Scott and I drive a lot when we do our travels. There are 3,144 counties in the United States and we intend to pass through each of them; driving tends to be the way we are best able to do this. It enables us to stop and visit a town, getting to experience the people, their foods, and their culture. This is a bit slower than flight, but we both feel the hours getting to a destination is well worth it when we see the colored in space on the maps.
When we decide to go on what we call “Collecting Grab” trips, we sit down with Google maps or even a paper road map to plan the best route there and back going through as many different counties as possible. This often means never taking the same road twice. It is extremely rare for us to take the major highways or toll roads unless we need to get through previously collected counties.
If we are on trips that are more than a day trip, we will fill our vehicle up with delicious food, changes of clothing, and hammock/sleeping gear. While Scott is at work, I am able to get everything together and packed away; this enables me to pick him up as soon as his workday is finished and we can be on the road towards our destination.
Since we started doing these three to four-day trips to cover as much ground as possible we find National Forests and State Parks that are along our route to rest when we can no longer drive. We will pull into a camping area and set up our hammocks and cover. This is a quick setup and easy takedown so we are able to pull off the road as late as we need and leave as soon as we can minutes after we have woken up.
One of the things we find ourselves saying when we travel is that it is never a true adventure until we have left the pavement. Surprisingly, this happens to us a lot. We have been driving along a perfectly good paved road when “BLAM!” we have crossed onto a gravel road. These roads, however, have been some of the most beautiful places and there is almost always a surprise waiting for us.
Yes, we drive a lot. This means gas is our largest expense when we are on the road. Because of the style of travel we do and not need to use a hotel room, we are able to afford it. There have been times we needed to stay at a roadside hotel or motel, but we will stay in the most inexpensive place we can. We have been able to find some really awesome deals at Priceline Express Deals (https://www.priceline.com/elmo/pl/hotel/express-deals/list). However, a room with a view is a very rare occurrence for us.
Scott and I enjoy driving along the county roads within our country. This has enabled us to see what each state has to offer its people and how the people live and celebrate their lives. We love the miles we put behind us on the roads we drive upon no matter if they are paved, gravel, or dirt. We enjoy the adventure of having our expectations changed because the trip shows us so much more about a place. Yes, we drive, a lot; but, it is what we love to do.
Psychoanalyst Werner Muensterberger states in his book Collecting: An Unruly Passion that collecting was “selecting, gathering and keeping of objects of subjective value.” While Carl Jung believed collecting stemmed from a collective unconscious of “nuts and berry” behavior inherited from our ancestors. This activity of our prehistoric ancestors literally saved their lives and it is now found to be a comfortable behavior to each and every one of us today.
Scott and I are definitely collectors. Over the past few years, we have mentioned things like “collecting counties” and “county grab” in our blog posts and videos. Recently we received a message asking exactly what this is and why we are doing it. Please allow us to take a few minutes and define these terms and explain exactly what our County Project is.
How This Thing Sort of Began
Scott and I had started to do a little exploring of towns around us, but there really wasn’t much exploring outside of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex until August 17, 2013. We had decided to head to Austin because Scott is a music nut; his favorite female artist is Nancy Griffith and he had a goal in mind. The plan was to attend Austin City Limits, but it wasn’t supposed to happen because the shows are announced and are a first come type of situation. However, we were able to change our plans and help him come a little closer to his music world.
This trip to Austin seemed to spark the travel bug in us and we began to go as often and as far as possible. From 2013 to 2015 we started visiting Texas State Parks and something occurred to us, we have over 100 counties crossed in the State of Texas so we started paying attention to those 254 Texas counties. The County Project was born without us really understanding what the heck we were doing.
So What Exactly Is The County Project?
When Scott and I were first married and moving between Oklahoma and Texas over and over, we were moving hundreds of boxes of things I collected and all of his books and music. It was heavy and exhausting. In 2016 we decided it was time to ditch all of the extra boxes and go from a house to an apartment. This meant getting rid of the collection of books, nicknacks, and other junk we accumulate over time and adopt a more minimalistic outlook. But we still had the desire to collect. That is when the travel and counties began to make total sense to us.
Starting out as Stitchntravel.com we decided to not only start a website but a YouTube channel as well. We had no idea what we were doing, but we thought it would be a great way to show off our travels. This eventually led us to a website where one could keep track of the counties visited. Mob-rule has enabled us to see exactly where we have been and others as well.
This tool has helped us find what we really love to collect, counties. The collecting of counties is nothing more than us driving across county lines to find out interesting things about each county we visit. This may mean just driving through to get to another county but we find roadside attractions that are unique to the county, landscape that is different from other places, and backroads that lead us to amazing adventures.
