Skip

From Abercrombie to Zenith
October 14, 2012 9:23 AM   Subscribe

Many people will never visit any of North Dakota's 837 named towns and places. MeFite afiler visisted...all of them.

"Every dot on the map interests me, especially the little tiny ones. Some “towns” are no more than an intersection, possibly with a store or a town hall. A few towns seem to be gone without a trace, though sometimes the tiniest evidence remains."

You've probably heard of Fargo, but what about Bonetrail? Or Hawkeye? Or the perhaps-ironically-named Hope? And for those among us with an immature sense of humor, there's always Buttzville.

Browse them all and more at afiler's North Dakota Flickr collection.

[via mefi projects]
posted by capricorn (95 comments total) 63 users marked this as a favorite

 
Incredible. Right up there with the wonderfully obsessive county courthouse guy. Bravo, sir.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:30 AM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


North Dakota is the capital of Nowhere.
posted by Egg Shen at 9:32 AM on October 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


Very nice, especially considering that they're unedited. Any plans to add larger towns and cities into the mix, or is the focus purely on small towns/wide spots in the road?

As someone who's (nearly) strictly lived in urban or suburban environments, it's nice to be reminded that there are a ton of people in this country who aren't in concrete 24/7. I feel all inspired to take my camera out for a little photo jaunt. Thanks for sharing this!
posted by smirkette at 9:34 AM on October 14, 2012


Awesome project.
I was reminded of an old friends current project, Traveling 219.

I visited South Dakota earlier this year, and I loved just driving town to town.
posted by kittensofthenight at 9:35 AM on October 14, 2012


That is pretty cool, I've been planning something similar for MN
posted by edgeways at 9:35 AM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Awesome! I was just looking at which states have "visit all the towns" groups in order to make a FPP about them (VT has a thriving club, I've been to all the towns but am now going back to photograph them). Maybe we should all start a meta-club for completionists like this. Town-baggers....
posted by jessamyn at 9:36 AM on October 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Man, I don't think that I've even been to all the incorporated municipalities in my home county.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:39 AM on October 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Devil's Lake (pop. 7,141) seems like the town where you'd have to drive the longest distance to get to a bigger town.
posted by Egg Shen at 9:40 AM on October 14, 2012


Related (and just reported this past week): Couple visits all 351 towns and cities in Massachusetts in two weeks.
posted by ericb at 9:43 AM on October 14, 2012


This is wonderful. I've been trying to visit & photograph all 100 of North Carolina's counties. Only about six more to go, it would just take a couple weekends to knock it out.
posted by marxchivist at 9:46 AM on October 14, 2012


One of the reasons I love driving to the Minnesota Astronomical Society's Cherry Grove Observatory is that the county road goes through two or three "Former Site of" towns, as well as several that are super-small, such as Aspelund.
posted by jiawen at 9:58 AM on October 14, 2012


You know, Bismarck, ND is about the last place I'd expect to see Spanish mission style architecture.

(Apparently a former rail depot, the building is now home to Bismarck's sixth-worst restaurant!)
posted by Sys Rq at 9:59 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Owl, ND.
posted by ovvl at 10:20 AM on October 14, 2012


visisted...all of them.

Yeah but....can he spell them?
posted by gallus at 10:30 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Very impressed -- I tried a a few ghost towns near my hometown in a failed effort to find a town they missed. Bravo.

In one of those photos, my dad's office is about 10' out of the frame.
posted by nathan_teske at 10:32 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I like the fact that there's a picture of the building where both of my grandparents had their funerals, but I was disappointed by the omissions of AYR and Buffalo (featured on two of the more entertaining highway exit signs of I-94).

I give it a B+.
posted by wormwood23 at 10:33 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


heh, I'm actually traveling o Bismark next month.
posted by edgeways at 10:33 AM on October 14, 2012


visisted...all of them.

Yeah but....can he spell them?
posted by gallus at 12:30 PM on October 14 [+] [!]


Good luck saying them as well. (New RAD-dic)
posted by nathan_teske at 10:34 AM on October 14, 2012


There was just a story in the Boston Globe about a couple who visited all 351 towns in Massachusetts (their blog). And I know Jessamyn has taken part in the VT 251 Club and, if I'm not mistaken, has already visited all the towns and is now trying to capture an image from each town as well.

