My recent county collecting trip to Iowa and Missouri served two purposes. First, of course, was to add to my list of county seats visited. Second, but no less important, was an opportunity to visit my aunt and uncle in southeast Iowa. My dad’s brother is the last of my grandparent’s five children, and as he is in his early eighties, I like to take every opportunity to stop in to say hello.
Normally I would drive from Ohio to Iowa, but airfares this spring have been modest, so I opted to save a day each way on the road and fly into the Quad Cities (bonus points if you can name all four without looking at a map ). I was surprised to learn that MLI is the third busiest airport in Illinois, behind ORD and MDW . I then thought about other areas of the state and realized that beyond Peoria, Bloomington/Normal, and Springfield, there aren’t a lot of medium-to-large sized cities in Illinois. The flight between ORD and MLI took less than half an hour, and after picking up my rental car, I was on my way.
I had a nice family visit before heading off toward the Springhill Suites Des Moines West for the evening. The weather had been decent most of the day, but that evening, a crazy thunderstorm blew through town, bringing a deluge of rain, some small hail, and lightning to rival the finale of a fireworks show. By morning, the sky cleared, making it a good day to begin collecting counties.
Over the next three days, I covered 35 counties, logging just over of 1500 miles (not counting the almost 300 I drove before reaching Des Moines). There isn’t much to see as this part of the country is mostly farmland. You might recall this blog post from last year (Iowa is 90% farmland – and that's no bull). I did see several interesting courthouses, as well as a couple boring ones such as this one from Keytesville, MO.
I also noticed a few oddities along the way worth photographing, like this in Memphis, MO.
For the most part, this trip was more about covering territory than about sightseeing. While it’s hard to believe, this is the first trip this year in which I have collected counties from more than one state (my earlier trips in CA and HI, each focused on a single state). I also made my first 2017 stays at SHS and ResInn (in Columbia, MO). That brings me up to 8 brands for the year (G, CY, FFI, Autograph, VC, M, SHS, and RI). By summer I’ll be at 10, adding TPS and Renaissance. I have no plans to repeat last year’s 15 brand extravaganza.
As always, here are the before and after maps. For anyone unfamiliar with the color coding, teal means counties I have been in, green is for counties where I have visited the county seat, and blue is for counties where I have received the postcard I mailed from the county seat.
If all postcards arrive, my map will look like this. If any postcards go missing (something that has happened only 7 times in nearly 2000 attempts), I’ll have to recolor those counties green until I am able to go back for a second try.
I feel good about filling in the gap I left in southern Iowa last year. Every time I looked at my map, those 6 counties stuck out like a sore thumb. With 114. Missouri has more counties than all but 3 states (TX, GA, and KY). The 29 I covered in MO represent about 25% of the total. Overall, my count of counties across the USA has now reached 1940, almost 62% of 3149 cities and towns I eventually plan to visit.
Next on my agenda is a whirlwind trip to UT, WY, and ID. By the time I pick up my car in SLC, I’ll have about 48 hours on the ground. Since counties are larger in the western states, I anticipate only being able to visit 15 or 16 in my allotted time. That journey is coming up in a little over a week, so look for a new blog entry at the beginning of May.