Visiting all fifty states

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 05, 2005

When I was young boy, knee-high to a 5 1/4-inch disk drive (you know, one of those that went "thhpt-thhpt-thhpt-thhpt" when you tried to read the drive without closing the door), my dad would bundle my sister and I into the car/truck/motor home and we'd tour this country of ours. Twice to Texas, once to California/Oregon/Washington, once to Louisiana/Mississippi/Alabama/Georgia/Florida, once to Virginia/D.C., and just about everywhere between northern WI and our destinations. We'd sleep in the car, at campgrounds, in the motor home, and in cheap motels.

One time at a Texas rest stop, my sister slept in the back seat while my dad and I crashed on the hood of the car because all the fire ants precluded any tent-pitching. A state trooper woke us up at the crack of dawn and chatted with my dad at length; I'm sure he thought my sister and I had been abducted by this guy with the crazy eyebrows, buck-knife on the dashboard, and old beater Chevy Nova. Good times.

By the time I reached high school, I had already visited most of the states in the US. In my 20s, job responsibilities and vacation took care of most of the rest, including Hawaii and Alaska, two of the toughest to get to. This past weekend, with the addition of New Hampshire and Vermont (delightful places each), I can say that I have now visited all fifty US states.

It's a fun (and unintended) accomplishment, but the US is such a large place that it doesn't necessarily mean that much. I lived in California for two years, but have spent less than 24 hours in LA, the second largest city in the US. My five days in Anchorage (with a day-trip to Seward on the Kenai Peninsula) covers a tiny part of the Alaskan vastness. Never been to Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Omaha, Memphis, Phoenix, Denver, or Atlanta, except for their airports. My first-hand knowledge of New York State doesn't extend much past Inwood Park in northern Manhattan.

Still, I have been to a lot of different places in the US, mostly due to those trips I took with my dad as a kid. As I was closing in on the last few states, it was a race of sorts with my dad. He'd been stuck on 49 for years, never having made it to Maine. Dad, thanks for all those trips and this wanderlust that I seem to have inherited from you but you gotta know...I beat you! Woo! :)