50 states of be­ing

A de­ter­mined do­mes­tic trav­eler fi­nally achieves her goal and finds more than a few kin­dred spir­its — a club, in fact — along the way

The Washington Post Sunday - - TRAVEL - BY CHRIS­TINE DELL’AMORE

My fa­ther, a trav­el­ing busi­ness­man, likes to joke that I would hap­pily tag along with him to Ames, Iowa; Gary, Ind.; or any other Amer­i­can town that’s not on most tourist maps. It’s true. If you have an open mind and an ad­ven­turer’s spirit, ev­ery place has some­thing worth your time.

Had I be­lieved the non­sense about Ne­braska be­ing a “fly­over state,” for in­stance, I would never have herded cat­tle on horse­back through rolling grass­lands lush with pur­ple wild­flow­ers and tall pines. Had I stuck close to home, I might not have tasted heav­enly ba­nana pud­ding in Selma, Ala., or bought stamps from the cutest darn post of­fice you’ve ever seen, snug­gled in the snow in tiny Ply­mouth, Vt. Root­ing out such gems has been a long­time joy of mine, and around 10 years ago I re­al­ized that I had gone to 30-odd states in the process.

That’s when I started get­ting se­ri­ous about see­ing all 50.

I pin­pointed my weak spots — the Great Lakes, the Dako­tas, parts of the South — and planned how I’d get there. I didn’t set a par­tic­u­lar dead­line, but pri­or­i­tized about two states a year.

I had a de­cent head start: Grow­ing up in Mary­land (and tak­ing fre­quent so­journs to Walt Dis­ney World) meant that I had been to most of the East­ern Se­aboard. Two years of grad­u­ate school in Colorado al­lowed for easy camp­ing or hik­ing ad­ven­tures to Wy­oming, Utah, New Mex­ico, Kansas and Ari­zona. Re­port­ing trips took me to Idaho, Rhode Is­land, Michi­gan, Alaska and Mis­sis­sippi.

When I could, I tacked new states onto trips to visit friends and fam­ily. My sis­ter-in-law in Peo­ria, Ill., for in­stance, lives a short drive from Iowa, where I hiked among the song­birds in Lake Macbride State Park.

In Septem­ber 2016, I ended — you could say with a bang — in Hawaii, watch­ing foun­tains of bright-or­ange lava spew from the Big Is­land’s Ki­lauea Iki Crater. I felt elated, but also a bit like an odd­ball. That’s be­cause most peo­ple I know can quickly count off how many coun­tries they have vis­ited, but have only a vague idea when it comes to states. I won­dered if there were oth­ers

