Going the Extra Mile | Knowledge & Wisdom

Why a rural New England ramble always takes a bit longer than you’d think.

By Yankee Magazine

Aug 24 2017


Why a rural New England ramble always takes a bit longer than you’d think.

On our last trip through southwestern New Hampshire, we had many opportunities to ask directions in both the larger towns and off-the-beaten-track hamlets. Out of curiosity, we checked our odometer against the local estimates in hopes of establishing the exact distance of that old chestnut, the country mile.

We found that the average country mile is more than twice as long as the standard mile: 2.3 standard miles to the country mile, to be precise. But as this figure is subject to change without notice, we postulate the following:

1. Country miles get shorter as they increase in number. One country mile may equal three standard miles, but three country miles will be closer to six miles than nine. If you’re lucky.

2. The smaller the town, the larger the mile. In Manchester, a mile is a mile is a mile. In Rindge, a mile is two miles or probably three or four. Usually.

3. A winding line is just as short as a straight line between two points in the country. No one needs to know how far it is to the next town “as the crow flies,” and the shopkeeper giving you directions knows this. The road he sets you on is The Road, if not The Best Road, and is therefore the shortest way, regardless of what the crows are doing.

—Adapted from “How Long Is a Country Mile?”
by David N. Wyman, October 1975