Thursday, September 28, 2023


On the Saturday morning of Labor Day Weekend, we decided to take a road trip to Niagara Falls. Naturally, we headed to West Virginia to get there. Since we’ve finished the states that surround Wisconsin, we had a long way to drive before we reached our first new county. We stopped in Greenfield, Indiana (just outside of Indianapolis), to have breakfast at Bob Evans. From there, we headed straight for Columbus, Ohio, and then went southeast on HWY 33 out of the city. After driving around Lancaster, we entered Hocking County near the city of Rockbridge – our first new county of the trip. We continued southeast and entered Athens County near Nelsonville. We then headed east, worming our way through some country roads. Near the city of Trimble, we continued east on HWY 329 and entered Morgan County. We then headed south for quite a while. At the city of Hockingport, we followed the Ohio River for several miles. Just south of the city, we crossed into Meigs County.

At this point, we needed to get on the other side of the river to get into West Virginia, but the nearest bridge was 20 miles to the south. Eventually, we crossed and got into West Virginia, entering Jackson County in the process. We then got onto I-77 and headed north into Wood County. A few miles later, we got off the highway at Rockport, headed south on HWY 21 for two miles, and crossed into Wirt County. From there, we turned around, got back on the interstate, and went straight to our hotel, the Hampton Inn Parkersburg-Mineral Wells. For dinner, we had a fabulous Mexican meal at Las Trancas Mexican Cantina. The burritos are huge and tasty. I highly recommend it!

On Sunday, we started the day by doing sort of a triangle to pick up a few more West Virginia counties. The hills and mountains of the state can make it difficult to get from point A to point B, so you often need to travel farther than you would think to get to a nearby county line. We got onto HWY 50 and headed east out of Parkersburg. Staying on HWY 50, we drove through Ritchie, Doddridge, and Harrison Counties. At the border for Harrison County, our GPS diverted us from the original route we’d planned. The new route had a lot fewer windy roads, so we turned around and followed it. Our destination was the city of New Martinsville. We headed northwest and eventually entered Tyler County. Continuing on, we eventually crossed into Wetzel County – our 2,500th county! From there, we entered New Martinsville, crossed the Ohio River to briefly enter the state of Ohio and Monroe County, and then headed back into West Virginia. We hugged the Ohio River (on the West Virginia side) for about 30 miles, picking up Pleasants County – our last new county in West Virginia for the trip. We stopped in St. Mary’s for a quick bite at Taco Bell before crossing the bridge into Ohio again, picking up Washington County. From here, we hopped onto I-77 again and headed north into Noble County – thus finishing Ohio, our 28th state completion.

With our county collecting done for the day, we stopped in Canton to see the Pro Football Hall of Fame. We were quite surprised to discover that not only are the busts on display, but you can actually touch them. I couldn’t resist placing my Packers cap on Reggie White’s head. Once we left, we headed to our hotel, the Hyatt Place Canton. For dinner, we decided on some endless shrimp at Red Lobster – the same Red Lobster we stopped at during an earlier trip to Canton in 2018.

On Monday, we set out for the highlight of our trip – Niagara Falls. But first we drove north into Cuyahoga National Park – an oddly placed national park in the middle of civilization. There are actually homes and people who live there. You’d never realize you were in a national park if you hadn’t seen the signs proving it. After a quick hike to Brandywine Falls, we drove to Cleveland because we wanted to tour the gigantic memorial of President James A. Garfield. The memorial was closed when we attempted to visit in the winter of 2014. Unfortunately, we struck out again – the memorial is currently closed for restoration. Perhaps we’ll try again in 2032.

Leaving Cleveland, we got onto I-90, but we had two new counties to hit along the way. As we neared the Pennsylvania border, we got off the interstate near Kingsville. We wound through some country roads, entering Crawford County on a gravel road. We then got back onto I-90, stopped to pick up some McDonald’s in North East, then entered New York State. We got off the interstate near Silver Creek, headed a few miles east, and entered Cattaraugus County, our last new county of the trip.

With the county collecting aspect of the trip behind us, we headed straight for Niagara Falls. We’d been to the Falls before, but we had never taken the Maid of the Mist boat tour. So, we remedied that. The tour itself is only about 20 minutes long, but it’s a fantastic 20 minutes. In addition to the Falls, it gave us some great views of rainbows – and double rainbows.

Next, we crossed into Canada via the Rainbow Bridge and drove straight to our hotel – the Walper Hotel in Kitchener. Although we didn’t visit Toronto, we could see it in the distance. We had dinner at the hotel restaurant, TWH Social.

On Tuesday, we drove back home. We decided to go through Upper Michigan. The route was about two hours longer on paper, but we probably saved more time than that by not fighting the Chicago traffic. Along the way, we stopped for lunch at Dairy Queen in Imlay City, Michigan, and dinner at Hardee’s in Escanaba, Michigan.

