Editor Bruce Farrin at the Rumford Falls Times
I have just returned from a nine day county collecting trip in the northeast where I visited 17 new scattered counties, completing my collection of the six New England states. I finished Maine by returning to Oxford County, where my county quest actually began 12 years ago. There I had a chance meeting with Bruce Farrin, Editor of the Rumford Falls Times. He interviewed me, and his article appeared in the local newspaper. Here it is:
DISCOVERING AMERICA COUNTY BY COUNTY
By Bruce Farrin
RUMFORD - Particularly during the summer months, many interesting people from all over the world travel through Rumford. Last week, one of them was J. Stephen Conn of Loveland, OH.
Twelve years ago, Conn visited nearby Bethel, marking the final state in the union he had visited. From his blog, Conn wrote about this feat. "Feeling proud and satisfied with my accomplishment, I pulled out the road atlas that night to reflect back on my travels - to all 50 of the United States. My feelings were the same I have heard other travelers speak of after reaching the end of a long-time goal - both a sense of elation and of being let down all at the same time. The list of 50 states was complete. I felt I had been everywhere in the country and there was no where new to go - at least not in America."
"It was then, while pouring over the atlas, I realized that although I had been in every state there were hundreds of spots on the map that I had not yet explored. That very evening I determined that I would begin my travels again - this time to visit every county. A tingle of excitement swept over me as if experiencing a new revelation. I had a fresh goal; my travels had just begun." Conn decided he would visit all the nation's counties and parishes - all 3,141 of them.
"Over the next couple of weeks, I carefully went over the records of my past travels and memories with a county map of each state. I listed only the counties for which I had a clear recollection of having visited. I had been to 1,035 counties - less than one-third of the whole. I determined that within the next 10 years I would travel to them all, at a little more than 200 counties per year." "I thought I could do it in 10 years. It's been 12. It's quite a daunting task," he noted, adding that Oxford County brought his total to 2,563 or about 82 percent.
Conn said he has visited every county in 14 states. "At my present rate, I figure I have a fairly reasonable chance of visiting the last county within the next five years, but not without a very concentrated effort. The counties yet to go keep getting harder to reach." Recently retired, the 62-year-old said "The best part is meeting people. I've learned to love the country."
Conn, a freelance writer and photographer, is also a retired pastor and syndicated newspaper columnist. His writing credits include authoring five books and more than 300 articles which have appeared in a large variety of magazines and scores of newspapers.
Conn said he doesn't compare one county against another. All counties offer something different, so he doesn't choose favorites. Of this area, he noted "There's so much to see and do here. It's beautiful. I didn't know about Muskie being from here or that you had a Paul Bunyan. There's so much to discover and learn." While in this region, Conn said he will hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail, which will make 13 of the 14 possible states he has done this. He also visited Mexico and Dixfield on this day.
Conn said he is one of the 900,000 people listed online at virtualtourist.com. They rank people by the number of travel tips logged. Conn is 16th from the top. As for how many people have accomplished this feat, Conn said research through Google indicates that less than two dozen have visited every county/parish in the country. He has a website titled countycounting.blogspot.com, which has articles and photos of places all over the country he has visited. He said he is still working on tying history together that he has learned along his travels.
Conn said his wife, Karen, enjoyes traveling as well, having visited 900 of the counties with him. Ultimately, Conn said he would love to visit every country in the world, but noted it would take more resources than what he has. He still has managed to set foot in 46 countries, which would be quite an accomplishment for most of the less-traveled population.
"If I can't do that (travel the world), at least I can get to know my own country well," he noted.
Link to the Rumford Falls Times: http://www.rumfordfallstimes.com/frontstory3.shtml