On March 12, 2017 · Comments Off on Regurgitated

Twelve Mile Circle goes back into its vault every once in awhile to offer little addenda to earlier articles. Sometimes it involves a flash of brilliance that I wish had come to mind during the creation of the original. Other times something new comes to light that didn’t exist beforehand. Still in others instances, it relates to trivial items that nobody cares about except for me. Guess which category prevailed today. Please feel free to indulge my personal whims or go ahead and skip to the next article that will appear in a few days. I won’t feel bad either way.


Duckpins Beer
Duckpin Pale Ale and Double Duckpin IPA

I mentioned an unusual variation of bowling found in the Mid-Atlantic and New England states not long ago called Duckpins. I said that it always seemed to be a "Baltimore" thing to me. Now I have more proof.

Look what I found sitting in my refrigerator when I came home from work a couple of days ago. Not one, but two beers with a duckpins theme. I guess my wife must have fixated on it after our recent journey to the duckpins lanes in Maryland. She explained that she got into a conversation with a brewery representative stocking the shelves at our local bottle shop, as she often does. He recommended Duckpin Pale Ale and Double Duckpin Double IPA, both made by Union Craft Brewing in Baltimore (map). I loved all of the duckpins that decorated the bottles, especially the Double.

The brewery certainly enjoyed this local connection, saying things like "the pins may be small but the flavor is huge" and "danker than a rental shoe and rolling with ten frames of juicy, resinous hops down a solid lane of malted barley and wheat." I couldn’t help feeling maybe they missed a marketing opportunity. Wouldn’t it be great to purchase bottles shaped like duckpins? Then I considered that nobody would collect and place them on a shelf like I would. Drinking and glass bowling pins might not be an ideal combination.

This wasn’t the first time a local beer made the pages of 12MC either, by the way (e.g., 12 Mile Circ… no wait, 16!)


Four Miler Elevation
Four Courts Four Miler Elevation
via Pacers Running

One time 12MC focused a series of pages on various natural forces including gravitation. I had my own experience with gravity yesterday. Seriously though, why would my wife sign me up for a 4-mile (6.4 km) running race with that awful hill in the elevation chart shown above (map)? Sure, running downhill would be great. However the uphill return began to haunt me in the days leading up to the event. Just to make things even more special, winter decided to return this weekend with a race-time temperature of 26° Fahrenheit (-3.3°C) and sustained winds of 14 miles per hour (23 k/hr). Guess which way the wind blew. Directly down the hill and into the faces of people climbing back up to the finish line.

Four Courts Four Miler
A Guinness at 10:00 a.m.? Sure. May I have another?

I didn’t have much of a plan although it went beyond my usual "Run Like Hell" strategy that wasn’t really a strategy. I did use Run Like Hell on the way down, then switched to "Catch Your Breath" on mile 3 because I knew I would have to revert to "Suck it Up" for the final mile. I wanted to break 30 minutes and I did manage to accomplish that, just barely, at 29:42 (a 7:26 min/mile pace).

That was good enough for first place in my age category although I didn’t have a lot of additional competitors in my bracket. We live in a very young area so it was me and a bunch of 20-somethings. Plus the really good runners skipped this little neighborhood jog for a large marathon taking place at the same time across the river in nearby Washington, DC. At least I scored a legitimate victory this time. My wife signed me up for the local Turkey Trot last Thanksgiving and I "won" my age category… because she accidentally signed me up as a woman.

The course actually involved a bit of geographic trivia. This hill — part of the Arlington Ridge — marked a transition between two of Virginia’s physiographic regions, the Coastal Plain and the Piedmont. That little nugget didn’t propel me uphill any faster although the free pint of Guinness waiting at the end did serve as decent motivation. After all, the race started and ended at a local Irish pub.


I explained my fear of the hill to a coworker a couple of days before the race. Nervous? Me? Really, it turned out to be a lot easier than the tricks it played on my mine beforehand. Don’t get me wrong — it was still dreadful — although I got through it mostly unscathed. He said it reminded him of a hill during his army training days. The soldiers wore heavy packs while they ran so that put things back into perspective for me. He couldn’t remember the nickname they gave the hill although it probably involved cursing. We decided a fine fictitious name would be something with a little play on words, like Damn it to Hill. That reminded me of the amusing Damfino Street in San Antonio, Texas.

