Four Corners, Part 3 (Towns)

On August 10, 2017 · Comments Off on Four Corners, Part 3 (Towns)

While the great outdoors flavored many of our decisions across northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, we also spent some time in "civilization" too. I tied to stay at least two nights in each place to create a little mental anchor. Otherwise we’d feel adrift in a vagabond existence. That offered time to explore a few towns along the way to complement amazing National Park Service properties. Nothing here should be confused with a comprehensive city guide. Sometimes we did the tourist thing and sometimes we avoided it. Twelve Mile Circle didn’t necessarily cling to conventions.

Santa Fe


Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe fell along our direct route. I figured we needed to stay near its historic Plaza (map) rather than a generic chain hotel out by the highway. I don’t mind cookie-cutter hotels ordinarily. It’s just a bed. However, Santa Fe always seemed to be one of those magical places best experienced in person. We needed to nestle near the action, an obvious choice for an extraordinary location.

The Santa Fe Plaza dated back to its earliest days as a Spanish outpost at the farthest reaches of the colonial empire. Don Pedro de Peralta served as governor of New Mexico and founded Santa Fe in 1610. Consider that for a moment. At that same time England barely maintained and nearly lost a foothold on the Atlantic coast at Jamestown. Meanwhile, the Spanish pushed their domain deep into the North American interior.

Santa Fe began as a walled fort to tame New Mexico and protect the Governor’s authority. The Plaza occupied a central space within that original fort. Santa Fe remained tremendously important continuously thereafter, with roads such as the El Camino Real and Santa Fe trail terminating there. It became and remained a capital city for much of its existence, and seemed a natural choice for the capital of the U.S. state of New Mexico. Albuquerque grew larger although Santa Fe never ceded its crown.

The Plaza didn’t disappoint either. Pueblo-inspired architecture ringed the perimeter, filled with the art galleries and jewelry stores that typified Santa Fe. We didn’t buy anything. We’re cheap. I enjoyed people-watching though. A row of stalls staffed by Native Americans selling traditional crafts defined its northern edge. Buskers of all types filled the square, my favorite being the men beating drums rhythmically accompanied by chants in traditional languages as sundown approached.


Los Alamos


Bathtub Row Brewing

Los Alamos offered a complete contrast to Santa Fe. It didn’t exist on a map until the Second World War ended. Even today only twelve thousand people lived there, many associated in some manner with the nearby National Laboratory. Everything seemed sleek and modern. No patina of age appeared on buildings, streets or landscapes. We didn’t stay overnight in Los Alamos although we stopped for lunch and toured the Bradbury Science Museum. There we saw artifacts from the Manhattan Project and replicas of the atomic bombs created in Los Alamos during the war. We also saw a curiously-named byway in the heart of town, Bathtub Row (map).

The United States government needed a remote, secret location to develop its atomic bomb. New Mexico met the criteria so the government seized the campus of the Los Alamos Ranch School. The most important scientists working on the Manhattan Project occupied homes on the vacated campus that once held the school’s teachers and administrators. Everyone else — the vast preponderance of workers — lived in temporary shacks or barracks. Only the original homes contained bathtubs. Everyone else used showers. Bathtub Row became shorthand for the the street where all of the bigwigs lived.


Durango


Durango, Colorado

Durango seemed a bit of a tourist town although we enjoyed it anyway. Once again, staying at a central location at the heart of town seemed to be the best alternative for us. Most of the action lined a half-mile stretch of Main Avenue east of the Animas River (map). Imagine a stereotypical "Western" town straight out of the old movies and that pretty much described Durango’s appearance. I’m not sure what drew me there other than its proximity to Mesa Verde, not that I regretted the decision. I liked waking up early each morning for a stroll through its quiet residential neighborhoods. It seemed like a well maintained and prosperous place.

Someone will be sure to ask if we rode the famous Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Most people seemed to come to Durango for that express purpose. Our hotel sat within walking distance of the terminal. I’ve even enjoyed tourist trains in the past (e.g., the White River Flyer in Vermont; the Big South Fork Scenic Railroad in Kentucky). Still, we didn’t do it. I think we were all at the point where we’d seen enough scenery for awhile. Our boys also needed some downtime after continuous activity all week long. Plus, I’ll be honest, the six nearby breweries and brewpubs within Durango city limits might have influenced the decision.


