When I decided to initiate Project 50, I found myself ten states shy of seeing all fifty and I planned to visit the last twenty percent before I reached the half-century mark. At first I thought I would knock out a couple each year, by regions, and eventually make my way to the newest of them all floating out there in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. But pretty soon the travel bug bit me and for the Independence Day weekend I took off to Omaha and suddenly found myself knocking off the other Dakota (see North Dakota On A Napkin from November 2011). By the end of the month, I ticked off the entire American Northwest and cut my list down to four.
While headed to Washington State, the nice airline folks offered me a lovely voucher to afford me a few extra steps towards my goal. Suddenly Labor Day arrived and I found myself in West Virginia and within three months I have passed through nineteen states, including the last remaining newbies. Suddenly I close in on the final few. What I expected to be a decade-long experience suddenly landed me in the driver’s seat putting a lot more miles on a myriad of new rental cars. My beloved atlas took a beating that summer (see Traveling With Boys from November 2011).
The final leg begins with a flight into Connecticut, a drive through the Catskills of New York and a rise to the highest point in New Jersey – state number forty-eight. As I drive through High Point State Park, I listen to Simon and Garfunkel sing about the way to pass time is by counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike, but the breathtaking view at High Point State Park seems like a pretty spectacular way to experience the Garden State. From atop the Veteran’s Monument, 291 butt-kicking steps upward, I glance to the west at Pennsylvania and to the east at New York, both of which I first visited in 1992, and now nearly two decades later, I finally visit the slice of mountainous beauty in between the two. And then I hit the road the reach the last contiguous state.
Project Fifty is nearly complete, and from end to end, I have visited the United States, from my first state out west to this, my forty-ninth, and all the dozens in between. My travels may be circuitous, sometimes years in between each state, sometimes coming all at once, like the past three months. Sometimes, within a matter of minutes, I cross a sliver, or a corner, or sometimes an entire state. And so here at number forty-nine I stop to tally my geographical and mathematical feat at the state line between Connecticut and Rhode Island. At the entrance to the Ocean State, I pose with my camera’s self-timer and congratulate on myself on my self-navigation, my self-sufficiency and my self-determination. Next stop: Hawaii.