Cross-Country, Part 8 (Bonus!)

Finally the end.  Or was it?

We’d driven most of the way across the United States.  Then we spent a week in Phoenix, Arizona.  However, we weren’t completely done.  Our rental home agreement ended two days before our return flight so we needed to spend a little time somewhere else.  Originally my wife figured we could go down to Tucson.   Instead we completed the cross-country journey by heading towards San Diego on Interstate 8.  I explained some of that in an earlier episode so I won’t repeat how we came to that decision.  Nonetheless it appended a bonus segment onto the trip and a few more things to talk about

Yuma Territorial Prison

Prison Cells

Very few communities of any size existed anywhere between Phoenix and San Diego (map).  In fact, pretty much only Yuma stood out.  It rose from the desert just on the Arizona side of the line, about half-way along our six hour drive.  That made it a perfect place to stop and stretch our legs.

Originally I wanted to cross into México at the Andrade – Los Algodones border station a few miles west of Yuma.  Looking at Los Algodones on Google Street View (image), it seemed the town existed primarily to provide cheap medical services and pharmaceuticals to retirees from the United States.  I figured we’d walk around, maybe grab some lunch and perhaps some souvenirs.  I even brought our passports.  My wife never felt comfortable with the idea and she vetoed it at the last moment, probably for good reasons.

So we made do with what we could find in Yuma.  A quick search of the Intertubes turned up the Yuma Territorial Prison.  I’ve visited old prisons before so it seemed like a worthy place to spend an hour or two.  The prison opened in 1876 — long before Arizona statehood — and housed prisoners until 1909.  The strangest bit of trivia I discovered there was that the local high school sports team calls itself the Criminals as a result (photo).


Dunes

Dunes

I’d never driven this particular stretch of interstate before so it came as quite a surprise when we crossed into California and the terrain transformed into a sea of sand.  We’d entered the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area.  Nobody can say definitively how this feature formed.  However, a prevailing theory focused on sands that blew from the beach of an inland lake that existed when the Colorado River took a different course than it does today.  Regardless, it seemed out of place and somewhat otherworldly.  Lots of people seemed to be having a good time running their dune buggies up and over the hillsides though.


Plenty of Rest

Rest Below Sea Level

Twelve Mile Circle once bemoaned the decline of public restrooms along interstate highways.  That didn’t seem to be a problem along I-8.  Few services and fewer towns within this desolate stretch pretty much necessitated them.  Oddly, by some strange set of circumstances, we ended up stopping at all four of them on Interstate 8; two heading west and two returning east.

My favorite rest stop had to have been the one in California’s Imperial Valley (map).   This spot happened to be located remarkably close — barely more than a mile — from the lowest overland elevation in the entire interstate highway system.  This would put it at about 50 feet (16 metres) below sea level.

We crossed the valley and then headed up into the Laguna Mountains. There we encountered another anomaly, one of the widest splits between opposing lanes on a U.S. highway.  Interstate 8 sure packed a lot of entertainment into such an “empty” stretch, at least for those of us fascinated by weird geography.


San Diego

Bea-Eater Birds at the San Diego Zoo

Finally we dropped down from the mountains and reached the Pacific Ocean at San Diego.  The drive truly became cross-country.  The next day we returned to Phoenix and then flew home the following morning.

Now the trip ended.


Articles in the Cross-Country Series:

  1. The Plot Thickens
  2. Weatherford Art Thou?
  3. County Counting
  4. Zoos & Brews
  5. The Eastern Half
  6. The Western Half
  7. A Week in Phoenix
  8. Bonus!

See Also: The Complete Photo Album on Flickr

Connecting Through Midway

I hadn’t flown through Chicago’s Midway Airport much until recently. Then Southwest Airlines started offering flights at my local airport and many of its connections passed through Midway. I always hated connecting flights, and flying in general, although I admitted a preference for Midway over O’Hare. I never thought about its name though.

Midway


Battle Of Midway Memorial Located In The Midway Airport Terminal
Battle Of Midway Memorial Located In The Midway Airport Terminal.
Photo by AmateurArtGuy on Flickr (cc)

Chicago, Illinois seemed to be a perfect spot for an airport named Midway, being placed just about midway across the continent (map). That’s where I thought the name would lead like the Definitely Halfway article. I’ve been wrong so many times before it shouldn’t surprise me anymore when something takes a strange turn. This one still caught me off guard. It began service as Municipal Airport in 1927. The named changed to Midway in 1949, not because of its geography but to honor the Battle of Midway.

