The “Forgotten States” Road Trip

Despite my trepidation, I have more or less resolved to move out west in 2018. I’m even in the process of discussing ways for me to get out of my lease early with the landlord. It will not be easy leaving my friends behind. But if I remain here, I will only remain bitter. Better off getting a fresh start somewhere else. After all, the only reason I remained in Wisconsin after graduation was because of my legal career. The only reason I moved to Green Bay was for my legal career. Now that I am retired, what the hell am I still doing here?!

However, there is one more consequence to leaving the Midwest besides the absence of friends. Relocating to the far-flung opposite side of the continent makes it geographically difficult for me to accomplish many of my remaining travel goals in North America. It also rules out attending TransWorld in the future, unless I grow keen on flying. So before I head out west, I’ve decided to go on one more road trip.

The Forgotten States Road Trip

Out of fifty U.S. states, I have been to all but 14. Two of those states are Alaska and Hawaii, leaving 12 states within the “lower 48”. I figured out that I can wipe out all 12 and sweep the lower 48 with one more road trip. At just under 5,000 miles, this trip will be about a third of the length of last year’s road trip. I can do it in about six days, but I’m allotting myself about two weeks to accommodate extended stays in St. Louis and Nicolet National Forest.

I’m planning this around TransWorld, because St. Louis offers a good segue between the plains states and the deep south. The plan is as follows…

Visit Omaha, Nebraska and Topeka, Kansas, then spend a few days in St. Louis for TransWorld. From there, I’ll head down to New Orleans and then Charleston, knocking out Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and West Virginia along the way.

Then I will head over to Delaware and New Jersey. I should be close enough to Manhattan from New Jersey to get decent photographs of the New York skyline and the Statue of Liberty. This way I can avoid actually going into Manhattan, thereby avoiding crowds and traffic. But for purists who insist that I haven’t been to New York unless I’ve been to New York, the route later cuts through the Bronx.

From there, I’ll hit Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Maine. Then I’ll retrace my route from the Salem trip home, passing through Montreal and – for the third time in less than two years – Ottawa. If the weather is good (which it might not yet be in late March), I’ll consider stopping by my spot in Nicolet National Forest to camp for a few days.

Not only does this trip knock out all 12 remaining states in the lower 48, but it also knocks out three bucket list cities (New Orleans, New York, and Boston). With the exception of Miami (which I can easily work into an itinerary to Jamaica), my remaining bucket list items are in the west and more readily accessible after I move.

What Counts as “Visiting a State”?

Since this trip would allow me to claim a sweep over the lower 48, I should probably define my criteria for “visiting a state”.

Everyone has their own definition. Some people have clear cut rules. “You have to step foot on land.” “You have to eat a meal there.” “You have to spend the night there.” “Airport layovers do not count.”

I’m not nearly so rigid. I tend to favor the “step food on land” rule, but if I spend hours driving through a state, passing through its major cities, but happen to make it from one end to another without needing gas, food, or sleep – of COURSE I’m going to fucking count it. I prefer a comprehensive analysis over a bright-line rule. So to illustrate, I’ve selected four borderline states to explain my reasoning for counting or not counting the state.

Road Trip

Idaho

Idaho: This is a state I first visited last year during my North American Road Trip. I was in the state for only a few minutes, grazing the eastern border as WY-89 straddles the border between Wyoming and Idaho between Evanston and Jackson. I count it because I deliberately stopped my vehicle in Idaho, got out and touched ground, and even took one of the more breathtaking photographs of my trip in Idaho. But – if anyone cares to dispute my claim to Idaho – I’ll be making a more substantial trip through the state if I move from here to Washington or Oregon. So I consider this one in the bag, either way.

Arkansas: I am 99% certain that I cut through Arkansas briefly as a child when my family drove to Memphis. As a kid, I was unconcerned with keeping score at the time, so I can’t be certain. The trip I’m planning this year will once again cut through Arkansas on the way through Memphis. There’s nothing in Arkansas I want to see that justifies taking a more substantial detour into the heart of the state, so I’m content to just graze the state again. But as I did with Idaho, I will stop in Arkansas and get out of the vehicle. This time as an adult with a conscious memory of actually having been in Arkansas.

North and South Carolina: I drove through both states when I was in college – on my way to Savannah, Georgia for a tournament. Neither state was particularly memorable, I confess. But these were not insubstantial cuts. We covered quite a bit of ground in both states, so I’m willing to count both. I also had an airport layover in Charleston on my way home from the Bahamas. Again, there’s nothing I need to see in either state to justify a detour to go through them again. I’m personally satisfied that I was in both states long enough to claim them.

One Obstacle

Remy. AGAIN!

So here’s the deal… It makes no sense to go on two trips – one to TransWorld and one to visit these 12 states. As I said before, St. Louis works as a good segue point between the plains states and the deep south. To make them two separate trips adds about a thousand miles overall. At best, I can shave 200 miles by removing St. Louis from the other road trip. That’s a colossal waste of time and resources.

I wouldn’t go on a road trip this long without Remy. Especially since she acquitted herself so well during last year’s trip. And we’d be revisiting old haunting grounds like Ottawa and Nicolet National Forest.

But usually when I go to TransWorld, I stay at a hotel and board Remy at a daycare facility. This year, I wasn’t going to stay in a hotel room, but rather sleep in my vehicle in a parking lot near the convention center. It would save me money plus – I rather like camping in my truck now.

Bringing Remy to TransWorld does save me the expense of boarding. And I would much rather leave Remy in my truck than alone in a hotel room. But TransWorld days are long. The trade show floor opens at 10am and social events go well into midnight. That’s an awfully small space to leave her cooped up in for – at minimum – three days. Also, we’d be in the heart of downtown St. Louis, so we have few parks to choose from for her to get exercise and do her business.

More than likely, I’m going to have to cut my visit to St. Louis short by a day – either get there a day later or leave a day earlier. It will be tough to decide which day to skip, especially if this is indeed my last trip to TransWorld. I’m also going to have to plow through the convention floor in the morning so I can spend the afternoon caring for Remy before I take off for the evening activities.

It is not going to be easy.

[UPDATE]

I have succeeded in convincing my landlord to release me from my lease early if – after May 1 – they have someone looking for an apartment like mine, but there are no other vacancies. I told them I could clear out within a week. There is no guarantee that this will happen, but it gives me a chance to move out west before most of haunt season comes and goes.

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