Well, first, I did what any reasonable man would do—I bought a new car (a Ford Mustang to be exact, which also just celebrated its 50th birthday). And second, I decided that I should take a big trip, preferably one that might have something to do with the number 50 (theming is important, you know…).
An idea plopped itself into my head. What if I visited all 50 states during my 50th year? I had already been to 43 states in my lifetime, but what if I tried to have a new experience in states where I’ve already visited along with finally traveling to the states that I still hadn’t seen?
My rules would be simple:
- Set foot in each of the 50 states within the 2015 calendar year.
- Airports don’t count.
With a map and my calendar, I got busy trying to figure out how to make it work. After much thought, planning, and discussion, I put together 18 different trips that would allow me to accomplish the goal (specifics are listed in the appendix below).
And I hit the road.
The first trip in my quest was on January 3, 2015 to Malad, Idaho. (And, no, I didn’t buy a lottery ticket.) The trips continued with at least one excursion a month.With each trip, I tried to be as efficient as possible by maximizing the number of states visited. Some places made it relatively easy to visit multiple states in a short amount of time (like Four Corners, New Mexico). States bordering Utah were simple to visit as well.
Another efficient and delightful trip (and demonstrative of what I was trying to do) was my trip to the Gulf Coast. Flying round trip from Salt Lake City to New Orleans, Louisiana, I visited New Orleans; Biloxi, Mississippi; Mobile, Alabama; and Pensacola, Florida over a weekend. These four cities in four separate states are only 3.5 hours apart.
The record number of states visited in one trip was to New England (no surprise there) where I drove to nine states over a weekend—West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine (along with stops in Virginia, New York, and Massachusetts—states that I had already visited earlier in the year—which would bring to number to 12 states in one weekend).
With each state, I always had a specific destination in mind. The main reason for that, truth be told, was to have a specific address in enter in to the Maps app on my iPhone (which was an indispensable resource during all of my travels this year). And while wandering and exploring without a specific agenda can be very fun (and which happened in multiple states throughout the year), it was also comforting to have a plan knowing where my next stop was and how I was going to get there. (I also made all hotel reservations in advance, too. Plan, plan, plan…)
I tried to visit as many national parks and monuments along the way as possible. Some were great, like Cape Hatteras National Seashore in North Carolina and Gettysburg National Military Park in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; others were a bust, like the Thomas Edison National Historic Park, in West Orange, New Jersey, which happened to be closed the day I was there (yet another choice experience in New Jersey). Still, the National Park Service is an American treasure.
Have I mentioned that I like cars? The year didn’t disappoint with cool experiences for this car lover.
Star Wars happily forced its way in to my 2015 travels, too.
I’m a big baseball fan and my journeys didn’t disappoint in this regard, either.
And speaking of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, participating in the Choir’s 2015 Atlantic Coast Tour allowed me to visit multiple states and perform in some world-class venues.
I was reminded time and time again about many of my heroes from American history. These imperfect, brave, and tenacious people rose above their challenges and were able to do many extraordinary things for the betterment of the country and of the world. Re-visting these sites (or in some cases seeing them for the first time) was inspiring.
I love road signs. Here are some of my favorites from the year.
My goal was accomplished on December 26, 2015 when I arrived and set foot (outside of the airport, of course) in Fairbanks, Alaska. I crazily but intentionally scheduled my trip to Alaska during the month of December with the primary goal of seeing the Northern Lights. Thankfully, things worked out.
Visiting all 50 states within a twelve month period has been an extremely fun adventure. Figuring out how to make it happen was an enjoyable challenge. I learned something new everywhere I visited. And I can’t wait to get back out there to experience more of this great land I live in (just please don’t make me drive on the New Jersey Turnpike).