Actively Collecting Counties
We have a term we made up to explain exactly what a trip was going to be used for when we collect counties; this word is “county grab”. This is where we get in the car and head to counties we have never been to and try to drive through as many as possible. This is often a two-day trip and we will use the special Google imposed map on the Mob-rule site to help us find what roads pass through what counties. Because it keeps track of the counties we have visited, we are able to see just where we need to go.
Once we have made the decision as to where the destination is, we will use the map to find another route to head home. We try very hard to never take the same road home that we came on because it will get us twice the counties. Often times we will do what we can to get a photo of the county courthouses if possible.
We have set up specific colors that have specific meanings to help us know what counties we have just driven through, taken a photo of the county courthouse, what will be the one-way drive to a destination, and what will be the route home. This helps us to know what other things we need to do in counties we have already visited, such as if we need to try to and get a photo of a courthouse or not.
We are even able to break this down to a state-level which enables us to do a little more digging as to what we want to see and do.
As we plan our county grabs, we will go to the Google imposed maps for further detail to help us see where the county seat is located. This is important to us so we can know what route to take to get a photo of the courthouses.
And then we are able to scroll in closer so we can see how to collect a county in one direction and back in another direction. Let us look at this area a little closer so we can explain it in a bit more detail.
Here you have three counties and we would like to get all three without driving the same road home as when we came. This blown-up view enables us to find alternate roads that are on a backroad level if we would like. It has enabled us to really up our county collecting game.
How Do We Keep Track of Our Stats?
Keeping track is very easy to do. The user page on Mob-rule shows a spreadsheet with each state, the numbers of counties, the numbers of counties we have visited, the numbers of counties left to visit, and the percentages. It helps us to find the information quickly and be able to apply it to our website.
This really helps to encourage us and it gives us the oxytocin boost a regular collection would give. With this, the US map, and the courthouse photos we are able to get excited about where we have been and where we are heading to. Isn’t that what life is all about?
What Are The Benefits to Collecting Counties?
Many people travel, but everyone does not travel alike. For some it is flying to places, renting a car, and hitting popular sites. While others enjoy driving long distances to visit the vacation hot spots. However, for us, driving and seeing is the adventure. This style of travel we are doing enables us to take the roads less traveled and see some of the less touristy places. I honestly believe this has caused us to find some of the most amazing places and pieces of art.
Another benefit to the way we travel, we are able to avoid major crowds. With our national park system being more overcrowded than ever before, it is nice to get off the regular beaten path and find interesting places that are not as crowded. This enables us to bring attention to the places that are overlooked. We have met some of the most amazing people in these places and heard some wonderful stories about the location.
Because of us trying to obtain specific counties we have found some pretty fantastic things. If we would not have been trying to get specific counties in Wyoming’s southwestern corner, we would never have found Fossil Butte National Monument and then spontaneously grabbing a Utah county. We try to play it loose when we do county grabs because there are plenty of these spontaneous moments. It enables us to respond to new discoveries.
Cross County Travelers is about encouraging people to get out of their routine and try something different, to find the amazing lesser-known places all around them but do not get the attention they deserve. This is why we say “Get Out! Live life outside your box.” The box can be your home, your city, or even your county. What we want to encourage is people to get out of their comfort zone and experience something new through travel. Travel does not have to be a big expensive trip, there are adventures to be found right in your “backyard” that will open your mind and heart.
Thank you so much for joining us. We do appreciate each of you who take the time to read our posts. It means so much to us. Please remember to Get Out, Live Life Outside Your Box; you know we are.
We are Scott and Ren Fridenberg and travel is what keeps us moving.
In 2004 Scott and I visited Fort Worth, Texas, and saw a place full of beauty, history, and opportunities. Within 30 days of our visit, we moved to the area. From that move forward, we have allowed travel to have an effect on us as a couple and as individuals. These effects range from new experiences, making new friends, to finding surprises in history and activities.
Scott and I met through a medieval recreation society called The Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). This is a non-profit organization that celebrates the culture, art, and history of pre-17th-century Europe. He was involved in what is called bardic which is storytelling, and I was becoming interested in period hand embroidery styles. This organization enabled us to make friends all over the Texas and Oklahoma area causing our move to the Fort Worth area rather simple. During 2004 through to 2008 we didn’t do much travel except to attend SCA events.
In late 2006 we moved from Texas back to Oklahoma for a while. We lived in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and it was there we discovered something very interesting, the back roads in Oklahoma were wrapped in history. It was at that time we put together our very first travel blog called Backroads Oklahoma. Unfortunately, we did not keep the site and all of the information is gone, but it was the very start of us deciding to do more with the travel than just “go”. On that website, we traveled throughout Oklahoma from Tulsa to Oklahoma City finding places like Ingalls where the famous shoot-out between the Doolin and Dalton gangs happened, the Washington Irving Trail Museum where the adventurer camped while surveying the area, and many other old forgotten relics of Oklahoma.