Though the history of such geographical completion challenges goes back a ways -- the Adirondack Forty-Sixers goes back to 1918, and the White Mountains 4,000-Footers to 1957, and there are probably many more examples I don't know of - I have had a theory that the increasing frequency of such projects is a reflection of the overwhelming nature of data in the Information Age. THese projects, whether they're "photo a day for a year," "photo a year for thirty years," "eat at all the diners in New England," or whatever - render one narrow area of experience into a finite and comprehensible batch of connected information.

I love place, and really like the organization of this project, with the list of everywhere afiler's been with accompanying images.
posted by Miko at 10:35 AM on October 14, 2012


Okay, I need help with Texas!
posted by bjgeiger at 10:37 AM on October 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh, wait, I take it all back! A+! (extra credit for Mose, the town that blew away.)

(And thanks, nathan_teske. I didn't think of searching like that.)
posted by wormwood23 at 10:39 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I tried to visit Idiotville, but although it's on the map, there's nothing actually there. Someone should at least open a T-shirt shop.
posted by The otter lady at 10:45 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is epic... really awesome. There was a time when I was younger and had more gumption... I wanted to do something like this in my home state of Florida.

Now I'm stuck in Texas...

Great work, afiler.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 10:45 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maybe we should all start a meta-club for completionists like this.

Yeah, I find myself at a distinct disadvantage compared to VT. I went somewhere nearly every weekend either caving or gigging for most of the 90's, and still haven't seen 1/10th of Texas.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:52 AM on October 14, 2012


Sys Rq, that isn't really "Mission Style", that's more Spanish Colonial Revival, which was a 20th century national fad, particularly in the 1920s (a period of exotic "revivals" including Mediterranean and English Cottage).

I have a personal project to rephotograph all of the 3000 historic buildings that my dad inventoried for the county in the 1970s (a project I helped with). A fair number of them eventually made it onto the National Register or into an Historic District. I haven't gotten very far due to other commitments, but eventually I'll stick a note on projects. Call me an incomplete completist.
posted by dhartung at 10:57 AM on October 14, 2012


What about Hoople, where the famous University of Southern North Dakota is located?
posted by Schmucko at 10:59 AM on October 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've met a few people who were born and raised in North Dakota (which, in itself, probably puts me into a minority!) and I must say, even from transplanted southerners I've never gotten so strong a sense of a distinct regional identity.

They all seemed like nice, lovely people who gave new meaning to my understanding of "salt of the earth," barring one point: a surprisingly high percentage of them had DUIs in their past, and seemed pretty cavalier about it. This was explained to me in the following way: "There's nothing for young people to do but drink. There's no way to get to the bar/house party save by car. Hence, the DUIs."

Not sure if this was a particularly drunken group I met, or what. I'd be interested in seeing statistics about DUI convictions per capita, though!
posted by artemisia at 11:10 AM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


"There's nothing for young people to do but drink. There's no way to get to the bar/house party save by car. Hence, the DUIs."

There's also nothing to hit (but other DUIs).
posted by wormwood23 at 11:19 AM on October 14, 2012


Yeah drunk driving is pretty much an institution in North Dakota.

Also, I'm not seeing any pics of Devil's Lake.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:33 AM on October 14, 2012


Let's see...Ardoch? Check. Mekinock? Check. Larimore? Check. Emerado? Check. Only a masochist would do this.
posted by MikeMc at 11:39 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


The DUI thing is really, really par for the course in rural communities. There is literally nowhere to go for miles in any direction except town, and town (as we can see in these images) is nothing but 12 closed businesses and 1 open bar. Everybody drives in, everybody drives out. You can compare fatalities by state; I think ND's are pretty low, probably because the roads are (comparatively) straight, flat and empty.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:41 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I think ND's are pretty low, probably because the roads are (comparatively) straight, flat and empty."

The entire Eastern half of the state is a virtual drag stip. No hills, no curves, no, well, anything.
posted by MikeMc at 11:47 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


The entire Eastern half of the state is a virtual drag stip. No hills, no curves, no, well, anything.

There's plenty of farms.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:05 PM on October 14, 2012


"There's plenty of farms."