In May 1942, Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto sought to draw the US Pacific Fleet into a battle where he could overwhelm and destroy it. To accomplish this he planned an invasion of Midway Island which would provide a base for attacking Hawaii. Using decrypted Japanese radio intercepts, Admiral Chester Nimitz was able to counter this offensive. On June 4, 1942, US aircraft flying from USS Enterprise, USS Hornet, and USS Yorktown attacked and sunk four Japanese carriers, forcing Yamamoto to withdrawal. The Battle of Midway marked the turning point of World War II in the Pacific.

Midway Atoll marked an approximate midway point between North America and Asia (map), thus the name.


Midway Ships


USS Midway / San Diego
USS Midway / San Diego. Photo by Michael Mayer on Flickr (cc)

Did the Battle of Midway inspire other names? Yes, of course.

A few months ago my transit through Midway Airport took me onward to San Diego, California. I’ve always enjoyed San Diego and its downtown waterfront. Visitors there can see lots of attractions including the USS Midway Museum. It’s a vintage aircraft carrier converted into a massive floating exhibit.

The Naval History and Heritage Command’s Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships noted three ships with the Midway name. The War Shipping Administration first pressed a private freighter into service in 1942, naming it the Midway (AG-41). It operated mainly along the Pacific coastline and later became the Panay because the Navy wanted to use Midway for a more important ship. That first Midway got its name from the atoll anyway, not the battle, so the battle needed to be commemorated. The second Midway (CVE-63), an escort carrier, got its name in 1943 and it definitely honored the battle. Its name changed in 1944, however, so an even larger aircraft carrier could become the Midway. The second Midway became the St. Lo to honor Saint-Lô, a town in France in the crosshairs of the Normandy Invasion A kamikaze attack sank the St. Lo at the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

The final Midway (CVE-63) eventually became the museum that graced the San Diego waterfront (map). Its commissioning came a few days too late for World War II. However it served valiantly for nearly a half-century thereafter. The Midway ended its service as the flagship of the Persian Gulf fleet during Operation Desert Storm before its 1992 decommissioning.


Midway Streets



I couldn’t simply check every Midway Street to see if it traced back to the Battle of Midway. That would have involve thousands of data points. However, I did find a suburb of Adelaide, South Australia called Elizabeth East. The street names reflected the battle. Very quickly, I spotted Halsey Road, Nimitz Road, Hornet Crescent, Saratoga Road, and of course Midway Road. There were many others. These reflected the commanders and ships of the winners. I wondered how many of Elizabeth East’s four thousand residents understood the theme.

There must have been more. I couldn’t find them. They were lost amongst many more streets called Midway for other reasons.


Midway Theater


The Midway Theatre Forest Hills Queens NYC - IMGP0420
The Midway Theatre Forest Hills Queens NYC. Photo by BEVNorton on Flickr (cc)

However, I did find an interesting movie theater that opened in 1942. Thomas White Lamb designed this wonderful Art Moderne structure placed in the Forest Hills neighborhood of Queens, New York (map).

[It] was named after the World War II battle, opened later that year as a single-screen 1,933-seat theater, but it was converted to a nine-screen multiplex when United Artists took control of the building in 1998.

Midway seemed as good a name for a theater as an airport.

Geo-BREWities

My interests collide every once in awhile. I’ve mentioned my unnatural compulsion to visit breweries several times before so an overlap shouldn’t come as a surprise to regular readers. This time, an industry publication mentioned a beer dinner where courses were paired with beverages from Oxbow Beer in Maine. A brewery named for an oxbow — how intriguing — I do have a thing for oxbows. I wondered if I could find that aforementioned oxbow.



Where’s the Oxbow in Newcastle, Maine, USA?

That led me to ponder the possibility of other geo-oddity-themed breweries which I conveniently decided to call geo-brewities. I turned to the Brewers Association, an organization representing "small and independent American brewers" for a complete list. They referenced 2,722 brewing facilities in the United States at the end of 2013, an increase of nearly 400 establishments in a single year.

I dug into the list — even though it was dated 2012 and had since grown — since I figured I’d still find plenty of suitable examples. I’ll mention a few favorites uncovered while noting that many more had to be cut from my review because of space limitations. Also, I examined only names. I’ll let others judge taste and quality. That matters in the real world. It didn’t matter for this exercise.

Then I returned to Oxbow Beer and found an article in The Lincoln County News

The brewery is run out of a converted barn at Masland’s home on Rt. 215 in Newcastle. Oxbow’s beer, their name, their logo – an owl carrying a keg – and their motto – loud beer from a quiet place – are all inspired by the rural location.

