Thursday, July 5, 2018

FINISHING FLORIDA!


For our summer trip with the kids, we decided to go to Florida. While we were there, we planned to complete Florida by visiting the final 21 counties we needed – as well as a couple of counties in Georgia.

We flew into Fort Myers late Saturday night, picked up our Nissan Pathfinder at the airport, and immediately headed to our hotel for the night – the Homewood Suites by Hilton Fort Myers Airport. The following morning we drove the five hours to Key West. The day was overcast. So the daily sunset celebration at Mallory Square didn’t happen. But we still had a good time. After a 190 Octane drink from Fat Tuesday’s, and dinner at Denny’s, we drove up to Marathon and spent the night at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites.




On Monday we headed north to pick up our first new counties of the trip. We went northwest and went around the west side of Lake Okeechobee – which is virtually impossible to see from any roads that go around it. But we did manage to take a side road to get a good look at it. We then went north on HWY 721 and entered Highlands County. Once we reached HWY 70 we headed east and entered Okeechobee County. We continued east, entering St. Lucie County, and got onto I-95 North. From there it was a straight shot up the coast, entering Brevard County (where we’d been before) as well as two new counties – Indian River and Volusia. We arrived to our hotel (the Hyatt Place Daytona Beach) in Daytona Beach Shores. Our hotel was right on the beach, and was absolutely gorgeous. That night we even went “crabbing” on the beach.










On Tuesday we set out for Orlando. A straight shot would have taken us just over an hour. But we are county collectors! So naturally, we headed north on I-95 towards Jacksonville. We picked up Flagler and St. Johns Counties before getting off the highway to take a side trip to the Castillo de San Marcos fort in St. Augustine.





Once we left the fort, we got back on I-95 and continued north. We entered Duval County and went around Jacksonville. We then entered Nassau County. Shortly thereafter we got off the highway and headed northwest on HWY 17. A few miles later we crossed the Georgia state border and picked up Camden County. We then turned around and headed back.






Although we reentered Nassau County, our next new county was also in Georgia. We headed southwest and eventually crossed into Georgia again, near the city of St. George, picking up Charlton County. From there we headed south and entered Duval County again. Once we hit HWY 90, we turned right, went a couple of miles, and entered Baker County. We then doubled back and took HWY 301 south near the city of Baldwin. We stayed on it for quite awhile, picking up Clay and Bradford Counties. Once we got to the city of Hawthorne, we got off, headed east a couple of miles, and picked up Putnam County.



From there we headed south again, hit a couple of counties we’d picked up on a previous trip, and got onto I-75. Near the city of Bushnell we got off the interstate to pick up Citrus County. It was an eight-mile turnaround out of our way. But… no county left behind! We even saw a chicken sitting on a pick-up truck. We then hooked up with HWY 301 again and picked up Hernando and Pasco Counties.




At this point we headed directly to our hotel (The Hilton Garden Inn Orlando at Sea World). Along the way we entered Polk County as well, our last new county of the day. The kids were less than thrilled that what could have been about an hour of driving turned into seven hours.


On Wednesday we spent the day at Sea World riding rollercoasters and watching the dolphin and whale shows. When we left that evening, we headed straight for our hotel in Tampa – the Home2 Suites by Hilton Tampa USF Near Busch Gardens. While traveling via I-4 we entered Hillsborough County.







On Thursday we spent the day at Busch Gardens. We rode several rollercoasters. But the highlight was the Falcon’s Fury inverted giant drop. It was such a rush we did it several times. When we went to the parking lot at the end of the day, we found a Barbie car!






Once we left the park we needed to get to our hotel in Fort Myers for an early flight back home the next day. Our hotel (the Hyatt Place Fort Myers) would have been about a 2:20 minute ride. But we added 30 minutes to it because we still had a few more counties to collect! We got onto I-275 and took the bridge over Tampa Bay. Halfway across we entered Pinellas County. We drove through St. Petersburg staying on the interstate and drove over the Bay again to the south. Halfway across we then entered Manatee County. From here we had one more county to go! Shortly after we were off the bridge, we got off the interstate onto HWY 64 and headed east for about 30 miles. Near the end of that 30 mile trek we pulled over to take a picture of the Hardee County sign. After we entered it, Florida was complete! From there we drove the final hour to our hotel, arriving after midnight. It was almost 1:00 when we actually got to bed. A few hours later (3:45) we got up to get to the airport for our 6:10 flight.


When it was all done, we had picked up 23 new counties in both Florida and Georgia. Florida became our 13th completed state. (14 if you include Washington D.C.) So what’s next? We have a tentative plan to drive to Montana in August. And there may be a California trip in November. Stay tuned!


                                                NEW COUNTIES - 23
                                                TOTAL COUNTIES FOR 2017 - 67
                                                ALL TIME COUNTY TOTAL - 1784

Thursday, April 26, 2018

PENNSYLVANIA!


For our first county collecting trip of the year we chose to spend time in a state we’d hardly touched – Pennsylvania. We made up for lost time!



We took advantage of some cheap flights from Southwest and flew into Cleveland. We headed south out of Cleveland and around Akron on HWY 21 until we found our way into Stark County – our first new county of the trip. In the spirit of “no county left behind” we then headed further south towards the city of Wilmot. About a mile west of it we crossed into Holmes County. From there we turned around and headed back north towards Canton. We had originally planned to visit the grave of President William McKinley. But since our flight arrived in the late afternoon, the tomb was going to be closed by the time we’d get there. So we saved that for a couple of days later. Instead we continued east into the city of Minerva and weaved our way through the city streets until we crossed into Carroll County. A few minutes later as we continued east we found ourselves in Columbiana County.