Eventually, in 2009, the moving bug bit us again sending us back to the Fort Worth, Texas, area. It was about this time Scott and I began to explore the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex in full. We started finding places like fields full of sunflowers for miles and miles all around Waxahachie, hippos in the middle of Irving, and many different festivals. We then started to get further away from the maddening crowd of Dallas to find Texas had so much more to offer than just pavement, the Dallas Cowboys, and water features.
It was about this time Scott had started to learn to play the guitar and was wanting to play more and more Irish music. He had already been obsessed with music and the Irish folk scene, but it was starting to influence what he wanted to do. At one point in 2012, we went to Austin, Texas, for this very reason. He wanted to go to Fiddler’s Green Music Shop because it was a very active Irish Folk Music place. We explored the capitol building, the old downtown, and the famous Sixth & Congress intersection where many singers and songwriters have found themselves like Nancy Griffith and Willie Nelson. This was a huge thing for us because we had talked about going to the capital many times, but we actually found ourselves there in the middle of history for the state we had fallen in love with. We both decided to start stepping out of our comfort zone and travel farther away from home.
I, of course, have been crazy for hand embroidery for a long time and decided it was time to really focus on it. During the time Scott was learning to play the guitar, I started focusing on needlepoint canvas painting. I searched the internet for information to learn how to do the painting and there was nothing. Completely shocked, but I eventually found some experienced painters that were so extremely helpful. Between this, the commissions, and me learning new embroidery techniques I was very busy and enjoying my time. I often was able to do embroidery as we drove down the road to onto our next adventure or even did some work as we sat by the campfire in the late afternoons. It was a perfect set up for me and the embroidery.
In the fall of 2013, Scott and I decided we were eventually going to move into an RV and live in it permanently, traveling across the United States. We just were not sure how or when we would go through with this, but we were going to start moving that way; eventually. Less than a year later we discovered a whole new world, the Texas State Park world. We had visited Dinosaur Valley State Park in 2004, but we had not thought about them until 2014. It was this recent visit that we made the decision to go to every single Texas State Park. We would purchase a patch from all of them that had them and get a photo of us with the park signs. Once we were on number four learned there were 98 parks. This was going to be a task! Fortunately, we are not the only people doing this, there have been three people/couples who have succeeded in doing this and so we know it is able to do.
Spring 2014 we started sorting and purging everything in the 2,000 sq ft house. We had garage sale after garage sale and donated so much stuff, but we were finally able to get down to a small apartment amount of furnishings. In March 2014, we moved into a 547 sq ft apartment. What a bit of shock; it was so much smaller than the house! The apartment was small but we intended to spend as much of our time out adventuring so it isn’t a big deal. In 2016 we decided we really needed to focus and make the footprint of our living space much smaller so we sorted and purged, yet again, then moving our lives into the bedroom area. Granted this did not include the bathroom or the kitchen, but it did help us to see we were quite capable of living in a very small space.
Then it happened! On February 24, 2017, we purchased our home on wheels. It was a 1982 El Dorado Firenza; she was an all fiberglass frame on an Econoline van chaise. We proceeded to do the minor renovations needed so we could live in it for two weeks while we assisted Eisenhower State Park with some Spring Break help to see if it was truly something we wanted to pursue. Packing up a few things, we headed to Lake Texoma area and found we never wanted to leave the park; we were finally home.
In December 2017, we moved to our family hometown, Tulsa, OK, and tried to remodel the RV. Because there was so much water damage to the roof, we were not able to afford the renovation or able to physically handle the work needed. There was just too much mold and I was not in good health at the time so we decided to sell the Beast. We were able to sell it to a nice young couple who spent their free time with a lot of friends. They completely gutted the RV and put in bunk beds and seating for 15. It was a great new start for this 1988 RV.
For the past three years, Scott was able to continue working for his Texas employer while I worked on various projects and spent time with my family. We were able to live in a very small studio in a historical building called the Georgian Terrace, a mobile home outside of Tulsa with a lake view drive, and in a fifth wheel on Scott’s brother’s property 45 minutes from Tulsa. At each place we were able to continue our travels that took us deep into the Arkansas Ouachita’s and up into Wyoming. But the pursuit of new counties was over five hours from where we were living and Scott’s position was ending, so it was time to move.
Scott’s company was not going to be continuing in Oklahoma so we decided it was time to move forward and move westward. We had visited Colorado Springs earlier in the summer and fell in love; it was the mountains, the mountains were calling us home. He found a position with the company he worked for, we filled a ten-foot U-haul, and headed west grabbing three new counties on the trip out there.
As of November 24, 2020, we are living in a place that we are able to have so much to explore and see. Our apartment is small, but we like it that way; this enables us to get ourselves outside of our box and find new, interesting places.