This led me to wonder whether the brewery name reflected an actual oxbow lake. It may have been named for a genuine oxbow, like what a farmer would hang around the neck of an ox to pull a plow. I’d already become completely cross-eyed reviewing a couple of thousand brewery names by that point, with commensurate emotional investment, so I continued with my quest for geo-brewities. After all, this effort could form the backbone of a brewery-related geo-oddity driving tour someday, ignoring the obvious distances involved. That’s how I rationalized it.



Stateline Brewery, South Lake Tahoe, California, USA

Twelve Mile Circle loves borders and the notion of Stateline Brewery in South Lake Tahoe, California seemed promising. Their logo even incorporated the California-Nevada border within its design. Only a single building, an Embassy Suites Hotel, stood between Stateline Brewing and the actual state line. Impressive.

Then I spotted Latitude 33 Brewing Company in San Diego, California (map). Did someone mention latitude? Why yes, that’s another common 12MC topic. I was about to bust them when I measured the actual geographic placement of 33° North and it fell about ten miles south of the brewery (which was at 33° 8′ 10.46″ or thereabouts). However the brewers already knew that and posted their perspective, preventing geo-geek nitpickers such as myself from bothering them.

The obvious answer is, of course, that the 33rd parallel runs smack dab through the heart of San Diego County, and our brewing facility is just a hair north of being directly on the line. But there’s actually more to it than that. If you look back through the history books you’ll find the 33rd latitude has been right there in some of the world’s most significant events… Distilled to one word, Latitude 33 is “Adventure”

Good save, Latitude 33. Good save.



Confluence Brewing, Des Moines, Iowa, USA

Confluences don’t have a separate tag on 12MC although they have appeared as a regularly recurring topic. I prepared myself to be disappointed by the explanation offered by Confluence Brewing from Des Moines, Iowa, when it noted, "The brewery is itself a confluence of John and Ken’s love for Iowa and craft beer." Looking at its location a little more closely, the brewery can’t be more than maybe a mile-or-so from the confluence of the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers. That was a pivotal spot in the city’s history. The State Historical Society of Iowa said, "The City of Des Moines developed from a small frontier fort at the confluence… ", and thus the city would not have existed without them. I’ll bet the river confluence inspired the name of the brewery at least a little even if I couldn’t find it stated explicitly.

I’ve also noted elevations on a number of occasions. Breweries seemed enamored of elevation too, albeit choosing names that tended to favor specific landmarks, mountains or peaks. Only one bucked the trend in a fascinating way, Elevation 66 Brewing in El Cerrito, California (map). The Examiner said Elevation 66 was "named after El Cerrito’s altitude" That may be true for the city overall or perhaps at some key location, however, I dropped the brewery coordinates into an altitude finder and it listed 8.759 metres / 28.738 feet. What’s a few feet amongst friends? I still applauded the effort.



Dry County Brewing, Spruce Pine, North Carolina, USA

I focus often on counties and Dry County Brewing Company sounded rather paradoxical. How could one brew in a dry county? Wikipedia came to the rescue: "Mitchell County was one of the three dry counties in North Carolina, along with Graham and Yancey, but in March, 2009, after much controversy, the Town of Spruce Pine approved beer, wine, and ABC store sales." It didn’t take long for a brewery to fill that void either — it looked like Dry County opened in late 2010 or early 2011 — nestled safely within a wet enclave, and circled entirely by an otherwise prohibitionist county.

Roads and associated infrastructure? Of course I talk about those. Bridge and Tunnel Brewery in Queens (Maspeth), New York, may not have been named for a specific bridge or a specific tunnel. The name seemed to refer to the whole set of them in New York City: "because it’s the bridges and tunnels that unite this city, not divide it." Nonetheless the nearest bridge and tunnel into Manhattan were probably the Queensboro Bridge and the Midtown Tunnel. The NYC contingent of 12MC readers would have better insight into that calculation. This was a nanobrewery, even smaller than a microbrewery, that produced only 1.5 barrels (47.25 gallons / 179 litres) in each batch. I couldn’t find a location other than that generic Maspeth placement though (map). I guessed maybe the brewery was so small that it didn’t have a permanent facility.


Breweries with Coincidental Connections to Specific 12MC articles

I could also make a case to add any of the following breweries to a beer and geo-oddity driving tour. Each had a tenuous serendipitous alignment with an article published previously on Twelve Mile Circle.

Now I’m thirsty. Cheers!