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Working toward visiting each and every state

Lately I’ve seen some lists on Facebook where people are asked to list the number of states they have visited. My old friend and colleague R.B. Fallstrom from St. Louis, an outstanding sportswriter, posted that he has now visited every one of the 50 states. He’s the first person I’ve known who has been able to say that.

The problem with these lists is that there are so many different ways to calculate the lists.

Most folks don’t count being on a plane that lands in a state on the way to their ultimate destination. Many don’t count driving through a state if you don’t get out of the car. By the second of those criteria, I have visited 44 states and driven across a corner of Alabama.

I’m going to propose a rule that would leave no doubt at all. Don’t count driving across a state, even if you stop for gas, eat at a restaurant or spend the night in a hotel or motel.

The only way you get to count a state is if you traveled there for a purpose — a purpose that includes doing something in that state, not just using the state as a way to get to your ultimate destination. I think that knocks me down from 44 to 40.

Here’s my list:

Alabama — NO. I’ve driven across the state in the northeast corner on the way to Tennessee, but that’s it.

Alaska — NO. Never have been there for any purpose.

Arizona — YES. When I worked in Reno, I made trips in both 1989 and ’90 to cover basketball games at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.

Arkansas — NO. Never have been there for any purpose.

California — YES. I was born there, traveled there numerous times while working in Reno and, of course, lived in the L.A. area from 1990 to 2010.

Colorado football

Colorado — YES. I covered a basketball game in Boulder in 1985 while working in St. Louis and then lived in Greeley for two years from 1986 to ’88.

Connecticut — YES. This one was tougher. I spent a weekend in Ledyard in 1964 on an exchange trip between church youth groups.

Delaware — YES. I traveled to Rehobeth Beach once or twice in the late ’60s.

Florida — YES. I spent spring break at Fort Lauderdale in 1980, a weekend at spring training in West Palm Beach in 1983 and the better part of a week at Cape Canaveral for the Cassini spacecraft launch in 1997.

Georgia — YES. I covered numerous sports events in Atlanta in 1983-84 when I was working in Anderson, S.C., and of course I live in Georgia now.

Hawaii — YES. I spent 10 wonderful days in Kauai, the Big Island and Maui on vacation in 1998.

Idaho football (and basketball) here.

Idaho — YES. More times than I care to remember. Seriously, two trips each to Pocatello, Moscow and Boise in 1989-90 to cover college basketball games and two more trips to Boise those same years to cover the Big Sky Conference basketball tournament.

Illinois — YES. I went to Chicago in the late ’50s for the funeral of an aunt and then covered numerous high school football games in the Alton/East St. Louis/Belleville area in ’84, ’85 and ’86 as a St. Louis sportswriter.

Indiana — NO, although it seems like it should a yes. I drove across the state numerous times, and did spend New Years Eve 1987 in a motel outside Indianapolis while going from Sioux Falls, SD, to Washington, D.C.

Iowa — YES. I covered college basketball games at Ames and Waterloo when I worked in St. Louis and spent four days in Des Moines in ’89 covering the U.S. Olympic Committee site selection meetings.

Kansas — YES. Big Eight basketball games in Manhattan and Lawrence in ’85 and for some reason, Oklahoma State at Kansas State football in ’84 or ’85.

Bold Forbes turns for home.

Kentucky — YES. Only twice, but two very memorable trips. I saw the Kentucky Derby in 1976 in Louisville and the Final Four at Rupp Arena in Lexington in 1985. That was the year of Villanova’s amazing 66-64 victory over Georgetown in the finals.

Louisiana — YES. Just once. In 1983, I flew into Baton Rouge to cover the South Carolina-LSU football game.

Maine — NO. I haven’t visited the land of Stephen King yet.

Maryland — YES. Numerous times, including concerts at Meriwether Post Pavilion, the 1982 Preakness at Pimlico, Orioles games in Baltimore, events at the Capital Centre and other horse races at Laurel Raceway.

Massachusetts — YES. Four trips to Boston for sightseeing, two as a child with my family and one each with both wives. Finally got to see a baseball game at Fenway Park in 1997.

Michigan — YES. Flew into Detroit in 1984 to cover Missouri at Michigan State basketball in East Lansing.

Minnesota — NO. Spent about six hours at the Minneapolis airport between planes, but that’s it.

Mississippi — NO. Never been there.

Gateway Arch

Missouri — YES. Among other things, lived in St. Louis from May 1984 to October 1986.

