Streets and roads appear frequently on Twelve Mile Circle. So do patterns. The two can be combined as seen with a logical street grid featuring either numbers or letters. I’ll focus on the latter. Lists of alphabetical patterns can be found elsewhere on the Intertubes so I sorted through a multitude of possibilities and selected a few of my favorites. This was not intended to be an exhaustive examination.
Notice the Address on the Sign in this Low-Quality Video I Took a Few Years Ago
My fascination probably originated with my longtime hometown, Arlington, Virginia. The north-south streets fell nicely into order for three complete alphabets plus the first letter of a fourth alphabet, as the county explained. The number of syllables represented alphabet sequences, so Arizona Street — four syllables — fell within the fourth alphabet and became the final street on the grid (map). This location was actually a triple-geo-oddity: (1) the only Arlington street in the 4th Alphabet; (2) a practical exclave separated by road from the rest of Arlington and approachable only through Fairfax Co. or the City of Falls Church; and (3) the location of the West Cornerstone of the original District of Columbia.
I was also quite familiar with the Washington, DC alphabet system for east-west streets, which went first with single letters of the alphabet, then two-syllable words, then three syllable words, and finally and somewhat enigmatically with flowers and trees. Greater Greater Washington provided the best concise explanation I’ve seen. The final District street all the way up next to the North Cornerstone was Verbena Street. I wasn’t familiar with Verbena although apparently it’s a flowering plant.
Before we proceed I’ll note that I found anomalies and exceptions on all of the grids so there’s no need to point them out unless something truly bizarre comes to light. For instance, Washington, DC doesn’t have a "J" Street, which is something already well known and cited frequently.
I think Tulsa might have been my favorite occurrence. North-South avenues located east of Main Street got alphabetic names of cities geographically east of Tulsa; those west of Main were named alphabetically for cities west of Tulsa. The pattern continued for quite a distance, too. Heading east it appeared to run for about two-and-a-half alphabets ending with Maplewood (map), which could represent a town in Minnesota or New Jersey.
I stumbled upon a wonderful explanation and a detailed map that I can’t possibly improve upon at Streets.MN, which somehow snagged a Mongolian IP address that shares a common abbreviation with Minnesota (".mn"). Maybe I should grab a domain from Monaco so the 12MC website could become 12.mc?
The Twin Cities, Minneapolis and Saint Paul, and immediate environs developed an absolutely crazy number of alphabets. The website I referenced suggested a naming convention extending all the way to the second letter of the eighth alphabet, Brockton Lane. Another site with a very old school design explained the source of the names behind many of the streets in the grid’s first alphabet.
Denver and surrounding areas certainly rivaled and maybe exceeded the Twin Cities for alphabetical street naming wackiness. The alphabets went on-and-on even into distant rural areas in the vague hope that maybe someday the matrix would fill-in. The last one seemed to be Calhoun-Byers Road, a distance of 45 miles / 73 kilometres (map) from the grid’s baseline intersection at Ellsworth Ave. and Broadway!
A lot of 12MC readers live in New York City and I’m sure many were already wondering whether I’d mention Alphabet City in the East Village. The name derived from Avenues A, B, C and D, which ran through the neighborhood, the only single-letter avenues in Manhattan (map). That was nice and such, although it represented a measly four letters of the alphabet.
There were better alphabets in NYC. However one must leave Manhattan and enter Brooklyn to experience them. The Greenpoint neighborhood, just across the East River from Manhattan incorporated a partial alphabet from Ash through Quay with a couple of letters missing (map).
Travel farther into Brooklyn and one can experience Avenues A through Z (map). This might lead one to wonder — well, it lead ME to wonder — if the Sesame Street parody musical Avenue Q happened to be named for this particular alphabetic progression. It’s claimed that it was not:
The set of Avenue Q depicts several tenements on a rundown fictional street located “in an outer borough of New York City.” This fictional Avenue Q could be in the Midwood and Gravesend area of Brooklyn, where there are Avenues A through Z, with a few exceptions. One of those exceptions is Avenue Q. The street between Avenue P and Avenue R is known as Quentin Road, named for the youngest son of President Roosevelt. The Q subway train, whose symbol used to be a Q in an orange circle resembling the Avenue Q logo, travels through this neighborhood. However, the authors have stated that Avenue Q is fictional and is not related to this or any other particular street.
I’m not sure I necessarily believe that, though. Or maybe I don’t want to believe it.
Readers from international areas devoid of baseball might wonder why Line Drive would be an odd street name choice. It’s an intuitive term to those of us who grew up with the sport, and similarly difficult to translate to outsiders. No doubt, someone trying to describe a Cricket term to me would have the same problem in reverse. Instead I’ll steal the dictionary definition: "a ball that is hit by the batter and goes in a nearly straight line not far above the ground." It can be dangerous to players on the field at the receiving end of a line drive and can also lead to spectacular plays when handled properly.
Consequently I found several Line Drives at municipal ball parks and baseball diamonds including two at professional minor league stadiums.
The New Hampshire Fisher Cats, a Double-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays plays at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium (formerly Fisher Cats Ballpark) at 1 Line Drive in Manchester, New Hampshire. What is a fisher cat? It’s a type of weasel.
