Boring, Dull and Bland

On July 6, 2017 · 3 Comments

Boring, Dull and Bland didn’t describe Twelve Mile Circle or my social life although maybe observers would disagree. It referenced a unique relationship between three very special communities. A Scottish bicyclist took a scenic ride through Clackamas County, Oregon just outside of Portland. She passed through the unincorporated community of Boring and thought it should be twinned with Dull in her native land. The two communities agreed and formed "A Pair for the Ages" in 2012. Not wanting to be left behind, Bland Shire in Australia petitioned to join the arrangement. The triad created a "League of Extraordinary Communities" in 2014.

This would have been wonderful for 12MC’s Better Sister Cities list. Too bad I wrote it before the trio got together. Nonetheless, they should still get some credit for their creativity and marketing savvy.


Boring, Oregon, USA


Boring Oregon
Boring Oregon. Photo by Jeff Hitchcock on Flickr (cc)

More people lived in Boring (map) than the other two, with a population approaching eight thousand. The Boring part came from its namesake, William Boring, a Civil War veteran who moved there in the 1870’s. Residents took a lighthearted approach to their settlement’s name. They proclaimed it to be "the most existing place to see" and "an exiting place to call home." One local business called itself The Not So Boring Bar and Grill. They were already predisposed to use their name creatively when Dull came calling.

According to the Boring Community Planning Organization, a 2013 Oregon law legitimized the relationship with Dull. It said "every August 9th will be Boring & Dull Day." I couldn’t determine why August 9 seemed particularly suitable although they chose it so it must have had some special meaning. Boring & Dull Day offered a chance to "join your Boring neighbors" at Boring Station Trailhead Park for an evening of music and ice cream. Feel free to stop by if you’re in the area. Mark your calendar. You won’t be bored.


Dull, Perth and Kinross, Scotland


Dull, Perth and Kinross, Scotland
Dull, Perth and Kinross, Scotland
via Google Street View, August 2016

Dull barely existed (map), a few houses scattered along an unnamed single-track lane. Maybe eighty people lived there. Nobody knew for certain how Dull got its name either. It might have derived from Gaelic or Pictish for meadow or field. The Dull and Boring Facebook Page included an old article recounting the aftermath of the death of St. Adamnan in 704:

… as he lay dying in his cell at Milton Eonan he told his men to place his body upon a stretcher whose poles were to be held in place by loops made of whithies or duls. They were to bury him where the first dul broke. This happened on the hill near his monastery, and there they buried him and called the place Dull

Regardless of origin, the name went way back into the Middle Ages. Dull covered a much larger territory back then, with a monastery and a parish, becoming just a fragment of its former self in recent centuries. Dull hoped that tourists would visit their hamlet once it paired with Boring. Indeed, sightseers started arriving to photograph a sign noting the special relationship.


Bland Shire, New South Wales, Australia


Globe Hotel, West Wyalong
Globe Hotel, West Wyalong. Photo by Matt on Flickr (cc)

Bland (map), a shire in New South Wales, learned of Boring and Dull through media reports. The mayor reached-out to the two. Later the Bland Shire Council in West Wyalong endorsed the partnership. However, it wasn’t completely without controversy. Some of the six thousand residents felt it disrespected the Bland name. The namesake, William Bland, came to Australia after a murder conviction. He killed a man in Bombay, India in a pistol feud in 1813. That hardly seemed bland so maybe those doubters had a point.

Boring, Dull and Bland. What a great combination. I can hardly wait to see what other places will join the League of Extraordinary Communities. One of the several Polish villages called Łazy, perhaps? Maybe Quiet Dell, West Virginia? How about Sleepy Eye, Minnesota?

