The Lower 48!

9 days, 13 states, 4,433 miles, 1 snowstorm, 3 seasons and numerous ecosystems experienced.  THAT was Thanksgiving, 2018 for the Trekkers!  We were invited to spend the holiday in Florida, with family.  Neither Mr. Trekker, nor I, had been there in the last decade, and we realized we’d never visited together.  We also figured out a route that allowed us, both, to check off another item off our “bucket lists”…after this trip, both Mr. Trekker and I have visited all 48 of the continental US states!  {Note: the Trekkers are currently accepting donations to fund trips to States #49 and #50…} 😉

We enjoyed some unique experiences on this trip:

–Oil refineries that twinkle across the bays as they hug the coast.  I prefer green energy, but, there’s a certain beauty about them.  They remind me of the old, steel factories near where I grew up in Gary, Indiana.  There, an eerie, orange glow emanates from them and the reflection glitters on nearby Lake Michigan.  The bays of the Gulf of Mexico proffer a similar characteristic.

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Some of the refineries are HUGE!

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–We drove Route 66 again!  I had forgotten it runs through Missouri unitl we stumbled on it while surveying the map.  We had last seen that route on a trip through New Mexico in 2017.

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–I was also able to experience the beauty of the Ozarks for the first time (Mr. Trekker had been there before.)  I had no idea how lovely the majority of Missouri and western Arkansas are with their rolling farmlands and forested hills.  Fall also runs a little later, in those states, so we got to enjoy the foliage as well!  (Note to the Missouri Department of Transportation, your snow management on your highways could use some work. 😝)

–We experienced multiple seasons on this trip.  When we left South Dakota it was 15 degrees out!  We enjoyed fall colors in the Ozarks and through, beautiful, northern Georgia; and then we fast-tracked it back to South Dakota to outrun the, impending, winter storm that was bearing down on the lower midwest.  😳

THIS is why we drive rather than fly (this, and the TSA. 😉  I’m not afraid of flying, it’s the crashing-to-a-fiery-death-in-a-cramped-metal-tube-from-30,000-feet-up that scares me. 😝)  Cross-country travel allows you to truly experience the varying landscapes and cultures that are present throughout our wonderful country.  In addition to the US being a “melting-pot” of various cultures and religious identities, it showcases a cornucopia of landscapes as well.  On every road trip we take I’m always amazed at the various scenes and inhabitants we encounter.  Things I’ve observed on our visits across the “Lower 48”: 

  • The South:  characterized by cotton fields, salt marshes and flat, coastal plains.  Comprising a portion of the “Bible Belt”, folks here are friendly, though they’re often quick to spot that, “ya’ll ain’t from around here are ya?” 😉
  • The Northeast/New England:  comprising rolling, hilly, farmland, heavily forested mountains and flat, coastal plain; many think of this region as sporting “city-folk” with fast-paced lifestyles.  There’s plenty of “country folk” outside the urban centers who may disagree with that assessment, though.
  • The Midwest and Great Plains: this area is comprised mostly of flat farmland.  Many think of it as boring, flyover country.  It may not be as exciting as other regions, but this area has a unique beauty of its own.  Being that I grew up there, its charmingly simple way of life will always hold a piece of my heart.  And you can’t beat their sunsets over the “amber waves of grain” (and cornfields). 😉  The folks who live here, residing fully in the ‘Bible Belt”, are known for their friendliness (and tornadoes!  It’s the place in the country for storm chasing! 🌪) 
  • The West:  I would define the borders of this area as the country west of the Missouri River, excluding the West Coast, and north of the Desert Southwest.  In my personal opinion, you can’t beat the beauty of the craggy mountains that are found here.  They don’t call this area “God’s Country” for nothing.   In my experience, some of the friendliest people I’ve encountered live in the rural West.  This is an interesting contrast to, what can be, a difficult life.  Living in the West is a whole other ballgame.  The land is rugged, the weather is harsh, and its residents have to be tough.  It’s a place that, even in the 21st Century, has to be survived.  Maybe this fosters kinship among those who choose to brave its challenges?  Here, the weather and nature–both flora and fauna, can, quite literally, kill you.  But the people who call this, immensely beautiful and often desolate place, “home”, won’t make you regret a visit.
  • The West Coast (ie: the western halves of the West Coast states):  it’s amazing how different the various sides of these states can be! The eastern halves of Washington, Oregon and California are comprised of more rural, scrub and farmland, and the people trend toward a more conservative ideology.  The western halves of these states are flatter, far wetter, coastal plains; sometimes ranging to a temperate, rainforest climate.  The people who reside there are usually categorized as metropolitan.  I was, pleasantly surprised, though, by the light-hearted lifestyle of the LA area.  
  • Texas/the Desert Southwest:  This is the one area I can’t speak much to, as we haven’t spent enough time there for me to get a feel of it (a problem we’re hoping to correct). 🤞  I do know it’s hot and dry, though.  😅

