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Play It Again, Sam

July 29, 2016

Two years ago, when The Hamster and I drove Route 66, I wrote in this space that it was probably our last road trip. I was wrong.

On Sunday we’ll hit the road one more time, planning to spend three weeks visiting 13 states (and 2 Canadian provinces). 

This has been a tough trip to plan, mostly because we’ve been to so many places in so many parts of this country that there are fewer and fewer places we still want to go. I’ve already been to 47 states, and Sam has been to 46, so we could have happily retired from road tripping and been quite satisfied with our adventures. But the thing about visiting 47 states is that it’s really close to 50, and that makes you start thinking in terms of checklists and crossing things off those checklists. Checklists (states, ballparks, National Parks, famous monuments, major cities, etc.) have been especially useful in our planning over the years, and the more we travel, the more we tend to start our planning with the  question, “What’s left?”

I haven’t been to Louisiana, Nebraska, and North Dakota. Same for The Hamster, plus he’s never been to Wisconsin. A quick look at the map shows that hitting all four in one trip is a little ridiculous, but three of the four aren’t terribly far from each other. And thus our next epic father-son cross-country road trip (our fifth) was born.

The trouble is that there’s a reason we skipped those states on previous trips: there’s just not as much exciting stuff to do there as there in the states we’ve already visited. And because we’ve been through much of the Midwest on previous trips, we’ve picked the region’s tourism plate pretty clean.

So our itinerary for this trip is not full of must-see National Parks or bucket-list attractions. But we’ve still managed to load it up with some pretty great stuff. In addition to visiting Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wisconsin, we’re going to hike to waterfalls in Pennsylvania. We’re going to be driven around the track where they hold the Indy 500. We’re going to drive an ATV at an obstacle course in rural Illinois. We’re going to go fly fishing, if I can get the details worked out. We’re going to visit three Canadian cities and a Viking ship in Minnesota. We’re going to climb to the top of a historic lighthouse on a tiny island in the St. Lawrence River. We’re going to take pictures standing next to such roadside oddities as a giant rooster with a top hat, a statue of Paul Bunyan holding a hot dog, and the world’s biggest ball of stamps. And, of course, there will be a few baseball games along the way.

One thing we’ve learned by doing this four times already is that the destinations are only part of the fun. So much of the appeal of these trips comes from scenery, the hunt for license plates, the weird conversations, the sing-alongs, the dumb jokes, the random rest-stop cookouts, and the opportunity to spend a few weeks having some carefree fun together instead of bickering over homework and chores.

So bring on the weird museums and the weirder statues. We don’t need Mount Rushmore or The Golden Gate Bridge in order to have an unforgettable trip. All we need is GPS, a sense of adventure, and each other. 

And that giant barrel of pretzels from Costco. We can’t forget the pretzels.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Sam(not that Sam- it's my alias) permalink
    July 29, 2016 1:05 pm

    Omg can’t wait. This is going to be epic, even if it isn’t Mount Rushmore. (Also- signing up for email updates two years ago was such a good move)

  2. Ellen Cogan permalink
    July 29, 2016 5:58 pm

    Wishing you both a wonderful, healthy, and safe trip, and eagerly looking forward to more chapters of this chronicle.

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