- Chickenfoot Creek, South Carolina (map); and
- Chickenfoot Hollow, Kentucky (map)
There is also a musical group called Chickenfoot composed of members of various other popular groups that I was blissfully unaware of until I started searching for geographic features. Ditto for a derisive term for a Peace Sign symbol. Google pointed those out to me. I mentioned that so no one will feel obliged to comment about them.
I couldn’t find any Chicken Foot locations in any other parts of the world. Canada, however, came close with a different anatomical area: Chicken’s Neck Mountain and adjacent Chicken’s Neck Ecological Preserve in British Columbia (map).
The best the United Kingdom could manage was Chickenley in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, England. I might describe that as "like a chicken" as in "his chickenley behavior seemed rather peculiar." Wikipedia noted without attribution I might add, that "The Chickenley name could derive from a family name originating during early settlement, corrupted to ‘chicken’ over the years (map)." Perhaps. I like my completely fake explanation better.
Smells have a way of sticking with people. Everyone knows when they drive past a petrochemical factory, a paper mill, a landfill or a sewage treatment plant. The geographic location becomes lodged in one’s mind with a full set of highly-charged negative associations. I’m going to toss all of those aside. Instead I’m flipping the equation by recalling my favorite spots along the roadways that actually smell nice.
Smell is highly subjective so places that invoke a strong positive reaction with me might annoy or even offend others. Enjoy the scents I mention or plug your nose. Either is fine. I don’t mind. Then feel free to mention your favorite roadside olfactory memories and their locations.
SOURCE: Flickr by “Scott Beale/Laughing Squid”
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license
I used to attend an annual event each summer in Hershey, Pennsylvania (map) which is indeed the corporate headquarters location of the Hershey Company, the maker of those famous chocolates of the same name. Milton Hershey founded the company in the early 20th Century and built a chocolate factory in his hometown, Derry Church. The town changed its name to Hershey later as the chocolate company became so successful it literally put the settlement on the map.
Factory tours are not readily available to the general public. The closest an average tourist such as I could get to that cocoa nirvana was visiting Chocolate World, a simulated factory tour. Nonetheless, tiny chocolate-scented molecules escaped and permeated the town, and one could get a wonderful Hershey whiff if one were lucky.
Freshly Cured Tobacco
SOURCE: Flickr by bankbrian via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license
I am NOT a smoker. I’d really rather not breathe someone else’s secondhand cigarette smoke either and I’ve become increasingly sensitive to the odor as fewer and fewer places allow public smoking. Freshly cured tobacco, however, is a completely different story. I described my olfactory enjoyment in a previous 12MC article about a Virginia Smoking Ban, encountered outside of the Philip Morris – Altria plant (map):
I used to drive the length of Interstate 95 through Virginia frequently. I recall the smell of tobacco as I drove through the area south of Richmond. This wasn’t burning tobacco or cigarette smoke, but rather the sweet smell of tobacco going through the manufacturing process. It’s a smell I suppose one either loves or hates — I rather enjoyed it — but it’s difficult to miss as one passes through this section of the Interstate. The smell can be detected before one actually sees the cigarette logo spire in front of the massive Richmond Manufacturing Center of the Philip Morris company.
I does seem strange that I enjoy the odor of an unburned product while completely disliking its smoke. I can’t begin to reconcile it.
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I’m with Homer Simpson on this one. A doughnut smell will start a drool reflex with me. Remember the Krispy Kreme craze that was all the rage a few years ago? That one seemed strange to me at the time. Krispy Kreme had been a fixture for my entire life because I’ve always been a resident of a southern state.
It was a pleasure to drive by the Krispy Kreme on Richmond Highway in northern Virginia, then notice the Hot Light turned on (meaning fresh donuts) and catch a whiff from the roadside. It was practically a right of passage to stop by after a night on the town and finish the evening with a deep-fried sugary treat.
For example, my visit to the Harpoon Brewery in Windsor, Vermont (map)
Now I’m really getting excited. Have you ever driven past a brewery or brewpub when brewing was in progress? Aromas do manage to escape into the atmosphere in sufficient quantities to detect during the boiling process. It’s like a siren song compelling me to stop for a sampler, or more.
I guess that says a lot about me. My most memorable drive-by odors seem to be chocolate, tobacco, doughnuts and beer.