Montana — YES. Two winter road trips covering college basketball in 1989 and 1990, seeing both the best (Missoula) and the worst (Bozeman) the state has to offer.

Nebraska — YES. My most memorable time doesn’t count, racing a snowstorm across the state from Colorado to Iowa in 1987, but I did cover Missouri at Nebraska for college basketball in 1985.

Nevada — YES. I lived in Reno for 18 months, and I made numerous trips to Las Vegas when I was living in California.

New Hampshire — NO. I’ve driven through the state, but never went there for the purpose of being in New Hampshire.

New Jersey — YES.  Most of it for me was the Jersey Turnpike, heading to and from New York, but in 1981 I went to the Meadowlands to cover a great football game between the Redskins and the New York Giants.

New Mexico — NO. I’ve driven across the state twice and I spent one night in a motel in Clovis last July, but I never went TO New Mexico.

New York — YES. Many visits on family vacations to the city, and one trip just before Christmas 1984 to cover the St. Louis Blues hockey team against the Buffalo Sabres. First hockey game I ever covered.

North Carolina — YES. Among other things, lived in Gastonia in 1982-83.

North Dakota — NO. Maybe someday, although I have a hunch this will have to be the one to complete my 50 states.

Ohio — YES. I lived in the Dayton area for a large chunk of my childhood.

Oklahoma — YES. Trips to Norman and Stillwater to cover Missouri basketball at Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Came back in 1987 to cover Colorado football at Oklahoma. If the Daily Oklahoman hadn’t had a hiring freeze, I probably would have gone there to work in 1983.

McArthur Court

Oregon — YES. Just once that I recall, to cover Nevada basketball at Oregon in 1988. Spent the evening before the game playing pool with the two coaches, Len Stevens and Don Monson.

Pennsylvania — YES. Several wonderful summer weeks in the ’60s at Camp Michaux, a trip to Philadelphia to see the Dodgers play the Phillies in 1982 and a few days in what I believe was the Harrisburg area doing political volunteer work with Lisa McGrady in 1980.

Rhode Island — YES, but just once. I flew into Providence in 1985 and spent three days there covering the 1984 East Regionals that Georgetown won over Georgia Tech.

South Carolina — YES, mostly living there in 1983-84.

South Dakota — YES. Spent four or five days there Christmas week 1987 covering Northern Colorado in the North Central Conference holiday basketball tournament.

Tennessee — YES. I can think of two occasions, covering the Southeastern Conference basketball tournament in 1984 in Nashville, and coming back to cover Missouri at Memphis State in 1986 in Memphis.

Texas — YES. Numerous trips to cover sports events, including the 1986 Final Four in Dallas, but most memorably 10 weeks in the Hill Country last summer.

Utah — YES. Actually at least five trips that I can remember. Three times covering NCAA basketball sub-regionals in Salt Lake City and Ogden, and two other trips to Ogden to cover Nevada at Weber State basketball.

Vermont — NO. Same as New Hampshire.

Virginia — YES. I’m pretty sure that I’ve spent more time in Virginia — high school, college, first marriage, first two years of my career — than I have spent anywhere other than California.

Washington — YES. Three college basketball trips from 1988-90, one to Seattle and two to Spokane, and three weeks visiting Pauline, Ryan and Maddie near Snoqualmie Pass in the summer of 2009.

West Virginia — YES. Mostly trips in 1974 and ’75 to see the horse racing at Charles Town.

Wisconsin — NO. I can’t remember ever being there except sitting in a plane on the runway at Madison on the way from St. Louis to Waterloo, Iowa.

Wyoming — YES. In the fall of ’88, went to Laramie for a college football game between Wyoming and Colorado State.

I’ve been doing this from memory, and I think I’ve gotten all 50. By my count, there 12 Nos on the list. I’ll start knocking them off by going to Alabama this year.

posted by Mike in Americana,Happiness,memories,Travel and have No Comments

Some folks still standing up for democracy

I don’t know what impressed me the most about Greece, whether it was the 2,500-year-old relics that remind us democracy was born here or the angry demonstrators who remind us that it isn’t completely dead yet.

Old Socrates sure built him some purty buildings.

The three weeks I just spent in Europe on my sixth trip to the mother continent probably weren’t the most exciting. Indeed, once or twice this trip tended to take on “vacation from hell” characteristics, and I was pretty sure I saw Clark Griswold at least once. But these days, any opportunity to escape the land of Dancing With the Stars, Double Whoppers and the Kardashians is a welcome one and after all, I had never been to Athens.

