I follow the usual geography blogs each day like many of you probably do too. They all seem to have distinct personalities even if they cover the same subjects already blossoming in the popular media. I wouldn’t trade those blogs for anything. They’re informative and insightful, and I enjoy them. However, I wouldn’t try to compete with them either. My niche and my personal interests happen to fall a bit further outside of the mainstream.
Rarely, very rarely, I’ll stumble across a webpage or a blog posting — and it’s usually found on a site that delves into subjects other than geography or travel — and I’ll experience an odd feeling of familiarity. “Wow, that’s something that would have fit perfectly on the Twelve Mile Circle. Too bad I didn’t come up with it first.”
That brings me to ultralineamentum. It’s a word and a concept coined by Dr. Cliff Pickover on a page he put together way back in 2006, “The Longest Line in America!” I found the page by pure happenstance as I researched my “Australia’s Longest Straight Line” article. The confused search engine that sent me on this errant path deserves my utmost gratitude.
He derived the word from Latin, “lineamentum,” a line drawn with pen or pencil. I enjoy creating words too when I can’t find one that fits, so ultralineamentum scored extra points right from the beginning.
He described the concept in straightforward terms:
For years I have wanted to travel the longest straight line that traverses America. My rules for such a line were simple. The line could not pass outside America and could not go through the oceans and the Gulf of Mexico. In other words, the line had to stay inside the continental boundaries.
Dr. Pickover drew upon the mapping skills of Mark Nandor and a solution was born. They determined that the line, the ultralineamentum if you prefer, stretched all the way from a point where Ocean Creek met the beach near Neah Bay at the far northwestern tip of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state, to 1 Ocean Drive in Jupiter, Florida. The ultralineamentum extends 2,802 miles (~4,500 kilometers). Both of their websites explain the basis of the calculation and provide a host of maps that will cause you to salivate. You should check them out.
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This is the route that Google Maps suggests. We could probably get much closer to the proper straight line with some modification and tweaking, by shifting away from the Interstate highway system to local roads. Google predicts 3,384 miles over 2 days and 9 hours, nonstop. It’s feasible over a three-day weekend, theoretically. It would take a lot longer to cover the distance using local roads or any rational thought process.
I wrote to Dr. Pickover and asked him if he’d found an opportunity to travel the route in the several years since he first proposed the idea. No, unfortunately, he’s not been able to make the journey. I considered whether I could grasp the glory for myself for about a nanosecond. Three day weekend… Labor Day coming up… flight to Seattle… rental car…
Then I imagined the reaction I’d get from my wife. You know the one. It’s the identical expression I got when I suggested that we should sell the house, buy a recreational vehicle the size of a bus and visit every county in the United States. Right. That’s the one. It was followed by the tersely-worded phrase, “maybe you can do that with your second wife.”
Sadly, I’ll have to pass on this opportunity. It’s still waiting out there for the right person.