Monthly Archives: July 2020

Map Challenge!

Asked & Answered: 10

I have always been a map nerd.  When I was a kid, I drew street maps of imaginary cities with improbably curvy roadways and myriad underpasses.  One of my fictional streets would invariably be named “Standard Avenue” or “Standard Road,” being that my father worked at Rockwell-Standard and my imagination had its limits.  When I was a little older, I biked down to city hall and bought a street map of our town (for one dollar), tacked it up on my bedroom wall, and then went about exploring all the streets I could pedal to on my mono-speed bicycle. 

I also remember inventing a map game to play with the younger kids who lived next door.  I appropriated a fold-out world map from one of our National Geographic magazines, drew a grid on the map to create “spaces” for tokens to move about, and then marked various squares on the map as “targets.”  The game required players to draw “target” cards and navigate from one target to the next via the roll of the dice.  I think I made up other special rules or cards to introduce an element of chance/excitement into an otherwise mundane undertaking, but hey, I was like, eleven years old?

Anyway, map-nerdiness is the only thing I likely have in common with Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings, who in fact wrote a book titled “Maphead” which I really must read one day. I don’t know whether “Maphead” deals with challenges like the following, but here goes.

I recently came across a post heralding the longest straight overland line in the continental U.S, which I call the Nandor Line in honor of its discoverer.  The Nandor Line, 2,802 miles long, extends from Ocean Creek in Washington State to Ocean Drive in Jupiter, Florida.  In theory, one could walk the Nandor Line without crossing an ocean, gulf or foreign land.  (Here, we must stipulate that Idaho does not constitute a foreign land.)

As best I can tell, the Nandor Line passes through 12 states: Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida. But there are close calls with a number of other states.  Naturally, this begs the question, what overland line passes over the greatest number of U.S. states, regardless of its length?

I have an answer… but I am not certain if it is the answer.  As with all scientific endeavors, my answer will be the answer until someone else comes up with a better one.  Here is how I came up with mine.

I decided that my solution — as well as those of any challengers — should be expressed in terms of a direct flight from Airport A to Airport B.  This allows the proposed path to be accurately mapped and checked via the website GPS Visualizer.

I also decided that flying over the Great Lakes is allowed, as long as the flight path does not cross the border with Canada.  Sticklers for full-overland solutions may object, but then how would they propose we cross the Mississippi River?

Anyway, here’s my solution (click to zoom): New Bedford, MA (EWB) to Fullerton, CA (FUL), a 2597-mile flight over 17 U.S. states: Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, California. 

Although the illustration may suggest otherwise, the flight path is “straight” insofar as it represents the shortest distance between the two airports.  Several state flyovers are very close calls, and the flight path over Lake Erie comes within yards of the Canadian border.  Nonetheless!  I challenge like-minded map nerds to come up with an 18-state solution, or a 17-state solution that is strictly overland (excepting rivers).

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Our local COVID-19 infection rate (as reported to the health department) is now in excess of 30 new cases a day.  This is the highest we have seen during the pandemic.  For a few weeks in March and April, when people were taking things seriously and almost everything closed, our numbers got as low as only one new case a day.  But then America’s Id, led by Donald Trump, won the battle over America’s Superego, and all Freudian hell broke loose.

Our county’s daily new case rate hit a mid-May peak of about 12, falling to 7 in mid-June before resuming its climb, with no flattening now in sight.  The numbers are so daunting that I have stopped charting them.

We are still just doing grocery stores and gas stations, with the occasional take-out meal.  Others, though, in the little town we live in, are being more adventuresome/adventurous.*  Based on reporting by local journalist Mackensy Lunsford, I presume that most of those pleasure-loving and risk-taking people are tourists.

Ms. Lunsford is, in my opinion, probably the best of the dwindling number of journalists still employed by our not-really-local-anymore newspaper, Citizen-Times.  She recently  interviewed a number of restaurant owners/workers who were surprisingly forthcoming about the behavior of their “guests” in the midst of this pandemic.  For example:

• The owner of one restaurant, open for takeout only, blocked its doors with a prep table.  As the owner recounted to Ms. Lunsford, “I walked out [into the restaurant] and there was a couple sitting at the bar saying, ‘We need drinks and you should really move that table.'”

• Then a server lamented, “We mostly cater to an older crowd who think it’s all a hoax,” relating how one customer mocked masked employees by “trick[ing] them into shaking hands or getting way too close.”

• And from the manager of one of our town’s most popular breakfast spots: “When this first started and we were in our shutdown times… the [locals] felt our pain and the tips were absolutely amazing, and we felt the love and kindness from everyone.  Then the tourists came… I do appreciate their business, don’t get me wrong, we all need it.  But man, what jerks.  No mask, no tips, bad reviews and bad attitudes.”

Someday, someone has to explain to me what turns an American with a ten-dollar bill in his hand — or a distorted notion of his constitutional rights in his head — into a veritable King Kong, thundering through and trampling down anything in his self-righteous path.

For once, I will rise to the defense of the people who live, actually live, in this little town.  With some exceptions in the exurbs, folks here did an admirable job trying to keep the lid on this pandemic.  But now, at 30 new cases per day, our per-capita daily case rate is about 15% higher than in the suburbs of Richmond, Virginia, and 15% lower than in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, two similarly-populated places that we happen to care about.

Our numbers are proof enough that careless people spread their carelessness everywhere they tread.  Freedom-loving Americans, they say.  Free to be… ugly.


* In another post a few years back, I used the word adventuresome to describe my mood as I decided to order a specialty cocktail at a restaurant.  This sparked a discussion with a good friend on the difference between adventuresome and adventurous — he maintained that my behavior was actually adventurous, since adventuresome implies a degree of recklessness in the undertaking.  I still prefer adventuresome and wish it were the right word.  Adventurous sounds too much like adulterous and perfidious, whereas adventuresome brings to mind wholesome, handsome and awesome, i.e., some of my best qualities.
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We took a trip to New York City in early 2019, after which I assembled a set of photos and soundbites I captured during our visit.  I had intended to post these last year, but events transpired.  Publishing these now, post-George-Floyd and mid-pandemic, makes me feel like I’m burying and unearthing a time capsule at the same time.

• ⋅ •

Along East 57th Street

I love Milano!”

Are you in the fashion industry?”

Paley Park, East 53rd Street

Don’t worry, I’m not going to fall, I promise!”

Aquavit, A-Q-U-A-V-I-T.  It’s a famous place.  I think you would like it.”

Sax Fifth Avenue

You guys are in separate bedrooms?  Thank goodness for small favors!”

Oh, she’s never been away from him more than two days her whole life.”

Organ in St. Patrick Cathedral

The Italians have very, very small penises, ma’am.”

Other than my gifts to my assistants, what else is deductible?”

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