The Short Story

This trip was thought up a few days prior to me doing it. I never though I would do it, and it never turned out to be what I had planned.

I had never driven to South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, or Illinois.

So, I envisioned a trip that would take me south on I-77 through North Carolina and further down to Florida, before heading west towards Texas (detouring north to get Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Arkansas), to Four Corners, to California, and up the coast to Washington, and back across to Minnesota and back home. In all, I would cover every state but Kentucky, Tennessee, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, so 35 of 48 states, total.

But, on the day I thought it was logistically possibly, I was delayed, and put it off, and finally at 4pm decided I was definitely going to go for some type of drive. I headed east to Pennsylvania and down to D.C. via Maryland, over to Delaware and Virginia. I had wasted the first day and was now much further east than I planned, so I felt my 35-state trip would be an afterthought.

Maybe heading down towards Louisiana, Texas, and back would be good. As I got into Georgia I really started to think it was possible. Since I happened into Delaware by heading north of Salisbury, MD, I had taken care of one very important piece of the 48-state puzzle. It also helped egg me on mentally.

It was when I got into Louisiana that I began to doubt going to all 48-states, and was about to limit myself to just heading into the plains and turning around. Because of this thought process, I headed north through Mississippi, but not far enough to reach Tennessee. This would later come back to make one day of my trip a remedial sidetrip.

I had curved westward into Arkansas and was in Western Arkansas, when I realized how easy a 48-state trip could be. The only holdback was Tennessee. So, at this point, I still held back and didn't give it much credence. I had, afterall, driven from Greenville, AL to Fort Smith, AR in one day, and became worried the western half of the country would be much slower than I envisioned.

Still, I trekked north to Missouri and nipped the corner of Kansas on my way down through Oklahoma. It was as I entered Texas still well during the day that I realized it could be done. A 48-state trip could be done, or at least the 38-non New England states.

I got to the Continental Divide in New Mexico that night, and formulated a new strategy to make up for missing Tennessee.

I originally planned to go to Four Corners to take care of Colorado and Utah, only to re-enter Arizona and go to Las Vegas and down to California, from there, it was to be interstate driving north to Washington.

I knew that this would become impossible, and devised an angled shortcut to Oregon. This included passing Four Corners and heading up past either the Canyonlands or Arches National Park to I-70. From there, it would be U.S. 6 northwest to Salt Lake City, and I-80 west across the desert to northern Nevada. To take even more time off, I would stop at Winnemucca and head north and take Nevada Route 140 north and west 111 miles into Oregon. From there, it would be another 67 miles to US395, which I could detour south on to California. Thereby cutting almost a day of driving off my trip. It also meant giving up seeing the ocean.

The most unusual license plate of the trip came in Amarillo, TX. An RV towing a car with Alaska license plates. I had previously only seen an Alaska plate in suburban Detroit and in Townsend, Tennessee.

But, I had a heading, I had a map, and enough time to kill to put the plan into action.

Until Eastern New Mexico, my drive was unaffected by the weather. Only a light sprinkle near Tucumcari.

I kept checking 511 for road condictions, and the whole length of the trip northwest to Oregon was clear. Some areas had not a cloud in the sky. I knew with the jet stream positioned over the midwest, my return trip across the north would not be so kind.

So, I purchased snow chains in Nevada anyways when I changed the oil. My other 'neat' purchase that may only interest me was a key latch and two extra sets of door keys. One I kept in my utility zipped coat pocket, and the other was attached to the key latch, along with my pocket knife, to the main chain. This way I could leave the car run, but have the key and lock it while at a store, or whenever I left the car for a photo.

Later on in Nevada, I purchased a temperature guage to tell me the inside and outside temperatures.

Another desolate stretch of road was Oregon Route 36, which was a two hour drive through oblivion, highlighted with sage brush and powerlines. It was then on to Bend and north to the Columbia River. I then took US395 northeast through Kennewick and Pasco, en route to Spokane.

From there, it was I-90 through the Rocky Mountain and into Montana. I had to use my snow chains going through Lookout Pass between Idaho and Montana.

It was then high speed driving on I-90 and I-94 to Miles City, and even faster on US12 to North Dakota and Marmarsh, a relative ghost town just a few miles across the state line.

I continues south to Rapid City and detoured to Wyoming, before heading across I-80 to a north-south highway to take me to Nebraska. This covered almost all of the states west of the Mississippi. The last two would be had the next day, Minnesota and Iowa.

Iowa became the first and only state I entered on a dirt road. I then headed southeast to Chicago and then around Lake Michigan to the state of Michigan, itself. Then south, meandering through Indianapolis, to Terre Haute, Evansville, and south through Kentucky and into Tennessee before making it back to Louisville.

It was then back to Steubenville to pick up the wife to join me on the last leg of the trip. She agreed to come, and was willing to do so because how important this trip had become. What's special about a trip to 38 states? Although when I joked to her that we should then drive to Alaska and then fly down to Hawaii, she was not amused.

It was then through harsh lake-effect snow through Erie, and then west to Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. The next day was just in Maine as we got to Bangor to watch the Super Bowl. The next day involved going to Acadia National Park, and across a very cool US22-like bridge on U.S. Route 1. We then headed south to Rhode Island.

The next day, we were in Connecticut and driving through the Merritt Parkway, one of the more scenic 'highways' in the U.S., to New York and the Tappan Zee Bridge. It was with this that I had one more state to go. New Jersey. Of all things, New Jersey would be the last.

Knowing that it was approaching rush hour for NYC, I avoided taking I-287 around the city, and instead took a side road, Sterling Mine Rd to enter the Garden State.

I had done it. 48 states in one trip.

I then headed into Pennsylvania and stopped in Berwick for the night. The last leg of the trip was on I-80 west to PA28, and down to Pittsburgh and out old familiar U.S. 22 to Steubenville.

Some notes

I was driving a 1998 Chevy Lumina. When I bought this car last April off my sister as a beater car to replace my old '93 Olds Cutlass Cierra with over 220,000 miles on it, the Lumina had only 112,000. I'm now approaching (as of 3/7/07) 150,000 miles on it. A pretty worth $2,000 investment. I already had to get the manifold gaskets replaced as they were cracking, but for the most part, this car is a rock.

Somewhere in the New England states, I got a stone chip in my windshield that took less than a half hour to snake horizontally across to the driver side edge, and across and down to the bottom of the window near the passenger side.

A few of the chains rubbed into the tire on the passenger side, so another minor bit of damage. I had driven with them for over 120 miles because of the bad conditions of the road, and the limited use of salt or ash.

If you look at my photos, there's a few where you will see my finger or hand in the upper right corner. I don't see that when I'm taking the photo until I actually go and look at the photos or put them on a computer. The reason is I'm shielding the camera from snow or rain, or in the case of Route 140 photos, shielding the sun from bleeding the photo out, as I had to adjust my white-balance settings to get the photos in the frozen valley.

The other thing you'll notice is that some are slanted. Most are familiar with digital camera, mine is a cheapie that has a slow capture rate, so it can't get the whole picture at once, it scans from top-top bottom. When driving, and focusing off to the left or right too far, causes this bend.

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