Although there is still just over a month left in the year, I have no additional travel planned, so it is time to reflect on where I've been in 2014.
With daylight saving time ended, my long days of driving the back roads of America are finished for this year, but what a year is has been. Over the course of the past 10 months, I have set foot in 24 states, plus the District of Columbia in the process of collecting 472 postcards from county seats and independent cities. This has been, by far, the most productive year of county collecting (the next closest was 2012 when I visited 362 counties).
Now that most of the territory within a few hours’ drive from home is complete, I expect the pace will slow down as I take fewer (but longer) trips in the coming years. Of the 3149 destinations I set for myself, I have now visited 1267—about 40% of the country. Considering that I ended last year at 25%, I’m quite pleased. Reaching the 50% mark (just over 300 more counties) in 2015 while moderately challenging, looks possible. It’s always good to have a goal.
I won't go back over a detailed telling of my travels having already posted blog entries about each (which I hope you will read if you haven't already), but I will mention a few of the highlights of the year.
Perhaps at the top of the list are the two trips that included meeting other members of this community. In May, on a visit to St. Louis, I had lunch with jerrycoin. He had just returned the night before from a trip to Paris, but was gracious enough to drive downtown to meet me at the Renaissance Grand Hotel. We took a short walk down the street to a quiet Irish pub (it was early on a Sunday afternoon) where we shared travel and Marriott stories. (bejacob & jerrycoin relax in STL!). My most recent trip, brought me to Washington, D.C. and an amazing get together with pluto77, erc, and our very own communitymanager Nathalie at the Renaissance Mayflower. That now legendary event has a discussion of its own, so I'll let that stand as the mostly accurate description of what happened. (Insiders Get Together - Mayflower Hotel).
Instead of more reflection, I decided to compile some noteworthy statistics that tell part of this year’s story.
Numbers from the road – 2014
County collecting trips: 9
Average trip duration: 5 days
Postcards collected: 472
Postcards that failed to arrive: 1 (Gainesville, TX)
Postcards mailed a second time due to similar failure in previous years: 2 (Sandy Hook, KY and McConnellsburg, PA)
States visited: 24 (OH, KY, TN, AL, MS, GA, WV, VA, NC, SC, MI, IN, IL, MO, PA, NY, TX, OK, KS, NM, CO, VT, MD, DE) + DC
Miles driven: 19,691 (most in my own car)
Marriott brands visited: 7 (8 if you count Marriott Conference Centers as a separate brand, which apparently it is)
Most frequent brand visited: SpringHill Suites and Fairfield Inn (9 each)
Number of properties visited: 31 (does not include 3 stays for reasons other than county collecting)
Promo certificates used: 6
Average reward category of hotels visited: 3.6
Marriott badges earned: 6 (along with 150 rewards points. Woohoo! )
Should I be bragging about these badges? They aren't terribly exciting,though I suppose over time they will show that I have some level of devotion to the various Marriott brands. I guess they take up less space than Marriott pens from each hotel brand.
In addition to those statistics, here are some bests and worsts of the year
Favorite Marriott property: Renaissance Charleston South Park
Least favorite Marriott property: FFI Youngstown/Austintown, OH
Best CL food: Renaissance Grand St. Louis
Best room: 2-bedroom suite at Towson University Marriott Conference Center
Highest category hotel visited: 9 (CY Ocean City)
Lowest category hotel visited: 1 (FFI Oxford, AL and TPS Columbus/Worthington, OH)
Worst traffic: Baltimore beltway (Wednesday evening & Thursday morning)
CY Ocean City. Category 9? Really? Seriously? How does that even come close to County Hall in London?
I always like to share the maps showing my progress.
I began the year with 795 blue counties (those from which I had received postcards documenting my visit).
The year will end with 1267 blue counties. (As a reminder, green is for counties where I visited the county seat but have not received a postcard, and teal is for counties that I have been in, but not yet visited the county seat). All but a couple of the green and teal counties are places I visited before I began sending postcards to document my travels.
Looking at the maps leads me to think about where I wish to travel next. A couple things come to mind. So far I have not completed a contiguous stretch of blue either from coast to coast or from north to south. I’d like to rectify that, and as such, I’m planning to drive through southern Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana as early as mid-February. Completing the east-west piece will likely wait beyond 2015. I’m making progress along the Atlantic coast, as well as the counties along the Mexican border. Likewise completing the counties on the shores of the Great Lakes should be within reach before long. I need to begin a serious push to visit places west of the Mississippi, especially in the northern half of the country.
I did add six more states to my completed list in 2014. I have now visited (and documented) every county seat in SC, KY, IN, IL, MD, and WV. They join OH (2007), DE (2012) and AZ (2013). I also mailed a postcard from the District of Columbia which, although not a county, is a separate administrative district outside the jurisdiction of any state (so I collected it just to be safe) meaning 9 states, plus DC are now complete. I expect to add Virginia to the list next year as I have only 5 counties and the independent city of Bristol to visit (in April perhaps).
Where else I go in 2015 is still to be determined. With 60% of the counties in the United States left to explore, I've got lots of options.
I don't anticipate any more blog entries until February, but you never know.