Where is the best place in America for Sherlockian road warriors to meet?
Over in his new blog, Interesting Though Elementary, Rob Nunn was discussing the idea of a Sherlockian road-trip competition, inspired by something Chris Redmond said on Twitter. And as so many of us web-headed Sherlockians oftimes feed off one another, looking at Rob's team race idea put another in my head: How would all of us get to the starting point with our cars?
America has so many cities mentioned in the Holmes Canon that are brilliant destinations. San Francisco, New Orleans, St. Augustine . . . many on one coast or another and so many of them have Sherlockians there already. There's a reason so many Holmes fans fly to the big events in New York, Minneapolis, and Atlanta, as well. We're very spread out.
The starting point of a road rally would practically be the finish line for most of us, having to drive so far to get our cars there. And where would the fairest place for that be?
Well, the geographic center of the contiguous United States is supposedly about 2.6 miles northwest of the center of Lebanon, Kansas. It has the same name as the Pennsylvania town mentioned in "The Red-headed League," which gets it some points, and it's about three and a half hours from both Fort Dodge, Kansas and Topeka, Kansas, which both appear in that most Kansasian of stories, "The Three Garridebs." If Sherlockians were camping folk (and some surely are, but I'm betting not most), it would even be a wonderful thing to pick a campground in Kansas, gather there in tents and RVs and christen that place "Moorville."
T'were one to map out distribution of the U.S. Sherlockian population, a road rally would probably happen on the East coast, starting in New York, Philadelphia, or Washington. And maybe that's where such a thing would start . . . but not for everyone. Have you ever been to a Sherlockian weekend where you and a couple of friends decided to do dinner, then pick up Sherlockian after Sherlockian on your way out of the hotel until you wind up with a table for ten or more? What if a Sherlockian road rally actually worked like that?
A stalwart carload or two from the Eastern seaboard starts west, headed for Palmyra, New York. From there, they go up to Toronto, down to Detroit (pausing at London, Ontario, of course). Along the way, they are joined by other cars from those places. (Alternate Caonical route, Palmyra to Buffalo to Cleveland.) From there, on to Chicago to add more Sherlockians to the convoy, and down to St. Louis (with maybe a Nauvoo swing-out). Then that fabled Kansas leg of the trip, followed by a long day's drive to Salt Lake City. Then Carson City and on to San Francisco . . . except then those poor San Franciscans don't get to drive anywhere, and everybody else has to drive back.
At some point in this consideration, the thought occurred to only travel in states mentioned in the Canon, at which point Indiana, Kentucky, and the Virginias become real problems. I have a feeling that Canonical driving tours of Great Britain are a whole lot easier to manage. Here in America, we have to use a little imagination, which is what Don Hobbs did in coming up with his Watson, Oklahoma, Holmes Peak, and Sherlock, Texas route. I'm sure we could find the one state with the most Canonically referenced sites and add some "Watson, Illinois" type places.
Not that I'm biased toward any particular state in the fifty, mind you. (Though one where you can go from Chicago to Cairo . . . oh, wait, our roads are not exactly prime right now.) There are a lot of possibilities for those with a week or a weekend, when you start digging into it.
Altamont, Illinois to Chicago? Violet, Louisiana to Hosmer, South Dakota? Baskerville, Virginia to Stapleton, Georgia? Norwood, Illinois to P & W Builders? That last one is a three minute drive just outside of Peoria. You can have some very local fun with this stuff. (Don't think I haven't been to Baker Street in East Peoria on more than one occasion!) The trick is, as always, getting Sherlockians together for the thing. Which brings us back to . . .
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