As part of my quest to visit every county in the USA, my most recent travels took me through northern Pennsylvania, much of upstate New York, and the northwest corner of Vermont. Over the course of 5 days, I visited 66 county seats in 65 counties (explanation embedded below).
Typically, my county collecting road trips begin early in the morning so I can make the 3-4 hour drive through areas I have already visited before dawn. This time, because knew I needed one extra night (in addition to the 4 nights planned for this trip) to achieve the “Taste of Platinum” promotion, I chose to leave after work on a Tuesday and get this 3 hour drive out of the way. My first night was spent in the FFI Youngstown Austintown, barely a stone’s throw from I-80. I can't really recommend this location. For details, here is my review (Not quite up to standards)
I rose with the sun and after grabbing an early breakfast (which was still being set up by the FFI staff) got on the road just before 6:00am. Winding my way across north-central Pennsylvania, I reached the SHS Scranton Wilkes-Barre Wednesday evening. On the way, I made about a dozen stops in different counties to mail postcards. I also made a brief visit to Punxsutawney, home of the famous groundhog. While not a county seat, my route went right through town so I took a few photos. Here is one as I arrived in town.
Later that afternoon, I visited Williamsport, the county seat for Lycoming County, which happens to be the home of Little League baseball and the site of the Little League World Series. I didn't have much time to explore the town, but it turned out to be one of several baseball related towns I visited. Speaking of baseball, the lights of the PNC Field (below) in Scranton drew me like a moth to a flame The AAA ballpark is just down the hill from the SHS. I was too far away to see much of the action, but I did have a view of home plate and could hear the crack of the bat when one of players got a hit.
I enjoyed the SHS in Scranton (actually Moosic, PA) very much and will likely stay here again in November 2015 on my way to Saratoga Springs, NY. If in the area, this is a good place to overnight.
From Scranton, I headed north toward NY. Stops for Thursday included Binghamton, Ithaca, Utica, Cooperstown, Troy, and Albany (among others). I traversed the campuses of Cornell and Colgate Universities as well as some beautiful scenery in the southern Adirondacks on my way to and from Lake Pleasant (the Hamilton county seat). Cooperstown, home to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame was packed with baseball fans (often fathers and sons, but not always). I plan to return to visit the MLB HoF someday (maybe after Seattle Mariners great Edgar Martinez gets inducted ). On this trip, my primary purpose was to mail a postcard. The limited parking and crowds actually made this more difficult than it needed to be, though I accomplished my goal, and within 20 minutes was back on the road again.
The SHS in Albany-Colonie was fine. Nothing remarkable, but a good representation of the brand. On Friday I took I-87 north from Albany toward Plattsburgh (with a few stops in between). I saw a bit more of the Adirondacks as I made my way to Queensbury, past Lake George (a former county seat), and onto Elizabethtown. From there, Middlebury, Burlington, St. Albans, and North Hero, Vermont were my next destinations. I couldn't resist a photo of Lake Champlain and the new bridge (opened in 2011) I would use to cross into Vermont.
My last visit to Vermont was 1985 and I’m pleased to report that Burlington is just as great as I remember it. It may be bit more crowded, but Church Street still has the same character. After visiting North Hero in Grand Isle County, I had planned on crossing back into New York near the northern end of the lake via US route 2, but instead caught the ferry from Grand Isle to Plattsburgh (technically Cumberland Head). Interestingly, my last three trips have all include ferry rides, though this one was the first one that was not free. Still, I can't complain as it cut about 30 minutes off my trip.
From Plattsburgh, I crossed the northern-most counties in NY and ended the day at the FFI in Watertown, NY, one of the nicest FFIs in which I have had the pleasure of staying. This is a relatively new property, and my room had a desk with more outlets than I needed. At some older properties, I have a hard time finding enough outlets to charge my phone, kindle, and plug in my computer at the same time.
Saturday, my last full day in the state, took me from Watertown to Corning. Had I driven directly, it would have taken roughly 3 hours, but that is not how my county collecting trips work. By trying to visit as many county seats as possible, I often end up with strange routes. Here is the route I followed that day.
A couple of notes may be in order. Destinations E (Ovid) and F (Waterloo) are both county seats for Seneca County, NY which has the distinction of being the only county in the state with two county seats (this is much more common in the South). I mailed a postcard from both, and thus managed to visit 66 county seats in 65 counties. Another oddity of my route is the detour I made between stops I (Auburn) and J (Batavia). Finding postcards is often a challenge, so I detoured to an exit just off the NY Thruway where both a Truck Stop of America and a Flying J were located. Usually, I can find postcards at both places. So instead of a 3 hour drive from Watertown to Corning, my day lasted about 14 hours (3½ hours for stops along the way).
I saw several interesting courthouses on this trip. One of my favorites was in St. Lawrence County, NY. It looked more like a castle than a courthouse.
Another castle-like building was the Federal Courthouse (below left) in Auburn, NY which I preferred to the Cayuga County courthouse (below right) across the street.
County courthouses were not the only sights. I passed by numerous lakes as well. In addition to Lake Pleasant, Lake George, and Lake Champlain, I saw many of the Finger Lakes and Lake Ontario. There are also a multitude of small lakes and rivers in the Adirondacks. I didn’t get photographs of many, but here is a picture of the Oak Orchard Lighthouse (below left) on Lake Ontario and a shot from the southern end of Seneca Lake from the village of Watkins Glen.
My final night was at the FFI Corning Riverside, a very nice property. From there it was back into Pennsylvania on Sunday to collect 6 more counties and then home.
Several Insiders have enjoyed seeing the before and after maps from my trip. A quick reminder on the color coding (white = never visited, teal = been in the county but not to the county seat, green = visited the county seat but have not collected a postcard, and blue = visited the county seat and received the postcard mail from the county documenting my visit). Here are the maps showing the area this trip covered.
As it stands now, no trips are schedule for the rest of June or July (though that could change). In August, I plan to fly to DFW and then drive into Oklahoma and southern Kansas, as well as the panhandle of Texas. That trip could add another 100 counties to the tally depending on how much driving I am willing to do.
In any case, my current total stands at 1068 county seats (out of 3149) or 33.9%, so I have now passed the one-third mark. Already this year, I've added 273 to the completed list, and should have no problem reaching 400 for the year. Wow!
Two other accomplishments for this trip. I achieved Platinum elite status and I added another state in which I have stayed a Marriott property (NY). I have now stayed at Marriotts in 23 states with a few more to come later in the year. Lots more places to visit and plenty to blog about.