Given the ongoing pandemic gripping both the nation and the world, journeying to faraway destinations is clearly not prudent right now. It’s been nearly six months since I last left the state of Maine, which for someone who works less than 25 miles from New Hampshire seems highly unusual.
Like many teachers and parents, I enjoy discovering new places and revisiting old haunts when school is out. But since traveling this summer involves a high level of risk, the only borders I’ll be crossing will be the ones between local towns. And while wandering around in locales more virus-afflicted locales than ours is currently inadvisable, there’s no harm in taking vicarious excursions by writing, dreaming, or reminiscing about them.
Late in the 1980’s my youngest sibling and I informally decided to see which of us could venture to all 50 of the United States first. We each had jobs involving frequent domestic travel and/or short-term relocation, and at the time neither of us was encumbered with children or a significant other. My sister insisted on some basic rules, one of which was that for a state to count you had to either stay overnight there or consume at least one meal within its borders. Her proposed requirements rendered my claims to both Utah (layover between airline flights) and Iowa (a drive across a bridge from Nebraska for a 30-second cameo appearance) null and void, but nothing tangible was at stake. We also mutually agreed that an actual prize might take the fun out of it, so after concurring on guidelines the competition began.
By the mid-90’s each of us had legitimately checked off 48 states.
But then she got married and subsequently became a parent, and a couple of years later I went down that same winding road. It’s a quarter-century later, we’re still deadlocked at 48 states apiece, and today I’m waving the white flag. It’s time to admit, however reluctantly, that I am not going to win the contest.
These days travel is expensive, not to mention potentially hazardous to the health of older people, a demographic into which, by nearly everyone’s definition, I now fit. In addition, I have little things like a mortgage and some college educations to pay for that weren’t a factor back in the 20th century. That my nominal opponent still needs Alaska and Hawaii and isn’t any more likely to get to those places than I am to check off the two states remaining on my list is of little comfort. I’m still holding out hope that a trip to Oregon is in my future, but if I ever have the money necessary to go to Hawaii overnight (or at least eat a meal there), I’d undoubtedly opt to use it for something else.
But I can lay claim to a significant consolation prize: I’ve been to every Canadian province! I got my ninth and tenth when my three children and I motored out to Colorado and Montana eight summers ago and circled back through Saskatchewan and Manitoba on the way home.
It doesn’t look like I’ll make it to Canada this year. But while physically roaming far from home isn’t currently an option, few if any states are more attractive for “staycations” than Maine is. Thanks to our state’s unique geography, visits to Poland, Norway, and Denmark are all within easy driving distance. If I’m yearning for something more exotic (or less Nordic), Mexico and Peru are both doable. Maybe I’ll even try China, if they’re letting people from Cumberland County across the great wall that I imagine surrounds the place. <