True, you might veer off of the highway and hit a mountain of sugar beets.
posted by MikeMc at 12:07 PM on October 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


I spent a week or so this May poking around the Dakotas, basically moving up the Missouri valley. I was surprised, after SD, how much more populated ND seemed. SD is much emptier. Compare to Pierre, Bismarck might as well be Paris. And eastern North Dakota is hardly flat and empty. The Sheyenne River Valley is one of the loveliest places I saw on the whole trip.
posted by rodii at 12:12 PM on October 14, 2012


Compare to Pierre, Bismarck might as well be Paris.

I grew up in Pierre, and although there are a number of things that I think are fun about it, yeah, it's a tiny town. It surprises a lot of people to find out that the capital of South Dakota is under 15,000 people and has no major employers to speak of besides the state and federal government.

I do hope you were at least there long enough to figure out how to pronounce it correctly.
posted by roll truck roll at 12:22 PM on October 14, 2012


True, you might veer off of the highway and hit a mountain of sugar beets.

Actually the biggest danger is deer.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:23 PM on October 14, 2012


There's also nothing to hit (but other DUIs).

An astonishingly large number of people hit trains. Teenagers, mostly, but there was a 60 year old the other day. It's like 'flat, open space for miles' and then 'wham!' train.

There's an awful lot of trains in ND, and there's a metric ton of DUIs, so yeah. I understand the DUI culture isn't as bad as Wisconsin but it's a hell of a lot less serious than it is in California (where it can be career ending).

Speeding tickets (in town but the highways are low enough that they're proposing a bill to raise them) are $13 (highways, it can be as low as $25). It's pretty amazing but don't try the same style of speeding in Minnesota (tickets can be as high as California, in the $300 range).

Also, Devil's Lake is in there (looks like afiler took out the apostrophe). Devil's Lake is, by the way, a very straight shot to Grand Forks (bustling metropolis) and not that far from Fargo (biggest city in the state). So no, Devil's Lake has problems (the lake) but isolation is not one of them. Not like, say, Oakes.
posted by librarylis at 12:25 PM on October 14, 2012


I was stationed at Grand Forks AFB for 2-1/2 years and it seemed the most dangerous thing on the highway was cars pulling on from crossing roads. A guy from the base got killed on his motorcycle by a guy pulling out onto US 2 from the airport who didn't see him. And deer. I remember part of my driver's safety course at GFAFB: "If it's smaller than a deer - hit it. If it's a deer or larger - aim for the ditch."
posted by MikeMc at 12:33 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


roll truck roll: Actually, I loved Pierre and that whole area of the state (and I knew how to pronounce it already). No disrespect intended to Pierre, I was just surprised how small--13,000 people! less than a tenth of the size of Sioux Falls--and isolated it is.
posted by rodii at 12:45 PM on October 14, 2012


It's a little sobering to read about all these accidents. I've never owned or operated a motorcycle, but when I visited some people in Fargo, and stopped by a Harley dealership during some downtime, I briefly considered it because, well, what was there to hit? (Even as someone who grew up in central Illinois, ND seems empty and flat.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:49 PM on October 14, 2012


That's funny, MikeMc, because my defensive driving course was just down the road from the AFB and all they talked about were the trains. With newspaper clippings, no less. I suppose that's the difference between cars and motorcycles. I will say that this is my third winter in ND (I count by the winters!) and I haven't seen a deer on the roads yet. Apparently, the deer population is way down.

Oakes in afiler's collection. I'm amused that these appear to be taken in summer--that definitely makes everything look better.

I have a friend whose family is from Streeter. She said the wind and the snow got to them; they moved to Barstow.

Here is Devil's Lake. It's much easier to use the index on afiler's site to find towns.

Rugby's claim to fame is that it's the geographical center of North America. Weirdly, I don't see the monument on afiler's collection but there's lots of photos of it from others.

From the looks of some of the cities/towns I've been to (more of those than I'd thought), afiler appears to have concentrated on the rural/farm aspects more so than identifiable landmarks. It's an interesting perspective but it does make North Dakota look even less populated than it really is.
posted by librarylis at 1:14 PM on October 14, 2012


That's funny, MikeMc, because my defensive driving course was just down the road from the AFB and all they talked about were the trains.

They probably talked about trains, I just remember "Hit it or aim for the ditch".

I will say that this is my third winter in ND (I count by the winters!)

I did that too (I spent 3 winters there)!

