An interesting read this morning was in the Sunday "Travel" section of the Orange County Register. Its travel editor, Gary Warner, has finally accomplished a lifetime goal - he has visited all fifty states of the United States.
Reading through his thumbnail memory of time spent in each state, it made me realize it is something I want to do in my lifetime. I like to travel, and I have had the good fortune to be able to travel throughout the United States and Europe.
But I have also advised others - before spending that money to go overseas, check out your own country, the U.S. of A. Chances are that even in your home state, there have been things you have not seen, unique places that exist off the beaten path, that you should take the time to visit.
Using this article as a reference guide, I have visted the following, whether for extended stays or quick trips (I won't count "just driving through" unless I stopped there and took the time to appreciate the local atmosphere): Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming. Oh yeah, and Washington, D.C.
Hmmm, not bad - 28 out of the 50. In August of this year, my family and I will visit Tennessee, which will allow me to add one more. But there is still a lot more to explore and some of the places I haven't spent enough time in.
So let's make this an American summer travel meme.
1. How many US states have you visited? 28
2. What was the most beautiful place visited? Easy - the Grand Canyon. Breathtaking.
3. What was the worst place you visited? Lawton, Oklahoma.
4. What was the oddest place visited? Hard one - was it the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD? The monument to the vomiting seagulls in Salt Lake City? Naw, I'll still go with Big Pile of Bones in Velarde, NM, which sadly is no longer there. It was a place where this odd fellow in a stained coverall and a long white beard - Stan Bulis - sold animal bones, fur, rusted tractor parts, just a whole buncha weird stuff. His daughter was a wraithlike creature, just sort of hovering around the place, occassionally shooing the live turkeys that had the run of the lot.
5. Best meal you've ever had? Toss-up - fried walleyed pike at Lambert's Hot Fish Shop in Winona, MN (again, sadly, no longer there) or the "burnt ends" plate at Little Jake's in Kansas City, MO ("eat it and beat it!").
6. Worst regional delicacy you've had the guts to try? Does it count if I only smelled it - lutefisk in Minnesota.
7. Best museum you've visited? For art, Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. For science, tie between the Mayo Clinic's in Rochester, MN and The Franklin Institute in Philly. For weird stuff, the Voodoo Museum in New Orleans.
8. Favorite national monument? All the stuff in Washington, D.C. is great, but I have always been most impressed by Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
9. Favorite park? Central Park in New York City, but for the great outdoors, Zion National Park in Utah.
10. Friendliest people? Again, a tie - Minnesota and Louisiana.
11. If someone wanted to visit your town/city/county/state, where would you tell them to go? I'll give first an answer for my hometown of New York City - GET OUTTA MANHATTAN! Too many people stay there and don't get out to the outlying boroughs. Go to 204th Street and Bainbridge in the bronx and have a drink at one of the many Irish pubs. Check the dartboard - if there is a picture of Queen Elizabeth mounted there, republican sympathies lie. If you have to stay in Manhattan, go down to the Lower East Side on a Sunday morning and haggle for a new suit, that you'll buy from a Hasidic Jew who will send you next door to the Puerto Rican tailor to have altered. In Orange County, California, don't just lie on the beach - go down to the tide pools behind the Ocean Institute in Dana Point and take a close look. If a whale carcass has washed ashore, consider it a learning experience. And if you have to go to San Francisco (flowers in your hair or not), get to it by driving Pacific Coast Highway from Southern California. It'll take ya a couple of days but the view is worth it.
Amy Pawlak at Modern Commentaries, you posted that you were under the weather just recently, so I'll tag you! As well as anyone else reading this!