Sanford Teaches a Valuable Lesson in Geography

Crazy cross-hemisphere chase for missing Gov was an educational adventure

By Sara K. Smith
|  Thursday, Jun 25, 2009  |  Updated 6:52 AM CDT
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Google Earth; AP (inset)

Today we all know a little bit more about our western hemisphere, thanks to the South Carolina governor's impromptu "adventure trip" to an exotic South American country.

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In one of the weirdest press conferences of the year, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford taught us many things: about life, love, the Bible, and dinosaurs. But it was nothing compared to what he has taught us this week about geography.

The wandering lovelorn swain from Columbia reacquainted America not only with its own geography, but with that of our neighbors to the south. The adventure began somewhere on the Appalachian Trail, a 2,100-mile hiking path that extends from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Maine. Sanford staffers said on Monday that he had gone to the Appalachian Trail sometime last week, although his last known cellphone signals came from Atlanta -- some 60 miles from the trail head.

And so everybody just kind of went along with it and assumed that Mark Sanford spent Father's Day weekend away from his kids, hiking with nudists somewhere in the mountains of the Eastern United States, until early Wednesday when news broke that he had maybe been in Argentina instead.

Argentina, as we were soon to discover, is one of those many countries in South America. It is a sort of long, skinny country, like Chile, instead of a short and bulbous country like Bolivia or Ecuador. Its capital city, Buenos Aires, lies on the Atlantic, which is how Governor Sanford was able to go for a drive along the coastline. Or was that all a lie, too?

Trying to drive along the coast could frustrate a weekend visitor to Argentina. In Buenos Aires, the Avenida Costanera is the only coastal road, and it's less than two miles long. Reaching coastal resorts to the south requires a drive of nearly four hours on an inland highway with views of endless cattle ranches. To the north is a river delta of islands reached only by boat.

Argentina, by the way, is just to the south of Brazil -- the place to which John McCain famously flew to see his galpal, a thousand years ago.

Today, thanks to Mark Sanford, some of us can now find South America on a map. A few might even be able to locate Argentina. And if you look very, very closely, you can see, stranded off the coast of Buenos Aires, the very last vestiges of Governor Sanford's dignity.

Cartographer Sara K. Smith writes for NBC and Wonkette.

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