Where the Stadium Once Stood

On February 12, 2017 · 11 Comments

I guess the recent Ghost Signs got me thinking about the way things used to be in an earlier age. My memory circled back to a time when professional baseball didn’t exist in Washington, DC and we used to travel to Baltimore to see the Orioles play. This happened a lot when I was a kid, long before the Orioles occupied the beautiful, iconic Camden Yards that so many other ball clubs copied. The Orioles took the field on a much less beautiful and nowhere nearly as iconic Memorial Stadium before that. I even think we saw the Baltimore Colts play (American) football a couple times there too. The Colts left Baltimore in 1983 just to show how far back my mind wandered. What happened to Memorial Stadium after its replacement, I wondered.

Memorial Stadium; Baltimore, Maryland, USA



I drilled into a satellite image and discovered that the old stadium still existed. Well, not really. The city tore it down in 2001. However many fragments remained, spread throughout Baltimore. Its basic shape also remained. A new residential neighborhood occupied much of the land originally part of the Memorial Stadium property. It included a ring-road that approximated the circumference of the stadium itself. Inside that asphalt oval, an open field covered the spot where professional sports teams once played. It offered configurations for baseball, football and soccer.

That made me consider other stadiums wiped from the earth. In many cases new stadiums simply covered the exact footprint occupied by their predecessors. In other instances not a single sign remained at all. However, I enjoyed the ones like Baltimore the most, where people kept their memories alive. Those stadiums continued to exist in an odd ethereal way. The roar of the crowd now silenced, the crack of the bat or the kick of the ball no longer felt, but the stories remained in the landscape.

Some quick searching found several more examples.


Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium; Atlanta, Georgia, USA


Atlanta - Turner Field: Gold Parking Lot - Hank Aaron 715th Home Run Monument
Hank Aaron 715th Home Run Monument. Photo by Wally Gobetz on Flickr (cc)

Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium hosted both the Atlanta Braves of baseball and the Atlanta Falcons of (American) football at various times before a controlled implosion finally took it down in 1997. The brand-new Turner Field rose on an adjacent parcel, and the spot once occupied by Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium became part of its parking lots. The old footprint occupied a large section of the Green Lot (it looked awesome on satellite view). Even more of a bonus, the spot where Hank Aaron hit his historic 715th Home Run continued to be commemorated. Aaron accomplished that feat in 1974, surpassing the lifetime record of Babe Ruth, when Aaron hit a ball over an outfield fence and into the Braves’ bullpen. The memorial in the parking lot replicated the fence and the bullpen at the exact spot where it happened.

I realized that marker made little sense to much of 12MC’s international audience. Just understand that a really great sporting event happened there and its preservation was a nice touch.


Yankee Stadium; The Bronx, New York, USA


Once a ballpark, now just a park.
Once a ballpark, now just a park. Photo by Benjamin Kabak on Flickr (cc)

The New York Yankees baseball team played at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx from 1923 until 2008 (map). The team left for a new Yankee Stadium on an adjacent lot. Then the city demolished the old stadium and created Heritage Field on the same footprint. As the New York Times described it,

… nearly every inch, from the pavement stones underfoot to the three natural grass ball fields, has been elaborately designed to pay homage to the Yankees and their celebrated former home. Even the sod is the same that the Yankees, professional baseball’s biggest spender, chose for their new stadium… Even the old diamond and outfield have been saved, delineated with five-foot-wide swaths of blue polymer fiber stitched into the sod by a Desso Grassmaster machine that had to be shipped over from the Netherlands.

Now amateur and high school baseball clubs from all over the city stand where some of the greatest professionals once played.


Milwaukee County Stadium; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA


Helfaer Field
Helfaer Field. Photo by Rough Tough, Real Stuff on Flickr (cc)

Combine the idea of a parking lot and a small ball field on an original footprint, and that became the fate of Milwaukee County Stadium. Miller Park replaced it in 2000 on an adjacent parcel. Although large surface parking lots grew completely around Miller Park, the former spot of Milwaukee County Stadium became a baseball field. It took the name Helfaer Field with room for 500 spectators in its bleacher seats. People can rent it for "softball, youth baseball, kickball, tailgates, meetings and much more." It looked pretty good on Satellite view sitting there, surrounded by parking lots.


