I was listening to an old episode of The Daytripper Podcast a couple months ago, half-paying attention and half-milling around my apartment folding laundry, when the host casually mentioned something about “the 254 challenge.”
“What’s the 254 challenge?” a cohost asked for all of us.
The 254 challenge, the host explained, was visiting all 254 counties in the state of Texas.
The show moved on pretty quickly — it was clear the 254 challenge wasn’t exactly a well-known or serious thing — but I was stuck on it. I don’t know how many Texas counties I’ve been to, I thought, but I bet I’ve been to a lot.
Out of curiosity, I printed out a Texas county map the next day at work and gave myself a rough estimate, filling the counties I knew for sure I’d been to in with blue highlighter. Travis, Fort Bend, and Collin all went first, considering I’ve lived in them; then the surrounding counties and those that contain the roads in between them, forming a sort of triangle between the places and people I love.
There were highlighter trails to the south and west, following former road trips; and the Texas Water Safari route added another significant chunk.
I debated on adding a few childhood trips and decided I wouldn’t count any visited pre-college, to be truly fair. When all was said and done, I’d highlighted 72 counties, and all of sudden, all I could think about was how easily I could add more.
For a few weeks, I didn’t mention it to anyone, because it seemed a little ridiculous, even for me. What if I got to, say, 156 and wanted to stop? Did I really want to commit to trying to go to all 254 counties? Why? What for?
But I’ve finally decided that yes, I do. Why not! For fun! (And also, it was getting weird to try and act like I had absolutely no purpose behind randomly driving to very small towns. Even friends who are used to my rambling were getting a little suspicious. Why are you in Bonham on a Thursday night? one of my friends texted me a couple weeks ago. Like, are you okay? Having a reason, no matter how odd, seemed wiser than just trying to play it off so I could quit if I felt like it.)
I’ve been blogging on this little corner of the internet for three years now, and while it’s kept my writing muscles strong and helped me develop a voice, I’ve been wanting to bring the content a little more in line with the Texana/outdoors stories I’m writing. I also need to practice photography, and my tentative plan is to try and get a photo in every county, so it would certainly help me with that. (It also means y’all are bound to see some #rough editing as I learn how to do that decently… thanks in advance for sticking through it.) I think I could wrap it up into some kind of bigger project at the end, though I have no idea what. And at the end of the day, I’m always driving around Texas, anyway. It’s not like I’m going to stop. This just gives me an excuse.
I’ll still write some of my usual — The Stack, 10TILL, stuff like that — and throw a random post out here and there, but a lot of the posts will be 254 posts. Figured I should explain before I just started writing em.
Also, I’m trying to figure out how to make or where to find a responsive county map that I could fill in as I go, or maybe share here so people can see what counties I have/have not visited. If you know of how to get/do that, please let me know! It’d be way more fun than my highlighter setup, and it would allow others to chime in with suggestions for what to do/where to stay in the counties I have left. (I sort of started creating one on Google Maps last week but it seemed complicated and I gave up after not trying very hard. I could probably give it another go.)
I’m not putting any time limit on this, because I’m just doing it for fun. I have started hashtagging photos on Instagram with #254challenge, though, so if you’d like to follow along check that out! And please comment with thoughts, suggestions, and “You’re crazy”s. All input is welcome, though as my parents (who are not at all surprised I’m trying this) can assure you, not all of it will necessarily be heeded.
Here's to roadtripping!