A Travellerspoint blog

Sometimes a place name says it all


View MT & WY on countycollector's travel map.

Mid-October seemed a good time to be on the road. While the days are shorter and the weather cooler than peak travel season, it’s still a pleasant time to drive in much of the United States. Such was the case in central Montana and northern Wyoming during my latest county collecting trip.


Every now and then, I come across a place suited perfectly to its name. On good example is the town of Thermopolis in Hot Spring County, Wyoming. While visiting Hot Springs State Park, the name of the town and of the county are self-evident. From a vantage point along the main road into town, it’s easy to notice the steam rising from the thermal springs in the park.
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Getting a bit closer, one notices the colorful mineral depots and the accompanying, almost overpowering odor of sulfur. The water temperature is 135 °F, a bit too hot for soaking, but I did stick my hand in for a few seconds. There are bath houses in the park were the water from the spring is cooled by the nearby Big Horn River to a more comfortable 104 °F. I chose to bypass the mineral soak due to both limited time and the desire not to smell like sulfur for the rest of the day.
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In Glasgow, Montana, I came across a curious piece of artwork painted on the side of a building. While the city may not be as aptly named as Thermopolis, the depiction below is right on target.
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Billings turned out to be an excellent base of operations to cover the counties I wanted to visit this time. A loop north, south, and west of Montana’s largest city allowed me to efficiently close the large gap I had left between the eastern and western portions of the state, while also affording me to the opportunity to pick up a few counties in northern Wyoming. Over the course of the long weekend, I added another 17 counties to my collection. That bring my overall total to 2824, putting me just shy of the 90% mark.
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Though there are still a couple months before the end of the year, I’m not sure if I’ll be adding any additional counties in 2022. I had hoped to get to 100 new county seats this year, and while I’m currently at 95, I don’t have any travel plans at the moment that will add more. Perhaps I’ll find a way to sneak in a few before the calendar turns. If I do, you’ll be able to read about it soon. If not, stay tuned for my annual “Year in Review” update in late December.

Until then…

Happy Travels
Brian

Posted by countycollector 17:37 Tagged hot_springs montana wyoming county_collecting Comments (0)

Driving in the Northern Plains States


View ND & MT on countycollector's travel map.

It’s difficult to make a lot of progress adding new counties to my collecting while limited to just a weekend. It’s doubly hard in places where it can take an hour or two to drive between county seats. Such was the case on my recent trip to North Dakota and Montana. Unlike Kentucky or Georgia where counties are relatively small, counties in the western half of the United States then to be quite large. While not as big as counties in the southwest, driving through the sparsely populated parts of North Dakota and Montana takes time.


The trip began with a Friday afternoon flight to MSP and then on to MOT (Minot, ND). The airport has only 5 gates and handles about 10 flights on an average day (5 arrivals and 5 departures). After an overnight in Minot, I started early Saturday morning. Much of the territory is either farm or ranch land, though from time to time, I spotted the telltale signs of fracking oil wells. With little reason to stop other than to mail postcards from the county seats, I made good time covering over 600 miles in about 11½ hours on the road before ending my day in Sidney, MT. The return trip to Minot on Sunday was similarly uneventful. I did stop briefly on the edge of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota for a quick photo. As might be evidence in the picture, I encountered a bit of rain, though nothing much heavier than a passing shower.
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Over the course of the weekend, I added 17 more postcards to my collection. Other than the handful of counties along I-94 I had previously driven through, much of the trip was in areas I’d never visited before. Here are the before and after maps showing my progress.

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Another trip to Montana is in the works for mid-October which should fill in most of the remaining counties in the middle part of the state. If all goes well, I’ll be including a few counties in Wyoming as well. Currently, I’m not planning any other county collecting trip this year, but one never knows. Whatever happens, there will be at least two more post this year—the upcoming trip and my annual year end summary. Check back soon for more details.

Until then…

Happy Travels
Brian

Posted by countycollector 14:03 Archived in USA Tagged montana north_dakota county_collecting Comments (1)

Know what Northwest Arkansas is famous for?


View Ozarks on countycollector's travel map.

Would it help if I mentioned the city of Bentonville? How about the largest private employer in the United States? Hopefully that’s enough to figure out I’m talking about Walmart. On a recent trip, I journeyed to the hometown of this well-known retailer. I make no judgements about the company here, I merely note I stopped by the Walton’s 5-10 store in downtown Bentonville which is home to the Walmart Museum.
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The trip was short, just a weekend getaway beginning with flights to Little Rock (via Chicago). From there it was north into the Ozarks in both Arkansas and Missouri. Around mid-afternoon on Saturday, I stopped briefly in Branson on my way between nearby county seats. While the downtown was interesting, it was also crowded with both people and traffic, so I didn’t feel like staying long. My last stop for the day was in Bentonville where I took the photograph above.


Sunday morning began with rain that lingered through most of the day. It was unfortunate as that when I covered the most scenic parts of the trip. Jasper, Arkansas is near the Buffalo River which was the first river to be designated a National River back in 1972, and over 130 miles of it are managed by the National Park Service. The river is popular for boating, particularly canoeing, and the adjacent hills are crisscrossed with hiking trails. Sadly, I drove through on a cloudy, wet, and sometimes foggy morning. By late afternoon, I returned to Little Rock for might flights home. Due to a delay of the inbound aircraft to LIT, I landed at CLT a few minutes after my connecting flight started boarding. I hustled through the terminal, and arrived just as they were getting ready to close the flight.

Over the course of the weekend, I visited 17 county seats in 16 different counties. How is that possible? Arkansas is one of a handful of states in which some counties have more than one county seat. On this trip, it was Carroll County Arkansas where both Eureka Springs and Berryville are official county seats. When I come across these situations, my practice has been to mail postcards from both county seats. Also of note, I have now ‘collected’ all the counties in Arkansas, making it the 29th state completed. Here are the before and after maps.
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The 17 new county seats brings my total for the year up to 61 and my overall total to 2790. Up next is another weekend trip, this one to North Dakota and Montana.

