Made it to 48 states - stats/writeup (several loop roadtrips)

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Oct 30, 2015
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Southern MN & Omaha NE
I hit 48 states (plus DC) this summer, and I thought I'd do a bit of a writeup/stat breakdown for the BITOG crowd.

We accomplished the bulk of this in essentially five loops of 3-4k miles each from the Midwest (most of which were 9-10 days each), not counting the states that we'd already been to.
I've lived in/visited frequently MN/NE/IA/KS/WI/IL/SD/MO, and had already taken smaller road trips from MN to the west/Rockies (WY/MT/ID/UT), mid-south (AR/MS), TX via OK, AL via MS, ND to check it off, and a few other states, plus had a few flights to CA and FL (both later repeated by car) and SC, so we were starting from roughly 25 states down and needed about the same to complete this.

  • One loop was from MN to OR/WA via ID, picking off NV and UT on the way. Picking off NV was actually the first state we drove to with the sole purpose of adding a state, and kind of inspired this quest (this happened around 4 years ago).
  • Another was from MN to PA/VA/NC via IN/OH, picking off NJ and DE, and back through AL, GA, TN and KY.
  • The next was from MN to CO/UT/NM/AZ (Four Corners region) and then TX and LA.
  • This summer's was from MN to NY/VT/NH/ME, also picking off CT and MA. (RI was the last of the 48 states that we visited.)

47 states (all but SC, though we did rent a car there, since we flew into Charleston) were entered in a car, and 46 were entered in a car that left from our home in MN (we did drive from Vegas to CA on a fly-and-drive type road trip to hit Death Valley, Yosemite, and Sequoia National Parks). We also flew into DC via VA (Dulles) then took a cab into the DC city limits, as we didn't rent a car for our trip there. No airport layovers were counted in the visiting of states, but driving through does count for us for the purposes of this exercise. As mentioned below, we have gotten out of the car/done something in 46/48 (as this wasn't really on the radar when visiting DE and LA, but I plan to visit New Orleans at some time in the future, and will do something in DE when I'm next in the area). We try to do multiple significant/notable things on each trip, to best say that we've "visited" each place we've been to, but obviously compromises must be made in terms of what's done on trips. Cost was not insignificant but certainly pretty reasonable compared to other vacation options - say, a trip a year, with 9 tanks of gas, 9 $100 hotel rooms, food (usually one meal per day eaten out) and assorted passes/tickets (National Park passes, attractions in various cities, sunset cruises, and the like).

Other stats:
  • 17 National Parks, plus plenty of other state parks, historical sites, and other points of interest etc. (e.g. Four Corners, Geographic Center of the US in Kansas, a few state high points, first place to see the sunrise in the US, largest ball of twine, MN/IA/SD tri-point, etc.)
  • 991 counties out of 3143, including every county in Minnesota and 84/99 in Iowa (the long-range goal is to hit all 3143 at some point)
  • I've done every mile of I-29, plus I-80 from Winnemucca NV to near NYC, most of its length, as well as I-35 from Duluth MN to Waco TX, surprisingly each of those was driven in sections (with repeats) but not intentionally for the purpose of driving it all
  • These trips included the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and the Gulf of Mexico (have swum in each) as well as the Mississippi, Missouri, Arkansas and Colorado Rivers and the Rio Grande, among others.
  • Geographic extremes: Southernmost point - Key West (marker - 24.5 degrees north); Northernmost point - various crossings of MN/Canada border near Grand Portage, International Falls, and driving to the border at Roseau MN and Pembina ND (all should be at the 49th Parallel); Easternmost point - 68.2 degrees west at Bar Harbor ME; Westernmost point - 124.2 degrees west at Coos Bay OR
  • Highest elevation - Wolf Creek Pass - 10,856' and lowest elevation - Badwater Basin (Death Valley) - 282' below sea level
  • Most miles in a day = 1,065 from Waterloo IA to Gulf Shores AL via Mobile and St. Louis (average moving mileage of 450-750 miles per day on these big loops, though some days we won't move hotels or will move nominally, typically at the apex of that particular loop), but nothing else over 1000 miles.
  • Hundreds of gallons of gas (22-25 mpg and perhaps around 20,000-40,000 miles for state-specific road trips); I calculated that the '10 Sienna had burned an entire oil tanker worth of fuel (~10,000 gallons) in its lifetime a couple of years ago. On these trips, prices were never more than $3.30, and typically had a leading "2" so fuel costs were typically around $400 per loop.
  • One tire blowout (in east Texas) - total cost was $60 for a used tire and installation (but no other breakdowns or car trouble at all; no makeup oil /other fluids)
  • Two Siennas for these trips - the 2010 has been to all states but NY/NH/VT/CT/ME/RI, and CA/SC (and is still around as a fourth car). The 2017 was used for this summer's trip to the northeast, so hit the remaining NE states. The space made travel with five people (and sometimes a dog) quite easy and comfortable, providing plenty of space for luggage, snacks, a couple of coolers, etc.
  • 25 or so Holiday Inn Express locations, some Fairfields/Hamptons, and a bunch of other hotels of various brands (a few free nights with loyalty points)
  • Tons of cooler snacks/packed lunches, and plenty of fast food too (we found lunchmeat and cheese with crackers from the cooler to help break up the monotony of eating on the road. Hotel breakfasts were typically solid, as well, in the ~$100 class.
  • Two flights used to reach 48 states for us (depending on how you view them, not counting repeat visits) as the rest of the travel was by car. Other minor modes of transportation include train/rail, boat, subway, tramway/ski lift, bus and taxi.
  • Three or four Rand McNally road atlases - we don't seem to get more than a year or two out of them before they start to lose the pages in the middle
  • Zero speeding tickets
  • Probably in the neighborhood of 5000-7500 photos, if not more
  • Many, many cups of gas station coffee, a flavor that I now associate strongly with road trips
  • ~50,000 miles per year driven over our cars, in total (not all road trips, obviously)
  • Next state on tap: Alaska (probably a hybrid fly-and-drive trip) and, finally, hitting Hawaii last

