With no further plans until early January, another travel year is in the books. Time once again to look at where my county collecting took me.
This time, let’s start with the maps. 2015 began looking like this.
As we reach the end of 2015, it now appears this way
Many long-time Insiders know about my odd hobby, but for those unfamiliar, here is a bit of explanation. I am in the midst of visiting every county in the United States. I document my visit by mailing a postcard to myself from the county seat (the town or city where the County Courthouse is located). For counties I have visited (i.e. driven through) but not been to the county seat, I color those teal. If I’ve been to the county seat, but not mailed/received a postcard, those get colored green. Once the postcard arrives home, the county is colored blue and is marked complete on my master list. I visited most of the teal and green counties before I began collecting postcards, so as I travel, those will eventually turn blue. I should note that on a few occasions, the United States Postal Service has failed in delivering a postcard I mailed thus leaving the county green until a return visit.
Looking at the map, I now see a solid stretch of blue from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast. Perhaps in the coming year (or two), I can do the same between the Atlantic and the Pacific. States that moved into the completed column during 2015 include Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut, bringing that total up to 12.
My travels this year were not without difficulties. On my first road trip of 2015, back in February, I sat stranded on the side of I-40 west of Nashville with two flat times for 10 hours after hitting a pothole the size of a small county (forgive the hyperbole). All the sordid details are in the post Two flat tires and forty miles to reach the nearest Marriott.
I got the tires replaced and made it home, but still had a couple bent rims to address. A few weeks later, just days after replacing the rims, this happened.
A driver ran a red light during my left turn and totaled my car. Fortunately, I suffered only a bruised rib and two days later I was on a flight for California for more county collecting (see A Rush through the Golden State). Upon returning home, I went straight from the airport to my Honda dealer to replace my car. I got the same model, just a few years newer and this time in black (and with a navigation system ). Brightlybob foretold that I would get a new car last Christmas (Re: 10 days till Christmas Eve, time for festivities...). I actually got it a week after my birthday. Still, I think we all should heed brightlybob's predictions. His timing was only off by a couple months.
May brought an end to a string of 15 straight months with at least one Marriott stay. It didn’t take long to start again as June included a weekend jaunt to Michigan. This trip completed the Lower Peninsula and marked my first stays at the JW Marriott and Autograph brands. I still have two counties to visit in the U.P. before I can mark the state complete (see That's why I wish again, to be back in Michigan). July didn’t include any county collecting, though I had Marriott stays in Cincinnati and Buffalo. The latter was for the sole purpose of meeting former Featured Insider brightlybob during his stay in Niagara Falls, ON. Though not part of my county collecting blog, there is a post on this meeting (Re: Insiders meet at Niagara Falls (brightlybob and bejacob)).
As Labor Day approached, the big trip of the year began—Hawaii.
It took four blog posts, two photo albums, and a few other discussion topics to describe all the wonderful things about this vacation. For the curious, here they are
A month after returning from Hawaii, I was off to Texas for the third time in three years (see Back on those Texas Plains ). Even after 3 visits, I still haven’t been to half the counties in the state, nor have I made it to IAHFLYR's neck of the wood(land)s. I did score a great suite at the Gaylord Texan, even if it was only for one night.
November allowed me to visit the last dozen counties in Pennsylvania, all of Connecticut, and much of what I still needed to see in New York (see Connecticut's Former County Seats). December added 20 counties in Florida (Did Someone Say Tiki Bar?) which also included an evening visit to WDW.
All in all, it was a good year. I crossed the halfway point in my overall quest. With 3142 counties, a few which have dual county seats, my total of towns and cities to visit is 3149. I end 2015 with 1582 postcards, 50.2% (up from 40.2% this time last year). Here are some additional numbers from the road.
County collecting trips: 7 (not counting the vacation to Hawaii that just happened to include a few counties)
Average trip duration: 5 days
Postcards collected: 315
Postcards that failed to arrive: 3 (Clinton, LA; Ellijay, GA; Catskill, NY)
Miles driven: 17,861 (mostly in rental cars for a change)
Marriott brands visited: 12 (RI, M, CY, R, SH, JW, FI, AU, VC, G, T, RC)
Marriott brand badges earned: 4 (M, R, F, AU) + the 10-brand badge. Also halfway to JW, G, and RC.
Number of properties visited: 45 (including 4 redemption stays)
Average reward category of hotels visited: 4.5
It’s hard to know what 2016 will bring. I already have a trip to Florida scheduled in early January. I expect to collect around 300 postcards (down from my high of 472 in 2014). With much of the area near home done, it takes a bit more effort to reach new territory. Still, with almost half the counties in the country left to visit there is lots to do. Though I have a few ideas of what I’d like to see, exactly where I will go is yet to be determined. I hope it includes a few more visits with Insiders. Regardless, I’ll blog about it here.