All 50 stating

My All 50 States Club pin
It was November 2004 when I joined the all-50-states club. A quest that I first considered possible in 1991 was completed when west coast work trips two out of three weeks simply screamed for me to arrange flying to Hawaii for the week in the middle. Noting cheap inter-island flights, I charted the Hawaiian adventure with several days each on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island, and knocked off the Aloha State's two National Parks (and the Valor in the Pacific NHS) before ever setting touching all 59 of them as a possible travel goal. 

I actually knew the year before I'd be heading to Hawaii, as I enjoyed a great Alaskan trip that included a boat tour operator in Kenaii Fjords National Park precisely pointing the boat southward and noting that the next land mass we'd hit would be Hawaii. "Next year," I remember thinking. It made sense to me after all that the 49th and 50th states would be the 49th and 50th I visited. 

Further, if we go back just one more year, when I finally made it to New Orleans, Louisiana—my last Lower-48 state—interest in hitting all 50 awoke after a dormant stretch, and I dug into researching that trip to Alaska soon after getting home. 

At the time, I didn't know too many people who had visited all 50. I had some friends and co-workers who took long road trips and had state tallies of over 40, but we mostly dreamed of driving cross county and visiting National Parks and ballparks rather than taking the many trips necessary to visit every state. 


Growing up, I had never even been off the east coast. The family took great trips up and down the Eastern seaboard, but Vermont was the only land-locked state I had been to before college. I added a west coast state in my early 20s when visiting my sister in Seattle, WA, but all the trips I was taking with friends and family only added West Virginia to my short list of non-coastal states through the 1980s. 

My sister's relocation to the west coast and her subsequent traverses of the country and seeing places like Yellowstone, Grand Canyon and Big Bend National Parks certainly piqued my interest in driving west. Then my friends took a six-week cross country trip that had me wishing I would get a chance to see other parts of the nation. Some travel books (notably North America, by the same author who wrote the book from whom this blog's name is taken, and a Reader's Digest tour book entitled On The Road USA) motivated me further. Talking to those co-workers who took frequent long road trips was the final straw. I needed to start flexing my driving muscles.

I note here that I've always liked maps. Anybody who follows me on the main social media networks has likely seen me post maps—road maps, pin maps, etc, etc. As a kid, I loved following the AAA TripTiks, and got them myself when I started taking my own road trips. Now I use their spiffy online version of this old but very detailed and reliable trip router. Mapping and planning trips always came easily for me.

Quickly, here's a run down of how I built toward visiting all 50 states via strategic mapping, planning and scheduling.
  • 1990, Indiana trip. Two new states. This was my first stadium road trip, seeing football games in Cleveland and Indianapolis.
  • 1991, New England day trip. Four new states. A Red Sox (day) game was the main purpose of the trip, and I shot up to Maine afterward for dinner.
  • 1991, Midwest ballpark trip. Eight new states. (And, yes, I absolutely counted drive-throughs or cutting in and out of a state as a visit the first time around.) I found a stadium alignment that allowed me to pack in six baseball and football games over 10 days, with my first National Park visit right in the middle of them. In more than one sense of the words, it was game on.
  • 1992, Rockies trip. Four new states. Flew into Denver, and made a giant driving loop through a bunch of National Parks.
  • 1993, West coast trip. Three new states. First trip really planned around both National Park and ballpark travel.
  • 1994, Deep South trip. Four new states. The Smokies, southern Civil War battlefields and seeing a new part of the country were the motivation.
  • 1995, Southwest trip. Two new states. Another all National Park adventure. I don't recall being aware of the National Park count back then (neither mine nor the total number at the time), but I knew I suddenly had a bunch under my belt, and was in full lamenting mode regarding the National Park passport, which I was resisting purchasing. But I digress. 😉
  • 1996, Texas overnighter. Two new states while returning from the Rockies. I was tired of flying through DFW and having to debate calling that my Texas visit, so I arranged the trip with a stopover to see the Dealey Plaza and a ballgame. I even drove north to have lunch in Oklahoma.
  • 2002, New Orleans. Finally got to Louisiana! With my friends traveling there for Mardi Gras year after year, it surprised me a bit that it took so long to check it off the list. A football game and some sightseeing gave me the push I needed, letting me finish off the lower 48. I could now turn my attention to those faraway, non-contiguous last two states!
By the time I had completed visiting the 50 states in 2004, I was more than halfway back to getting there a second time, and now I'm closing in fast on completing that second loop, not to mention sitting at 40 at least three times. Business travel that kicked in for me at the turn of the millennium meant multiple visits to states that I might have had a harder time getting to on my own. Adding a personal day or weekend to a business trip facilitated getting to many checklist places (sporting events in particular, but also National Parks, breweries, etc) that I might not have otherwise attempted too readily and likewise enabled extra trips across state lines. 

