20 States, 31 Days, 8453 Miles

I love road trips!  I mean, I really, really love them!  I just rolled in from my most recent one about 10:30 last night after being on the road for a month. and I already miss the feeling of waking up and not knowing what the day will hold for me and anticipating new and different sights, activities, weather, and foods.  I miss driving just to drive and seeing what there is to see; I miss the grandeur of US Capitol Buildings and the ordinariness of small town squares.  I miss wide open spaces, purple mountains majesty, amber waves of grain, and fruited plains.  I miss hearing the robotic, yet lyrical, electronic voice of Lee, our Australian Garmin guy and I miss the laughs my sister and I shared.  And I really miss the cool weather!

For the past five years, my sister Kim and I have taken a road trip, and this year’s was one of the best.  Of course, they’ve all been great fun!  This year’s was a little bit different for me, as I tacked on a couple of other trips on the front and back end.  First, I drove my cute little red Prius, Scarlett, from my home in North Carolina through Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin on the way to Showcase in Minneapolis with Pixie Anne riding shotgun.  Along the way, we stopped off and spent the night at Pixie Carolyn’s house in Indianapolis – it was so nice of her to have us, especially since she had never even met us!!  She even went out and got some super yummy desserts for us and put up with our late arrival and early departure.  Since Anne and I had a destination in mind and a timeline, we had to drive on the interstates and not make too many random stops, but we still managed to have a few adventures, share some wonderful road food meals, and get in plenty of laughs.

After Showcase, my sister flew to Minneapolis so that we could begin our long-awaited Pacific Northwest road trip.  Every year we have a route in mind, but not really a ‘destination’.  We have places we want to see and sort of an idea how we’d like to get there, but we’re very flexible.  We also try to have some sort of theme for the trip, and this year was no different, as we decided to visit as many state Capitols as we could along the way, hence the name of this year’s trip: “It’s a Capitol Idea!”  We also wanted to make sure we got to Washington and Oregon, as those were the only two states (of the lower 48) that Kim had not visited.

To make a long story short, Kim and I headed west through Minnesota, drove across North Dakota, dipped into South Dakota, peeked at Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, spent a few days in the Big Sky country of Montana, lost our hearts to the beauty of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, crossed Washington, criss-crossed Oregon, crossed the southern part of Idaho, relaxed in the Tetons and saw the rest of Wyoming, traversed Nebraska, barely touched Iowa, went north to south and west to east in Missouri, and caught a corner of Arkansas before I dropped Kim off in Memphis.  We toured Capitols in St. Paul, Bismarck, Olympia, Boise, Cheyenne, and Jefferson City; we stopped at (but didn’t get to tour) the capitols in Salem and Lincoln; and I drove through the capitol cities of Charleston (saw the dome!) Indianapolis, and Madison, and we had already toured the ones in Helena, Pierre, and Nashville.  I even got my daughter Kim to tour the Arkansas state capitol in Little Rock on our way home from Texas!

Along the way we got to visit with several CM friends and benefit from their wonderful hospitality (major shout outs to Melode, Pam, and Nancy for their incredible hospitality!!) and we met lots of wonderful people who shared their love of their towns and states with us.  We tend to avoid interstates, so we get lots of chances to see the things that most of you tend to drive right past without even knowing they are there.  We went on hikes, saw waterfalls, learned all kinds of trivia in all kinds of museums, gawked in renovated hotels,  floated down a river, hiked up a mountain, had a close encounter with a rattlesnake, petted alpacas, spotted bald eagles, saw giant animals sculpted out of junk, panned for sapphires, watched a laser light show on the face of a dam,  toured abandoned underground cities, bordellos, and prisons, walked across and over an interstate, were awed by incredible sunsets, and ate way too much delicious food.  In short, we had a BLAST!

And for me, the fun wasn’t over when I dropped Kim off in Memphis – I drove on to Little Rock and caught a flight to Houston, where I got to spend a few days with my husband at what will soon be my new home near Galveston.  After that, I flew back (with my daughter) to Little Rock and then we drove back here to North Carolina.  As I write this, the car has been unloaded but the suitcases are not unpacked, the mail hasn’t been touched, and the fridge is still empty.  But…just over 3000 digital images have been sorted, ranked, and edited in Memory Manager, and many of them have been shared on facebook.  The hardest part of the job has been done!!

ND Enchanted Highway

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