On June 1st 2020, I completed a major feat, my first major project, outside school and those projects I struggled with, to be started and completed. I would have had this project done sooner but I was two days’ worth of work to be completed when we were suggested to stay home for 15 days in March due to Covid-19 coming to the area. Do you wonder what my project was? I drove on every public road in Adams County, Pennsylvania. That is a total of 1,614 roads! In the paragraphs below I will explain the journey I made in completing the project.
Several years back I was out on a drive. This is typical for me as I love roads and I like exploring the area I grew up in. This includes Adams County where I live, but also the edges of counties where I have spent time growing up. As a child, I had an interest in roads already and developed an interest into where they went as a teen. I remember in 8th grade studying an Adams County Map on the wall in a classroom while other students talked with friends.
Anyway, I was out on a drive somewhere west of Gettysburg. It was a normal day where I would drive about with no particular destination, and I would usually spend several hours driving either on new roads or sometimes on roads that I had a fondness for. During this trip, I got an idea. I had been feeling bad because my life had turned out to be very different than I had planned. I had autism and though many people accept it as who they are, and some can profit from it, I felt it simply had made life more difficult for me, and I was tired of the challenges caused by it. Anyway I got this idea. I like driving and by that point I had traveled (or so I thought) on many of the roads in the county. So I thought, maybe I should try to drive on all the roads in the county. I had a head start, I like driving, and this is a feat that I doubted many people have tried or completed.
At home, I got on the computer and created a spreadsheet. The far left column had the names of the roads and another column had whether or not I had driven on the road yet. For multiple roads with the same name, I would put an identifier like the road it was off of, as a way to know which road I was talking about. I got on-line and used Google Maps to create my list of roads. In making my list I started with the major roads, the U.S. highways and state highways (like PA 234 for example) and went the whole way through the county listing the roads off of them. Once I was done with these roads, I went multiple times across the county on the computer from left to right and writing down the names of all the roads. I would start at the bottom by the Maryland border and keep working my way up until I hit either the Adams/Cumberland County or the Adams/York County borders. I spent several days gathering this data. When I had the data, I went through the list and typed yes in the column for roads I have driven on for the roads I have traveled on, and for the rest typed no.
This is where the meat of the project started. I would go out and spent 3 to 4 hours at a pop driving around the county on all the roads I needed to complete. Many times I would pick a specific area to work on. Sometimes I would make a check list of roads to drive on and check them off when completed, other times I would simply go to an area and drive on many of the roads that I needed and then stop at a convenience store and in their parking lot make a list of roads I had traveled on. When it came to areas that were farther away, sometimes I would plan to work on that area on a day when I was heading out the direction and had time. During several of the years when I was working on my project, I was running a Game Club for adults with autism held at the food court at the Gettysburg outlets. On these days I would leave early and drive on some of the roads in the Littlestown area since I was already partially there and this was one of the farther away areas for me.
Tackling roads in towns was a daunting process. Though streets were short and close together, the hard part was crossing the major drag. What I did to address this issue is divided the streets into 2 halves. I would drive on the northern/western side of the street one time and then the southern/eastern half another time. This way I could cover the whole road, but did not need to cross a major road like Main Street (PA 116) in McSherrystown or Lincoln Way (U.S. 30) in New Oxford. Besides driving in the Littlestown area during game day, I drove quite a few of the roads towards McSherrystown, on days when I was hanging out with a friend who lived toward New Oxford. I would just fit a few new roads in sometime during the visit. It was a slow process, but it worked and it got it done.
There were three major difficulties I had while working on the project. Firstly there were periods of time when I felt like quitting and took breaks of up to a month. This occurred as the roads that I needed to drive on became further away and more difficult to drive on. Examples would be roads that were down by the Maryland border or narrow roads in towns that weren’t marked well or that looked like alleys. Fortunately I would always then get back to the project. Enough people in my family knew about the project that they would ask me questions about my progress and that would be enough to get back at it. The second difficulty had to do with the roads themselves. Some roads on maps I found did not exist in real life. I would drive to an area expecting to find a road and there was a dirt trail or sometimes just a field. Something else that would come up would be that a road on the list would be private and I would only find out by a sign after driving to that such road. In these cases, I would simply remove the roads from my list. Sometimes I would also discover a new road that wasn’t on a map. When I discovered these roads I would either drive on it or sometimes I would make a mental note of the road. Either way when I got to convenience store parking lot I would write down the name of the roads. When I got home I would then add the roads to my master list.
The final difficulty I had, happened in Carroll Valley. I was driving back a public road that came to a cul-de-sac. At the end the road a man was outside and yelled at me for driving back a private road. He said that there was a sign that said the road was private. I did not see such a sign. I told him what I was doing and left the area not to go back and finish for quite some time.
The final roads were the most difficult to complete. They tended to be either far away or were short, dinky roads that went to dead ends. Some of these roads offered cul-de-sacs to turn around on, but many others required using a driveway or simply the end of the road. On June 1st, when I completed the project, I had one final task to do yet. Remember when I told you that I had divided some of the town roads into 2 halves if a major road crossed them? Well now it was time to reconnect the halves so they would be on the list as one street. So after taking a break of a day or two, I went back and reconnected these streets. When I sorted all the roads, I came up with 1,614 roads that I had driven on.
Overall I thought the project was a good experience and it was a good challenge and I am very glad that I attempted and completed it. Now days you will still find me out driving on roads, only this time I go where ever I feel like it.