Could there actually be a hill with that name, perhaps shortened to something like Damita Hill? Well no, and I checked the Geographic Names Information System carefully. The closest I got was The Dam Hill in Essex County, New York (map) and Dam Hill in Wyoming County, Pennsylvania (map). I similarly found Pull and Be Damned Point in Skagit County, Washington (map) and Give-A-Damn Canyon in Lincoln County, New Mexico (map).

I also learned that there were at least several people named Damita Hill.

The Gauntlet has been Thrown

On October 8, 2009 · Comments Off on The Gauntlet has been Thrown

Several weeks ago I toyed with an idea for a recurring topic. I would close my eyes, wiggle the cursor around on the screen, and drop it randomly onto a Google Street View map. I would oblige myself to write an article about the resulting spot regardless of where it fell and with no second chances. There is such vast emptiness between the cities and towns. I realized I would likely have to draw upon every research source and skill I could muster, with more than a little apprehension. It’s geo-blogging without a safety net and I shuddered when this image popped onto my screen.

View Larger Map

Really it’s not so bad, I considered, as I rotated the picture fully around in a circle and gained a better appreciation of my predicament. I saw signs of civilization, a house in the distance, another one nearby, electrical transmission lines atop poles, wire fences, even a fire hydrant. It’s rural but far from desolate, and the location sounded pleasant enough: the corner of Babbling Brook and the Wagon Road. May God help me when I select a chunk of Australian Outback, but I could work with this one.

I switched immediately to satellite mode and drew upward a few clicks to discern a few more clues.

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The landscape was actually rather handsome with fertile fields separated by lines of leafy trees that grew to maturity along long-established property boundaries. A couple more clicks and then a switch into map mode revealed that, contrary to my initial guesses, the spot sat barely a mile outside of a fairly sizable town, Piedmont, Alabama, USA.

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But does that make a story?

In the United States, "Piedmont" refers to a geographic region leading up to the Appalachian mountain range along its Eastern coast. It’s construed as a strip of territory inland from the coastal plain, situated between the fall line and the mountains themselves. The name derives from the combination of two French words, "pied" (foot) and "mont" (hill or mountain), so it’s nothing more than a fancy name for foothill. Somehow everything always sounds better in French, though.

Many people have a passing familiarity with the Appalachians and often consider it somewhat synonymously with the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. The famous AT runs 2,178 miles across 14 states, from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. Maybe those folks would be a little surprised to learn that the Appalachian Mountains actually extend further south and west into central Alabama. Indeed, Alabama has mountains. My randomly selected spot falls within the foothills of those Alabama Appalachians at the doorstep of Talladega National Forest.

Here I stand virtually in the foothills of rural Alabama just outside of a modestly-sized town. I wish I could always report happy thoughts but sometimes life brings misfortune and that’s what I uncovered. The Wagon Road is a short path, stretching barely three quarters of a mile (roughly 1.3 kilometers). Residents named one stretch along this road, an incline among those rolling Piedmont foothills, "Thrill Hill." I don’t know its exact location but as I walk along Street View vicariously only one place — less than a half mile from our starting point — seems to match the likely criteria.

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Two teenagers died in December when they jumped Thrill Hill. Their automobile went airborne for about fifty feet, lost control and struck a power pole. It is a tragedy when events go awry in such a horrific manner. I know many of us, myself included, performed similar Dukes of Hazzard stunts when we were young. It could have been anyone. Thrill Hill was back in the news again just a couple of weeks ago (September 23, 2009) when a local television station reported that stop signs have been added and speed bumps are on the way. Let’s hope it never reoccurs.

A little further up the road and in the vicinity of its northern terminus the blacktop intersects the Chief Ladiga Trail. Look closely in the background and you might be able to catch a glimpse of the Appalachian peaks of the Talladega National Forest in the distance.

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Chief Ladiga is a rails-to-trails success story, a paved recreational walking and biking trail along an abandoned railroad line.

In northeast Alabama, the nearly 33-mile Chief Ladiga Trail is a regional playground that passes through welcoming towns and pastoral landscapes. Following a former CSX railroad corridor, the rail-trail is named for the Creek Indian leader who signed the 1832 Cusseta Treaty, surrendering the tribe’s remaining land in the area… From Piedmont the scenery begins to change. Duggar Mountain and the southern Appalachians provide a backdrop to fields that transition to forests. Terrapin Creek skirts the trail, and soon a bridge carries you over it. Here, the trail travels through protected wilderness within Talladega National Forest…

It gets even better. Chief Ladiga extends to the Silver Comet Trail at the Georgia border and continues all the way to Atlanta. When first joined in 2008 the two trails extended nearly a hundred miles and were considered the longest paved pedestrian trail in the United States.