We eventually found ourselves on HWY 30 crossing the Ohio River into West Virginia. As we touched down on the other side, we were officially in Hancock County – although the county sign was actually on the Ohio side. We continued on HWY 30 for a few miles until we crossed into Pennsylvania and Beaver County.






We continued south, eventually turning back into West Virginia. Once we got south of Weirton we crossed into Brooke County and got onto HWY 22 heading east back into Pennsylvania. Once we crossed the state line we were in Washington County – a county we’d previously visited. But less than 10 miles later we got into the Pittsburgh area and Allegheny County. From there we headed north on I-79 and into Butler County – our resting stop for the night. We checked into the Pittsburgh Marriott North in Cranberry Township and went to bed. A long drive was planned for the following day.




The next morning we were up early and out the door around 7:15. Our general direction for the day was to head east. However we had one stop to make before we could get going. We went north a few miles until we reached Evans City. Our destination was the Evans City Cemetery – sight of the opening scenes for the 1968 horror film “Night Of The Living Dead.” This was probably the highlight of the trip for me!







Once we were done in Evans City we got on I-76 and headed south back into Allegheny County. We made a brief stop in Monroeville in order to get some breakfast al McDonald’s. We also couldn’t resist driving a few blocks further to see the Monroeville Mall – sight of 1978’s Dawn Of The Dead (the sequel to the previously mentioned film). The mall was not yet open for the day. So we could only take shots of the outside of it. But it was still pretty cool!






Once we left the mall we got back on I-76. A minute or two later we crossed into Westmoreland County. We stayed on I-76 for quite awhile, picking up Bedford, Fulton, Huntingdon and Franklin Counties. We also passed through Somerset County – a county we’d been to before. Once we got off the interstate we headed mostly south towards Shippensburg, where we filled up with some much needed gas. We picked up Cumberland County along the way as well. Our next destination was Gettysburg. But before heading that way we drove west of Shippensburg in order to visit Tiny World – a small “city” which was originally built for cats. The cats have long since gone. But the tiny buildings remain.







From Tiny World we got onto HWY 30 and headed into Adams County and the city of Gettysburg. We stopped at the field location where the battle started, as well as the Cemetery where Abraham Lincoln made his famous “Gettysburg Address.”








Gettysburg is only about five miles from the Maryland border. It was a county we needed. So naturally we dipped into Carroll County, then turned right around and came back.




Our next destination was the Woodward Hill Cemetery in Lancaster.  We got onto HWY 30 heading northeast and picked up York and Lancaster Counties on the way. The cemetery is the final resting place of President James Buchanan.






Philadelphia is home to many Amish families. And we saw several of their house and buggies over our trip whenever we were off the interstate. After spotting one (and snapping a picture) we got back on I-76 and headed in the general direction of Philadelphia. Since we’d already been to Philadelphia County, we were thankfully able to avoid the back-up traffic all around. We picked up Berks, Chester and Montgomery counties with ease. For Delaware County we had to get off the freeway and worm our way through a pretty nice residential neighborhood. There were no county signs anywhere. But we were there!





After Delaware County we headed north on HWY 611. We eventually got into Bucks County and the city of Riegelsville. In Riegelsville we crossed a bridge over the Delaware River and into the state of New Jersey. The county was Warren. A few blocks south of it was Hunterdon County. We got them both in about two minutes, then crossed the bridge back into Pennsylvania.






As we headed north out of Riegelsville, one mile later we got into Northampton County. We then got onto I-78 and headed back west. We picked up Lehigh and Berks Counties before we stopped at the city of Hamburg to fill up the gas tank and get a soda at the Wawa gas station. Why did we choose this location to stop? Because about a mile north of the Wawa is the Schuylkill River. Once we crossed over that river we were in Schuylkill County. We then turned around and headed back to the interstate.





I-78 joined I-81. And we picked up Lebanon and Dauphin Counties along the way. As we neared the capital city of Harrisburg, we got off and headed north, hugging the Susquehanna River as we went. Near Duncannon we crossed the river and soon found ourselves in Perry County. We continued north on HWY 15 and HWY 104, picking up Juniata and Snyder Counties within a few minutes of each other.




The sun was setting by this time as we headed to the city of Middleburg – which could have been named “The Middle of nowhere Burg.” We then headed southwest on HWY 522 Into Mifflin County. About 10 miles later we headed north on HWY 322 and picked up Centre County – our last new county of the day. From there we drove into State College, passed Penn State University and finally settled into our hotel – the Quality Inn. We’d spent over 12 hours driving for the day. So the rest was well-earned!



On our last day we got up, had our free breakfast at the hotel, and hit the road again. We got onto I-99 south and crossed into Blair County. Once we got a few miles south of Altoona we got off the interstate and headed west on HWY 422. Five miles later we crossed into Cambria County. We stayed on HWY 422 for quite awhile, picking up Indiana, Armstrong and Butler Counties. About 10 miles past Butler we hooked up with I-79 north and passed through Lawrence and Mercer Counties. It was in Mercer County where we got onto I-80 to head west into Ohio.






Once we were in Ohio, we picked up both Trumbull and Mahoning Counties, our last two new counties of the trip. However we weren’t quite finished yet. Since we were unable to visit President William McKinley’s grave two days earlier, we headed back down to Canton. We passed the NFL Hall of Fame (which will be saved for a later trip) and found our way to McKinley’s Tomb. You can’t miss it!









Once we left the Tomb, we went north, stopped at Red Lobster for lunch, then finished up the drive back to the Cleveland Airport for the flight home. We ended up putting about 1200 miles on our rented Chevy Cruze. When it was all said and done, we had visited 44 new counties. So what’s next? We have a family trip to Florida planned for June. Stay tuned!


                                                NEW COUNTIES - 44
                                                TOTAL COUNTIES FOR 2017 - 44
                                                ALL TIME COUNTY TOTAL - 1761