It’s Sunday, a day to relax, so I thought I’d dispense with an article that required actual research and focused on something that might exercise a different part of the brain. It’s kind-of silly and pointless although it offered an opportunity for plenty of 12MC audience participation. I wondered, as I drove to my destination, about the longest distance I could drive without a GPS talking to me. For some of you that would be infinite because you don’t use a GPS on principal, and I respect that. I still find the device useful as a companion to a range of the other tools including my own common sense. For those who choose to use a GPS then, about how long could one drive without hearing a single voice command? I know I’ve seen instructions that said something like "continue on Route XYZ" for greater than a hundred miles on my various road trips.
That can’t be the longest. Obviously I don’t have the time, energy or inclination to test a solution in the wild so I decided to use Google Maps as a proxy. The rules would be simple. In fact, there would be only one rule: the written directions must have a single command equivalent to keep on truckin’. Point your vehicle, don’t turn, don’t deviate, don’t stop, don’t bear right or left, don’t drive aboard a ferry, don’t negotiate a roundabout, just continue to follow the single line of instruction.
I-40 Between Barstow, CA and Oklahoma City, OK, USA
Google Maps reserved its craziest distances for the United States. I didn’t know if that was a Google thing or if it was a characteristic of the U.S. interstate highway system of very well-developed motorways through extremely depopulated areas. Interstate 40 turned out to be the grand champion for a segment between Barstow, California and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Here were the complete Google driving instructions:
That’s all. For 1,215 miles — 1,953 kilometres (¹), head east. Well, it also noted helpfully that one would pass through Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas before entering Oklahoma. However that didn’t change the basic premise. Assuming one never had to stop for gasoline, for rest or for a biological imperative, the GPS unit would remain silent for more than twelve hundred miles and nearly nineteen hours at normal highway speeds. Theoretically.
There were numerous extreme occurrences in the United States with a single written instruction provided in Google Maps. All of them were longer than 621 miles — 1,000 kilometres. The segments are a bit of a pain to isolate so you can either take my word for it or go into Google Maps and tease them out yourself. Remember, Google seems to offer slightly different results to different people as well as changing conclusions over time so your results may vary.
- I-40: 1,215 miles (1,953 km)
- I-90: 1,135 miles (1,827 km)
- I-70: 1,105 miles (1,778 km)
- I-80: 1,053 miles (1,695 km)
- I-10: 974 miles (1,568 km)
- I-5: 855 miles (1,376 km)
- I-90 + I-94: 824 miles (1,326 km) followed by 823 miles (1,325 km)
- I-94: 824 miles (1,326 km)
- I-81: 682 miles (1,098 km)
- I-26: 649 miles (1,044 km)
- I-15: 647 miles (1,041 km)
The Interstate 90 and Interstate 94 discovery was particularly interesting, with back-to-back 800+ mile segments. It would have stretched 1,647 miles (2,651 km) if it weren’t for an instruction to "keep left to continue on I-94 E" outside of Billings, Montana. That last item brought up a good point. I’ve only checked these distances going in one direction, generally west to east or north to south. Distances could vary if one flipped directions. I’ll leave those stones to be turned by the 12MC audience. Maybe someone will discover a result that blows my findings out of the water.
M58 Between Chita, Zabaykalsky Krai and Uglegorsk, Amur Oblast, Russia
I figured, the larger the nation the greater the probability of a single road stretching the farthest, right? What better place to start than Russia? The best example I uncovered occurred between Chita, Zabaykalsky Krai and Uglegorsk, Amur Oblast, on Highway M58, a part of the Trans-Siberian Highway.
- 1. Head east on Amyp/M58. Continue to follow M58
That was the single line of driving instruction for a distance of 1,337 kilometres (831 miles). It seemed like a glitch, though. Why would Google specify an odd rectangular gyration on an otherwise clear stretch of road that would require one to turn at Uglegorsk?
I had to turn to Yandex for a decent satellite image. Further research indicated that Uglegorsk was a closed urban settlement that was originally constructed to serve a nearby base for Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. It’s also the future site of the Vostochny Cosmodrome, now under construction. It would make sense to create a checkpoint on the M58 highway right at that spot.
Russian route M58, the Amur Highway, would continue uninterrupted for another 754 kilometres (469 mi) without the unusual detour at Uglegorsk, and the combined length would become 2,091 kilometres (1,300 mi). That would make it longer than the I-40 stretch in the United States. I’ll assume that the Russian space program is slightly more important than the nation being crowned a grand champion of silent GPS driving distances.
An interesting bit of trivia about M58; it wasn’t completed until 2010. As noted in the St. Petersburg Times,
It is the last link in a road system that stretches from Murmansk, north of the Arctic Circle on the Barents Sea, and Kaliningrad, on the border with Poland, to Vladivostok, on the Pacific Ocean… Services — filling stations, hotels and auto repair shops — are rare on the highway, and lengthy sections do not have access to electricity.