Memorial Stadium; University of Minnesota, USA


2009-0603-01-MN-McNamaraMemorial
McNamara Memorial on Wikimedia Commons (cc)

The Golden Gophers of the University of Minnesota played (American) football at Memorial Stadium in Minneapolis from 1924 to 1981. The stadium became totally obliterated. An alumni center filled its former spot (map). However one vital feature remained, its entry arch, inside of the alumni center. People could still walk through the old entryway, although its passage no longer led to a gridiron. Instead it opened into a large room called the Heritage Gallery, "a multimedia museum … [that] honors the accomplishments of University of Minnesota alumni, faculty, students and staff."


Waverley Park; Mulgrave, Victoria, Australia



I found faded stadium footprints outside of the United States too. A prime example existed in Australia. Waverley Park in Mulgrave, Victoria once hosted up to seventy thousand Australian rules football fans. Concentric ring roads circled the demolished stadium, part of a masterplanned community, with a grassy centerpiece remaining at the spot of the original stadium now serving as a practice facility,

Today, as Hawthorn football players train on the oval, the sound of boots striking balls evokes memories of a sporting past. For some, the ‘Hawks’ are simply part of the scenery, for others they bring new meaning to ‘backyard footy’, with star players running junior clinics for tomorrow’s footy legends. Residents of Oval Front Homes have box seats, cheering on from their balconies during practice matches and training.

The original stadium no longer existed although a grandstand at one end still held room for a couple of thousand spectators.


Cathkin Park; Glasgow, Scotland, UK


Cathkin Park
Cathkin Park. Photo by Tom Brogan on Flickr (cc)

I found a particularly early example in Scotland, a football (soccer) stadium called Cathkin Park in Glasgow. Professional football there dated back to 1884 when the Queen’s Park club called it home. Third Lanark took over in 1903 and remained there for more than sixty years until the team folded.

Sadly there are no fond memories for Third Lanark fans of that era. They were shattered to witness the Cathkin gates being closed for the final time on 30th June 1967.

Much of the stadium was removed as it fell into disrepair (map). However, terraces ringing three sides of the stadium remained in place, as did the old field. The area became a public park and a home field to various amateur and student teams.

Three Peaks

On February 5, 2017 · 2 Comments

A long time ago Twelve Mile Circle featured the Highpoints of the Crown Dependencies, specifically Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man. At the time I figured I’d quickly move to the island of Great Britain itself and the highest points of elevation of its three countries, England, Scotland and Wales. Several years passed and I decided to clean out some of the clutter on my potential topics list. Better late than never, I supposed. Plus I figured I’d give a little attention to the UK audience. I’ve focused too much on North America lately.

Ben Nevis; Scotland’s Highpoint


View from Ben Nevis Peak (1)
View from Ben Nevis Peak. Photo by Simon Caulton on Flickr (cc)

Ben Nevis sounded like some guy’s name. However I figured that couldn’t be the case, that it probably derived from Scottish Gaelic for something completely different. Ben-Nevis.com offered an explanation. It came from Beinn Nibheis. Beinn meant mountain or pinnacle, logically enough. Nibheis, well, that could mean one of several things. Maybe it meant "malicious," perhaps "in the clouds." Whatever the case, no mountain in the British Isles overshadowed Scotland’s Ben Nevis (map) at 1,344 metres (4,409 feet).

The Ben — its affectionate nickname — attracted about 125,000 full ascents and 100,000 partial ascents each year. If I quickly did the math in my head, and considered most people hiked to the top during warmer months, then there could be hundreds of people on the summit on a nice day. People might be tripping over each other.

I drove through the Scottish Highlands a number of years ago on my way to Fort William and passed right by Ben Nevis. I didn’t climb it though. If I had I would have seen the ruins of an old observatory that operated on top at the turn of the last century. That reminded me of Mount Washington the highpoint of the US state of New Hampshire. I did reach that summit although I drove up. The 12MC audience knows I’m a lazy, often reluctant highpointer.