The statements above are just generalizations, of course.  As we’ve traveled around the country, I’m always amazed how cultures vary within these local regions as well.   As you traverse the states, rural areas are usually more conservative, and the larger cities tend to trend more liberal.  The change from urban to rural can be stark, and often occurs quite quickly.  Many living in the rural areas of Illinois, Virginia or New York may not feel they have much in common with their counterparts living in the DC suburbs, Chicago or New York City.  “Transplants”, people who move from places like NYC to more conservative states, like North Carolina (and others), make those places a melting pot of cultures and ideologies within their own right.  One place we visited several years ago is the small town of Willits, in northern California.  It was one of the first places we’d visited in the state, and I was surprised how charming and “midwestern” it felt.  

What am I trying to get at here?  The bottom line is, none of that sh*t really matters.  I think we often forget that we’re all in this together.  We all vary, but we all share similarities as well.  Often times, those similarities aren’t categorized by skin color, religion, politics, etc.  Regardless of where we live, what church–or synagogue, or mosque, or temple–we attend (or don’t); who we vote for, or who our favorite sports team is, we’re all human.  We all live in the same, magnificent country.  I firmly believe, we’re all, for the most part, good people (one generalization we all share).  As our country remains divided on numerous issues politically, religiously, racially, culturally, I think it’s important to keep this fact in mind.   THIS is what makes road trips so enjoyable!  I LOVE traveling the country, and experiencing how much we all have in common!

The late chef and world-traveler, Anthony Bordain, felt food bonded us, that our connection with it could bridge divides between cultures, religions, politics, etc.  I think we need to seek out other “bridges” like this as well.   Whether that be a common love (or hatred? 😳) for a specific sports team, a love of the outdoors, whatever.  I don’t care if you voted for Trump or Hillary (or neither); if you cheer for the Yankees or Red Sox; if you say “pop” or “soda”.  

I. DON’T. CARE.  

Those things aren’t important in the long run.  What is important, and what we need to focus on, are the commonalities we all share.  We need to seek out the things that unite us, not those that divide us.  During this season of Thankfulness we need to realize how blessed we ALL are to live in this incredible, messy, complicated place.  We’re all stuck on this big, beautiful, blue ball, hurtling through the dark, cold, emptiness of space.  We’re all in this together, so let’s make the most of it, be kind and try to get along, yeah?  🤠  


See below for some more pics from our cross-country adventure! (Thanks, as usual, to Mr. Trekker for some of these):

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Drawbridge!
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Is it just me…
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…or does this bird look like Bernie Sanders?  😳
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I love the moss!
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State #48 for the Trekkers!
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The lowest altitude we reached on the trip. You can see my foot is in the Gulf of Mexico if you look in the lower left corner…
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…contrast that with the highest altitude we reached on our road trip this summer, at the top of Independence Pass, in Colorado!
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Seashells!
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“I got my toes in the water…”

Florida beaches!

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Beach Trekkers!

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Goodnight Florida!

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