On Memorial Day weekend this year, I'll be racing a half marathon in Coeur D'Alene, Idaho which is located in the northern panhandle near the Canadian border. I'll be flying into Spokane, Washington, which is about 40 minutes west. From CDA, it's only 2 hours to Missoula, Montana and I heard that it is a beautiful drive. After the weekend, I will have visited every state in the continental U.S. Everyone says that's a really cool idea and a few people have asked for tips about how to go about doing it without burning too much fuel. The most important thing is to take small detours from your destination city. Here are some examples:
-Using Boston as your hub, you can quickly sweep through the 6 New England states
-Tour the Gulf coast starting in New Orleans and make a 3 hour drive to Pensacola passing through Alabama and Mississippi
-Take a trip to Chicago and head up and down each side of Lake Michigan crossing into Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan.
-Tour Memphis and cross the Mississippi river into Arkansas and Missouri with Kentucky just minutes away
-See a few shows in Las Vegas then check off California, Arizona and Utah
-Fly into Denver and take in the Rocky Mountain scenery with easy access to Wyoming and Nebraska.
Even if you only take one such trip per year, you could be halfway there within 6 years even if you've never previously left your home state.
Other must see destinations include the following:
Texas, NYC,DC, the Pacific coast highway, the South Atlantic coast (Charleston, Savannah), Blue Ridge Parkway and Smokies, Mount Rushmore, Grand Canyon and Yellowstone.
This would take you up to near 40 states.
Now, which is the toughest state to see?
The most common answer to that question is North Dakota and you could make a case for it. The neareast large city is Minneapolis, 4 hours away and how I got there. Yes, I chose the Fargo marathon in 2009 because I saw little chance of going to ND outside of running. However, it's just 2 hours from Mount Rushmore so that would be an easy side trip.
Most people check off Idaho and Montana by visiting Yellowstone but there are no major airports nearby. If not for the CDA race, I doubt that I would have been to either state.
Other potentially tough options are Ohio, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico.
Ohio was easy for me because I used to live in a state that shared a border. Cincy, Cleveland and Columbus are all major cities but are not major tourist attractions. There are some good marathons both in Ohio and nearby states.
Kansas and Oklahoma were not too difficult because both are within easy reach of the Ozark Mountains in NW Arkansas.
Only Iowa and New Mexico required me to go very far out of my way.
You could say that I've cheated on few states because I was either too young to remember or was only there for a few minutes. As long as you were awake and aware of your surroundings, you can count a state even if you only saw the highway.
Arizona, Kansas, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Michigan, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island fall into that category. I am most likely to return to AZ, MI, and MA.