Saturday, August 7, 2010

County Count Update

Other people seem to take my county-counting more seriously than I do. It started maybe 20 years ago when I came across a large United States map that had all the nation's counties shown on it, and I started to wonder how many of them I'd been to. I started colouring them in (devising rules for those trips made when I was very young: if I could remember the trip, and knew its final destination, I was confident that my father would have driven the most direct route; he was not a man to wander aimlessly about the countryside, so I knew, to a sufficient degree, that I had been in the counties along the way. There may have been other trips I don't remember, and there may even have been a digression or two from the bee-line route; but if I don't "know" that, then I don't count those counties) and discovered that I'd been to quite a lot of them.

As the years went by I kept on filling in new counties when I'd go to them. I was living in West Virginia at the time -- West By God Virginia -- and since I had no family and no property there (and there being nothing in the world to do in West Virginia, except incest and arson) I started taking routes to destinations that led me through counties I'd not already been in. Heading up to Pittsburgh to catch a flight? Let's go through Grafton this time. Flying out of DC? Lots of counties in western Virginia, a new route every time.

Then, living in Wyoming, I took little opportunities to visit counties I would not otherwise have gone to. I missed my exit off I-80 one time, and the next exit was in Utah, where I'd never been before. Another time, I noticed that if I went a couple of miles farther along the road I was on, I'd be in Scott's Bluff County, Nebraska. Sure, why the hell not.

Eventually it became an excuse to go to places that I had no independent interest in. My first trip to Wisconsin, in 2007, was grafted onto a trip to Minnesota to visit in-laws, which in turn was grafted onto a trip to Montana, Wyoming, and North and South Dakota because my wife had never been to places like Devil's Tower and the Black Hills. All that, in turn, was grafted onto a trip to Toronto to meet up with a Canadian friend. And as long as I'm up that way, why not run over to see the Finger Lakes on the way back? And the Corning Glass museum. And let's see if Steve wants to come up from the Metropolis to meet me for a couple of days. (The result, not surprisingly, became the longest trip of my life -- 10,000 miles in 5½ weeks, and it would have been longer had northern Indiana not proved so incredibly boring to drive around in. Every rural intersection of line-straight roads gets a four-way stop, whether it needs one or not.)

This trip just finished was plenty long. It started as a trip to Wisconsin to deliver and install some stained glass panels (see prior post), with a stop along the way to visit friends in Kansas City. This time I went up through western Missouri, because there were counties there that I'd not been to already, while I'd been to all the counties in eastern Oklahoma and Kansas. (I can see that trips to Kansas City will be getting longer and longer, as I arc farther and farther east or west, in order to go through a few new counties.) The way from KC to Wisconsin started off as a wander through remote parts of Missouri, Iowa, and Minnesota, but in the end I decided I'd attempted too much, and went more or less directly --- still managing to visit more than a dozen new counties along the way. This decision came about because, by the time I made the drive, the trip had expanded from a two-week sojourn in Wisconsin to a week in Wisconsin and a week in Maine (for humanitarian reasons, if you can believe it. Yes, me!) plus the time required to get from one to the other (on the freeway; ugh! But I did get to go through 5 more Pennsylvania counties, plus a side-trip to Sullivan County, New York) and then home. In the end, the trip was 23 days. It would have been 22, but there was this traffic jam in Virginia....

Anyway: so people seem to think that I'm seriously trying to visit every county in the country. I say I am, and apparently manage to say it without an appropriately ironic or sarcastic expression, since I frankly don't care if I do it or not. The County Count business is trivial. I like seeing new places; I like travelling around the country. I like meeting strangers, even if our meeting consists of just a fifteen minute conversation about some local oddity, or their new truck, or why Obama is a-fixin' to drive this country bankrupt, or how the police arrested that guy for robbing the IGA.

The county-count is why I'm driving up to Washington (state) later this year, instead of flying like normal people. Well, that, plus the fact that I have so little tolerance for airports and airlines, plus the mockery of airport security. (Not that I feel unsafe; I just feel like the TSA is wasting more public money than any other agency these days. And that, my friends, is saying something. I get too pissed off at them to reliably pass through their mock-tech screenings. It's one of the reasons I choose not to own a gun: I would use it, eventually.)

So. Trip to Wisconsin: done. Stained glass panels: installed. Three days on the freeway: done. Humanitarian concerns: answered. Four and a half more days on the freeway: done. County count? I've now completed ten states, with the drive through Coos County, New Hampshire. I went to 49 new counties this trip --- not a lot, considering the distances involved, but I was in kind of a hurry for a change. I've now been to 2,114 of the 3,096 counties in the USA. In a month or so, I'll start on the last big trip of the year, out west. Haven't planned it yet, but I know that I'll visit the last county in New Mexico, and will go to two states that I've never set foot (or wheel) in before. There'll be a whole lot of new counties visited then, I reckon.

And then, I think, that may be it.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comments are welcome, even the mean ones.