Friday, July 1, 2022

Andy Young: Forty-nine down, one to go

Andy Young visits Sequim, Washington while
on vacation this week. SUBMITTED PHOTO
By Andy Young

My sister Carol is my favorite sister, and not just because, as she would undoubtedly point out, she’s my only sister.

Some time ago both she and I had jobs involving frequent travel around North America. At one point, likely at a Thanksgiving or Christmas family get-together, one of us (probably me, since inventing competitive situations seems, then as now, like more of a male thing) suggested that perhaps we should race to see who could visit all 50 of the United States first.

Both of us were already more than halfway there, including some tough-to-acquire (for an east coast person) ones like Alaska (me) and both Dakotas (her). It seemed like a fun idea, and the stakes (no money; just bragging rights) were sufficiently low to assure that no one (okay; me) would attempt to cut corners.

My sister laid down certain rules for our contest, which included a couple I wasn’t crazy about. Specifically, merely arriving in a particular place didn’t count; you had to either stay overnight or eat a meal there to be able to officially check off the state in question. That put my claims to Utah (plane layover in Salt Lake City) and Iowa (touching the pavement on the Council Bluffs side of the bridge that crosses the Missouri River from Nebraska) at risk, but at the time that didn’t seem like much of a problem, particularly since shortly thereafter I secured a job that required driving to Butte, Montana. 

By the end of that summer I had added, in addition to Montana, Minnesota, both Dakotas, Wyoming, and Idaho to my list, and legitimized my previously sketchy (by Carol’s standards) claim to Utah.

By the time 1997 arrived the score was tied, 48-48. But situations change, and the arrival of five children (two hers, and three mine) necessitated not only some adjustments regarding employment, but, in both our cases, a certain state of permanency that hadn’t been a factor back when each of us was relatively footloose and fancy free.

So now it’s a quarter-century later, and neither of us had added to our respective totals of four dozen states visited. One of the two places remaining on our “to see” lists is the same, but I still needed Oregon as well, while she has remained Alaska-less. But Carol and her husband recently relocated from Vermont, their longtime home, to Olympia, Washington, and have made it clear to family members that they would welcome any and all visitors.

And since the teaching job I’ve held for the past two decades allows me some extended time off each summer, I was the first to take them up on their generous offer.

So out to Seattle I flew, where I was picked up in the dead of night at an airport only about a thousand times as large as the Portland International Jetport. And after one lovely day in Carol’s new home, we got up the next morning and drove, in her car, down to Oregon. And yes, we stayed long enough to enjoy a meal there.

Forty-nine down, one to go.

Naturally I plan to return Carol’s generosity, and should I get transferred to Alaska (a prospect about as likely as the Pope converting to Islam) my sister knows that I will be pleased to take her all around my new home state, or at least arrange for her to enjoy a meal and/or stay overnight there.

But I’ll also be redoubling my efforts to drive to that so-far-elusive 50th state. And if I ever find a bridge that goes to Hawaii, I’m there! <

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