The Iowa Cubs, a Triple-A farm team of the Chicago Cubs, plays at Principal Park, at 1 Line Drive in Des Moines, Iowa.
I suppose at one time maybe 15 years ago Disk Drive would have sounded like a clever street name for an industrial park hoping to attract information technology companies. At least the occurrence in Madison, Alabama had an honest-to-goodness linkage to the IT industry. Intergraph Corporation, a software development and services company, maintains an office there albeit with a street address other than Disk Drive.
The Drive Drive, Benoni, Gauteng, South Africa (map). This was an amusing Google Maps error. Other online maps labeled it The Drive with no suffix attached so apparently the true name was more than Google could handle
Sunday Drive, Hanover, PA (map). That was as close as I could get to Sunday Driver.
Just Drive, Fort Worth, TX (map). It was located in a trailer park. Of course it was. I’m still looking for the more crude variant Shutupan Drive, which I think would make a fine name for a street. I found a coffee shop in Incheon, South Korea called Shutupandtakecoffee which made me recall the Soup Nazi episode of Seinfeld. Shut up and take coffee! No coffee for you!
I held a special fondness for Doctor Drive, located in a number of places nationwide. The answer might not appear all that obvious until converted to its logical abbreviations. Doctor Drive shortened to Dr. Dr.
The example I highlighted from Virginia Beach would be noteworthy from a couple of perspectives. First, it intersected with Hospital Drive so that implied maybe at one time it could have been appropriately named for its circumstances. Second it offered additional opportunities for abbreviated mischief. Thus, the Get Reel Lure Co. (caution – annoying website background music) could potentially shorten its address to: 204 Dr. Dr., VA Beach, VA!
Knowing how much the Twelve Mile Circle audience loves little puzzles, I thought I might try to fold a couple of related ideas that have fascinated lately into a single entry. I looked back to one of the more popular 12MC concepts, the Longest Google Maps Routes from about eighteen months ago. It continues to be a popular page with various social media and aggregator sites "rediscovering" it from time-to-time, giving it new life. It’s quieted down a bit since the comments period closed after a year, a duration I’ve had to specify reluctantly for all articles to try to tame a never-ending torrent of comment spam.
The second related page focused on my journey to Kentucky last summer, specifically the tremendous amount of time and distance I covered before I ever left the Commonwealth of Virginia. The drive was a bit exaggerated because I took a small detour to capture the independent city of Norton which counted as a county-equivalent for county counting purposes, although the journey was impressive even discounting the jog. I knew about all of that ahead of time of course, however understanding something and experiencing it in person were two different concepts entirely as far as I was concerned.
With all that in mind, I’d begun to wonder about the longest Google Maps default drives in layers of geography that mattered to me, specifically my home county, state and nation. I made the rules simple. It had to be the primary default point-to-point route suggested by Google and it could not cross the borders of the home jurisdiction. I couldn’t add intermediate points manually and I had to remain within the lines. Bridges were fine. Ferries were not. I couldn’t use the Alaska Marine Highway System to link Alaska to the Lower 48, as an example. Those were completely arbitrary rules designed to create some focus and structure.
One shouldn’t expect remarkably long distances in the smallest self-governing county in the United States (25.98 sq miles or 67.3 square kilometres) and that was the obvious result. I managed to eke out an 11.5 mile (18.5 km) route entirely within Arlington. Google offered 12.4 miles (20 km) as a second option which I discarded because it wasn’t the initial suggestion. Flipping the route didn’t help either; it produced a longer result although it also detoured the path into neighboring Alexandria and thus violated one of my arbitrary rules. The odd thing I’ve learned from Google Maps over the years is that some other person submitting the same endpoints might get the second option as the first one, or that the recommended route could change over time. I can say only that the solution I found this morning worked, and it could be completely different for you either today or if you came back in six months.
These county estimates were difficult to determine because county lines in Google Maps disappear at a critical point as one drills-down. One has to have a pretty good mastery of the boundaries before starting and then go through a bit of trial and error.
It turned out that my lengthy drive completely within Virginia’s borders was impressive, although nowhere near as long as theoretically possible. For that, one would need to start from the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge (my visit) on the Atlantic Ocean, on Virginia’s eastern shore, to some random point west of Big Stone Gap near the Kentucky border, or vice versa. The distance going either direction came to 576 miles (927 km).
I felt considerably less confident in my result for the United States. I found a decent distance and I think 12MC readers should be able to improve upon it, perhaps considerably. The route from Key West, Florida to a very westerly point on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula near Flattery Rocks National Wildlife Refuge stretched to 3,661 miles (5,892 km), a smidgen longer than the reverse of those same directions. One should be able to finish that journey by automobile with 55 hours of continuous driving. I wouldn’t recommend it.
This exercise could be expanded to other geographic territories, perhaps ones meaningful to individual 12MC readers. I played around with Canada a bit. The biggest challenge was Google’s bias towards U.S. highways to route Canadians around various Great Lakes. I also took things to a somewhat ridiculous extreme by examining Luxembourg, where I uncovered a 119 km (74 mi) route. I even went Down Under to New South Wales, Australia where my best find stretched to 1,797 km (1,117 mi).