The Amazing (Fifty State) Race: Covering the Entire U.S.A.
Humans love making lists — psychology has my back on this claim — and I am no exception. As a travel enthusiast and blogger, then, it is only natural for me to want to check more and more destinations off my bucket list and tell the world over what I've experienced along the way.
One of my long-term travel goals is to visit all 50 of these here United States of America (51 if Puerto Rico and the U.S. government can get together and make it happen), and I've been making steady progress in the current decade, twice visiting six new states in one year (2011 and 2015). So far, in 2017, I haven't added any new states, but I have a feeling Nevada is just on the horizon, if you know what I mean. (I'm talking about a visit to Lake Tahoe, of course.)
Anyhow, I have created this post as a progress report and an index of sorts to document my journeys to the fifty states. Where I haven't been, such as the entirety of the "A" states below this paragraph, you will see nothing. Where I have been though, you will find the year I first visited in parentheses next to the name, a blurb on my excursion to the state and perhaps a link (given that I've written about my travels to said state). I will be updating this post periodically.
And now, here they are:
Ah, the Golden State. Even though I've only been here once, I can say unequivocally that I'm a fan. Los Angeles called my name during spring break of my senior year in college and I was hard pressed to turn it down, so I didn't. It was a glorious week amongst the Hollywood hills and the boulevards.
I cannot say I am well-acquainted with Connecticut, seeing as I only spent little more than two hours in the state during a road trip I called the East Coast Extravaganza in 2015. That was enough time, however, for pitstops at Two Roads Brewing Company in Stratford and the house used for exterior shots in the movie The Family Stone (2005) in Greenwich.
The first state! How exciting! Readers of this blog will hopefully, maybe, just possibly be familiar with my shenanigans in Delaware from a pair of posts: 'Ten Thousand Lightning Bugs..' and 11 Things You Should NOT Do at a Summer Music Festival.
Family vacations are something, I tell ya. Especially when you take them with another person's family and that person happens to be your girlfriend at the time and her dad gets pissed at you on the second night of a two-week stay... yikes. That was St. Augustine during my junior year of high school. More recently, I had some trouble with a rental car in Orlando.
Driving along the expressway in Atlanta at 3 a.m. was my first memorable experience in Georgia. That was on the way to St. Augustine, Florida, during the somewhat disastrous vacation mentioned above. I've been in Atlanta a couple more times since then, once in 2013 for the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Final Four and in March 2017 for a layover (if you even want to count that).
Another family vacay, but this time with my own fam. My mother, sister, brother, and I took a train from Holland, Michigan, to Chicago in August just a couple weeks before I would set off for college. Willis Tower, Navy Pier, Chicago-style pizza: We did the works. I revisited the Windy City only a few months later in February 2013 and then again in June 2017 after stopping in Evanston to take a peek at Northwestern University's campus.
Though I drove through the Hoosier State earlier in the year, my first genuine visit was in November 2011 for a convention that took place at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. So yeah, I've been to the building where the Colts play their home games, but not for a sporting event. I've also ventured to South Bend and West Lafayette, both times to see my Michigan Wolverines throw the pigskin around.
Nothing much to see here (not in terms of the state, but in my being there); I've only really driven through Kentucky on the way to other destinations. But gosh darn it, I'm counting it anyway. I'll let you know when I make a proper visit to Louisville.
January 2009 — yes, the very month America's first black president was inaugurated (I was there!) — was also the first time I stepped foot in Maryland. Or, more accurately, sat on a bus that drove through a portion of the state on the way to Washington, D.C. Even if you don't count that, I kind of, sort of ran out of gas near Middletown, Maryland, in June 2016 on the way to Delaware (again, see: 11 Things You Should NOT Do at a Summer Music Festival).
The East Coast Extravaganza strikes again with a stop in Boston, Massachusetts, in March 2015. As with Connecticut (and Rhode Island and New Jersey below), my time in the Bay State was rather short. On a rainy afternoon, I only stopped long enough in Boston for a brief appearance at the Museum of Fine Arts, a slice of the good stuff at University House of Pizza, and a drive-by viewing of Paul Revere's house.
Great Lakes State born and raised, and yet there are still corners of the Mitten that remain unexplored. The short list would include Pictured Rocks and Isle Royale in da U.P.
