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One of the Phantom's all-time favorite places
Yosemite NP, California

The Fifty-State Quick Tour:
a Clever investigation

by Diannek

Thinking about your summer vacation? Gas prices got your blood boiling? Of course. Everybody is hurting these days. Even the so-called "low fare" airlines are having to raise rates because of the extremely high cost of gas. We all knew this was coming, but the reality is just beginning to sink in. Life-style changes are coming (except for the extraordinarily rich folks who don't have to worry about any of this stuff). For the rest of us, we are left wondering how to plan a getaway that doesn't involve a bank job first.

The most popular vacations are "destination" travel, places that simply gobble up our money by the minute once we finally get there. It's usually tons of fun, the kids love it, and the folks are left with raging credit card debt the next month. These vacations usually involve planes, trains and automobiles, a guidebook, and hassles galore, before we finally reach paradise. First, the gas costs will kill us and then the destinations will pick the bones clean.

Portland, Maine probably doesn't look this picturesque any longer,
but check it out anyhow.

Maybe we need some new ideas about vacationing, or more to the point, maybe we need to dust off some old vacation ideas and lower our expectations about what it takes to get out of our routine and relax, without harming the planet or our pocketbooks. How about we look a little closer at backyard vacationing, something that's within, say, a couple hundred miles or less from home.

You could consider going somewhere by train (unfortunately the US train system is a wreck waiting to happen). And going on vacation via Greyhound doesn't appeal to anybody. I'd rather clean up the back yard and plant a tent than start a trip at the local bus station. So we'll drive somewhere close, and maybe even think about pitching that tent in one of our thousands of parks that are simply littered across our vast landscape. It could be fun, cheap and close to home.

You can look at Pike's Peak without having to drive all the way to the top.

Some of us are privileged to live in beautiful states with gorgeous sights, beautiful recreation areas, scenic by-ways, charming little inns, sandy beaches, good roads and limited traffic. Something interesting isn't too far away, even if you've seen it many times. The term "been there, done that" doesn't apply any longer. Why not go to the local beach if what you really want to do is lie in the sun and read a thriller?

If you're in Florida, take a look at the Everglades before they disappear forever.

I spent the last couple of days looking at tourism websites for all the fifty states. It is sort of mind numbing work, but interesting. There are some common threads. Some states could use better website designers, and some states try harder than others to convince us that their state is the most beautiful, fascinating and compelling place to visit in the USA. All states begin with the idea that they have wonders to behold that you, the potential visitor, simply should not ignore. In the flat "middle" states you'll find lists and lists of museums to tour. If you're interested you can find dinosaur bones and artifacts galore, old Route 66 memory lane still exists, and the world's largest ball of twine awaits you.

Here's a really fun website that offers views of all sorts of roadside oddities: roadsideamerica.com

The kids will love these burros along the Iron Mt. Road in South Dakota

I was specifically looking for natural sights rather than destinations, locations rather than cities or museums. Every state has some lovely place to visit that is not man made, but the beauty and vistas are not evenly distributed. States that border on coastline are among the most beautiful, and states with large rivers, soaring mountains, desert monuments, or large holes in the ground are way more interesting than flat states with none of the above.

We all know which states have the most beautiful cities, which states house Disneyland, Dollywood, Six Flags, Branson and Las Vegas. I don't have to show you photos of those places. But sometimes we forget that our country is also filled with natural wonders that are too precious to ignore.

Here's the list of sights I found, one for each state. As as stated earlier, some states have more than one wonderful thing to see, but I looked long and hard until I found something worth seeing in every state in the union.

"Real Photo" postcard of Taku Glacier in Alaska (circa 1900).
According to Wikipedia this is the only glacier that is still advancing.
Definitely worth a look if you're close by.

Alabama: Gulf Shores
Alaska: Glaciers
Arizona: Grand Canyon
Arkansas: Hot springs
California: Yosemite National Park
Colorado: Pike's Peak
Connecticut: Mystic Seaport
Delaware: The Water Gap National Rec. area
Florida: The Everglades
Georgia: Okefenokee

Diamond Head, on Oahu, is one of the extinct volcanoes (fingers crossed).
Hawaii: Volcanoes
Idaho: Grand Teton Mountains
Illinois: Chicago River
Indiana: Dunes
Iowa: Great River Road
Kansas: Mushroom Rock State Park (also the ball of twine)
Kentucky: Mammoth Caves
Louisiana: Natchez National Park
Maine: Arcadia National Park
Maryland: Maryland Shore

Cape Cod beach. It's lovely but it could be any beach, right?
Massachusetts: Cape Cod
Michigan: Mackinac Island
Minnesota: Mississippi River headwaters
Mississippi: Gulf Island
Missouri: Katy Trail State Park
Montana: Yellowstone & Glacier National Parks
Nebraska: Scotts Bluff
Nevada: Lake Tahoe
New Hampshire: Mt. Washington
New Jersey: Jersey Shore
New Mexico: Carlsbad Caverns
New York: Niagara Falls
North Carolina: Shenandoah National Park
North Dakota: Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Ohio: Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Oklahoma: Turner Falls Park

On the way home from Crater Lake stop by an Oregon beach.
By the way, don't pronounce it "Ore-gone". That really riles up the locals.

Oregon: Crater Lake National Park
Pennsylvania: Gettysburg
Rhode Island: Lighthouses
South Carolina: Congaree National Park
South Dakota: Mt. Rushmore (the exception to the "man-made" rule)
Tennessee: Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Along the road to The Alamo you might see one of these if you're lucky.
Texas: The Alamo (another exception, but we simply must Remember The Alamo)
Utah: Zion National Park
Vermont: leaves
Virginia: Williamsburg (Third exception, the most authentic of all the "themed" parks. Educational as well as fun.),
and the Harper's Ferry National Historical Park

Beautiful Mt. Rainier NP. Spend some time at the lodge!

Washington: Mt. Rainier National Park
West Virginia: Appalachia
Wisconsin: Lake Geneva
Wyoming: Yellowstone National Park

I could probably do the web search again and come up with an entirely new list, but I think you get the idea. Our country has many wonders to behold. Hope you find something wonderful to do this summer!

Cheers, DianneK

PS: All of the photos above are part of the Phantom's postcard collection. Maybe you could start a collection of your own. The next time you crawl through one of those lovely old towns with the antique stores, stop in and browse through their postcard collections. Buy a few old ones, they aren't expensive and are part of our history. It could be a small treasure that will help you remember the way things used to be.

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