Though there is still a month left before 2017 ends, I have completed my county collecting travels for the year. Despite having spent around 60 nights in one Marriott property or another in 2017, I “collected” fewer than 200 counties. That’s the lowest number since 2011, the year I essentially started this project (though I collected around 100 counties before 2011, that’s when I decided to get serious about visiting all the counties in the USA). Rather than go into details about how I got started, here are a couple posts for anyone curious about the history of my unusual travel goal.
Ten Years of County Collecting (details of why I started and when)
For the first time in almost a decade, half my travels this year were unrelated to county collecting. Two trips to Florida (Orlando and Miami), return visits to Aruba and NYC, a week in Wales, weekends in Pittsburgh and San Antonio, plus an overnight to DC all included Marriott stays, though none increased my county totals. Still, I managed to surpass 2,000 county seats from which I’ve mailed and received postcards (that’s how I prove I’ve been somewhere). My collection now stands at 2,074 county seats visited out of 3,149, just shy of two-thirds of the total in the country (65.9%).
Here are the maps showing how things looked at the beginning and end of 2017. As a reminder, the light blue (teal) colored counties represent counties I have been in, often just driving through. Green counties are places where I’ve been to the county seat but from which I have not yet collected a postcard. I visited the majority of these counties prior to becoming a county collector. Lastly, the blue counties are where I have documented my visit with a postcard noting the city/town, county, date, and time of my visit. One unusual feature this year is that all my new “blue” counties are west of the Mississippi River.
Though the maps may not look close to being two-thirds complete, I often remind myself that counties in the eastern part of the USA are considerably smaller than those out west. For example, Nevada only has 14 counties (plus the independent city of Carson City) while Georgia has 159 counties. So while I have fewer than 1,100 counties to go, there is a lot of territory still to cover.
If you’ve been reading the blog during the year, you may remember these entries
It’s safe to say the trip to Hawaii was the highlight of the year, at least as far as trips related to county collecting. Admittedly, county collecting was not the primary purpose of that trip, though it did factor into which islands we visited. This year I also picked up my first counties in North and South Dakota along with Marriott stays in both states. Only 6 states remain that don’t currently have any “blue” counties (AK, ME, MA, MT, RI, and WA). A couple of those are already on my plans for summer 2018. Back in March, Hawaii became the 14th state in which I have successfully documented my visits to all the county seats. Alabama and Florida will join the list in early 2018. Beyond that, I’m not sure where I’ll be headed. Plenty of time to figure that out.
While I’m working out where to go in 2018, check out a few numbers from the road in 2017.
County collecting trips: 8 (represents about half of my 2017 travels)
Average duration of county collecting trips (excluding Hawaii, which was primarily vacation): 3 days
Postcards collected: 177
Postcards that failed to arrive: 3 (tied with 2015 as most in one year)
Miles driven: 9,521 (lowest since I began collecting counties, but all in rental cars this year )
Number of properties visited: 20 (plus another 25 unrelated to county trips)
Average reward category of all Marriott hotels visited: 4.9
Number of brands visited: 13 (11 during the summer MegaBonus)
Miles flown (actual): 26,592, plus another 20,944 for non-county trips. Total 47,536 (all leisure)
New airports visited – LUP, MKK, MLI, SLC, MEM, DAY, SUX, MAN, SAT, and BIS
With no more county seat visits scheduled between now and the end of the year, I expect my next blog entry to be in mid-January. The plan is to escape winter in Ohio for a weekend in the Florida panhandle. Should be fun.