Denver


Denver Zoo

I’ve been to Denver more times than I can count. We stopped there so we could spend some time with friends before heading to the airport, not to see anything specific. Our kids behaved themselves so well during the trip that we wanted to do something just for them. My older son in particular loves animals. He decided awhile ago that he wanted to visit every zoo in the United States and collect a map at each one. Hmmm… I wonder where he got that compulsive need to count things and look at maps? That’s how we ended up at the Denver Zoo (map). Our friends seemed up for it so they decided to tag along. I’m not sure they expected to spend six hours viewing, literally, every animal accompanied by a full set of stream of consciousness commentary. However, that’s how my older son roles. He earned it.


Articles in the Four Corners Series:

  1. Orientation
  2. Hikes
  3. Towns
  4. Native Americans
  5. Breweries
  6. Reflections

See Also: The Complete Photo Album on Flickr

Even More Manly Places

On April 9, 2017 · Comments Off on Even More Manly Places

I didn’t realize the earlier Manly Places would get much of a reaction. Actually the title did suggest an element of foreshadowing. Everyone in the Twelve Mile Circle audience who thought it should have featured places named Manly, go ahead and take a bow. I intended to link the previous article to this one all along. As often happens however, a couple of savvy readers noticed it before I could write the second part. I figured I might as well start with their suggestions as I took a closer look.


Manly, New South Wales, Australia


Manly Beach
Manly Beach. Photo by Geoff Stearns on Flickr (cc)

Ross Finlayson figured it might involve Manly Beach (map), a few kilometres northeast of Sydney, Australia. That’s where my mind went originally, too! I’d never been to Manly Beach although I visited Sydney a number of years ago and I guess the name must have lodged in my memory from that time. I kept thinking about frequent 12MC commentator "John of Sydney" as I wrote this, too. I bet he’d have some good insight.

Manly Beach hugged the eastern side of the town of Manly and featured some of the best surfing in Australia. Ordinarily I might consider that idle boasting, a little something that every seaside spot along the continent probably claimed. However, Manly’s boast probably mattered more than most. It hosted the Australian Open of Surfing each year. It was also quite accessible. Someone could hop on a ferry at Sydney’s Circular Quay and hit the surf in about a half-hour. From the photo I found online, it looked like it could get quite crowded during the summer though, in this instance during early February.

Apparently the name came from the manly indigenous inhabitants of the area. Captain Arthur Phillip bestowed the title upon this place during his early efforts to colonize Australia in the late Eighteenth century. Allegedly he said, "their confidence and manly behaviour made me give the name of Manly Cove to this place."


Manly, Iowa, USA


IA_324098
Manly, IA. Photo by Jason Layne on Flickr (cc)

Then reader "zxo" seemed a bit melancholy that I’d not given Manly, Iowa its proper due (map). I’d never heard of this particular Manly although it seemed like a fine suggestion. The place flowed from a surname. How many times have we seen towns in the Midwestern U.S. that were named because of railroads? Add this one to the list too. The City of Manly explained that,

In 1877, the Burlington/Cedar Rapids & Northern Railroad (BCR&N) joined the Central of Iowa track with its own track from Plymouth Junction. The site was named Manly Junction after Central of Iowa’s freight agent, J.C. Manly. On October 18, 1898, Manly Junction was incorporated as the Town of Manly, and then in August of 1973, the Town of Manly officially became the "City of Manly" under the State of Iowa’s Home Rule Act.

J.C. Manly probably never did anything else of historical note during his/her life. Nonetheless, if one worked for a railroad in the United States during the Nineteenth century there was a good chance hat a town would be named accordingly. America Fun Fact of the Day said Manly, Iowa Is a Gloriously Named American City in an entertaining if profanity-laden article.

I then examined the surname Manly. A lot of those sketchy heraldry website that try to sell questionable family crests included it. The gist seemed to be that there might be two separate etymologies. One offshoot focused on places named Manly in England. Those derived from Old English words meaning shared woodlands or glades. Others with the name probably derived from the Middle English word mannly, meaning, well, manly.

I should also note that many people on the Intertubes found the geographic proximity between Manly and Fertile quite amusing.


Norman Manley International Airport, Jamaica



One more place probably deserved a mention. Norman Manley International Airport served Kingston, Jamaica (map). A variation of the Manly surname included that extra "e" Maybe that made Manley more manly than Manly. I don’t know. Anyway, Norman Manley got that extra letter passed down to him from his ancestors. His Manly grandfather arrived from Yorkshire and married a freed slave. His roots in Jamaica went way back.