I'm amused that these appear to be taken in summer--that definitely makes everything look better.

There is nothing more depressing than Mekinock in the winter. It's not a one horse town, more like a one mule town. I took some pictures (including the mule) I'm looking to see if I ever scanned them.
posted by MikeMc at 1:30 PM on October 14, 2012


I will never forget the images of Grand Forks in the spring of 1997. First came the epic flood followed by the ironic fire which burned buildings submerged in flood waters. And then the icing on the cake was the cold wave and snow that followed....a burned out and flooded city center covered in partially frozen flood water and snow, in April. Now that looked depressing.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 1:36 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


OK, dammit, y'all stop teasing. How DO the locals pronounce "Pierre", then? Inquiring minds want to know.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:09 PM on October 14, 2012


Driving under the influence in Montana, during my youth, was far riskier--no speed limits. "Safe and prudent" and Everclear are quite the combination. Eastern Montana is very competitive with North Dakota. Also, the number of DUIs handed out goes up near any reservation.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:11 PM on October 14, 2012


"How DO the locals pronounce "Pierre", then? Inquiring minds want to know."

I thought it was "pier" as in "Navy Pier".
posted by MikeMc at 2:11 PM on October 14, 2012


bitteroldpun--Peer, next to Fort Peer. and the capital of Montana is pronounced Hellena.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:12 PM on October 14, 2012


Do you want to know how small these towns are? The very first picture that popped up for my wife's hometown in that photostream had my father-in-law and nephew walking down the street.

No joke.
posted by pencroft at 3:57 PM on October 14, 2012 [7 favorites]


I thought it was "pier" as in "Navy Pier".

I always thought it was Pee AIR
posted by 4ster at 4:13 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Glad to see people are enjoying my photos. There should be at least one photo from every non-historical non-mobile-home-park place in the USGS placename database for North Dakota. Check the list if you can't find a town.

If there's any place that I missed (and presumably then the USGS missed too), please let me know. I've photographed a few places that were only listed as "historical", and a few places that appeared on a railroad map I have, but none of those had any trace of settlement, so I didn't feel to bad not getting the rest of them.

Do you want to know how small these towns are? The very first picture that popped up for my wife's hometown in that photostream had my father-in-law and nephew walking down the street.

That's really quite impressive, considering how few of my shots show people in them.
posted by afiler at 5:05 PM on October 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


Obligatory capitalism: I'm currently running a Kickstarter campaign to a) fund production of a North Dakota book, and b) a project and book focusing on the tiniest towns in the West.
posted by afiler at 5:09 PM on October 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Shame he didn't stop in Bismarck and say howdy.
posted by dakotadusk at 5:25 PM on October 14, 2012


Thanks for posting this. When I was little my father was stationed at Minot AFB, twice! There were some relatives of ours who lived in Plaza part of the year who also went down to Browsville, Texas as snowbirds during the winter. It's neat to see their little town again.

Ruthville just outside the base, was little more than a stop on the side of the road. It doesn't look much different than it did in the 1970s. I don't remember the "JET" logo, but it may have been there.
posted by Robert Angelo at 5:26 PM on October 14, 2012


New goal: visit all named towns/villages in Alaska. Will be challenging due to my fear of small planes... but I've already knocked off a few!
posted by charmcityblues at 5:40 PM on October 14, 2012


There's an awful lot of trains in ND

Stupid coal trains making me late for school all the time. They can block some intersections for what seems like FOREVER.

First came the epic flood followed by the ironic fire which burned buildings submerged in flood waters.

It was... kind of nuts. They had trouble fighting they fire because of people who hadn't evacuated, so they couldn't do aerial dumping properly.

When that happened I was a senior in High School, and it was the first time the rest of my family had left town without me for a significant period of time - I was too busy with trying to finish up school stuff to go.

I never did have to finish that stuff. Everyone pretty much just got a by on the last month of school; there did end up being a make-up prom at the Air Force base a while later, and I believe Soul Collective came to play as a sort of pity show. There is a consistent rumor that Prince offered to come, but due to some sort of information restriction they wouldn't let him. I have exactly zero idea how true that is, but he is from Minneapolis...
posted by flaterik at 6:10 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I drove across ND a few years ago and was shocked at just how gorgeous it was.

