Monday, March 13, 2017

FORT WAYNE, INDIANA!

In anticipation of the 2017 Oscars telecast, we decided to take a quick trip to Fort Wayne, Indiana in order to watch a movie. Everybody does this, right? We realized that we had seen every film that had been nominated for the major categories (Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress) – with the exception of one. And that movie was “Elle.” Being a foreign release it didn’t get nearly the same theater exposure as some of the other films. It was actually playing in a couple of theaters in the Chicago area. But… we had already completed the state of Illinois (county-wise). But there were two counties in northeast Indiana that we had inexplicably missed. And those counties were 25 miles south of Fort Wayne. So it was perfect. No county left behind!


We braved a slight snowstorm and headed out on Saturday morning. We drove straight through to Fort Wayne and the Carmike 20 Theaters. The film started at 4:40. We arrived with about 15 minutes to spare. As blind luck would have it, our hotel (the Comfort Suites North) was a block away.


The movie ended around 7:00. Afterward we decided to go to dinner at Coney Island – the most popular restaurant in the city. It’s over 100 years old and serves hot dogs. And the line was out the door. So we decided to move on straight for the two counties we needed to hit.

We headed south of the city on HWY 1. About 20 miles later we entered Jay County. A few miles later we headed west on HWY 18 and entered Blackford County. Our goals for the weekend had been met! From there we turned back around and went straight to Red Robin for a late dinner.


The following morning we got up and headed straight to Coney Island. We were determined to try it. And even though we showed up 90 minutes after they opened (9:00 on Sunday morning) the place was already busy. And for the record, the hot dogs are quite tasty.





Upon leaving we headed straight home. It was a crazy weekend for only two bonus counties. But that’s what we do! So what’s next? Well we have a four-day weekend planned in Nashville over a long Easter weekend. So stay tuned!

                                                NEW COUNTIES - 2
                                                TOTAL COUNTIES FOR 2017 - 38
                                                ALL TIME COUNTY TOTAL - 1559

Thursday, January 19, 2017

CENTRAL TEXAS!

For our first trip of 2017 we decided to take a trip to Texas. We flew into Dallas on a Saturday afternoon. Upon arrival we immediately headed south. Our destination for the night was Austin. We went south on I-35 before getting off near the city of Milford. We continued another five miles and entered Hill County near the city of Mertens. In town we headed east on Highway 22, went about one mile, then crossed into Navarro County. From there we turned around and went back.

We then headed towards Waco. As we traveled down Highway 31 we got off to try and pick up Limestone County. According to Google Maps there was a parallel road that ran by Highway 31. And there was. But it was a dirt road through a field. And unfortunately it ended before we reached the county line. Google Maps had failed us. We doubled back and found an alternate route – through another field and a very rickety wood bridge. But we crossed over. No county left behind!


After leaving Limestone County we got back on the highway. And it was a straight shot to our hotel, the Homewood Suites by Hilton in Austin. Along the way we picked up McLennan, Falls, Bell, Williamson and Travis Counties.

On Sunday we had a full day planned. We started it by heading west. Our destination was the Lyndon Baines Johnson Ranch. We drove through Hays, Blanco and Gillespie Counties before arriving at the home of our 36th President. We took the tour of house and encountered the free roaming cattle. The house tour is fascinating and well worth the $3.00 admission.











Once we left the ranch we headed to San Antonio. Heading south on Highway 87 we entered Kendall County. The road briefly crossed into Kerr County as well. As we approached San Antonio we took a detour on the north side near an area called Fair Oaks. In a wealthy residential neighborhood (filled with dozens of non-spooked deer) we crossed into Comal County. Our next stop was the Alamo. So we entered Bexar County – a county that we had been to four years earlier.





After leaving the Alamo we took the boat ride and had a late lunch on the River Walk. With full bellies from our Mexican meal, we headed south. Our destination for the night was Corpus Christie. We took I-37 all the way down. We picked up Atascosa, Live Oak and San Patricio Counties. We made a brief stop in the city of Mathis so we could drive an extra five miles and pick up the bonus county of Jim Wells. Our last new county of the night was Nueces County – where our Corpus Christie hotel (the Embassy Suites by Hilton) was located. We spent the night at the Embassy Suites by Hilton.

On Monday we headed to Padre Island National Seashore – and Kleberg County. We took a stroll down to the beach and ended up stumbling upon a bunch of sea turtles that were being put back to sea after being rescued. Before we left we had to do the obligatory drive on the beach as well.






After leaving Padre Island we started our long drive back north to Dallas. We crossed Corpus Christi Bay and after crossing into San Patricio County once again, we continued north into Aransas and Refugio County. We stopped at the Burger King in Refugio to pick up some lunch for the road. Incidentally the restaurant has a trough for a urinal. From there we ventured onto Highway 202 to briefly enter Bee County before Turning north and heading into Goliad County. Just prior to going through the city of Goliad, we pulled over to see the Presidio La Bahia – location of the Goliad Massacre during the Texas Revolution.







Our next stop was outside the city of Bastrop. We sought out the location where one of the opening scenes from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was filmed. To get there we drove through Dewitt, Karnes, Wilson, Gonzales, Guadalupe, Caldwell and Bastrop Counties. We’d heard there was a barbecue place there – just like in the movie. But it wasn’t open. And it didn’t appear to have been open for awhile. But it was very cool – complete with green van and all.









For our final stretch back to Dallas we criss-crossed through Central Texas picking up Lee, Burleson, Milam, Robertson and Freestone Counties. We stopped in Corsicana to eat dinner at Chili’s. From there we headed straight to our hotel – the Embassy Suites by Hilton Dallas Love Field.