Greece, that is.

Swimming pools and movie stars …

Sorry, wrong segue.

I have been to Athens, Georgia, on a football Saturday in October, and if life gets any better than that in Greece, I’m pretty sure it involves Ouzo.

We spent two weeks in Greece, and the best part of it was spending time with our wonderful son Virgile and his lovely wife Sterling. They took us to a beach near Marathon one weekend and to the Temple of Poseidon on the southern tip of that part of the country the next weekend. Since they worked during the week, we did some sightseeing on our own the rest of the time.

It was wonderful to climb the Acropolis and see the Parthenon, although I was a little disappointed that the sight didn’t move me as viscerally as when I turned a street corner in Rome in 1977 and saw the Colosseum. Of course, I think that might be the fact that my sense of wonder isn’t as strong at age 61 as it was when I was 27.

Even the Greeks protest in English.

I was thrilled to see the young Greeks trying to stand up to the combined wrath of their own government, the IMF and the European Union. The spirit of the folks in Syntagma Square is something we could really use in the land of the dollar bill, intelligent design and best-selling author Bristol Palin.

It’s definitely nice to see people standing up around the world and saying to rich folks, “No, you don’t get to have all the money.”

And in Greece, they don’t respond by saying that Mitch McConnell told them it was OK.

Yes, it was definitely nice to be in Athens, but after three weeks on the road, it is good to be home.




posted by Mike in Greece,Travel and have No Comments

Back to Europe this month for two new countries

Within the next couple of weeks, I will be spending time in two countries I have never visited before.


This Saturday, assuming that Delta is ready when we are, Nicole and I will be flying to Amsterdam for a scientific conference (her, not me) in the Netherlands. We will actually be in Noordwijk, which is in the western part of the country on the North Sea. I have never been to the Netherlands, but we will only be there for a week until the conference ends and we hop on a couple of Lufthansa flights and head down to Greece.

That’s the vacation part of the trip. We’ll be in Athens visiting our son and his wife. Virgile and Sterling have been in Greece a little less than a year on their first tour with the Foreign Service.

I’m actually fairly excited about going to Greece, which I figure is one of the most interesting countries in the world that I have yet to visit. So much of western history, so much of our philosophy and our politics, comes from the ancient Greeks.

I’m not a world traveler. If you compare me to my parents, I come off as one of those old-fashioned hillbillies who never went more than 100 miles from where they were born. On the other hand, if you compare me to my friend Mick, who has never been outside North America, I’m Phileas Fogg.

There are still places in the world I would like to see before I die. Australia is at the top of my list, with Egypt and Israel next and possibly Brazil and/or Argentina after that. But really, I almost feel like I would rather return to some of the places I love — London, Paris, Venice, a few others.

Well, traveling is fun.

But after three weeks away, I know I’ll be glad to get home.


posted by Mike in Family,Happiness,Travel and have Comment (1)

Sometimes I really wish I were in France

I was watching one of my old favorite movies on DVD and it reminded me how much I love France.

In the first hour of “Around the World in 80 Days,” David Niven and Cantinflas are soaring over the French countryside in a hot-air balloon. I’ve never flown over France in anything but a jet airliner, so I haven’t seen that view, but I have visited the country four times — in 1977, 1994, 2001 and 2009 — and I think I love it more every time I go.

The beautiful French countryside

I don’t remember the name of this village we visited late in the spring of 2009, but I remember the wonderful meal we had and how incredible the countryside looked.

In this country, particularly here in California, something a hundred years old is ancient. But in France it isn’t unusual at all to see buildings that have stood for 500 or even 1,000 years. When I visited France in 1994, my wife took me to Carcassonne, a medieval forstress that dates back to the seventh century A.D.

The fortress itself is only for tourists now, but the city around it has buildings older than anything in the Western Hemisphere.

We hear a lot in this country about how rude the French are and how much they dislike Americans, but I have been there four times and no one has ever been anything other than nice to me.

Mike, you have a French wife.

True, and both of my children were born there as well. But I had never met Nicole in 1977 and the children hadn’t even been born yet the first time I visited. I spent a week in Paris with only my college French and my Berlitz phrase book to guide me, and I can honestly say people were perfectly wonderful to me.

You probably told them you were Canadian.

No, but I didn’t act like I was superior to them on the basis of being American. I showed them how much I appreciated their country, which I really do.

It’s amazing how nice people can be when you let them know you respect them.

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posted by Mike in France,Travel and have No Comments
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