My Top 10 Favorite Sites of 2015
Here are my 10 favorite places that I visited during the year (and not in any particular order):
- National Mall and Memorial Parks, Washington, District of Columbia
- North American International Auto Show, Detroit, Michigan
- Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
- Disneyland, Anaheim, California
- Wright Brothers National Memorial, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina
- Mississippi Gulf Coast, Mississippi
- Carnegie Hall, New York, New York
- Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
- Northern Lights/Aurora Borealis sighting, Fairbanks, Alaska
- Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota
Honorable mentions: Arches National Park, Grand Ole Opry, Graceland, The Henry Ford Museum, Charlotte Motor Speedway
Places that I’ve visited before and that would probably make the list but wasn’t able to visit in 2015: Statue of Liberty National Monument, Yellowstone National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, Walt Disney World, Everglades National Park
My Bottom 7
The states I visited where I had less than desirable experiences this year include (and in particular order) :
- New Jersey
- New Jersey
- New Jersey
- New Jersey
- New Jersey
Appendix: The Plan
As previously mentioned, I planned 18 separate trips (labeled “A” through “R” in the table below) for the year, most all of them falling on a weekend. Below is a table showing how I broke everything down, including the transportation methods used (see “Transportation Legend” below).
Please contact me directly if you’d like any more specifics about my antics this year. I’ve also taken a picture from every state and posted them to my Instagram account under the hashtag #50statesin2015.
|🐎||My Ford Mustang; driven to and from Salt Lake City|
|✈️||Flight from Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) > Destination Airport Code; round trip unless otherwise indicated|
|🏡||Home (aka where I live)|
|Trip||States Visited (in order)||Transportation Used||Route|
|A||2) Idaho||🐎||Salt Lake City, UT > Malad, ID|
|B||3) Wyoming||🐎||Salt Lake City, UT > Evanston, WY|
|C||4) Michigan, 5) Ohio||✈️ (SLC > DTW) 🚗||Detroit, MI > Toledo, OH|
|D||6) Arizona, 7) Colorado, 8) New Mexico||🐎||Salt Lake City, UT > Four Corners, NM|
|E||9) California||✈️ (SLC > LAX) 🚗||Los Angeles, CA|
|F||10) Minnesota, 11) Wisconsin||✈️ (SLC > MSP) 🚗||Minneapolis, MN > Hudson, WI|
|G||12) Nevada||🐎||Salt Lake City, UT > Las Vegas, NV|
|H||13) Texas, 14) Oklahoma||✈️ (SLC > DFW) 🚗||Dallas, TX > Durant, OK|
|I||15) Louisiana, 16) Mississippi, 17) Alabama, 18) Florida||✈️ (SLC > MSY) 🚗||New Orleans, LA > Biloxi, MS > Mobile, AL > Pensacola, FL|
|J||19) Montana, 20) North Dakota, 21) South Dakota, 22) Nebraska||🐎||Salt Lake City, UT > Billings, MT > Medora, ND > Rapid City, SD > Ogala National Grassland, NE|
|K||23) Missouri, 24) Kansas, 25) Iowa||✈️ (SLC > KCI) 🚗||Kansas City, MI > IA > Kansas City, KS|
|L||26) Maryland, 27) New York, 28) Virginia, 29) Massachusetts||✈️ (SLC > BWI;
BOS > SLC)
🚌 (Mormon Tabernacle Choir 2015 Atlantic Coast Tour)
|Baltimore, MD > Bethesda, MD > Mount Vernon, VA > New York City, NY (and other NY venues) > Boston, MA|
|M||30) Tennessee, 31) Arkansas, 32) Illinois, 33) Indiana, 34) Kentucky||✈️ (SLC > MEM) 🚗||Memphis, TN > Marion, AK > Cairo, IL > Lincoln City, IN > Louisville, KY > Bowling Green, KY > Nashville, TN|
|N||35) Oregon, 36) Washington||🐎||Salt Lake City, UT > Pendleton, OR > Walla Walla, WA|
|O||37) West Virginia, 38) Pennsylvania, 39) Delaware, 40) New Jersey, 41) Connecticut, 42) Rhode Island, 43) New Hampshire, 44) Vermont, 45) Maine||✈️ (SLC > DCA;
BOS > SLC) 🚗
|Washington, DC > Falls Church, WV > Gettysburg, PA > New Castle, DE > West Orange, NJ > Bridgeport, CT > Providence, RI > Cornish, NH > Sharon, VT > Kittery, ME|
|P||46) North Carolina, 47) South Carolina, 48) Georgia||✈️ (SLC > CLT) 🚗||Charlotte, NC > Kitty Hawk, NC > Gaffney, SC > Lavonia, GA|
|Q||49) Hawaii||✈️ (SLC > HNL) 🚗||Honolulu, Oahu, HI|
|R||50) Alaska||✈️ (SLC > FAI) 🚗||Fairbanks, AK|