When it was all said and done we’d picked up 36 new counties. What’s next? Well that remains to be seen. We are tentatively planning a long summer road trip – possibly through the northwest U.S. But that’s not yet set in stone. I’m sure we’ll have a few weekend road trips before then too. But the locations are not yet known. So stay tuned!

                                                NEW COUNTIES - 36
                                                TOTAL COUNTIES FOR 2017 - 36
                                                ALL TIME COUNTY TOTAL - 1557

Friday, November 25, 2016

NEW ENGLAND!

For our (presumably) last travel trip of the year, we decided to finish up most of New England. With that in mind we flew into Manchester, NH on a Saturday morning. After renting a Chevy Malibu we immediately headed west into Maine. Before hitting our first new county we took a few side trips along the coast. Our first stop was in York. We visited a park on the coast called Hartley Mason Reservation, where we found some unusual metal figures that were attached to a big rock. What does it all mean? I don’t know. But it was cool.






We then headed north, getting off the interstate once again, this time near Portland. We went right to the coast again, this time to stop and see the famous Portland Head Light in Fort Williams Park. This is probably the most-photographed location in all of Maine.



Once we’d left the famous lighthouse, we set off in search of new counties. North of Portland we got off I-295 and drove a few miles northwest to cross into Androscoggin County – our fist new county of the trip. We were only in it for a couple of miles before we headed west on HWY 1 – which we stayed on for quite awhile. We followed it for a few hours, crossing into Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Knox, Waldo and Hancock Counties along the way.


After finally getting off HWY 1, we headed north into Bangor, and Penobscot County. While there we had to stop and take a picture of Stephen King’s house. It was after dark – which made the pictures of his home look all the more spooky.




Under the cover of night we continued north on I-95 again. We got off at HWY 6 and went west for about 30 miles in the middle of nowhere. As we crossed into Washington County, there was not a sound to be heard anywhere. Are those bullet holes in the county sign? From there we backtracked about five miles and went north to the city of Macwahoc, crossing into Aroostook County along the way.


Having reached our northernmost point of the day, we headed back south towards our hotel, the Hampton Inn Waterville. But of course we didn’t take a direct route. We got off the interstate onto HWY 155 so we could go through the city of Lagrange. A few miles later we very briefly crossed into Piscataquis County. From that point on it was a straight shot to our hotel. And we picked up Somerset and Kennebec Counties on the way. We arrived around 11:00 at night. We’d been up since 3:30 in the morning to catch our flight. So needless to say we were exhausted!


On Sunday morning were out the door shortly after 9:00. Our first destination was the city of New Sharon. A few miles before arriving we crossed into Franklin County – our last county in Maine. We then went west, staying on HWY 2 for the next couple of hours. A little while later we crossed into New Hampshire and picked up Coos County – which was also our last county in the state. We then continued west and soon after crossed into Vermont, and Essex County.




We continued west and found ourselves in the small city of Hardwick. From there we had to branch out in two directions. First we went north about five miles and entered Orleans County. Then we turned around, went back, then went west for about two miles and entered Lamoille County.



Our next county proved to be a little more difficult. Our unseasonably warm November weekend suddenly went cold. Where as it was 60 degrees the day before, the temperature dropped to 30. And the snow began to drop as well. As it began to accumulate, the roads became a little more treacherous. They eventually got so bad that as we tried to climb a steep back county hill, we began to slide backwards. We had no other alternative but to find another way around. We did it, fighting snow all the way. And eventually we landed just outside the town of Hancock – and Addison County. We immediately turned around and head south – eager to escape the snow, knowing that it was much clearer in that direction.



Before we could escape the snow completely however, we had one final stop to make. In the tiny community of Plymouth Notch lies the graveyard where President Calvin Coolidge rests. In order to get there we had to cross into Rutland County – our final county in Vermont. By this time it was a full-blown blizzard. And locating the grave under the cover of night seemed like a tall task However as luck would have it, we spotted the grave right away. We took our pictures quickly and got out of there.


Our hotel was in Connecticut. So we still had to drive through Massachusetts to reach it. As we headed south and got onto I-91, the snow stopped completely. And we had clear roads all the way. Crossing over Massachusetts we drove through both Franklin and Hampshire Counties. Once we got into Connecticut we entered Hartford County. We stopped for dinner at the Buffalo Wild Wings in Windsor, which was about a block away from our hotel – the Hartford/Windsor Marriott Airport.


The next morning we got in our car and headed east on I-84, picking up Tolland County – our last county in Connecticut. We continued east into Rhode Island and Massachusetts, where we got off the interstate to go south into the Rhode Island city of Bristol – and Bristol County. We passed through it quickly, crossed the bridge and found ourselves in Portsmouth, which is in Newport County – our last county in Rhode Island, as well as our last new county of the trip.






With our county collecting finished we had one final task before heading back to the airport. We drove to the city of Quincy and stopped at the United First Parish Church. Even though the touring season was done for the year, we had called ahead. And we were given a private tour of the church – which included the crypt of both President John Adams and his son, President John Quincy Adams. We also got to sit in the Adams family church pew. Once we left we traveled a few blocks to the east and paid a visit to the very first Dunkin’ Donuts restaurant. And yes, we bought a few. We ate them on the way back to the airport in Manchester.












All in all we visited 25 new counties, finishing five states in the process. So what’s next? We have nothing planned for the rest of 2016. So we’re probably done for the year. But we do have a trip to Texas planned for January. So stay tuned!

                                                NEW COUNTIES - 25
                                                TOTAL COUNTIES FOR 2016 - 256
                                                ALL TIME COUNTY TOTAL - 1521