Snowdon; Wales’ Highpoint


Snowdon summit
Snowdon summit. Photo by Gerald Davison on Flickr (cc)

I loved Wales because Welsh words looked so strange to my untrained eye. The English language version of its highest point of elevation went by Snowdon (map). In Welsh it became Yr Wyddfa. I couldn’t even begin to consider how to pronounce it. Snowdon derived from Old English, just a version of Snow Hill. The Welsh version offered a much more interesting situation.

The current Welsh name for Snowdon is Yr Wyddfa (the tomb). In the past, it was also known as Yr Wyddfa Fawr (the great tomb) and Carnedd y Cawr (the cairn of the giant). The tomb and cairn in question are said to mark the grave of the fierce giant Rhita Gawr (or Fawr), who made himself a cloak from the beards of the kings he had killed.

That must have been quite the ancient character on its summit, 1,085 m (3,560 ft) above sea level, with a homemade king-beard cloak.


Scafell Pike; England’s Highpoint


View from Scafell Pike Summit
View from Scafell Pike Summit. Photo by Philip Milne on Flickr (cc)

On the other hand, I’d never been anywhere near Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain (map). The Scafell part probably came from Old Norse, perhaps meaning the maintain (fell) with the bald summit. The word Pike came from Northern English as used in the Lake District, simply meaning Peak. I guess by that logic, Pike’s Peak in Colorado USA would be redundant, except that it took the name of an early explorer, Zebulon Pike. Regardless of that completely arbitrary non sequitur, Scafell Pike reached 978 m (3,209 ft.)

Lots of people liked to hike Scafell Pike too, particularly because of its easy accessibility and abundant rewards.

Not only is the Scafell Pike walk modestly challenging, it has invariably been described as exhilarating, beautiful and breathtaking. The view from the top, has inspired writers such as Wordsworth, Coleridge, Baines and Wainwright as, on a clear day, you can see Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and the Isle of Man.

The name itself derived from an error. Nearby the mountain Scafell or Sca Fell — without the word Pike attached to it — was once thought to be the tallest mountain in the range. Scafell Pike got its name because the appendage Pike implied a lesser status (i.e., just one subsidiary peak of greater Scafell). Later surveys demonstrated that Scafell Pike actually rose a couple of metres higher than Scafell.


Challenges


Three Peaks Yacht Race Start
Three Peaks Yacht Race Start. Photo by Mark Hughes on Flickr (cc)

None of the three seemed particularly daunting from a mountaineering perspective. They might dissuade the unmotivated such as myself, although I bet lots of 12MC readers could conquer any of these slopes. In fact, many people do undertake those efforts and want to make the task even more difficult. Increasingly lots of them wanted to scale each of the summits in a single 24-hour period, an event called the National Three Peaks Challenge. That seemed rather more difficult although not impossible. It involved about 42 kilometres (26 miles) on foot with an elevation gain of 3,000 m (9,800 ft).

Another group offered an even more interesting proposition, the Three Peaks Yacht Race. Participants do not use motorized vehicles. They sail from one mountain to another. However, those mountains don’t abut the sea exactly so participants have to run from dockside to summit trails. At Scafell Pike they can use bicycles because they need to cover a longer distance.

Teams of four or five per yacht sail from Barmouth to Fort William, with two of the crew climbing the highest mountains of Wales, England and Scotland en route, running the equivalent of three marathons in 3 or 4 days.

The team Pure Attitude won in 2016 with a time of four days and a few minutes.


Completely Unrelated

I’ve become increasingly enamored of the Wendover Productions site on YouTube. Their latest is "Every State in the US."



It cites lots of geo-oddities, many of which have also been featured in Twelve Mile Circle in the past. The big difference here is that Wendover Productions comes at if from a much more professional angle. If you haven’t seen any of their videos you should check them out. You’ll enjoy them.

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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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