When it was all said and done, we had picked up 18 new counties (including the milestone 2500th) and completed our 28th state. So what's next? Well, we had a trip scheduled for Louisiana and Arkansas in November, However, while I was writing this blog entry, Southwest Airlines had a huge sale (50% off) on airfare. So we cancelled Louisiana and instead decided to take a cheap trip to Hawaii, where we plan to enter one of the most elusive counties in the country. We then booked a trip to Georgia for December. As for the cancelled Louisiana trip, we rescheduled it for March. It was a great sale So stay tuned!

       NEW COUNTIES - 18
                        TOTAL COUNTIES FOR 2023 - 97
                        ALL TIME COUNTY TOTAL - 2506

Wednesday, June 7, 2023


Although we had taken a trip to Arizona and Utah earlier in the year, for our first county collecting trip of the year, we decided to hit an area where we still had a lot of ground to cover – Alabama and Mississippi. We weren’t able to find a lot of tourist sights to see. Unfortunately, there was just a lot of driving with few highlights outside of lunch and bathroom stops.

Our trip started with an early Wednesday morning flight from Milwaukee to Nashville. Upon arrival, we picked up our Nissan Altima and we were off! Having visited all the counties in the Nashville area, we didn’t hit a new county until Alabama. As we crossed into the state, we stopped for an early lunch at Bojangles in Athens. Then we spent time in the northwest corner, picking up Winston, Marion and Walker Counties. From there we traveled south, picking up Fayette, Lamar and Pickens Counties. We continued down HWY 14 and entered Greene County. We then went southwest on HWY 39, crossed the Tombigbee River, and entered the city of Gainesville. As we arrived, we entered Sumter County. From here we turned around and headed northeast to the city of Eutaw, where we hopped back onto HWY 14 and crossed into Hale County. At that point, we had a straight shot to our hotel. We passed through Tuscaloosa County on our way to Birmingham, where we checked into our hotel – the Hyatt Place Birmingham/Hoover. That evening we had a fabulous dinner at Firebirds – which apparently is a chain in the south. We’ll definitely be back!

On Thursday, our destination was Florida. We took a relatively direct route (for us) on our way. As we went south on HWY 5, we passed through Bibb, Perry and Dallas Counties. Near the city of Safford, we headed west on HWY 66 and picked up Marengo County. We then turned onto HWY 28, entering Wilcox County a few minutes later. We picked up some lunch at the Subway in Camden. From there, it was a direct route to our resort in Florida – with one exception. Just past the small city of Pine Apple, we turned south on HWY 47, and drove it ½ mile to the Monroe County border. A couple of hours later we arrived at our hotel, the Hyatt Place Panama Beach. We took advantage of the pool facing the Gulf of Mexico. And for dinner we walked down to Margaritaville for a fish dinner.

On Friday, our destination was Jackson, MS. We cut across the Florida Panhandle and Southern Alabama on I-10. We stopped at the Whataburger in Crestview, Florida along the way. At Mobile (which has an unusual freeway system) we headed northwest on HWY 98 until we crossed into Mississippi and George County. We then traveled due west across the state, picking up Stone and Pearl River counties as well. We then crossed into Louisiana and picked up Washington Parish. Leaving Louisiana just as quickly as we entered it, we then headed north toward are destination of Jackson, MS. We entered Mississippi and crossed into Marion County. Not paying attention, we missed our turnoff to pick up Walthall County. So we had to double back about five miles to get it. From there we continued north on HWY 13 until we entered Jefferson Davis County. As we neared the city of Prentiss, we went west on HWY 84 into Lawrence County. From there we went north on HWY 27, veering off to the east near the city of Rockport in order to reach Simpson County, our last new county of the day. At that point we went directly to our hotel, the Hyatt Place Jackson/Ridgeland. We were still pretty full from our lunch. So we simply ate a few snacks in the evening before bed.

We actually spent three nights in Jackson – something that is very unusual for us. But considering our county collecting plan for these areas, it seemed to make the most sense. After our Saturday morning breakfast, we headed southeast on HWY 49 until we entered Covington County. From there we snaked our way mostly east, picking up Forrest, Lamar, Jones, Perry, Greene, and Wayne Counties. Just past the town of State Line, we crossed back into Alabama, picking up Washington County. We continued east on Highways 56 and 43 until we reached the city of Jackson (in Clarke County) where we stopped at Hardees for lunch. On a side note, the staff at the Hardees was fantastic. The restrooms were super clean as well. For a great fast food experience, pay them a visit. After lunch, we headed northwest out of town on HWY 69. At Coffeeville, we went west on HWY 84, crossed the Tombigbee River once again, and entered Choctaw County, our final county in Alabama. State #26 was done!

