Every time I fly, I look out the window of the plane and it occurs to me that there aren’t many places in the world where you can see so many different landscapes in one single nation. Whether you enjoy the warm waters of the Gulf, the beaches of California, the rugged shoreline of Oregon or the historic significance of our nation’s capital, I fall in love with this country more every day.
I’m not sure how many of you have really traveled the US, but I have been fortunate enough to do that quite a bit … mostly as a child, but also in my career. Growing up, my family took long vacations every summer. My dad is a professor of leisure studies at Oklahoma State. His job is to educate students about the value of tourism and how interpretiveservices around the country add value to vacationers and business people alike.
Our family vacations were often joint trips for him to visit his students interning around the country. Through these trips, I was able to see a great deal of the country – 47 of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia were hit before my freshman year of high school. The only states lacking in my tour of the US are Hawaii, Alaska and Washington. I honestly believe every child should have the opportunity to visit all the states while they are young. One thing I can tell you is that by visiting the landmarks that we studied each year in school, I was better prepared to understand the value of each to the history our country. The one thing about my childhood vacations that I should point out is that we camped our way across the nation. So not only was I learning about the country but I was also gaining a new appreciation for the comforts of home. Plus it was cheaper than staying in hotels. I have been able to revisit many of these locations as an adult, and the pleasure I experienced as a kid is still there. I want to share with you a few of my favorite locations.
First is the coast of Maine. There are a number of things I love about Maine … from the lighthouses dotting the shoreline protecting ships from the rocks below to the LL Bean outlet store where I have been known to drop a pretty penny on those preppy sweaters and rugged shoes. My first visit to Maine was during August of eighth grade. It was unusually hot … or so they told us. Very few buildings had air conditioning but that was fine with us. We found ways to cool down, and the best was to simply put your feet in the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean. I fell for the lighthouses in a big way. To this day, one of my dream trips is to tour all the lighthouses of the east coast.
My second place is a little closer to home in the Ozarks. For one of our trips, we spent two weeks traveling around Arkansas and Missouri. While some would think that was not the most exciting trip on record, I must say that both states of a lot to offer. My most vivid memory of that trip is of our family friend’s oldest son leading us on a hike through Queen Wilhelmina State Park. For some reason he led us in circles for several hours, wandering around the trails with absolutely no clue where he was going. Of course, the rest of us just followed along until someone realized that we had passed the same trail marker three times. At that point, my dad took over but we still have a good laugh over David getting us lost. Of course this is the same guy who put salt in our canteens on a hike up Mt. Elbert in Colorado so we didn’t have water for the tallest peak in the state. My husband and I still vacation in Arkansas by taking long weekends to Beaver Lake near Fayetteville.
The third place on my list of amazing locations is the north shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota. I really do have a thing for lighthouses, and in this case Split Rock Lighthouse is one of the most beautiful locations I’ve visited. Just outside of Duluth, it’s probably not the ideal vacation location for everyone, but it really is a great place to visit. There is a resort located on the north shore that we visited several years when we lived in Minnesota, and then I returned right after I graduated college. Cute little log cabins where you can relax and get away from the hassles of life for a while.
These are just three of the places I’ve been in the US, but they represent so much more about this country that I don’t think most people realize. I hope you take a look at your next vacation and think about where you’ve never been but have always wanted to visit. There is so much to offer … make sure you take advantage and make your next road trip a truly memorable one.