Three Kinds of States

Posted by  J Tower on Thursday, October 2, 2014

So far on this trip we have visited 17 different states. Some we have visited for days, some for hours, and some for just minutes.

As we've scheduled our trip, we've seen that we have to be selective about where we spend our time. One year just isn't long enough to see it all. However, we have noticed that a pattern has emerged. Our experience with each state seems to fit into one of three different categories: states we lived in, states we visited, and states we drove through. Below are my thoughts and impressions on each of those categories and the states in them.

States We Lived In

These places became our home for at least a week. Many of them became familiar and even started to feel a little like home.

  1. Michigan - A bit obvious to put on the list, I suppose, but we've lived here for years. Enough said.
  2. Minnesota - We were fortunate to be able to stop here for two weeks to visit the many family and friends living in this area. Interestingly, this was also the hottest and wettest place we were all summer.
  3. Missouri - We stayed here for a week leading up to the 4th of July. It was beautiful, pastoral, and very friendly.
  4. South Dakota - Rapid City and Sioux Falls were both very pleasant surprises. They both seems like beautiful places where it would be very nice to raise a family, but I will note that we weren't here in the winter, so that might change our impression. Rapid City especially impressed us with it's many charms, including its proximity to many natural and man-made wonders: Mt Rushmore, Crazy Horse Monument,Black Hills, Badlands, and Custer State Park, to name a few.
  5. Montana - Wow. Montana takes the cake in a lot of ways. Home to Glacier National Park, this is probably our favorite natural place so far.
  6. Idaho - So far, Idaho has been our home for longer than anywhere else on this trip. At 4 weeks, it just barely edges out the competition, but Oregon will soon surpass that record (to be followed closely behind by California). Idaho surprises a lot of first-time visitors, we're told. For as many potatoes as they grow, it has a surprising variety and amount of beautiful vistas.
  7. Oregon - Oregon has also amazed us. First off, we've enjoyed Portland which is pleasantly "weird", but also the first major metropolitan area where we've spent much time since being in Minneapolis at the beginning of the trip. In case you'd never noticed, the Northern-middle part of the country is fairly sparsely populate. City amenities isn't all Oregon has to offer, though. It also has plenty of its own natural beauty. But what surprised us the most was how eastern Oregon is a scrub-brush desert. You don't see that on the postcards!

Staves We Visited

  1. Illinois - We only spent one night here to see Brooke's Grandma, but that was ok because we used to live in Illinois, and saw plenty of it before.
  2. Kansas - We spent a day and a night visiting Brooke's family over the 4th of July weekend in Topeka. 
  3. North Dakota - Shortest "visit" of the trip so far. We drove in to see the North Dakota welcome sign and left. Sorry, North Dakota!
  4. Wyoming - We probably visited this state the most without actually living in it. Most of Yellowstone is here, so we drove many times from our place in Idaho through a corner of Montana on into Wyoming to visit America's first national park. We also got to visit the Devil's Tower (no relation) on the other side of the state. All in all, Wyoming is a strangely majestic place!
  5. Washington - One day in Seattle hardly does the state justice, but we managed to have a great time here anyway including time at the Experience Music Project, atop the Space Needle, at the Aquarium, on a harbor tour, and at the History of Flight Museum.
  6. Utah - We spend a few days in Salt Lake City, which we liked except for their "great" lake, which only lives up to that name in two ways: it's large size and unbelievable stench. We hope to see the southern part of the state later in the year, home to Utah's many national parks.

States We Drove Through

  1. Indiana - We both went to college here. We love the state, but have seen enough of it for now.
  2. Wisconsin - Sorry, Wisconsin, but we didn't have time to explorer you in more detail. Having lived in Illinois, perhaps it made Wisconsin a "been there, done that" for us.
  3. Iowa - We drove through it several times, but always with another state in mind. Too bad, too, because we know people here. Next time, Iowa!
  4. Nebraska - Our path only took us through the tiniest corner of Nebraska, but the gas station we visited there seemed nice.

As I wrote this blog post and reflected on the places we've seen, it occurred to me that the longer we were in a place, the more we liked it. I suppose we could be cynical about it and assume that we purposely stayed in more the interesting places, and that would be true. But, so many places have surprised me on this trip, that I also imagine most of the places we were only able to drive through would also have a lot to offer if only we're willing to take the time to explore, keep an open mind, and be willing to be pleasantly surprised.

Perhaps that's good advice for life in general: take time to explore, keep an open mind, and be willing to be pleasantly surprised.