License plates make JFK fashion plate

November 25, 2005|by CURT HORNBECKER / Staff Correspondent

Long before I-Pods and MP3 players, even before DVDs and Game Boys, a popular source of entertainment for kids and adults on a long drive was looking at license plates, and counting the number of states represented.

It worked especially well when parents and kids couldn't agree on a suitable radio station.

It had been many years since I last played that game, until last Saturday.

I had been up since 3:30 Saturday morning, helping at "The Legends" aid station at the 3.6-mile mark of the JFK 50 Mile ultramarathon. Then, after making an unsuccessful attempt at napping afterward, I went for a short run on the beautiful, sunny morning.

Living in Boonsboro, among my favorite places to run is at the Boonsboro school complex. It's relatively flat, offers little traffic when school isn't in session and provides options, such as the track or the cross country course if I'm compelled to vary my route.


I knew that participants in the JFK 50 Mile represented 39 states and several foreign countries, but the magnitude of that fact sank in while on that brief run.

First, there were literally hundreds of cars parked in the various parking lots, basketball courts and grassy areas in between. That wasn't surprising, since most of the 1,000-or-so runners gather there before walking to the starting line on Main Street in Boonsboro.

But I was struck by the number of parked cars. I knew that each car represented at least one person who drove to the starting line alone or with other runners.

Then I started to notice the out-of-state license plates. Cars from Virginia and Pennsylvania were plentiful. Many were from West Virginia, New York and New Jersey.

It was at that point the old childhood game changed slightly. It became more of a geography lesson (not my strong suit, but I accepted the challenge).

I wanted to find out how many states east of the Mississippi were represented. Florida, both Carolinas, Delaware, Massachusetts, Vermont and Rhode Island were quickly added to the list.

Virtually every state east of the Mississippi was represented.

Along the way I also noticed that someone drove to Boonsboro from Texas, North Dakota and California.

Then, the coup de gras: Hawaii.

As I left the school complex and ventured onto the roads to complete my journey, the magnitude of the JFK was driven home. How many other events held annually in Washington County draw people from almost every state in the country?

There is likely no other single day in the year in which people from so many different states visit the area.

It's probably safe to say that in the last 30 years, it has happened 30 times.

Thanks, JFK.

Curt Hornbecker is a staff correspondent of The Morning Herald. His column appears periodically. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2332 or by e-mail at

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