Great Northern Highway Between Wubin and Port Hedland, WA, Australia
I turned to another large nation with wide open spaces for the next example and found a decent example on Australia’s Great Northern Highway.
- 1. Head north-east on Great Northern Hwy/National Highway 95. Continue to follow Great Northern Hwy
The directions continued that way for another 1,323 kilometres (822 mi) through Western Australia, from Wubin to an intersection with the North West Coastal Highway south of Port Hedland, near the Indian Ocean coastline. I knew that Australia had some amazing road distances so I wasn’t surprised at all by this result.
My unscientific examination of other nations yielded additional single instruction driving distances extending more than a thousand kilometres.
- Canada’s Trans-Canada Highway: 1,301 kilometres (808 mi)
- China’s G45: 1,078 kilometres (670 mi)
- Algeria’s N1: 1,044 kilometres (649 mi)
Feel free to try different locations, or flip-flop directions, or use other online map sites.
Here we go again, facing a U.S. government shutdown because of political failures to approve a budget. I reviewed what I wrote in March 2011, Tourist Options During a Government Shutdown, and found it to be up-to-date for the most part. Sadly, baseball won’t be an option in Washington this October however I’m sure there are plenty of other recreational or entertainment possibilities.
(¹) I’ll reference miles first for distances in the United States since that’s the measure used there, and flip to kilometres for locations where that’s the standard. As I’ve noted before, I don’t know why the U.S. won’t switch to the metric system. No and I don’t understand why the U.S continues to have a unit of currency that’s one-hundredth of a dollar either. What can I say?
It may be reasonable to assume that most people have at least a passing familiarity with Abbott and Costello’s signature Who’s-on-First comedy routine, developed in the late 1930′s. I referenced a possible Who’s-on-First scenario recently in No Way! Way! thinking that most readers would understand the reference. It came from an era long before I was born — hey, I’m not that old! Nonetheless, it’s a timeless classic whether one has never heard of it before or is listening to it all again for the hundredth time.
N Abbott St & W Costello St, Washington, Kansas
That made me wonder, made me hope anyway, could there possibly be an intersection of Abbott and Costello streets? Someone would be able to say, "I live at the corner of Abbott and Costello," and of course everyone would get a little chuckle out of it. Sure enough, I found an occurrence (map) in Washington, Kansas.
What about other comedy duos from the classic age of Hollywood when color films were still a novelty, when married couples couldn’t be shown in the same bed and nobody ever dreamed of dropping the F-Bomb in a movie? There were plenty of successful duos or "double acts" that followed the familiar straight-man / funny-man precept. One person took a somewhat normal persona and the other acted like a fool. The straight-man served as a foil to the funny-man’s antics which heighten comedic tension and make it even funnier. It’s a somewhat faded formula although elements of it still exist (e.g., Chumlee as funny-man to Rick and other cast members as straight-men on Pawn Stars).
I knew my search for street intersections would be daunting. The odds of matching comedy duos randomly had to be low considering the endless variety of street names available. Sure, I’d find an odd housing development with a Hollywood theme with forced associations here-and-there, so I considered they would not count as much as places where matches happened naturally.
Laurel and Hardy
Laurel St & Hardy St, Macomb, Michigan
Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy might have been the most memorable of all the double acts, and one of the few teams to transition easily from silent movies to the talkies. Their successful pairing lasted for more than a hundred films and their short movie "The Music Box" won an Academy Award in 1932. That’s the film where they spent the entire time pushing a piano up a flight of long stairs.
There had to be a Laurel and a Hardy street intersecting somewhere. Both sounded like feasible street names individually so I hoped for a coincidental paring, and finally located Laurel St. & Hardy St. in Macomb, Michigan (Street View)
Hope and Crosby
SOURCE: Screen grab from Google Street View image, Garden Grove, California, March 2011
Bob Hope and Bing Crosby paired-up repeatedly for the "Road to…" series, beginning with Road to Singapore in 1940 and lasting through Road to Hong Kong in 1962.
I found great success with the intersection of Hope and Crosby. Hope seemed to be an extremely common street name. That greatly increasing the odds of a random Crosby crossing. I found several.
- Hope St & Crosby Ave, Altamont, Oregon (maps)
- Hope St & Crosby Ave, Garden Grove, California (map)
- Hope Ln & Crosby Ln, Redding, California (map)
- Hope Cir & Crosby Dr, Fort Washington, Pennsylvania (map)
- Hope Way and Crosby Dr, Knoxville, Tennessee (map)
The instance from Knoxville came from one of those Hollywood-themed subdivisions I mentioned. I granted it partial credit anyway because Lamour Street ran parallel to Crosby Drive and interested with Hope Way, reuniting Dorothy Lamour’s supporting role to Hope and Crosby for a final road trip. It seemed fitting that the trio from the Road pictures would be intertwined by roads, even if created artificially.
