Cross-Country, Part 2 (Weatherford Art Thou?)

As strange alignment revealed itself as I planned my cross-country trip.  I used the same basic set of assumptions for each of the four potential routes.  First I divided the total drive time by five to come up with approximately equal days on the road.  That would average about seven hours of driving each day plus whatever time we wanted to spend on meals or sightseeing.  Second, I wanted to be economical so I looked for hotel clusters on the outskirts of cities, maybe 25-50 miles from an urban core along an Interstate highway.  Hotels would be less expensive there.  Also, if I chose the western side I wouldn’t have to drive through a city’s rush hour the following morning.

I noticed a coincidence as I settled on potential stopping points for the third night.  The northern and middle routes led to a town called Weatherford.  The mid-southern and southern routes did the same.  However, one Weatherford was in Oklahoma and the other one was  in Texas.  Weatherford didn’t seem like that common of a name.  Maybe if they were both called something like Springfield, a name so common that the Simpsons adopted it, I could believe it.  Could there be a connection between those two Weatherford places on the Southern Plains?

Weatherford, Texas

Parker County Courthouse, Weatherford, Texas
“Parker County Courthouse, Weatherford, Texas.”  Photo by Nicolas Henderson (CC BY 2.0).

We actually stopped at Weatherford, Texas and I’ll get to that story in a future episode.   Located due west of Dallas–Fort Worth by about a half-hour, it retained a lot of large town amenities without being truly urban.  I guess it could be called an exurb, or an outer-suburb.  Weatherford’s growth in recent decades certainly suggested such with about 25,000 residents and continuing to climb.  Even so it began much more modestly and remained that way for its first century until the outer bands of Fort Worth began to lap at its shores.

Thank goodness for the Texas State Historical Society’s Handbook of Texas, one of my favorite sources.  Naturally it included an article on Weatherford.

Settlers of European descent didn’t move into the area until the 1850’s, after Texas had already split from México, declared independence and subsequently joined the United States.  As the new arrivals filled the blank parts of Texas the state needed to create new units at the local level and establish governance.  Of course, these new places also needed names.

In 1855, two members of the Texas State Legislature coauthored legislation to establish a new county west of Fort Worth.  Their names transferred to the geography in the following year when the legislation went into effect. State Representative Isaac Parker stamped his name upon Parker County.  State Senator Jefferson Weatherford did the same on Weatherford, which became the seat of government for Parker County.

Senator Weatherford

Senator Weatherford didn’t do much else with his political career.  He supported secession during the Civil War as did most people from the area.  He was reelected a couple more times representing his constituents in Dallas County, and he passed away in 1867.  People have tried to find his grave in recent years.  I don’t know why but they have.  Supposedly his final resting place can be found somewhere within the family cemetery of his wife, now on private property.  Nonetheless, a stone with his name cannot be located in contrast to his name plastered practically everywhere across a decently sized town in Texas.  Ironically, his one simple act in the Texas Legislator served as his lasting memorial.

Weatherford, Oklahoma

June 2018 - Amarillo to Little Rock
“June 2018 – Amarillo to Little Rock.” Photo by Laura Lee Dooley (CC BY 2.0).

Weatherford, Oklahoma began with modest roots like its similarly-named counterpart in Texas.  However it fell farther west of a major urban area (in this case Oklahoma City) so it didn’t benefit from the same kind of boom.  Only about ten thousand people live there today.  Nonetheless it attracted Southwestern Oklahoma State University as well as the Stafford Air & Space Museum.  Also historically, the iconic Route 66 ran directly down its main street.  I almost wish I’d had a chance to stop in this Weatherford.  Maybe someday.

Oklahoma also had a historical society and its website included an article on their Weatherford.

The United States government set aside the entire area as a reservation for the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes in 1869.  Similar to what happened in other sections of Oklahoma, the government made the land available to outsiders a couple of decades later.  Here, homesteaders spilled into the territory in a land rush called the Cheyenne-Arapaho Opening of 1892.  Towns sprang up instantly.

One town began to coalesce near the recently-established homestead of William and Lorinda Weatherford.   She became the local postmaster and I guess she got to name the post office.  The new town needed postal services and her setup stood only two miles up the road.  The town’s mail went through Weatherford’s post office so the town adopted the family name.

William and Lorinda Weatherford

Here again, I wanted to look beyond the name of the town and gaze upon the namesakes instead.  As it turned out, Lorinda lived until 1919 and William lived until 1925.  They remained rather obscure except for having a town named for them.  On the other hand, how many of us can say we’ve accomplished that?  The best my family ever did was a three-block street in Hillsdale, Michigan.


Well, I guess the occurrence of two towns named Weatherford led back to a simple coincidence.  I couldn’t find any sort of relationship between the people or the places.  I still enjoyed checking into their histories, though.  It reminded me of a typical Twelve Mile Circle article from back in the day.

Cross-Country, Part 1 (The Plot Thickens)

Don’t get me wrong, I loved our trip to Australia and New Zealand last summer. I already want to return there and someday I will. However, my relentless need to count counties took a serious hit in 2018 as a direct result. My map barely changed as the year progressed. I gave up on the overwhelming task of visiting every single county in the United States many years ago although I still wanted to get a lot closer to the theoretical endpoint. I needed a plan and an ally.