At this point, it was time to head back to our Jackson, MS hotel. We crossed back into Mississippi and picked up Clarke and Jasper Counties. We then got onto I-20 in Lauderdale County, and continued west, driving through Newton and Scott Counties. Near the western area of Scott County, we got off the interstate to head south on HWY 13 for a few miles, until we reached the border for Smith County, which had a very rough-looking sign. From there we went straight back to our hotel. That evening we walked a block from our hotel and had dinner (Thai ribs and rotisserie chicken) at Zea’s Rotitsserie & Bar.

On Sunday morning, our plan was to pick up all the counties in central Mississippi and up the far east side of the state. We started by heading northeast on HWY 25 out of Jackson, picking up Leake, Neshoba and Winston Counties on the way. These three counties actually have a four-corner area with Atalla County. So we had to sneak off on a side road near that corner for Neshoba County. It was a rough dirt road. But we managed. We then weaved our way east, picking up both Kemper and Noxubee Counties. At the city of Shuqualak we went north on HWY 45 to pick up Lowndes, Oktibbeha, Clay, Monroe, Chickasaw, Lee and Prentiss Counties. Prentiss County was our northernmost county for the day. We then turned around to head back into Lee County, where we stopped for lunch at the Taco Bell in Tupelo. After lunch we headed a few miles south and stopped off to see the birthplace of Tupleo’s own Elvis Presley. We toured the grounds, which featured a museum, his birth home, as well as his church – which had been moved to its current location near his boyhood home. We didn't buy tickets to walk through the two-room house where he was born. But I opened the door and took a quick peek inside. There is so much Elvis around here, they even have him playing in the bathroom, above the urinals.

After leaving Tupleo, we started our trip back to our Jackson hotel. We went a little northwest to the city of Sherman, where we picked up Pontotoc and Union Counties. We then went west on HWY 278 until we hit Lafayette County. At that point we went south, eventually getting onto HWY 9, and picked up Calhoun and Webster Counties. Just south of the city of Europa, we crossed the Big Black River, and entered Choctaw County, our last new county of the day. From there it was a straight shot back to our hotel. For dinner we stopped at Bonefish Grill, a favorite of ours, thanks to the delectable bang bang shrimp!

On Monday, we checked out of our hotel and headed to our next hotel in Memphis. However we did not take a direct route. In fact, our day started with going in the exact opposite direction. Why? Because we wanted to finish Mississippi. And since our route that day was relatively short (by our standards) we decided to add a couple of hours to complete the task. So for that reason, we headed south on I-55. Once we reached HWY 84 we headed west, entering Franklin County. Near the city of Roxie we went south on HWY 33, picking up both Wilkinson and Amite Counties. At that point, we turned around, went back north to Roxie, then took HWY 98 west until we hit the Adams County line. We then went back to Roxie once again, and this time headed north on HWY 33. Maybe six miles later we crossed into Jefferson County. And a little over 20 miles after that, we crossed into Claiborne County, thus finishing up southeastern Mississippi.


We drove north on HWY 61, traveling through Vicksburg, then continuing on through Issaquena and Sharkey Counties. As we drove through the city of Rolling Fork, we saw firsthand the devastation of a powerful tornado that had roared through about a month earlier. At Anguilla we went east on HWY 14 until we crossed into Humphreys County. We stopped for lunch at the McDonald’s in Belzoni. We then continued north on HWY 7, entering Leflore County, our last new county of the day. From there we wormed our way over to I-55 north, and took a straight shot north to Memphis. Since we were so close to Arkansas, we hopped the state line into West Memphis, and toured a few of the infamous “West Memphis 3” murder sights. We then checked into our hotel, the Hyatt Place Memphis. Our hotel basically shared a parking lot with Joe’s Crab Shack. So we made that our dinner choice.


On Tuesday, our destination was Nashville. This was the last day of our trip. We had a very late flight. So we had time to collect some more counties on the way. We actually went south, back into Mississippi, and headed east on HWY 72. We entered Marshall County, Benton County and Tippah County. At the city of Walnut, we turned north on HWY 15 in order to drive the three miles to Hardeman County, Tennessee. We then went back to Walnut, continued east on HWY 72, and crossed into Alcorn County, our very last county in Mississippi. Our next route was north on HWY 45 (and HWY 45E) for quite awhile. It was basically a straight shot north, picking up McNairy, Chester, Madison, Gibson and Weakley Counties, our last five counties of the trip. We then went straight to Nashville, stopping for a nice dinner near the airport at Darfons Restaurant + Bar.


When it was all said and done, we had picked up 79 new counties, as well as finished Alabama and Mississippi. There wasn’t a ton of exciting things to see in the areas where we were. But we had fun nonetheless. And we were happy to complete a large portion of the southern U.S. So what’s next? Currently there are no trips planned. However, there is a possibility that we may visit Colorado in July. Stay tuned!

       NEW COUNTIES - 79
                        TOTAL COUNTIES FOR 2023 - 79
                        ALL TIME COUNTY TOTAL - 2488