Many years ago I authored a story on dull cars named after exciting places, mining automobiledom’s extensive back catalogue of car names stemming from history’s pre-alphanumeric golden age. But after spending an hour thumbing through Motor Trend’s New Car Buyer’s Guide and Google-Mapping every actual car name, I came up with this fun list of largely unknown (at least to me) places where local kids could pry off a car’s name badge and stick it on their lunchbox, school locker, or assignment book and look pretty cool. Fun fact: You’d rack up 5,136 miles by car and 16,900 more by plane to visit all 15 of these locations in the order listed, taking to the skies from Rogue River.
Accord, New York
Accord (say ACK-ord) is a hamlet of 562 souls in Ulster County, just east of Rochester. Not that Rochester — the little one in the Catskills. Accord was originally named Port Jackson, then the citizens petitioned for a new name (possibly to avoid confusion with the president known for American Indian genocide?). Albany replied, “We cannot come to an accord on a new name.” It stuck. Accord-ing to the most recent census, 91 Accord households have children under 18, making them ideal target customers for Honda’s stalwart family sedan.
Avalon, New Jersey
In the borough of Avalon in Cape May County on Seven Mile Island, the maids and nannies are probably the people you’ll find piloting Toyota’s super-Camry. This is one of the most affluent burgs on the Jersey Shore, with a median family income of $135,781 USD in the 2010 census. Notable natives of Avalon include Jonny Carson sidekick Ed McMahon and disgraced Penn State coach Joe Paterno.
Corolla, North Carolina
This unincorporated community along North Carolina’s beautiful northern Outer Banks also “mispronounces” its name “kuh-RAH-luh.” Then again, it’s been doing so since 1895, with the name referring to the botanic term for the petals of a flower. Super-fun fact: The area’s 12,000-acre animal sanctuary is home to 119 feral Banker horses — just 13 shy of the count under the hood of Toyota’s most popular compact sedan.
Cherokee, North Carolina
There are towns called Cherokee in Alabama, Indiana, and Oklahoma, but the Jeepiest location is right outside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. The list of outdoorsy activities necessitating an active-lifestyle vehicle with special roof racks is nearly endless: trout fishing, kayaking, canoeing, rafting, tubing, hiking, elk viewing — you name it. And if you must go off-roading, official trails in the Nantahala National Forest are just an hour southwest.
There are virtually no Spaniards in “ar-MAY-da,” so don’t reveal yourself to be an invader by using Nissan’s pronunciation in this village, situated about 44 miles northeast of Detroit at the base of Michigan’s “thumb.” Armada was once a thriving village along an America Indian trail, during which time the town boasted a stagecoach stop, an opera house, and a theater. Things are much quieter now, and an Armada SUV owner would have to drive 36 minutes away to service his Nissan in Roseville, Michigan.
Traverse (City), Michigan
If you insure an old car, you might recognize this city’s name from having addressed a premium payment to Hagerty Insurance. They’re headquartered in this charming town located on the west arm of Grand Traverse Bay, off Lake Michigan. The region is known for growing tart cherries and grapes that make surprisingly decent wines (given its 45th-parallel northern location). Order your Chevy crossover in Siren Red or Champagne Silver to stick with the cherry and wine themes if you decide to retire here. (It was voted one of the 10 best places to retire back in 2012.)
Leaf (River), Illinois
This charming village 23 miles southwest of Rockford (which is west of Chicago) was born when the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad expanded westward, putting the lightly settled township on the map. The agrarian grain and dairy farming area is now home to 443 sturdy Midwesterners, any of whom could easily drive to and from the city amenities of Rockford on a single charge in one of Nissan’s frog-eyed electric cars.
The Dodge may be named for Colorado’s Wild West town of this name, but there’s another bustling burg of 22 people by this name about 9 miles northwest of Dubuque. Its big claim to fame is Nan and Bob Smith’s Stone Cliff Winery. The couple bought a farm in 1996 and taught themselves the ins and outs of grape growing and winemaking, and shortly thereafter they planted 2,000 vines by hand with the help of friends, family, and the community. Their product may have yet to capture any major international wine awards from the enology and viticulture establishment, but then neither has Dodge’s SUV nabbed Motor Trend’s coveted SUV of the Year.
Sorento is just an extra “r” shy of the bigger, more populous town it was named for — in Florida (not Italy). The founding father and son (William and August Scharf) had visited Sorrento, Florida, and liked it enough to co-opt the name. Lucky Lindy landed in a field near here while prepping for his solo transatlantic flight, and Jimmy Swaggart cut his start in evangelizing through heartfelt tears at the Sorento Assembly of God. These days, it would take 72 Kia SUVs to transport the whole town somewhere.
This panhandle pit stop along U.S. highway 54/64 in Texas County was home to 356 intrepid souls as of 2010. Interestingly (while we’re car-name dropping), the Cimarron Cutoff for the Santa Fe Trail passed through this area in the 19th century. These days, the median income for a family is $40,833 USD, meaning these folks should be able to swing the note on a brand new $22,515 USD Kia Optima LX.
Rogue (River), Oregon
Nestled along the banks of the Rogue River in the foothills of the Rogue Valley in southern Oregon, this city of just under 2,000 located 9 miles east of Grants Pass celebrated its centennial in 2012 with a host of activities, including a whiskerino facial-hair contest, the 59th Annual Rooster Crow, and a pie and chili cook-off. Today the best way to experience Rogue River, if not from the helm of Nissan’s compact CUV, is by biking the 30-mile Rogue River Recreational Corridor and Greenway.
Pilot (Point), Alaska
To get a Honda Pilot to Pilot Point, Alaska, it’d have to take a boat ride or be airlifted via chopper or dirigible. Once there, a tank of gas might last for months, as this tiny salmon-fishing village on the north shore of the peninsula that heads out toward the Aleutian Islands is apparently disconnected from the highways that link Anchorage (some 350 miles away) with the rest of civilized Alaska. Just nine of the vehicles could transport the 68 souls counted back in the 2010 census.
Santa Fe de la Veracruz, Argentina
Sure, you know the artsy Santa Fe in New Mexico (and there was a whistle-stop in Florida by that name that died along with the Seaboard Crest Line railroad), but we’ve got a Hyundai CUV-name twofer in this Argentine city of a half million that is typically just called Santa Fe. Located about five hours northeast of Buenos Aires, near the junction of the Paraná and Salado rivers, the area is prone to flooding, so consider adding a high-rise intake snorkel to whichever Hyundai crossover you bring here.
Cayenne, French Guiana
You may not have heard of it, but the famous pepper is named for this capital of French Guiana on the northeastern coast of South America. It’s located on a former island where the Cayenne River empties into the Atlantic. The motto of the one-time French penal colony is “fert aurum industria.” That means “work brings wealth.” That may even explain how some buyers come to own Porsche’s range-topping SUV. Fun fact:
Fictional detectives the Hardy Boys ventured to Cayenne in their 12th book, “Footprints under the Window.”
Pathfinder (Village), United Kingdom
Most of the path finding is behind the denizens of this lovely, wooded planned community (snarkier wags have said the same of Nissan’s Pathfinder). Located near Exeter in southwest England, about 180 miles west of London, this village of manufactured homes is reserved exclusively for retired persons, and it caters to their every shopping, hairdressing, evening entertainment, and medical need. There’s even an otter sanctuary nearby! Awwww.