I thought it would be boring and I suppose it is, but in a stunningly beautiful way. Something about those big skies with the big clouds and the green plains just rolling into the sky. Then you get to the western part of the state, and the landscape gets wild and sort of weird with knolls that look almost like dunes and grassy buttes just sticking up out of nowhere.

It took us about a day to drive across the state, and at dusk, we stopped at a rest station which, to our surprise, was on the edge of Theodore Roosevelt NP. The rest stop overlooked badlands canyons, which were both spooky and magical in that light.
posted by lunasol at 9:10 PM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


As for the DUIs, when I was in my early twenties and living in Minneapolis with a group of friends/coworkers who drank a lot, I was surprised at how casual people were about drunk driving. It was pretty socially acceptable, unfortunately. I think that may have something to do with the number of people in my circle from rural MN, Iowa and the Dakotas.
posted by lunasol at 9:13 PM on October 14, 2012


[this is good]

please do South Dakota next
posted by DakotaPaul at 9:14 PM on October 14, 2012


My folks grew up in Devil's Lake. Their (now closed) Catholic high school graduated seven people my father's year, and nine my mother's year.

I remember a data point from the 80s when San Diego State (California) played American football against North Dakota State. Four players on the San Diego State team could run the 40-yard dash faster than the ND state track record. In full football gear.
.
posted by blob at 9:30 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have a cabin on a lake in the Adirondacks that has a winter population of less than 75. It has 4 establishments. 1) Post Office. 2) General Store (not open in winter but for a few hours a week), 3) Church and 4) Bar. Open 365.

In the winter, the real drunk driving is done by the snow sledders. Anytime I am out on the roads or frozen lake after dark, I am absolutely in fear of some drunk snow mobiler hitting me without even seeing me or realizing it. They often play a game of poker where they go from bar to bar checking in at each bar and they get a playing card with their drink order. After going to 7 bars, at the last bar, they take the 5 best (out of the 7 they were dealt by buying drinks) cards and the person with the winning hand gets a small prize which can often be free drinks.

I assume there are a lot of sledders in North Dakota, Minnesota and the other states in the upper mid-west.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:43 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Okay, Ladies and Gentlemen...

I'm just a little drunk... but maybe, we Texans... can band together and do this great big state in teams.

I may be a little drunk... but I think we can do it.

Now, I just need to get a DSLR...

I've got the time and gumption afterall...

Did I mention the drunky drunkness...
posted by PROD_TPSL at 10:44 PM on October 14, 2012


I'd totally join a photograph-all-of-Texas team. I've seriously considered Texas as my next state after North Dakota, but I'm a bit worried I wouldn't be able to handle the, umm, cultural differences.
posted by afiler at 11:00 PM on October 14, 2012


Why? Do you not speak Spanish?

We'll try to meet you halfway.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 11:41 PM on October 14, 2012


No, I speak Spanish, it's just that I find that I have to go onto what could possibly be private property to get to some of the ghostlier towns. I don't cross "no trespassing" signs nor do I go into closed buildings, but I'm a little unclear on how public/private space is seen in Texas, and, well, I don't want to get shot.
posted by afiler at 11:55 PM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've been trying to visit & photograph all 100 of North Carolina's counties.

I'm fascinated by the idea of North Carolina having 100 counties. We have 58 counties in California, which is about 3 times the size. A few of those are really, big and rural isolated, so most of the population is in significantly less than all 58 counties. I would imagine that counties are much more associated with a sense of community than counties in California, which often seem like administrative zones more than anything else.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 1:08 AM on October 15, 2012


I'm slightly fascinated by the fact that North Carolina has named townships too. I don't think they're terribly well known, but they do appear on some county maps.

California had "judicial townships", which seem like they would have served well to divide up counties, but they seem to have disappeared by 1960, when the US Census replaced them with "census county divisions", used in most states without townships/[New England] towns/magisterial districts/etc.
posted by afiler at 2:16 AM on October 15, 2012


Having spent a few years travelling the state long ago, I was about to mock the claim "every". But when I saw Emmet, Center, Drake, Hazen, Turtle Lake, Velva, and Auburn in the list, I could tell afiler did his homework very well.