It’s not so middle-of-nowhere after all.

GPS and Genealogy – Arlington National Cemetery

On July 6, 2008 · Comments Off on GPS and Genealogy – Arlington National Cemetery

People’s willingness to share is one of the wonderful aspects of genealogy. A reader contacted me recently to provide further information about a common tangential ancestor — one not directly related to either of us but who had married into the larger family of Howder descendants — and for whom I’d had only the sketchiest of records. I knew that the common ancestor served in the Civil War, but I didn’t know the circumstances nor did I know that he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

I wanted to record the exact longitude and latitude of the gravesite using methods and tools explained in my earlier GPS and Genealogy post. Yesterday I was able to drive over and park in that little section of North Arlington that is south of Route 50, and using my trusty handheld Global Positioning System (GPS) device to track my path, I forged through the Ord-Weitzel Gate and into the cemetery.

There were actually two spots I wanted to record but I’ll get to that in a moment.

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I used coordinates captured by my GPS to create the simple map, above. Go ahead and click on the markers and see what I found along with the exact long/lat coordinates. These waypoints are accurate to within 20 feet of the actual locations. The historian in me also got into the act and I recorded the experience with other digital media including video and photo.

I was searching for Ananias Stafford and I’d been tipped off that he was in Section 27, plot 463. This is the oldest part of the cemetery and Mr. Stafford was laid to rest just weeks after its opening. Surely nobody at the time could have anticipated that he’d be followed by nearly 300,000 more and that Arlington would become part of the most hallowed ground in the nation.

Genealogy is much more than simply the collection of names so I prefer to use the term “personal history,” and there is a tragic story behind Ananias Stafford’s journey to Arlington. He entered the war later than many soldiers when he volunteered to serve in the Michigan Cavalry in 1864, possibly because he was in his 30’s and the army valued younger men during those early years of conflict. He was deployed immediately to the Overland Campaign, and saw action at the Battle of the Wilderness and other nearby conflicts. Within three months of his enlistment he was shot through the chest while fighting at the Battle of Haw(e)’s Shop on May 28, 1864. Ananias suffered for another month at Emory Hospital in Washington, DC before finally succumbing in late-June (the date on the tombstone is incorrect). He left behind a wife and two small children in Perry Township, Shiawassee County, Michigan, where he’d been a farmer before his brief service in the cavalry.

I climbed up the hill to also pay my respects to my Howder great-grandparents in Section 17, plot 21321, as I’ve done a number of times over the years. Geologically the cemetery rests on that very spot where the coastal plain begins to buckle with the first bumps of the Piedmont along a formation called the Arlington Ridge. Climbing to the top of the ridge on a typically humid Washington summer morning got the heart pumping and sweat beading on the brow.

Lewis Howder and Jane (Hayes) Howder are found at the very back of the cemetery, almost in Fort Myer, and a world away from the tourmobiles and the crowds. Few people venture this far back into the cemetery unless they have family to visit. Lewis and Jane had a much less dramatic story than Ananias Stafford: living, working and raising a family in Washington, DC in the early 20th Century. They now spend eternity in a shared gravesite in a quiet, restful spot.

Graves of Unknown Confederate and Union Soldiers

Arlington National Cemetery creates an atmosphere that allows visitors to appreciate the supreme sacrifices made by our armed forces. As I walked back from my great-grandparents plot, I noticed and was touched by the poignancy of these markers for an unknown Union and Confederate soldier laying next to each other. Like in my family, many of us can trace back to ancestors that fought on both sides of the conflict. The crowds congregating respectfully at the Tomb of the Unknowns probably never realizing that row-upon-row and indeed entire fields of unknown soldiers rest just up over the hillside in the lesser-visited sections of the cemetery. Each one of these represents a father or a son who marched to battle while a family waited vainly for his return, always wondering and never learning his fate.

Magnolia Bloom in Arlington National Cemetery

This is a final shot from my July 5 visit to Arlington National Cemetery. It’s not intended to capture anything historical. I simply stopped for a moment to appreciate the way the landscaping has been used to highlight the sacredness of these grounds.

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