Norman Washington Manley earned his accolades. He served at the forefront of labor and unionization movements starting in the 1930’s. He later led negotiations that resulted in Jamaica’s independence from Britain. Jamaica conferred upon him the Order of National Hero. They also named their second busiest airport after him. Most tourists flew into Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, however Manley also saw a good bit of traffic. I noticed flights to and from various cities in the U.S., the Caribbean, and even Guyana.

Murdo Mystery

On March 2, 2017 · 1 Comments

I seemed to be fixated on time lately, ever since writing the recent Time Zones in Greenland. I went through my long list of open items and found a few more timely topics. The Twelve Mile Circle could benefit from subjects of that nature while I cleared the backlog. Murdo seemed a likely candidate.

Murdo


Postcard from South Dakota
Postcard from South Dakota. Photo by John Lloyd on Flickr (cc)

The little town of Murdo, South Dakota fascinated me. It began as another one of those settlements along a railroad in the Great Plains. In the case of Murdo, that happened in 1907 when the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad laid tracks through the Dakotas. I featured this same railroad in an earlier 12MC article although for a completely different reason, in King of Portmanteau. Murdo existed like many other towns along this particular line because of Albert J. Earling, the King I proclaimed in that previous article.

Jones County selected Murdo as its seat of local government and not much else happened there ever since, although 488 people still lived there as of the 2010 Census. Murdo provided a home to a well-regarded automobile museum (including some items for sale). It also featured 1880 Town, basically a museum of old buildings transported to the spot from all over South Dakota. Murdo seemed like one of those places I’d stop to see if I were driving on Interstate 90 and happened to spot a sign, because I loved roadside attractions. I probably wouldn’t go out of my way, though.


What’s in a Name?



Murdo, SD

However, the name of the town seemed so unusual. Why Murdo? Many towns took the surname of a town founder or an early pioneer or even someone’s distant relative. Something like that happened here too although not entirely. Murdo was somebody’s first name, specifically Murdo MacKenzie. I’d never heard of anyone called Murdo before so I checked some of those awful baby name websites. Apparently Murdo came from Scottish Gaelic, meaning seaman, mariner or something similar like that, if those unsourced sites could be believed. However, it made sense for Murdo MacKenzie. He immigrated from Scotland so the linguistic connection existed assuming the dubious claims were true.

Eventually Murdo realized his American Dream by becoming a cattle baron. He focused his attention on this particularl corner of South Dakota just as the railroad arrived. The city of Murdo said:

In 1904, Mr. Murdo MacKenzie, head of the Matador brand, who had herds from Mexico to Canada, shipped train load after train load of Texas steers to the Standing Rock Reservation so they could graze on the Dakota grass.

Certainly a success story such as that deserved a little recognition. The town named in his honor seemed to accomplish that quite nicely.


What did that have to do with time?


1880 town
1880 town. Photo by THEMACGIRL on Flickr (cc)

The always perceptive 12MC audience probably started wondering what my ramblings had to do with the observance of time several paragraphs ago. I’m getting to that.

I spotted an odd notation as I reviewed the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 49 – Transportation, § 71.7 "Boundary line between central and mountain zones. What might be stranger, I wondered, the unusual notation or that I actually enjoyed reviewing obscure parts of the Code of Federal Regulations? Either way, it meant the audience could benefit from my discovery without having to wade through mind-numbing bureaucratic language. Subsection (g) said:

Points on boundary line. All municipalities located upon the zone boundary line described in this section are in the mountain standard time zone, except Murdo, S. Dak., which is in the central standard time zone.

One needs to understand that the boundary between Central and Mountain Time in the United States rivals just about any other division for sheer complexity. The code delineated all sorts of zigs and zags amongst various townships and ranges. Apparently officials decided that anytime the line bisected a municipality it would observe Mountain Time. However, somewhere in the distant past, someone in Murdo must have pushed back. I never learned the reason why. It seemed so far in the middle of nowhere, so distant from any obvious center of power large enough to pull Murdo into its Time Zone orbit. Why Central Time though? Why Murdo, and only Murdo? It will bedevil me forever.

Apparently some things are never meant to be known.

Purpose
12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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