Of course, half of my travel was in the winter, which is mercifully underpictured in this collection. How the wind howls whipping snow over all that sparsely populated prairie. Late on a winter night halfway between Jamestown and Bismarck feels like being the only man at 128,000 feet. And a bar in Scranton is no place for a city boy.
posted by Twang at 3:47 AM on October 15, 2012


I thought it would be boring and I suppose it is, but in a stunningly beautiful way.

"Boring" is usually thrown around by people who can't perceive the fractal nature of landscape detail. Detail just keeps emerging as you look closer.
posted by aught at 5:31 AM on October 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


That is a great series. My grandparents lived in Belfield and Moffat. I'd ride my bike around both towns as a kid and recognize the buildings in the photos. In Moffat, the run-down white building next to the Post Office was a general store when I was a kid. I remember going into, "The Bucket (of Blood)" and drinking orange soda pop while my dad and Grampa drank Schlitz beer. Of course, they drove the three blocks there from my granparent's house.

I"ll see each town one more time to spread my mom's ashes someday. And that will be enough.
posted by ITravelMontana at 6:20 AM on October 15, 2012


JohnnyGunn: "They often play a game of poker where they go from bar to bar checking in at each bar and they get a playing card with their drink order. After going to 7 bars, at the last bar, they take the 5 best (out of the 7 they were dealt by buying drinks) cards and the person with the winning hand gets a small prize which can often be free drinks.

I assume there are a lot of sledders in North Dakota, Minnesota and the other states in the upper mid-west
"

It happens. also there are idiots that do it on motorcycles (in the summer)!
posted by ArgentCorvid at 7:02 AM on October 15, 2012


This is totally awesome; I'm definitely a fan of every part of North Dakota, but I'm with whoever pointed out the omission of Ayr -- it is a town that had another town built inside it (self-link)! It's definitely on maps and a populated town with a mayor and everything.

Afiler: are you affiliate with the Ghosts of North Dakota guys? They're doing much the same thing, and Kickstartering their own book project.

(The thing about Buttzville, people, is that it's named for C. W. Buttz, a lawyer and Civil War veteran who had achieved the rank of Major. Yes, Major Buttz was very important to the--what? Why are you all laughing? Don't you want to hear more about North Dakota's Major Buttz? Or about when Major Buttz appeared before the Supreme Court? Seriously, Major Buttz deserve a lot more respect than this. Harumph. )
posted by AzraelBrown at 7:09 AM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Really, when Buttz pressed against the railroad, it was a signif- oh, I give up.
posted by AzraelBrown at 7:39 AM on October 15, 2012


This is so awesome.

Six years ago I moved from Ohio to Seattle. Six years ago (this is hard for me to believe) GPS were still relatively expensive, at least for poor college students right out of college, and my sort-of-cross continental drive required me to get out the old map and plot my own course.

I highlighted the route and marked down the towns where we would stop and refuel. During this trip, it struck me that these destinations were all just like my own little home town - filled with stories, people and histories. Though I didn't have much time to get too philosophical on the trip, that thought has stuck.s. When I look at maps now and see tiny towns I really imagine them as - well, homes, to somebody Somebody chooses to live there and not somewhere else - why?

At any rate, I've wanted to visit all the 'dots' for my adopted-home state of Washington for some time now. I'm not sure what the next step is, but I think I'd like to make this a long-term goal for me and my family.

Anyway, thanks for bringing this to our attention, OP, and thanks for doing this awesome project afiler.
posted by Tevin at 8:52 AM on October 15, 2012


And a bar in Scranton is no place for a city boy.
posted by Twang at 5:47 AM on October 15 [+] [!]


Oh you'll be fine. Just tell Zeke that you know me. Been awhile but I hear he's actually turned it into a nice little restaurant.
posted by nathan_teske at 8:58 AM on October 15, 2012


This is cool. But I grew up in the small town of Milnor, ND, and it is not featured here. Also, the county seat of the county I grew up in is not here. So something is amiss with the claim of visiting all 837 named towns.
posted by kingbenny at 10:42 AM on October 15, 2012


kingbenny, all the towns are there, they're just not all listed in the flickr collection on the post. Go to the list on my site, or check out the mefi projects post, where they're all listed.

Here's Milnor.
posted by afiler at 12:29 PM on October 15, 2012


This sounded like a cool idea for other states, so I did some quick checking for Indiana. I think I'd have to visit 2,745 places... not exactly the most feasible of options.

