If there’s one valuable lesson that the COVID-19 pandemic has taught me, it is that there is an abundance of breathtaking sights and experiences right here in our own backyard. While I’ve always had a penchant for exploring the United States, my travels have often revolved around the same familiar places. However, with a renewed sense of adventure, I’ve resolved to embark on an exciting journey towards visiting all 50 states.
Exploring the Gems of the Continental US
For me, the goal is not simply to tick off states from a list. Instead, I aspire to immerse myself in the essence of each state, discovering its unique offerings and exploring multiple locations, particularly in the larger states. In 2022, I’ve set my sights on a momentous adventure: traversing the entirety of Route 66, covering an impressive 2,500 miles from the bustling streets of Chicago to the radiant glow of Los Angeles. While this expedition will introduce me to a handful of new states, it will predominantly expose me to previously uncharted territories within states I’ve already ventured into.
A Personal Quest Fulfilled
My approach to travel differs from that of a typical bucket list traveler. I don’t adhere to strict guidelines about what constitutes a visit to a state. Rather, I aim to delve deeper, dedicating ample time to absorb the essence of each state. Be it the bustling streets of Oklahoma City, the captivating beauty of Hawaii’s islands, or the cultural wonders of Native American heritage sites in Oklahoma, my journeys are all about fostering a genuine connection with each destination.
Exploring My Roots and Beyond
To truly appreciate the vast wonders of this country, I must first explore the places that shaped me. Born and raised in Oklahoma, I’ve spent most of my time absorbed in work, leaving little room for local exploration. However, I’ve recently made a conscious effort to discover the treasures closer to home. Oklahoma City, with its wealth of captivating attractions, has become a prime focus of my attention. Yet, I’m also drawn to the allure of destinations further afield, such as Broken Bow and the Wichita Mountains. Additionally, I’m eager to explore the Native American cultural sites, like the Cherokee complex in Tahlequah and the Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Sulphur.
Hawaii holds a special place in my heart, having resided on Maui for a significant period. During my time there, I extensively roamed the six visitable islands—Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Hawaii, Molokai, and Lanai. Consequently, my travel blog originally centered solely around Hawaii. I plan to continue sharing my experiences on this enchanting archipelago.
States on My Journey (22 and Counting)
While I’ve only scratched the surface of my journey, I’ve already explored several states in-depth. Here are some highlights:
Alabama: More Than a Pit Stop
Alabama has largely served as a mere pit stop on my way to the Florida Gulf Coast. However, I’ve spent a couple of days in the Orange Beach/Gulf Shores area. Alabama has piqued my interest, and future visits to Birmingham and Huntsville are high on my agenda.
Arkansas: Beyond the Drive-Through
Despite its proximity to Oklahoma, I’ve only passed through Arkansas, never lingering long enough to truly appreciate its offerings. However, I fell in love with Bentonville and its unique charm. I yearn to explore the historic treasures of Little Rock, including the Clinton Presidential Library and the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site. The allure of Hot Springs and the opportunity to dig for diamonds at the Crater of Diamonds State Park also beckon me.
California: Unveiling the Golden State
To further enrich my blog, I’ve made a concerted effort to expand my coverage of California, much like I have for Florida. The Golden State offers an astonishing array of destinations that have long captured my imagination. From Palm Springs to Santa Barbara, San Francisco to Napa, I’m eager to unearth the myriad wonders of this diverse state.
Colorado: A Haven for Outdoor Enthusiasts
Having spent considerable time in Colorado during my childhood, this state holds a special place in my memories. Although my visits have primarily occurred during the summer months, I aspire to master the art of snowboarding to create an added incentive for visiting during the winter. While I’ve explored the captivating realms of Steamboat Springs and Ouray/Silverton/Telluride, I yearn to discover the splendors of Aspen, Vail, Colorado Springs, and Boulder.
Florida: A Beloved Retreat
Florida holds the distinction of being the state I’ve visited most frequently. Over the past 18 months, I’ve dedicated myself to covering this dazzling destination extensively on my blog. From cherished childhood visits to Disney to idyllic family vacations on the Gulf Coast, I’ve traversed the length and breadth of this Sunshine State. However, my adventures have predominantly focused on the Gulf Coast, and I’m eager to explore the wonders of the Atlantic coast. Miami has captured my heart, and I eagerly anticipate future visits to Palm Beach, St. Augustine, and Amelia Island.
Indiana: Beyond the Surface
While I’ve frequented Indianapolis for work-related purposes, my experiences have largely comprised brief encounters with downtown hotels, the convention center, and the stadium. I aspire to delve deeper into Indiana’s offerings on future trips.
Illinois: Forging New Pathways
My recent travels have brought me to Illinois, as I crossed over from St. Louis on my Route 66 journey to witness the magnificent Chain of Rocks Bridge. My future plans include a comprehensive exploration of Illinois, encompassing a significant stint in Springfield, home to a trove of Abraham Lincoln sites, and of course, the iconic city of Chicago.
Kansas: A State Unveiled
Despite its proximity to my home, I’ve devoted little time to Kansas. Although I’ve traversed its lands on numerous occasions, my experiences have been fleeting. My recent Route 66 adventure allowed me a brief encounter with the corner of Kansas, leaving me eager to explore its unseen treasures further.
