Thursday, June 12, 2008

Collecting counties

My brother collects movies. My father collects streetcar books. One friend of mine collects 1/2400 scale ship models. Another collects Virginia Tech stuff. (I think it's kinda Hokie.) The point is, almost everyone I know collects something.

Me? I collect counties.

It might be a side-effect of having been a geography major, but I've always liked traveling. Over the years, I've been to a lot of places, and it became a goal of mine to visit every state in the Union. (Thirty of fifty, so far.) A while back, I got the idea - how, I'm not sure - to visit every county in the Union.

Fifty states may sound impressive, but there are 3,141 counties in the United States.

Never let it be said I didn't think big.

It turns out I'm not the only one with this goal. There are plenty of websites and blogs detailing the travels of county collectors and county counters. There's even an organization called The Extra Miler Club dedicated to the pursuit. Their motto: "The shortest distance between two points is no fun!" As a dedicated wanderer, that's a motto I can get my head around - and my car behind.

So, with a lot of help from my father in remembering the routes of old trips and a lot of research on exactly where certain roads (and railroads) go, I started assembling maps showing which of those 3,141 counties and county-equivalents (such as Virginia's independent cities) I'd visited. There are some gaps and uncertainties in our collective memories that mean my official total is certainly a few counties shy of the actual total, but I'd rather repeat a county than claim one I haven't visited. After all, isn't the point of this exercise to travel and see new things? And there are always new things.

Marty O'Brien maintains a wonderful site where you can make your own maps, including a county map of the entire country, and tally up your travels, as well as view those of others through a variety of summary tables and maps. You can follow my travels here. After my most recent addition - Harris County, Texas - I'm up to 597. That leaves me with just 2,544 to go.

Hey, everyone needs a hobby.


Blogger J. Stephen Conn said...

Hi Theodore,

My "Google Alert" for "Collecting Counties" popped you blog up in my email this morning. Glad to see there's one more of us on the quest to visit every county in the United States. Happy collecting!

7:07 AM  
Anonymous Margaret said...

How'd you get to Charleston without going through any surrounding counties? Boat, I presume?

3:42 PM  
Anonymous Margaret said...

Ooh, and I think you can add another - Fluvanna County, VA - 64 goes through it (albeit very briefly). I know b/c I got lucky and got a ticket in that section of the highway and had to go to the Fluvanna county seat in the middle of nowhere. :)

3:48 PM  

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