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Reflections on Visiting All 50 States

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Reflections on Visiting All 50 States

Nicole Emery

 Photo Credit  Don Miller

Photo Credit Don Miller

What an adventure the Alaska trip presented!  Hard to believe two weeks ago I finished up a 6200 mile road trip from Seattle to all over Alaska and back.  It was all worth it to say I've been to all 50 states before my 38th birthday.  I'm still high from the achievement!!  Woohoo!!

How did the 50 states project come about?  Well, since I was born to late to be Amelia Earhart and attempt to circumnavigate the globe by airplane, or be Neil Armstrong and land on the moon by way of the space shuttle, and the discovery of boys in my teens derailed all attempts of competing in the Tour de France, I had to think of something to make my mark in life.  That moment came the day I got my driver's license and my dad gave me a $10 bill to run up to the grocery store to buy him a 6-pack of Diet Coke.  That first solo drive (albeit 3 miles round trip) gave me a taste of a big idea - freedom and knowing cars were going to be my preferred way of exploring for a long time.

The 50 state project officially started in 1992 when I was 18 and my sister (then 17) took off to Florida from Michigan in my red Geo Metro convertible.  That trip was the start of something big.  Open roads, reading maps, planning, pushing myself to new limits, and even seeing the space shuttle take off in Daytona Beach, FL solidified the project.  There are too many places and things to see to stay put in one place.  Since then there have been many solo road trips, a few co-pilots, many plane rides, and dozens of friends I've visited all over the USA on my path to all 50 states.  19 years later the project is complete.  It certainly couldn't have happened without the help of many people over the years.  Thank you to you all!!

Special Thank yous:

Dad - The only thing you and I have ever agreed on is that road trips rock!  I certainly inherited your ability to drive long distances.  There were a few tough driving lessons learned along the way.  Such as, don't drive a loaded suburban through a McDonald's drive thru.  Then there were the easy ones you taught me about car maintenance.  Thanks for the help.  You are responsible for Phase I of my adventures.  If I can find you a bumper sticker that says, "Proud parent of an honor student at the 50 States visited school" I'll send it your way.  Wouldn't that look groovy on the hotrod?

Mom - You gave me courage and the pioneer Spirit to keep going.  I know I've given you a few gray hairs over the years (ok, a lot) with worrying about me traveling.  Thanks for being patient with it all.  By the way, the day you showed me all your postcards from foreign countries and then told me the story of your travels when I was 10 years old I knew I had your Pioneer Spirit in me.  I was determined to be brave like you and have a European adventure of my own.  Phase II of my adventures is your fault.  Be proud!  I'll try to minimize the number of gray hairs you get with that trip.

Sis - You were my first co-pilot ever.  We were partners in crime for many years.  Everything from being called Big Red, to relocating a dumpster with me backing up a U-haul, to getting pulled over for speeding.  Hours of entertainment between us.  Although, you are never allowed to fall asleep when I'm driving.  I end up getting pulled over for speeding!  Granted only one ticket stuck over the years, but still.  You were supposed to have my back.  ha ha!!  I hope one of your kids ends up liking road trips the way I do.  Someone has to carry on the legacy!  Thanks for all the years of humor in the car.

PA Family - the hours of laughter at the kitchen table, witty comments, battle of the puns, and being blamed for blizzards or hurricanes with my road trips has fueled me over the years.  Thank you for all your support!

Canoe 15 - Stroke! Stroke! Stroke!!  Thank you all for being part of the journey.  You are all rock stars!

Best Girlfriends & Tuesday Night Girl Talk- you know who you are.  Thanks for keeping me on the straight and narrow, having the guts to call me on my fears, giving me a shoulder to cry on, and hours of belly laughs.  Each one of you mean the world to me.

Workmates (current and former) - thanks for keeping the last few months for me sane before I took off on my 3 month adventure.  I'll see all of you in November!  Well, maybe...

Blog Readers - thank you for having an interest in my blog.  I know the last couple of months have been sparse with blog posts.  Lots of behind the scenes stuff was going on.  The email support has been great.  Thank you for taking the time to stop in read, reflect, and even contact me.  Thanks!

So, what's next you may ask?  Now that I'm four weeks into my 13 week personal leave from work it's all about getting ready for Phase II.  Starting on September 6th Phase II of the adventure continues.  Europe here I come!  Greece will be the main focus of the trip - 6 weeks of exploring ancient sites, history, sailing the Greek Isles, learning how to cook Greek food, drinking ouzo, painting landscapes, visiting monasteries, meeting people from all over the world, hiking, and so much more.  The rest of the trip will be visiting fabulous friends in London, Paris, and Copenhagen with a short rendezvous in Iceland.  That will complete Phase II.

I'm hear to say that any dream you have - big or small - is always worth every effort you put into making happen.  There were many ups and downs, plan readjustments, acts beyond my control, and magical happenings that went into this 19 year project.  I'm sure there were many different ways to visit 50 states, even shorter time frames.  For me, it had to be done the way it was.  It was my unique journey filled with memories to last a life time.

When one dream comes to close a new one opens up.  More on that to come.  Until then, I have a lot of packing to take care of!!