Until then…

Happy Travels
Brian

Posted by countycollector 20:43 Archived in USA Tagged arkansas missouri county_collecting Comments (0)

Carhenge


View Western Nebraska on countycollector's travel map.

Sometimes while traveling the back roads of the USA, it can be tricky to find tricky to find interesting places to feature. The United States has plenty of strange and unusual sights, but because to the vastness of the country, I frequently find myself far from major population centers and tourist destinations. Once in a while, I stumble across a quirky location almost in the middle of nowhere. One such instance happened on a recent trip to western Nebraska.


Aside from a few buttes and bluffs, the terrain was mostly rolling prairie, typical in much of the central US. It’s not the sort of place one expects to find this.
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On an empty stretch of Nebraska route 87, not far from the town of Alliance sits Carhenge, a scale replica of Stonehenge. The cars, all painted gray, replicate the current condition of England’s most famous ancient monument. The location is curious in that Carhenge is almost 90 miles from the nearest Interstate highway, meaning most tourists have to go out of their way to visit. Fortunately, I was on my way between the county seats of Rushville and Alliance, giving me the opportunity to see this wonder of the modern world without deviating from my planned route.

Amazingly, this is not the first Stonehenge replica I’ve encountered on my travels. Some may recall the concrete Stonehenge in Washington State along the Columbia River which from my visit last summer. In case you forgot, here's the link On the Road Again...Finally. Nor is Carhenge the only automotive art installation I’ve seen. Way back in 2014, I visited the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, TX. It’s located along I-40, so it’s a lot easier to reach.

Though this trip only consisted of a weekend, I still managed to add an additional 15 counties to my list, 12 in Nebraska and 3 in Colorado. The tally for the year is now at 44. If all goes well, I might be able to bring that total to 100 before the year is done. Here are the before and after maps from my latest trip.
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At the moment, I don’t know when my next county trip will be. I’m off to NYC for a weekend in June, and then to Greece in July. It’s possible I might try to collect a few more counties in August, but there is nothing currently in the works. I’m certain there will be a few more blog entries later in the year, but don’t expect anything for the next few months. Be sure to check back around the end of summer or the beginning of fall.

Until then…

Happy Travels
Brian

Posted by countycollector 13:49 Archived in USA Tagged carhenge nebraska county_collecting Comments (0)

Bienvenue à Paris… y’all


View Albuquerque, Durango, and Flagstaff on countycollector's travel map.

Like most other travel, my county collecting has not yet returned to its pre-pandemic level. I don’t have as much time to devote to county collecting this year as I normally would partly due to a couple longer family trips that had been postponed since 2020. In most years, by April, I’d be on my third or fourth county trip rather than having just completed my second. With much of my available vacation time and dollars devoted to trips originally scheduled in 2020, my county trips are not only fewer in number, but also shorter in length. Take my recent visit to Texas and Oklahoma as an example.


Over the last decade most of my county trips began with a flights to a major airline hub like ORD, ATL, DFW, or MSP, followed by a connecting flight to my starting point. Since that transit time was typically 5-6 hours, it was nice to have 3 days or more to drive between county seats and mail as many postcards as possible. Right now, it’s hard to find more than weekend available, so I opted for a direct Friday afternoon flight to DFW and then 2 days of county collecting before flying home Sunday evening. The tradeoff for not taking time off work was collecting fewer counties. My goal wasn’t to do much in Texas but rather to finish up the last 8 counties in southern Oklahoma. I’d pick up whatever else I could in the time available.

I reached DFW late afternoon on Friday, picked up my rental car, and headed for Denton, a city just north of the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Saturday morning it was on to Oklahoma. I’d love to say I saw all sorts of interesting sights along the way, but sadly there was little to report. By Sunday I was already back in Texas on my way to the airport before there was anything worthy of sharing. I reached Paris, the county seat of Lamar County by late morning and after dropping my postcard in the mailbox, went searching for the Eiffel Tower I’d heard was in town. It is a scale replica, about 65 feet high, and since it’s in Texas, is topped with a giant red cowboy hat. Welcome to Paris, y’all.
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As luck would have it, Paris wasn’t the only place with something worth photographing. Around lunchtime, I stopped in Sulphur Springs. On the town square adjacent to the county courthouse, I discovered this unusual crosswalk sign.
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Fans of Monty Python should immediately recognize the silhouette inspired by John’s Cleese’s character in the classic Ministry of Silly Walks sketch. Apparently similar signs have been appearing in recent years in such places as Ottawa, Reykjavik, as well as towns in Norway and the Netherlands. I hear there is also one in Manitou Springs, Colorado so maybe next time I’m close to Colorado Springs, I’ll make a side trip to look for it.

Over the weekend, I added 12 more counties to my ever-growing tally, including 3 in Texas and 1 in Arkansas. Perhaps more significantly, I collected the remaining 8 counties in Oklahoma, making it the 28th state completed.
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Up next is another short trip, this time to northeast Colorado and far western Nebraska. With only a weekend available, my goal is to add 15 more counties. My self-imposed time restraints will put a limit on what I’m able to do this year. It’s taken a decade to get this far, and with fewer than 400 counties to go, a dozen here and a dozen there will still put me closer to the eventual finish line. I look forward to discovering more curious bits of Americana as I’m exploring the highways and byways of this country. Check back in a few weeks to see what I find.

Until then…

Happy Travels
Brian

Posted by countycollector 14:11 Archived in USA Tagged texas oklahoma arkansas county_collecting Comments (2)

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