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50 @ 50

For the first few years of my life I didn’t get around much. I suppose the fact that I couldn’t walk, talk or feed myself hindered me somewhat, so I didn’t travel much, or I don’t remember it if I did.

As I grew, childhood summers found me in the waaaaay back seat (you know, the one that faced backwards) of a fake wood paneled, school bus sized Pontiac station wagon pounding down the two lane blacktop of the Rocky Mountain West. Yellowstone, The Grand Canyon, Four Corners, Mesa Verde, The Great Sand Dunes… we made all the hot spots… mom, dad, five kids and a pop-up trailer.

Funny, I don’t remember ever actually being inside the trailer.

By my teenage years I was fortunate enough to really start seeing some of the world. I looked into a volcano in Hawaii, swam with sharks in the Yucatan and listened to great music in Montreux. My dad is a geologist and sometimes took me along, he is also a musician and didn’t want to listen alone, lucky for me. The wanderlust took hold.

In my adult life I chose a profession that required insane amounts of travel… and liked it. Playing music gave me the opportunity to see new places, try new things and learn about the world. I never understood the guys who would just hole up all day in the hotel until the show.

As a touring musician, sometimes I was on the road over three hundred days out of the year. Some years I was overseas more than I was here in the states. Buses, airplanes, vans, limos, boats, trains, cars, trams, water taxis, cable cars, subways, you name it, if it can carry people, I’ve had one carry me to a gig somewhere.

I’m not sure when, but somewhere along the road, I started keeping track of where I had been. Perhaps it was waking up in Delaware or falling asleep in Idaho and wondering “if I’m here, where else have I been?” Looking at a map, it was easy to pick out the states that I had visited at one time or another.

By the time my crazy road trips had slowed to a crawl, I had been to 48 out of our 50 states. I lacked Maine and Oregon. I had a mission… coast to coast from Portland to Portland.

When we embarked on our GypsyNester journey I saw my chance to check off these final two destinations. New England beckoned, neither of us had spent much time there, so Maine would be the first to get crossed off the list.

We headed Down East and spent several wonderful summer days along the rocky Atlantic shore, canoeing, fishing and eating lobster in The Pine Tree State. Forty nine down, one to go.

We spent the rest of our summer and into the fall meandering around the northern U.S. and parts of Canada, all the while working our way westward. By the time autumn had fully set in, we found ourselves on the Pacific coast in Washington. It was time to start heading south to avoid the chill and finish my Portland to Portland mission.

Following highway 101 down the coast — literally in the spray of the surf — the Columbia River bridge into The Beaver State loomed ahead. It’s a massive structure across the broad waterway where Lewis and Clark finished their journey.

An enormous amount of water flows down from the Cascades into the Pacific because it rains all the freakin’ time in the Pacific Northwest.

When we finished the nearly four mile trek across the bridge and back onto terra firma in Oregon, Veronica asked if I wanted to kiss the ground. I didn’t really feel compelled to pull a Pope’s-arrival-to-a-new-country-move, but I had made it.

I had visited all 50 states and it only took me 50 years. That‘s right, the feat had been accomplished in the same year that I turned the calendar from my 49th to my 50th year.

This seemed like a pretty big achievement to me, so I set out to investigate just how big. How rare is it to have set foot in all fifty states? Many people would like to do it, at least according to the sites that come up when Googling “visit all fifty states.”

Some have succeeded. Some are trying to see them all in one year. Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as 50 @ 50 if you ask me, but hey, power to them.

I found that Richard Nixon was the first president to visit all 50 states and several since then, including our current one, have done it.

But try as I may, I simply could not find out how rare it is to have touched ’em all. Five percent of Americans? One percent? Less?

I think so.

It’s not often that Google doesn’t have an answer but I’ll take that to mean it’s a pretty rare feat indeed. Makes a guy feel kinda special. 

With this accomplishment under my belt, I began to wonder how many countries there are on earth. There are, depending on who you ask, somewhere between 189 and 195. Most almanacs agree on 193, so I’ll go with that. By my count I have been to 23 of them. Geez, I’m way behind schedule cuz I sure don’t see myself living to 193. But it’s good to have goals.

I’d better get busy before I can’t walk, talk or feed myself again.

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Gypsy Nesters
Gypsy Nesters
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