Or maybe I'll post to MeFi Projects in 30 years with the data.
posted by RyanAdams at 12:35 PM on October 15, 2012


Missing a lot of towns in my neck of the woods: Ray, Tioga, Epping, Wheelock, ...
posted by Ber at 12:53 PM on October 15, 2012


I love that I spent 16 years in Grand Forks and I have never heard of the vast majority of these places.

Of course, Grand Forks was usually where people in the smaller communities were going TO; I didn't exactly have a lot of reason to leave. Other than permanently.
posted by flaterik at 12:55 PM on October 15, 2012


Grand Forks? That's a party town.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:10 PM on October 15, 2012


Ok, MeFi, because I love you so much, I reverse-engineered the flickr Organizr to discover a hidden API call called 'flickr.collections.editSets'. This allowed me to add all of the photosets to the collection link that was in the post. Said collection was called North Dakota, but I hadn't added all the sets, because, well, that's a lot of work to do by hand. But now, instead, I figured how to make the robots do it.

For anyone using the FlickRaw library in Ruby, here's how to rebuild any collection via a hidden API call:
FlickRaw::Flickr.build ['flickr.collections.editSets']
flickr.collections.editSets :do_remove=>0, :collection_id=>'COLLECTION_ID_GOES_HERE', :photoset_ids=>[123, 456, 789]

Ber, or anyone else who didn't see the town they were looking for, check the flickr collection link again. They're all there now, and in alphabetical order.
posted by afiler at 1:16 PM on October 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ber.... all those are listed on the Projects page
posted by edgeways at 1:17 PM on October 15, 2012


Or, er what afiler just said too
posted by edgeways at 1:18 PM on October 15, 2012


Grand Forks? That's a party town.

With time I realize how little I really know about the town or region. The 16 years I spent there were ages 2-18, and I didn't find much of my inner troublemaker or adventurous spirit until well after I left.
posted by flaterik at 1:48 PM on October 15, 2012


Yay, thanks!
posted by kingbenny at 1:49 PM on October 15, 2012


And there's a picture of where I worked my first 'real' job: Milnor Jack & Jill. And the library where I began to fall in love with libraries.
posted by kingbenny at 1:51 PM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I did census bureau work one summer near Fargo and got to drive around lots of square blocks of land. This reminds me a bit of that. I may have to keep an eye on this in case there's an option to purchase just a photo or two later.
posted by ejaned8 at 2:01 PM on October 15, 2012


Wow, I spent the first 18 years of my life here. I went back a few years ago and did a collection of photos in the winter that was pretty bleak.

I spent the next 5 years of my life going to college here. I was one of the people who survived that flood/fire mentioned above.

The town I grew up in had a population of around 1200 when I left. It's now around 700.
posted by rex at 3:27 AM on October 16, 2012


Hey rex!

Loved my time in nodak, and the larger two cities are surprisingly great communities.

My 2007 story is that I watched my old place flood on the news from afar, then my X's place caught fire, only to be substantially damaged by the water bombers they used to put out the fire destroying the downtown. Computer, pictures, all that were gone, and it turned out to be no big deal. I mean, I lost a few things, but what I really missed was the grand adventure all my friends had battling and surviving the catastrophe.
posted by zenon at 2:08 PM on October 16, 2012


Looks like you got to Bucyrus just in time -- it burned to the ground yesterday.
posted by AzraelBrown at 5:36 AM on October 18, 2012


Wow, AzraelBrown, that sucks.

I'm surprised at the number of places I've photographed that have already disappeared. Many buildings in Fillmore, North Dakota were apparently intentionally burned as part of a "cleanup" effort. I've gotten comments on other photos mentioning that places in the photos have since disappeared.

There does seem to be a fairly conscious effort in this part of North America to keep places looking tidy. I've seen that even in ghost towns, the grass usually gets mowed.
posted by afiler at 12:25 PM on October 18, 2012


It looks like this was featured as today's "In Focus" in The Atlantic. Congrats!
posted by Turkey Glue at 11:14 AM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yay, good exposure
posted by edgeways at 12:04 PM on October 19, 2012


Hey, MPR picked this up today, too.
posted by jillithd at 2:15 PM on October 19, 2012


« Older Christopher Kimball: "He may be the sole person...   |   Plane of the Ecliptic Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post