Thursday, April 18, 2013

State-to-State Borders

In my ongoing effort to quantify how well-traveled I am, here's a new one. Sure, I've been to all 50 states, but how many unique state-to-state borders have I crossed?

By that, here's what I mean. New York shares a border with five other states: Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. (Plus Ontario and Québec, but we'll get to those later.) Of those five unique state borders, how many have I crossed directly? Turns out the answer is four: I have crossed the New York-Vermont border (via NY-7/VT-9, and US-4), the New York-Connecticut border (via I-84, I-95, and the Merritt Pkwy), the New York-New Jersey border (via the George Washington Bridge, and two others), and the New York-Pennsylvania border (via lots of roads). However, I have never crossed the New York-Massachusetts border.

Ignoring DC, and not counting the four corners - unless you're an infinitely small point, it's impossible to go straight from Arizona to Colorado without passing through Utah or New Mexico along the way - there are 105 unique state-to-state borders in the Lower 48. (Plus 18 unique state-to-Canadian-province borders, but again, we'll get to those later.) Of those 105 state-to-state borders, I have crossed....80. Woo!

Of those 105, 48 are east of the Mississippi River (not including the Mississippi River itself), and I've crossed all but two of those 48; those being the previously mentioned New York-Massachusetts border, and also the Virginia-Kentucky border. I'd say that's pretty good, especially considering all the hard-to-get-to borders, such as North Carolina-Georgia. I've only crossed the NC-GA border twice in my entire life, and not once since 2007, even though I live in North Carolina. There are also some others in which I only got for the first time very recently, such as Vermont-Massachusetts (last October) and Michigan-Indiana (last December). This exercise is actually harder than you think.

And in fact, that becomes more clear when I head out west. Even though I've been to every state, I've only crossed 60% (34/57) of the state-to-state borders along and west of the Mississippi River. Many of the borders I've never crossed out west are east-west oriented, which are harder for someone traveling in an east-west direction (as I normally do when traveling out west) to cross - North Dakota-South Dakota, Oklahoma-Kansas, New Mexico-Colorado, and so on. On top of that, there are also a few really-hard-to-get-to borders out west, such as Montana-South Dakota, Oklahoma-New Mexico, and Idaho-Nevada. Seriously, Idaho-Nevada might be the toughest one to get to. Or maybe Oregon-Nevada. There is nothing there.

Actually, now that I think about it, the toughest state-to-state border to cross might be Missouri-Kentucky. Why? Because there are no roads there! It is actually impossible to drive directly from Missouri into Kentucky. There's a bridge over the Mississippi River at Cairo, IL, just north of where the Missouri-Kentucky border ends; heading south from Cairo, you don't encounter another Mississippi River bridge until Interstate 155, which crosses the Missouri-Tennessee border. (That also happens to be the only bridge connecting Missouri and Tennessee.) There is a ferry near Hickman, KY, though, and that appears to be the only way to cross the Missouri-Kentucky border. Unless you like swimming, of course.


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As for which state-to-state border I've crossed the most in my life: given that I lived fairly close to this border for 22 years, it has to be Florida-Georgia. Has to be.

So, I'm not sure if I'll cross all 105 borders in my lifetime. Probably not. In fact, this isn't something I've ever even thought about until now. Nevertheless, it would be fun to take the ferry between Missouri and Kentucky, just because.

Oh, right, I was also going to talk about Canada! There are 18 unique US-state-to-Canadian-province borders (Idaho-B.C., Montana-B.C., Montana-Alberta...), of which I've crossed 8. (I would say that the B.C.-Alaska border is hard to get to, but I've done it!) There are also 16 unique province-to-province borders within Canada, of which I've crossed 8...but if you ignore Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Labrador, I've crossed every province-to-province border in Canada except one: Québec-New Brunswick.

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