Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Counties Visited By Year

For many years now, I've been keeping track of all the counties in the United States (and Canada!) that I've visited. Did you know that? I might have mentioned it once or twice before.

So, about that county map: I've seen how some other people do it, and kind of wished that I had started tracking it by year as well, so that I could more easily see the progress I've made in my county quests over the years. Now, I have a pretty good memory with this sort of thing, and just about every road trip I've done over the last six years is documented here. But that only takes me back to 2006, and prior to that I only remember when major road trips took place (Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, etc), not minor ones. For example, there's no way for me to know when I first visited Palatka, Florida (Putnam County). And while I know I've been to the Piggly Wiggly in Donalsonville, Georgia (Seminole County), and that I made that trip while living in Tallahassee, I don't remember what year that was. Junior year? Senior year? Who knows?

So, basically, I'm much too far along to try to backtrack and piece together all my county visits by year at this point. Right? Right?

Yeah, well, I gave it a shot anyway.

Rather than do it by calendar year, I decided to do it by age, with the annual cutoff coming on my birthday. That's how I'm going to do Marla's map, so I'm doing mine that way as well. (Note: "Year 30" means "30th year of life", and therefore, "Age 29".)

Putting this map together was kind of fun. Most of it was easy. Major cross-country road trips? No problem; I remember those. (The Grand Canyon trip in "Year 12"/Summer 1993, and the Yellowstone trip in "Year 13"/Summer 1994, were the big ones.) Anything from 2006 forward? No problem; that's all in the blog archives. Everything else? Well...this is where all those shades of gray come in. When in doubt, color it gray.

If I know my first visit to that county was before or after my 11th birthday, or sometime during college, then I gave it a more specific color of gray (or in the case of the college years, "garnet") to denote that. But for those counties where I can't definitively categorize when my first visit was, we have the "Unknown (??)" category and its light gray color. 291 counties are classified as some variety of "Unknown", which isn't too bad; far more counties are "known" than "unknown". Although even the "knowns" may not be correct, either, if there was a road trip somewhere in there that I forgot about.

See why I started tracking Marla's visits on Day 1? We know Marla's map is 100% accurate. I've put a lot of effort into mine, but there are still mistakes. For example, I recently discovered that I never gave myself credit for Mariposa County, California, home of Yosemite National Park. Ding! And while I was at it, I went back and gave myself neighboring Madera County as well, which we almost have to have passed through en route from Yosemite to Sequoia/Kings Canyon. Ding!

(Note: Sometimes I really do say "Ding!" upon entering a new county for the first time. Ask Amber.)

Speaking of mistakes...let's look at the Virginia map for a second. (Virginia might have been the hardest state to reconstruct, by the way.) Look at Page County (medium gray, northern part of the state). Then, look at the counties that surround Page County. How is it that Page County is "Year 12-18", yet all of the counties that border it are either "Year 21", or not visited at all? How could I have visited Page County before visiting any of those other counties?

I guess flying would have done it, but we did not fly to Luray Caverns. The Luray Caverns / Shenandoah trip (which took place somewhere in that "Year 12-18" range) is one vacation where I'm really iffy on the details. Luray Caverns (which is in Page County) is the only specific place I remember going; sure, we went to Shenandoah National Park as well, but exactly where, I don't know. And what roads did we take there and back? I don't know that, either. Because of that, I never officially gave myself credit for the I-81 counties in Virginia until "Year 21", when I drove from Tallahassee to Vermont. And Shenandoah's Skyline Drive would have also given me Greene, Madison, and Rappahannock counties, but I don't know which sections of Skyline Drive we drove, so I can't give myself credit for any of them.

Sure, there are errors to be found, but I think I did a pretty good job overall. And besides, if there's a mistake or two in there, does it really matter? This is just for fun.

Speaking of fun...according to this, how has my county count gone up over the years?

18th birthday: 643 (20.5%)
22nd birthday: 734 (23.3%)
23rd birthday: 787 (25.0%)
24th birthday: 810 (25.8%)
25th birthday: 899 (28.6%)
26th birthday: 1,009 (32.1%)
27th birthday: 1,089 (34.7%)
28th birthday: 1,266 (40.3%)
29th birthday: 1,389 (44.2%)
30th birthday: 1,428 (45.4% - this is assuming I don't accidentally stumble into any new counties between now and Sunday. You never know, right?)

It's going to be hard to keep up the pace I've set over the last few years. The only way to get big chunks of counties at once is to do something crazy like drive US-50 from end-to-end, or drive all the way to Alaska, And, no, we're probably not going to do anything like that with Marla. (Yet.)

Before completely recoloring my map, I had been using mob-rule.com's color coding to track my Honda Civic's county visits in addition to my own. I'm still tracking my Civic's visits, but now I'll be doing it on an offline basis. (I've been maintaining offline copies of my county maps this whole time anyway, just in case - God forbid - mob-rule.com goes offline tomorrow and never comes back. Back up your data, folks!)

Year 31 starts on Sunday. How many new counties will I visit this year? How long will it take me to even get one? Well, I suppose we could go to Skyline Drive...

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