That Recurring State Line

On January 8, 2017 · 6 Comments

A random Twelve Mile Circle reader became an unwitting inspiration for this article simply because of where he or she lived. The little dot within Idaho on my Google Analytics dashboard mentioned State Line. That seemed too good to be true. I’ve done plenty of articles about border towns although I’d never noticed that one before. It sounded like a good excuse to peel things back a layer and take a closer look.

State Line, Idaho

State Line Idaho
State Line, Idaho
via Google Street View, September 2016

State Line didn’t cover much area and only 38 people lived there (map). It seemed an odd situation until I uncovered a bit of history in an old newspaper article. This creation sprang to life in 1947 and existed for a very specific reason. Quite simply, "the town was incorporated so it could sell liquor and have slot machines." End of story.

Those who incorporated the town leveraged the adjacent state border, just enough over the line to fall outside of the laws of Washington State. Residents of the region’s dominant city — Spokane, Washington — needed only a short drive to take advantage of the more liberal alcohol and gambling rules of Idaho. Apparently incorporated towns in Idaho had some legal leeway to provide these services so State Line filled that niche. The town didn’t have to worry about do-gooders interfering with its business either; it carefully corralled a sympathetic population. I’ve explored similar themes before, e.g., in Right Up to the Line.

A lot of separate sins packed into that tiny package, too. I drove down Seltice Way, the main road through State Line, vicariously using Google Street View. From the border heading into Idaho I noticed a smokeshop, a liquor store, several taverns including a biker bar, and a building with no windows advertising "Show Girls." I wonder what could possibly be going on inside there? This is a family-friendly website so I’ll leave it at that. I also found the residential area consisting of a small trailer park. Maybe the show girls lived there? If so then one of them visited 12MC and landed on the Thelma and Louise Route Map. Maybe someone was planning a weekend getaway?

Stateline, Nevada

Stateline, Nevada at California Border, Lake Tahoe
Stateline, Nevada at California Border, Lake Tahoe
Photo by Ken Lund on Flickr (cc)

Idaho didn’t contain the only town with that familiar name. Stateline existed in Nevada, too. I talked about that one briefly in the Loneliest Road in the USA and it appeared in reader comments from time-to-time as well. South Lake Tahoe, on the California side, seemed like the average ski resort town. A gondola led up to the slopes, part of the Heavenly Mountain Resort. Just down the street, however, marked Nevada. Five humongous casinos rose starkly from the pavement barely inches onto the Nevada side of the border. This grouping represented the same basic premise as its Idaho counterpart, bringing convenient "sinful" businesses closer to the masses.

A morbid geo-oddity of sorts existed in Stateline. The ski resort included trails on both sides of the border. Skiers crossed the state border on several of the runs. That was a worthwhile oddity by itself of course, although that wasn’t the morbid part. Something awful happened there in 1998. That’s when Sonny Bono, the lesser-known half of Sonny and Cher, slammed into a tree on the Orion slope (map). Bono died in Stateline on a border-crossing trail.

Stateline, Kansas

Stateline existed as one of thirteen townships in Sherman County, Kansas. The name went back historically to the 19th Century and simply represented its geographic placement next to Colorado. Stateline didn’t exist to entice people across the border and only 344 people lived there in the most recent Census. The township contained only one settlement of any size, Kanorado (map), the home of about half of Stateline’s residents. That still made it large enough to serve as Sherman County’s second largest town. My attention automatically focused on that spot because, as longtime readers know, I love a good portmanteau. The name combined and shortened Kansas and Colorado into Kanorado. It’s website noted that someone originally named it Lamborn. I preferred Kanorado. Excellent choice.

This one also existed in a bit of a geo-oddity. Only four counties recognized Kansas Mountain Time, including Sherman County. Of course that also included Stateline Township and the village of Kanorado. From my experience driving directly through there on Interstate 70 several years ago, I couldn’t determine why the area felt more aligned to Mountain Time. It seemed really remote, regardless. Either one should be fine. Nonetheless residents apparently felt otherwise and aligned chronologically with Colorado. Actually, as I thought about it more, Stateline should probably exist on the Colorado side instead. Colorado seemed to feature more sins than Kansas, particularly cannabis and perhaps alcohol too. The current Stateline alignment represented lost economic opportunities.

