Road trip will add states to his bucket list

Published 9:04 am Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Column: Guest Column, by Joel Myhre

A few years ago, I wrote a column about my quest to put my feet in each and every one of our 50 states.

So far, I’m up to 37. Over the last couple years, I added the states of Hawaii, Oregon and Mississippi to my list. Since I wrote that column, I found myself in a debate over what the definition of “visiting” a state meant. My opponent said he felt like you needed to spend at least one night in a state to check it off one’s list.

Joel Myhre

Joel Myhre

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I don’t buy that argument. If your body crosses a state border, it can be checked off. Thus, there were a few states (Tennessee and Ohio, to name a couple) where my entire “visit” was a two-hour layover in an airport or a couple hours on a highway (though I found the Ohio McDonald’s to be fascinating).

That said, I am about to make a dent into the lucky 13 states in November. My family will be flying to Boston and vacationing in New England.

There are at least six states, and possibly seven, to visit: Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine and Rhode Island.

The seventh, New York, is a possibility, but it’s still tentative. Frankly, I’d rather make my first trip to New York state in the heart of the Big Apple, eating some massive pastrami sandwich, visiting the Statue of Liberty and seeing some famous musical. I’m not sure taking some ferry off the coast to an island that is New York state territory is the way to go.

My challenge on this trip is to visit every state, while still making the trip a fun vacation for my wife and daughter. And, oh yeah, not looking like a big geek and making a multi-hour drive in the car simply to get out of the car, take a picture with my feet in a state, and then leave. My wife has already mentioned the dreaded name “Clark Griswold” when it comes to this trip.

Come to think of it, I’m wondering whether making a vacation plan that ensures we hit all six or seven states is such a great idea.

The problem with this “50 states” tour is that, up until now, I have not forced my visits. Each trip had a purpose — live there, work there, vacation there, drive on a highway there, or have a layover at an airport there.

Make no mistake, there are plenty of cool things to do in New England. Boston’s a big city rich in American history. The coast of Maine is famous for lobster rolls. Even inland, there’s a mountain range in New Hampshire, and lots of cool hiking in Vermont.

But the more I dig into the planning, the more I’m thinking that the last thing I want to do is waste a vacation day driving five hours in the car just so I can check off my list.

I mean, I only get so much vacation time in a year, or lifetime, for that matter. I’m not sure I want to waste it by sitting in the car (especially if it means putting other family members at risk of whining.)

This trip should be fun and relaxing. If maximizing fun and relaxation time means I don’t get to check, say, Connecticut off my list, so be it. If our trip turns out to be fun, we can always go back sometime and enjoy Connecticut.

Besides, if we get down to the nitty-gritty, I’m not sure what organic reason I would come up with to visit the states of Arkansas, Kentucky and West Virginia. At the point I’m ready to hit those states, I might as well take the “Vacation” trilogy to watch in hotels along the way.

All that said, I still want to make sure I visit Rhode Island. I’m obsessed with the fact that an entire state is 30 percent smaller in land mass than Otter Tail County. It’s only an hour from Boston, so maybe I’ll sneak out while my family is sleeping in.


Joel Myhre is the publisher of the Fergus Falls Journal.