I love having a bucket list. I think it’s a great way to make some crazy, nothing-off-limits goals to have something to strive for. The first time I did this I was maybe 12 and had no idea how I would get to France or ride in a Pittsburgh’s biggest horse show, but within a few years I did. There are all kinds of theories out there as to why making goals works - personally I think that if you throw something out in the universe, the universe will conspire to help you. Not a scientific reason, but occasionally you have to go beyond science.
Of course, there’s also something to be said for just making shit happen. Like Leonardo Da Vinci said in “Ever After”, “You can't leave everything to fate. She has a lot to do! Sometimes you must give her a hand.”
One of my bucket list goals is to visit every state. I love travel and I believe that every place has a story to tell and something interesting to find. For instance, did you know that 28 states have National Parks? Sure, we know the big ones like Yosemite in California and Grand Canyon in Arizona, but there are also National Parks in Arkansas (Hot Springs), Ohio (Cuyahoga Valley) and North Dakota (Theodore Roosevelt).
As of right now, I have visited 36 states, plus Washington D.C., and 4 of those have been added since July! Here are some thoughts and photos of my summer travels.
Idaho and Wyoming
Technically I have driven through Wyoming and spent a night in a cabin when our tent blew away during a cross country road trip when I was 15. Those types of states - drive through, airport or just slept - don’t count. I need to have done something real, created a memory. (Ok, yes, tent blowing away was a memory, but it was of the event, not the state.) My aunt and uncle moved to Idaho about a year ago, so when Todd and I booked a trip to Denver this summer we decided to extend it to drive up to Idaho. Spoiler: it’s a very long, mostly very boring drive. Coolest thing that happened was when Brooks & Dunn’s “Red Dirt Road” started playing LITERALLY AS WE TURNED ON TO A RED DIRT ROAD.
The two states are intertwined for me as we went back and forth across the two throughout the trip. To break up the first drive, we stopped in southern Wyoming to hike in Medicine Bow National Forest at Mirror Lake, about 10,000ft above sea level, where they had recently plowed the road into the parking area (IN JULY) and we hiked across snow, seeing it still cover the upper reaches of the appropriately named Snowy Range. This was Todd’s first viewing of snow in the summer and even though mine was at age 15 in Nevada, it still gave me a chill and a thrill to see.
Our time in Idaho was spent in the Teton Valley, a gorgeous area between the Tetons to the east in Wyoming and the Big Hole Mountains to the west in Idaho. The two towns closest to the pass to Jackson Hole are Victor and Driggs. We were there for the 4th of July and saw the valley’s parade in Victor then later some live music and fireworks in Driggs - the fireworks were shot off in a field and you could hear the cows freaking out a bit, mooing the whole time. Poor cows! Driggs was also where I saw my first moose (!!) while out on the boardwalk behind my aunt and uncle’s house.
Our second day we went up to Grand Teton National Park, where it probably was the most crowded week of the year, but still managed a hike up to Taggart Lake, before the crowds hit too badly, with views from the top out across the whole valley. Once the crowds completely overwhelmed the park, we retreated to Jackson to see the antler arches and buy me a pair of KICKASS pink cowboy boots. I am so excited for the weather to cool down so I can wear them without sweating off a few pounds. That night we hung out in Victor for their Thursday night concert series with The Kitchen Dwellers in the town park (Todd and I have a special knack for finding music everywhere we travel.)
Our final hike of the trip heading back across the Wydaho border to the Jedediah Smith Wilderness and Darby Canyon where we went up to some of the caves and climbed behind a waterfall. In all, we LOVED the Teton Valley and can’t wait to get back and continue to explore the two states.
Sometimes I struggle including a state when I’ve only been to one big city there. Minnesota is such a large state and it doesn’t seem like Minneapolis could possibly reveal everything there is to know about the state. I was there for a meeting of the National Board of Alpha Rho Chi Professional Fraternity and while the vast majority of the time is spent in meetings, planning for the upcoming year, we do get a little time to get out and explore. I saw a few breweries in the Northeast Arts District and had a later flight on Sunday so that I could see the famous Sculpture Garden and explore a bit along the river and Mill Ruins Park. We even met the owner of a urban cidery who started off his career as a landscape architect!
My first memory of Connecticut is that it had nice rest stops. That memory is purely from road trips to my grandparents’ home in New Hampshire up to age 5 and probably can’t be trusted. My second memory was driving near Hartford in college where the drivers were assholes who liked to flash their highbeams if they thought you weren’t driving fast enough. I stayed outside of Hartford with a friend for 2 nights when I was interviewing for a job in New York City, so I didn’t really DO anything there except sleep.
Flashforward to now-ish and CT was the only state in the northeast I hadn’t been to (Todd told me I wasn’t missing anything, but <shrug>). My friend Michelle kindly invited me to her parents’ house in Westport so I could FINALLY check off the entire northeast. We walked the beach, did a tour of “unfortunately rooflines of Westport” (always travel with architects - it’s amazing), and visited Two Roads Brewing. If I’ve drank beer in your state, then hands down I’m officially checking it as a visit.
I have no idea what my next states will be! I still have a chunk of the southeast and most of middle America, plus Alaska and Hawaii. For the most part, I’m done with states I’ll accidentally visit (places that a meeting would be scheduled or I have friends) so I need to deliberately schedule some trips. I’ll guess that South Carolina and Georgia will be sooner than later - I’ve always wanted to see Charleston and Savannah. A winter trip south could be nice…
Any recommendations? Have you been someplace I haven’t that you think I MUST see?