Minnesota, eh? Yes, I visited there the first and only time so far when I was just 11 years old. Can you guess where we went? Why to Bloomington and the Mall of America, of course. Unfortunately, the most poignant memory from this family trip is losing my "blankie." I hope you admire my honesty.
New Hampshire (2015)
Dinner at I-don't-remember-where in Lebanon and filling up at a gas station in Contoocook comprise the meaningful time I have spent in New Hampshire. I'd definitely like to head back here at some point, perhaps hitting up Maine in the same swing.
New Jersey (2015)
My first time in New Jersey was very Kentucky-ish — in my vernacular — in that it was truly just a drive through on my way to stay the night in State College, Pennsylvania. But! I had an overnight layover in Newark on the way back from Israel in May 2016, so I have surely stepped foot on New Jersey soil. Maybe I'll make a side excursion to Hoboken whenever I make my way to Manhattan next.
New York (2014)
My first jaunt to the Empire State did not see me to New York City but to Buffalo and Niagara Falls. I picked up one of my good friends from high school in Columbus, Ohio, and then we journeyed through a dark and stormy October evening to that city on the far end of Lake Erie. While there, we ate buffalo wings at the place where they were first "invented" — the Anchor Bar on Main Street. (See also: New York City, Chapter 2.5: Hello, Brooklyn)
I cannot feign to be a fan of Ohio. As a true blue Michigan Wolverine, it just can't be done. But I have been here on a few occasions, the first time being a trip with my aunt, cousin, and brother to Cedar Point in Sandusky. I also participated in a ballroom dance competition in Columbus in November 2012, believe it or not.
It was on a trip to Washington, D.C., in January 2009 that I first entered the great state of Pennsylvania. It was a brief meeting — an early morning pitstop at a rest area in god knows where — but I've since stayed a night in State College (on the way back to Michigan from the East Coast Extravaganza). I would love to get to Philadelphia at some point (Independence Hall, holla).
Rhode Island (2015)
The tiniest state that ever there was. Following a few hours spent in Boston (mentioned above), I took my time driving around Providence and the campus of Brown University on a rainy Saturday in which I ultimately spent some amount of time in Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. If it sounds like a lot of time in the car, that's because it was.
Though I count both the first time I drove through the Volunteer State in March 2011 and that time we were run off of I-75 near Loudon in April 2013 as semi-official visits to Tennessee, I finally spent some significant time there in spring 2018. That's when a friend and I set out for a long weekend in Nashville, which included rooftop bars aplenty, some Biscuit Love, and murals upon murals.
Two for two on the "T" states, I am, with my first trip to Texas — and my first time traveling solo — taking place in June 2011. I was there for Economics for Leaders, this week-long summer program put on by the Foundation for Teaching Economics that consists of educational activities focused around, you guessed it, economics and leadership for soon-to-be high school seniors. My program took place on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin, and, being June, it was hot, hot, hot.
The Green Mountain State was what you might refer to as the base of operations for the East Coast Extravaganza, the place I spent the most time in and what the entire trip was built around. Most everything about this not-so-little excursion can be found in That Time I Climbed a Mountain Alone.
Arlington, Alexandria, Mount Vernon — my first experience with Virginia was a mere outgrowth of a pair of trips to Washington, D.C., in the early months of 2009. Still, no one could deny the importance of Arlington National Cemetery or the estate of the nation's first president. There is undoubtedly more to see in the Old Dominion, but I don't see anything coming to fruition soon.
West Virginia (2014)
An Alternative Spring Break trip with some of my college classmates during my sophomore year saw me to West Virginia in March 2014. We traveled there to help restore a rundown community center in Bluefield to working order while staying at the Appalachian South Folklife Center near Pipestem Resort State Park. Other stops included the John Henry Monument in Talcott (at my insistence) and in Charleston, the capital, for a bite to eat at Pies & Pints.
This was the first state I visited outside of my home state of Michigan on a little family vacay to Wisconsin Dells in the summer of 2002. There we were in the water park mecca of the Midwest and 8-year-old me decided to get his head stuck in the metal railing on the hotel balcony, requiring assistance from the local fire department. Finally made a return trip to Wisconsin in June 2017 (see: Fond du Lac, I Hardly Knew You and Sights & Sounds at Road America).
Total: 24/50 (as of 08/04/2017)