Louisiana: Reviving Fond Memories
While it has been some time since I last visited New Orleans, this vibrant city has left an indelible mark on my soul. I yearn to revisit and immerse myself in its unique charm.
Mississippi: Unveiling Hidden Gems
Thus far, Mississippi has served as a mere thoroughfare during my travels. However, I’ve set my sights on Tupelo and Oxford, intrigued by their cultural allure. Additionally, the newly inaugurated Civil Rights museum in Jackson beckons to be explored.
Missouri: Exploring Familiar Territory
Located near my grandparents’ residence, Springfield has become a familiar haunt. My journeys have also taken me to Branson and St. Louis, with my recent Route 66 expedition revealing even more of Missouri’s hidden gems. I’ve developed an ardent desire to dedicate more time to Kansas City and St. Louis in the future.
Montana: Embracing Nature’s Splendor
Thanks to a friend residing in Billings, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Montana multiple times. The remarkable beauty of this state never fails to captivate me. While I’ve explored Yellowstone on a few occasions, I’m determined to venture further and witness the unparalleled grandeur of Glacier National Park.
Nebraska: A State of Intrigue
Despite having only passed through Nebraska, I find myself inexplicably drawn to this state. As my father hails from Scotts Bluff, I yearn to explore his birthplace and uncover the treasures of Lincoln and Omaha.
Nevada: Unveiling Hidden Treasures
A quick trip to visit a friend near Reno introduced me to the breathtaking allure of Lake Tahoe. Eager to return, I’ll dedicate more time to this enchanting region. Furthermore, a visit to Las Vegas remains on my itinerary.
New Mexico: Unearthing Hidden Delights
My previous visits to Santa Fe and Albuquerque during my childhood ignited a passion for New Mexico. However, my aunt and uncle have recently acquired a home in Angel Fire, affording me the opportunity to explore this stunning region further. Taos, with its irresistible charm, holds a special place in my heart. I eagerly anticipate my upcoming Route 66 New Mexico road trip, which will enable me to stay at the Blue Swallow in Tucumceri and discover more of the state’s western wonders.
New York: A City That Captivates
New York City has drawn me in time and time again, its magnetic allure captivating my spirit. This year, I plan to return for the US Open, immersing myself in the vibrant atmosphere of this iconic event. Moreover, I’ve spent ample time exploring the Hudson Valley and Saratoga Spring, but I yearn to delve deeper into the heart of New York State. The possibilities of this urban wonderland seem limitless.
Pennsylvania: A Rich Tapestry of History
Although I’ve spent a day in Philadelphia, delving into its historic sites like Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, I’m acutely aware that Pennsylvania offers far more than a brief sojourn. A dedicated trip to this diverse state is overdue, and I eagerly anticipate uncovering its hidden treasures.
South Dakota: A Surprising Delight
South Dakota took me by surprise, proving to be a destination that exceeded my expectations. While my primary motivation was to witness the grandeur of Mount Rushmore, my time spent in the state awakened an insatiable desire to return for a more profound exploration. Mount Rushmore also holds the distinction of being the site of my first National Parks Passport stamp!
Tennessee: A Melody in My Heart
While I’ve visited Memphis a couple of times during the University of Tulsa’s Liberty Bowl appearances, my experiences have been limited to encounters with Graceland and the famed ducks at the Peabody Hotel. Recently, my fascination with Memphis has resurfaced, compelling me to return. I had the pleasure of embarking on my inaugural visit to Nashville earlier this year, where I immersed myself in the vibrant tapestry of country music. A rendezvous with the Smoky Mountains and Dollywood is a must in my lifetime.
Texas: A Lone Star State
Living in close proximity to Oklahoma, I’ve had the opportunity to explore various regions of Texas. However, this vast state continues to beckon, with a myriad of destinations awaiting discovery. Fort Worth holds a special place in my heart, and my recent visits to Dallas have fueled a desire to delve deeper into its offerings. Austin, San Antonio, and the captivating Hill Country are just a few of the regions I yearn to revisit. The allure of Texas remains irresistible.
Virginia: Embarking on a Historical Sojourn
While I enjoyed a brief stint in Arlington and Mount Vernon during my visits to Washington DC, Virginia deserves a dedicated trip to uncover its multifaceted offerings fully.
Wyoming: Nature’s Bountiful Canvas
Wyoming, a state of unparalleled beauty, holds a special allure for me. Jackson and Yellowstone National Park have been perennial favorites, enticing me to return time and time again. I’ve also had the pleasure of visiting Cody during my Yellowstone expeditions.
Washington DC: My Beloved City
Washington DC holds a special place in my heart, continuously captivating me with its abundance of cultural and historical wonders. The city’s endless array of attractions beckons for repeated visits. Among my lifelong aspirations is witnessing the breathtaking spectacle of cherry blossoms in bloom.
Exploring the Uncharted (26 States Await)
While I’ve embarked on an awe-inspiring journey through numerous states, there remain 26 states on my itinerary. These include Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
As I continue my exploration of the United States, my goal is to create an authentic and in-depth travel experience. I invite you to embark on this journey with me, as we uncover the hidden treasures that lie within each state.