Hatching the Plot

Arizona Border

I sensed an opportunity. My wife floated the possibility of a race she wanted to run over the holidays in Phoenix, Arizona. She sold it as a way to travel to a mild midwinter climate in an easily accessible location where various members of our extended family could join us. I said I’d think about it, and I did. Little did she know that I completely supported the destination from the beginning. However, I needed to figure out how I might be able to justify driving 2,300 miles (3,700 kilometres) instead of flying.

Maybe I could convince my older son that he should tag along and leverage that as a way to bolster my case. He’d already joined me on a couple of shorter drives when I focused on West Virginia’s northern panhandle and then again when I finished the state. We’d taken trips together that lasted two or three days and he had the right demeanor. However this one would be more than twice as long and it would involve five successive days of boring Interstate driving. I knew how to snag him, though. He loves zoos. I dangled the possibility of visiting up to six zoos between Virginia and Arizona and he took the bait.

Figuring the Route

I needed to stick to Interstate highways because of time constraints. In addition I wanted to capture as many new counties as possible since that was the whole point of the drive. Finally I knew the weather could be a wildcard. I’d have to be flexible and aware enough to bypass snowstorms if they emerged.

I couldn’t simply pick one route and apply my usual multiple layers of planning, or nail-down hotel rooms ahead of time, or input precise coordinates for GPS navigation. I had to develop four routes that I could shift between on-the-fly as the weather dictated. That led to the map above with separate options for northern, middle, mid-southern and southern routes. Actually, my working map provided considerably more detail such as hotel options for each potential stop plus a few additional sightseeing opportunities. I just wanted to offer a summary of zoos and overnight stays along various paths to illustrate the uncertainty.

The routes didn’t differ all that dramatically by time or by distance. They ranged from about 2,200 – 2,400 miles and 34 – 36 hours of driving. However, they differed quite significantly for county counting purposes. I could get somewhere between 26 and 36 new counties, and possible a few more with strategic jogs. Obviously I wanted to maximize that total if I could. The mid-southern route through Memphis, Dallas, and El Paso would provide the best opportunity if Mother Nature allowed it.

The Selection

I started watching long-range weather forecasts about ten days before departure even though I knew they wouldn’t be terribly reliable at that point. I guess I needed one more thing to worry about in addition to all of the other details I still needed to hash out. The forecast started coming into focus the last couple of days and the mid-southern route looked promising. I booked all of the necessary hotel rooms the night before we left, feeling pretty confident. We set out at dawn on Sunday, two days before Christmas, intending to reach Phoenix by nightfall on Thursday.

My wife and younger son, being the sensible ones, flew to Phoenix a couple of days after we left and would be there to greet us whenever we arrived.

Portmanteaus, Acronyms and Anagrams

Longtime readers know how much I enjoy a good portmanteau, a word created by mashing together two other words. I’ve featured geographical occurrences several times on Twelve Mile Circle, for example Dueling Portmanteau Placenames. I’ve also traveled intentionally to various portmanteau locations such as the towns of Mardela Springs and Delmar along the Maryland-Delaware border. Naturally I welcomed some recent email correspondence from “Dan,” who shared a similar interest. He just recently stumbled upon 12MC so he missed a lot of the fun as it unfolded on these pages during the preceding decade. However, I don’t mind delving back into the past so here I go…

Memory Lane

Straddling Delaware Maryland Line

I recycled this old photo from that Maryland-Delaware article from 2012. The Transpeninsular Line cut straight between the yellow lane dividers with Delaware on the left and Maryland on the right in the unusually situated town of Delmar (map). That brought back some good memories. I need to get back out again and find some more of these.

Back to the Point

Anyway, I should probably get back to Dan and our email conversation. He discovered Wikipedia’s page on portmanteaus about a year ago and found it entirely lacking. That prompted him to vastly improve, expand and reorganize the topic. Now readers have the option of referring to the List of geographic portmanteaus, the List of geographic acronyms and initialisms and the List of geographic anagrams and ananyms.

These pages presented variations on a theme. The first one featured true portmanteaus. The other two offered place names twisted in all sorts of wonderful ways, equally fascinating. I’ve enjoyed Dan’s handiwork immensely.

Dan went to great lengths to take what had been a somewhat lackadaisical effort that he first encountered and converted it into the definitive source. He based some of his efforts on a publication he consulted called “Edge Effects: The Border-name Places,” by Robert Temple. He then went well beyond that citation and managed to capture just about every example imaginable.

Go ahead and take a look. Be prepared to lose at least a couple of hours of your day.

Thank you Dan, for bringing me along on your your virtual journey.


I will be embarking on a bit of a road trip over the holidays. The destination(s) will remain a mystery for now. In fact, I don’t even know the exact route yet. The weather will influence some of it. Feel free to follow along in semi-real time on the 12MC Twitter, or wait for the inevitable articles that will start to appear early in the new year.