Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Speaking of county matters...

I used to have a 10-key adding machine with a printout. I no longer have that, and the only calculators I have readily available are tiny and at least a little tempermental. So when I say that there are 3,097 counties in the country, that number may be off. (If anyone wants to supply me with a more accurate count, I'd be grateful, but be forewarned: I have found a number of different figures on the internet, so apparently I'm not the only person who is electromathematically challenged.)

As I've probably told everyone I know, at some point or another, I intend to visit every county in the country before I die. Most people seem to take this as some sort of Quest, when in fact it's nothing more than an excuse for wandering around in places I've never been and have no real reason to go to. This is what my life has become. Sad, maybe even a little pathetic, but there it is. I try to present it as a vaguely romantic journey of discovery, but even I don't buy that. And let's face it, I don't really expect to get to all of them. The two remaining counties in Massachusetts, for example, are islands that are reached only by expensive ferries. The counties in Alaska will require an airplane, and the counties in Hawaii a boat or helicopter. I doubt I'll go to that much trouble, unless of course some enterprising travel-service company decides to sponsor my travel. No sign of that on the horizon.

Anyway, yesterday morning, I took a detour on leaving Las Vegas, and drove through Lincoln County, Nevada, thereby visiting the last remaining county in that state. I have now been to every county in Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Texas was a big deal -- that's 254 counties and most of them aren't all that big. Arizona was easy: even though it's a large state, the counties are also huge, and I go there a lot. Nevada is also is a very large state, with large counties, but I knew that the only way I'd ever get to Lincoln County was with a long, long diversion, since there's nothing to speak of within hundreds of miles of there (except Las Vegas ... come to think of it, there's nothing to speak of within hundreds of miles of there). New Jersey has a surprisingly large number of counties, but my trip to Maine last summer gave me the chance to fill in that map with one drive up the coast from Cape May to Newark. Louisiana was the second state filled in, with a wander around some reservoir on the Sabine River back in 2005 or 2006. (That wander, incidentally, took me by the only international boundary marker in the United States: the old stone that once marked the border between the United States and the Republic of Texas.) Delaware, which only has 3 counties and one road, was the first state filled in, way back in 1997 on a trip with my son to visit colleges he was considering up north. That trip is also memorable for providing me with an introduction to scrapple, a popular local dish best described as baked fat. I filled in Connecticut and Rhode Island on that trip as well: Rhode Island on purpose, Connecticut accidentally, because I was sitting around with Steve in New York, having changed my plans on a whim. If you want to know more about that, see my long post entitled "The Trip to Maine." It's down around the 4th week of the trip.

But I digress. That diversion to visit Lincoln County, Nevada also required that I go through two more counties in southern Utah -- beautiful, beautiful country that I will likely go back to -- so as this latest trip winds down, I have now been to 1,945 of those 3,097 counties.

I doubt any of you care, and neither do I, really, but somebody asked. They were probably just being polite.