Either way, the first time around, my only rule for counting a visit was making the effort to get there. I didn't count airports, but I did count over-the-state-line U-turns. If I went out of my way for the express purpose of getting into the state, it counted. For the record, however, I never felt good about those maneuvers that let me check off KS, NE and AR (combined, I spent maybe 20–30 minutes in them the first time through) and l was only mildly OK with my briefly longer first visits to AL, NM and OK. 

The worst, though, was that debate of whether or not to count Texas via passing through DFW. Around the third time, I figured I had enough time there to justify checking off the Lone Star state as done. Some say airports counts and some say they don't. I could argue both sides, but didn't really count it, while noting that if I got shot there or got a ticket, etc, the records would state Texas. My visit in '96 was to remove all doubt, as an NPS site and ballgame totally count!

And, yes, during this second time through all the states, I've been deliberate about planning multiple activities in each state. Some of my recent trips have been fueled by the notion of spending time and seeing particular places (NPS sites, mostly) or attending events (Minor League and Independent League baseball, in particular) in parts of the country that I have spent very little time. I loved, in fact, the reactions of people learning I was planning a road trip from Louisville to Detroit in 2013, from Oklahoma to Iowa in 2014, a loop from Little Rock to Birmingham in 2015, or through the Dakotas and Prairie Provinces this summer. But, doing so let me see bunches of new ballparks, breweries and National Park sites, and they have let me get real close to 50 states a second time.

All of these recent trips, in turn, have led me to ponder what I've done and not done in each state.

First, here's what I haven't done:
  • CT, never spent the night (I don't think). It's 20 minutes away, and I pass through it frequently, but I simply don't recall staying there overnight. 
  • AK, never drove. My one trip there was all planes, trains and taxi cabs...and boats, but I never got behind the wheel.
  • ID, slept and drove, but nothing else. I hope to spend a day or two there next summer and rewrite that weak history.
So, I may or may not rectify those situations in all three states, but it also lends toward considering what reasonable travel goals I may set in all 50 states (or have been set by things like work). These few popped into my head first, with my current counts given parenthetically:
  • An NPS site in all 50 (40).
  • A brewery in all 50 (34).
  • A sporting event in all 50 (42). 
  • A ballgame in all 50 (39; I saw football in NC, IN and LA).
  • Ski in as many states as reasonably possible (12).
  • Business travel to all 50 (25).
Really, though, hitting all 50 states and visiting every ballpark were my first two travel goals. I was very happy to achieve both, but note that I finished the 50 states before getting to the 30 ballparks.

Getting to Alaska a second time will mean finishing the second loop of all 50 states, which places revisiting it high among my travel goals, and I do hope to do that sooner than later.

Comments

  1. Oooh, visiting a brewery in all 50 states is definitely a quest I could get behind... Sadly, I think I'm several states short, namely Arkansas, Idaho, Montana, and the Dakotas,. I also haven't even been to Alaska (which will be my 50th state), though we'll take care of a bunch of breweries there—might even finish all but 2 (very remote ones) in the state over the next 3 summers.

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    1. I don't think I added any breweries in other states since writing this. I also know I've whiffed a few times in recent years at knocking off a brewery while in a particular state, but I do hope to pick up three or four more states this year. We shall see. Like a missed NPS site or ballgame, the breweries can give me a reason to go back. Cheers, Scott!

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