Burns and Allen
Burns St & Allen St., New Bedford, Massachusetts
George Burns and his wife Gracie Allen intersected in New Bedford, Massachusetts (map). They also served as namesakes for a major intersection on the campus of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. In the latter case, their names were applied to streets explicitly. The intersection’s full name was N George Burns Road and Gracie Allen Drive. Burns and Allen were major benefactors of the hospital according to The Hollywood Reporter. Cedars-Sinai additionally includes a Burns and Allen Research Institute.
And the Rest
I tried to find other classic comedy duos without much luck. That’s fine. I got the big names. My only true disappointment was failing to discover an intersection for Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. The best I could do was Marty Ln and S Lewis St, in Garden Grove, California (map).
I broadened the scope to include more recent decades. There wasn’t a Cheech and Chong, and in fact, not even a single Cheech. We might also have to wait another generation or two for a Harold and Kumar too.
"Ross" sent me an email about the “Saatse Boot” (map), a place where travelers can legally enter Russia from the Schengen Area without a passport check and without going through any border controls at all. Estonian Route 178 includes a brief segment that clips Russian territory between two Estonian villages, Lutepää and Sesniki, providing direct access between them. There’s a catch: one can travel through the boot in a motorized vehicle only — no pedestrians — and drivers cannot stop. Still, this might be an easy way to "visit" Russia without any paperwork.
Ross mentioned that the source topic came up in Reddit’s MapPorn subreddit and he forwarded a link. I’m not going to post it because I’m still angry with MapPorn for stealing peoples’ work (although let me emphasize – I have no issue with Reddit in general, just its MapPorn subreddit). I’ll leave it at that. All credit to Ross and none to MapPorn.
Thanks Ross! I love little geo-oddities like that.
I’ve been thinking about towns submerged by reservoirs. I don’t know why that suddenly came to mind or why it fascinated me without prompting. It’s one of those things.
This is also a topic that interests many other people apparently. They’ve written all sorts of definitive lists of underwater ghost towns. I won’t replicate those definitive works. One can review them later if interested. It’s a surprisingly common phenomenon. People need water. Towns are flooded. I’ll simply provide a few examples spread across the globe that I’ve explored via satellite.
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first, an instance of scale so incredibly audacious that it cannot escape unmentioned.
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It’s difficult to even conceive of a situation where nearly 1.25 million people had to relocate. That happened in the years leading up to 2008 because of the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtzee River in China. To put that in perspective, that’s like compelling everyone in Rhode Island or everyone within the city limits of Birmingham, England, or everyone in Adelaide, Australia to pack up and move to a new home.
SOURCE: Valley_Guy on Flickr via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license
I’ve been impressed by Old Adaminaby in New South Wales, Australia which was submerged below the waters of Lake Eucumbene in 1957. The town moved nearby to higher ground before the waters inundated lower-lying areas (map). The only remnants left behind were a few ruins that rise above the waters periodically during protracted droughts.
The Internet believes that the most significant example in the United States involved four towns in Massachusetts submerged by the Quabbin Reservoir (map). I base that solely on the fact that this seemed to be the most common result whenever I consulted the major search engines. Four towns that had been around since the late Eighteen or early Nineteenth Century (Dana, Enfield, Greenwich, and Prescott) were all flooded behind the Winsor Dam and Goodnough Dike by 1939.
Bluffton, Texas rises again
merindab on Flickr via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license
I’m more partial to Bluffton, Texas, though. Like the example from Australia, the original Bluffton townsite rose from the dead during a recent drought. Ordinarily it rested beneath the placid waters of Lake Buchanan, a reservoir along the Colorado River of Texas, where its been submerged since the late 1930′s (map).
I guess I’m a sucker for those towns that are drowned, only to claw their way back into the visible world in zombie-like fashion when waters recede. I could probably write an entire article based entirely on submerged towns that have reappeared because of recent droughts. There are several others in the United States that I found with minimal searching: Monument City, Indiana (included news video); Corydon, Pennsylvania; and Los Arboles, New Mexico all rose from their watery graves, along with townsites in many other parts of the world.
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Let’s feature an example from Russia because loyal reader "January First-of-May" hails from there and has had to endure so may articles on 12MC focused on just about every location other than Russia. Here you go, January First-of-May. This one’s for you.
Mologa in the Yaroslavl Oblast was flooded in the 1940′s as a result of the creation of the Rybinsk Reservoir at the confluence of Mologa and Volga Rivers. Allegedly 130,000 people lived in Mologa and had to be relocated, while about three hundred residents refused to leave and drowned. Joseph Stalin didn’t mess around.
Oddly enough, Google Maps actually labeled the ghost town. Even thought its underwater. Even though it hasn’t existed since the 1940′s.
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I haven’t forgotten about the United Kingdom either. There are plenty of examples in the UK, too. How about Ladybower Reservoir in Derbyshire? The little English villages of Ashopton, Derwent Woodlands Church and Derwent Hall all found themselves on the wrong side of the dam and succumbed to the waves in 1944. In Wales, Capel Celyn disappeared too, thanks to the Llyn Celyn Reservoir (map).
The list goes on and on.