Others Even More Obscure

State Line Pond, Connecticut

I found other State Lines and Statelines. For instance, check out State Line Pond in Connecticut. It also had its own website, believe it or not. From its description,

State Line Pond is an approximately 75 acre lake in Stafford Springs, Connecticut on the Massachusetts border at Monson, MA. The lake was formed when a stream running through a meadow was intentionally flooded approximately 150 years ago. For many years, the Stafford Ice House "harvested" ice by horse from the lake during the winter and delivered it to restaurants, homes and businesses as far away as Boston.

Even more obscure places existed in the form of State Line, Mississippi and State Line, Indiana. I couldn’t find much about either place other than their existence.

The Loneliest Road in the USA

On August 16, 2011 · 11 Comments

What is the "Loneliest Road in America?" Life Magazine claimed that it was that stretch of U.S. Route 50 running through Nevada, in a 1986 article. I don’t know if anyone still claims that today, or if it was actually true twenty-five years ago for that matter, and there are probably lonelier roads in Australia and Canada but so be it. I still have lonely roads on my mind after my recent journey to the desert and I’m going to talk about the one in Nevada.

View Larger Map

It’s not lonely along the great length of Route 50, ubiquitously. Where I live on the east coast in Virginia, in fact, it’s rather busy. Indeed, the same road passing near my home proceeds to then cross the preponderance of the North American Continent, including Nevada.

Thus, it’s one of the longest roads and it already made an appearance in the 12MC comments for that very reason, specifically for the obnoxious sign at the beginning of the route in Ocean City, Maryland where they brag about a terminus in Sacramento, California some 3,073 miles (4,946 kilometres) away. A guy drove the length of it a few years ago and wrote a book, including a chapter on the Nevada segment. He remarked of one stretch, "very seldom do we meet an oncoming vehicle and there is virtually nothing along the road." That’s pretty grim.

The route through Nevada isn’t entirely devoid of life or attractions, of course. It’s just that what a driver can see besides the haunting terrain itself is scattered and infrequent. America’s Byways says,

Far from lonely, Highway 50 actually has a number of attractions that make traveling the byway a worthwhile trip. Many ghost towns and historical cemeteries dot the area. Fishing abounds at Iliapah Reservoir, Cave Lake State Park, and Comins Lake. Travelers will not want to miss the variety of unusual sites such as the Charcoal Ovens State Park or Hickison Summit Petroglyphs. Beautiful historic mining towns are scattered across the byway.

The downside: this will require a journey of 400 miles (645 km).

I started wondering about superlatives. Every mile can’t possibly be exactly the same; some miles have to be more extreme than others. What might be the loneliest segment on the loneliest road in the United States?

View Larger Map

A good candidate might be somewhere in the vicinity of the turnoff to Duckworth. Only 530 vehicles per day pass this point, the lowest traffic volume anywhere along Nevada’s Route 50.

Then I flipped towards the opposite direction and wondered about segments that couldn’t possibly be considered lonely. One could make a strong case that it falls within Carson City, perhaps where the road runs directly past the Nevada State Capitol building. I picked a different location though.

View Larger Map

I love the way casinos here jut magically from the asphalt in Stateline, NV, directly across the border from better-known South Lake Tahoe, California. I have an odd fascination with casinos placed strategically along borders, as those who have read the Twelve Mile Circle for awhile undoubtedly know, so my choice isn’t surprising.

Then, just for the heck of it, I decided to find the highest point of elevation along the highway.

View Larger Map

That occurs east of Ely, at Connors Pass where the road rises to an elevation of 7,729 feet (2,356 m), requiring 8% grades and numerous switchbacks.

Historically the corridor across Nevada follows the famous Pony Express route, portions of the old California trail used by pioneers traveling west through relentless terrain, and the Lincoln Highway from early automotive days. It crosses mountains, flats, forests and deserts. Loneliest place in America? Far from it. I’d love to drive its length someday.

Where, really, is the loneliest spot?


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