there like me. Are there ever. The All Fifty States Club, I n dis­cov­ered, has about 2,800 mem­bers o have ac­com­plished the same feat, from all tates and 13 coun­tries. Like me, many get idea once they hit 30-or-so states and fin­ish either Hawaii or Alaska — the far­thest, iest, and most time-con­sum­ing trips to n, says Ali­cia Rovey, who founded the club in 6 to cel­e­brate and en­cour­age trav­el­ers on r jour­ney. he or­ga­ni­za­tion, which op­er­ates on the or sys­tem, asks that you put your foot on ground and breathe the air of a state. (My n re­quire­ment was hav­ing a meal in a town.) d in $13 with a mem­ber­ship ap­pli­ca­tion you’ll get an of­fi­cial cer­tifi­cate; for more gging rights, you can buy a T-shirt, pin or er wares on the web­site. The club makes it more of­fi­cial,” says Rovey, o lives in Nash­ville and hit her 50th, Ore­gon, 015. “Some­times, you want that ex­tra reco­gon that the goal is val­i­dated.” here’s no typ­i­cal 50-stater, she says — some mo­ti­vated by pa­tri­o­tism, meet­ing new peoor a de­sire for new ex­pe­ri­ences. To her, the ec­tive also in­fuses va­ca­tions with a greater se of pur­pose: “You’re not just go­ing to waii to lay on the beach, you’re go­ing to waii to com­plete this life­long goal of visit­ing 0 states.” Mem­bers of­ten have their own spin on exring the union, set­ting records along the . Swe­den’s Dou­glas Eriks­son is the youn­gat 5. Some have done it twice or more, ud­ing James Marchino, with nine (yes, e) re­peat vis­its to all 50. Sev­eral peo­ple have dived or golfed across the na­tion. John ger­ald ate a slice of pie in ev­ery state, and mer Mentzer drank a beer in each. (Pre­sit Obama — who has vis­ited ev­ery state as sident, and Al Ro­ker, who has re­ported the ther in all 50, are hon­orary mem­bers.) hough the few 50-staters I talked to had ous mis­sions and meth­ods, we all had me­thing in com­mon: Travel has re­warded us ways we didn’t ex­pect. o cel­e­brate his 50th birth­day, David Miller, Orinda, Calif., set his sights on an epic r-long trip. He care­fully mapped out a bi­cyg route through­out the United States — id­ing New Eng­land win­ters and South­ern mmers — with his Weimaraner, Max, from ober 2011 to No­vem­ber 2012. Miller asked sup­port­ers to do­nate to four char­i­ties in the me of his project, Bike 50 at 50. The very first les­son that I learned is that we un­der­es­ti­mate our­selves,” Miller says. “If ’re will­ing to take that one step for­ward out our own com­fort zone, you re­al­ize, ‘I can do .’ ” Anne Cor­lett, a land­scape artist from Saugck, Mich., was newly sin­gle in 2010 and nted a big project, the visual equiv­a­lent of big Amer­i­can novel.” ven­tu­ally, the idea came to her: paint a dscape in each state. “Travel is a pow­er­ful ng, which I didn’t even think about when I ted,” says Cor­lett, an hon­orary club memNot only did she build up her con­fi­dence el­ing solo, she chal­lenged her­self as an st, paint­ing en­vi­ron­ments so dif­fer­ent that y could have been on the moon, she told me. I re­al­ized later I was test­ing my courage,” lett says. ike Cor­lett, the more I ex­plored the coun­try, more I learned to trust my­self and be ource­ful. When badly blis­tered feet forced to back­pack through the Grand Canyon in dals, I found out I was tougher than I had ught. An­other com­mon theme: We all ex­pe­ri­enced kind­ness of strangers. On Miller’s bi­cy­cle trips, ran­dom peo­ple on street gave him money a few times, push­ing s into his hand even af­ter he told them he n’t need it. “I don’t have enough fingers and and arms and legs to count all the times I ex­tra­or­di­nary, sur­pris­ing, won­der­ful inc­tions,” he says. While I was visit­ing Greenh, N.J. — which threw a lit­tle-known tea ty to protest the Bri­tish in 1774 — Joe one and Linda Hull Fel­cone in­vited me to ner and showed me their his­toric home. bett says she was sim­i­larly “adopted” by a ple while in Mis­sis­sippi. ong­time blood donor and club mem­ber Al it­ney, of Avon Lake, Ohio, is ac­cus­tomed to ng things for oth­ers. “I don’t sight-see,” says it­ney, who com­pleted his 50 be­tween 2007 2012. “My goal is to get to the blood bank.” when he went to South Dakota in 2009, “my e made me prom­ise to go to Mount Rushre,” he says. In the gift shop, a woman nearly cked him over in a bear hug to tell him she d her life to a blood donor. (She had no­ticed atelets Across Amer­ica logo on his jacket.) “I shocked,” he says. f you’re think­ing of join­ing the club, a few ces of ad­vice: Keep costs down by stay­ing in e parks or short-term home rentals. Add w states to trips to see friends and fam­ily. “Be ntional,” Rovey says — plan a long trip to a tic­u­lar re­gion, say Yel­low­stone Na­tional k, to visit as many states as you can in one go. y the way, there’s a bonus for us lo­cals — if District ever be­comes the 51st state, we’ll ady have it cov­ered.

“I re­al­ized later I was test­ing my courage.” Anne Cor­lett, of Sau­gatuck, Mich., who not only vis­ited all 50 states but painted a land­scape in each one

WASH­ING­TON POST STAFF IL­LUS­TRA­TION; PHOTO BY BILL O'LEARY/THE WASH­ING

The author’s path to all 50 states — start­ing in Mary­land and end­ing in Hawaii — was by no means sim­ple, as il­lus­trated above. The All Fifty States Club has about 2,800 mem­bers who have ac­com­plished the feat, from all 50 states and 13 coun­tries.

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