It's hard to pick favorite states but I found NM quite "enchanting" and NH/VT were gorgeous, unsurprisingly. ID was surprisingly stunning, and much of CA is clearly stunning. Of course, I do have a soft spot for Middle America, as well - sometimes a sunset in, say, Iowa is just amazing in a certain way, and it is home to me. I couldn't necessarily come up with a favorite state or place, and enjoyed visiting nearly every place we saw along the way, as strange as that may sound (I didn't find many places boring or tedious, and everywhere has its own local flavor, the understanding of which seems to provide me with much of the value from traveling). Some places were challenging to drive through, but most were interesting in their own right. There's truly nowhere I wouldn't go back to at some point, and there are many places I can't wait to return to or see for the first time (places on my list that we haven't yet hit). Of course, I couldn't say that I've seen the whole country, but I do have a pretty good idea of what's out there, even in the less-travelled parts of the nation, and particularly the places between other, more so-called "exciting places" that get missed by those who travel mostly by cross-country flights. This is useful for knowing where to plan to go next and for having an understanding of what makes us who we are - I truly wouldn't trade these road trips for anything, and there's essentially nothing else I'd rather do than take a road trip. This really gets at the meaning of having a car for me - the freedom it provides, the views I've taken in, the sunsets and mountains and prairies seen, the memories made at 70 miles per hour. I've always been fascinated by the roads' being threads (either metaphorical or literal) through the nation. After all those miles and states and counties, I feel like I have a better understanding of the places between "here" and "there," if nothing else. An exercise like this can prove that there may be more to a journey than just a simple destination.


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A few random pics (NM sign, Canyonlands NP, somewhere in NM, RI (48th state for us) sign, Shenandoah NP, bug-spotted sunset in Idaho, and a southern MN winter sunset)
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We've stayed overnight in the following states (plus potentially MS a long time ago, but I'm not sure):
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We've gotten out of the car/"done something" in all but LA/DE (we could've done so, but it wasn't a necessary condition of this arbitrary "game"). New Orleans is on my short list of places to visit, so that'll check that off then, and I'll have to plan something in DE next time I'm in the area.
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Joined
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MI
Thank you for sharing. I have an inkling to do something similar in retirement - road trip adventures. I absolutely love tiny, local mom&pop diners that haven't been ruined by tourism or cult status. The difficult part is that one cannot even begin to visit all the hidden gems that each state has to offer. I've been in Michigan over 46 years and still discover outstanding places every year.

Awesome! Thank you!
 

TmanP

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Joined
Oct 30, 2015
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Southern MN & Omaha NE
Thank you for sharing. I have an inkling to do something similar in retirement - road trip adventures. I absolutely love tiny, local mom&pop diners that haven't been ruined by tourism or cult status. The difficult part is that one cannot even begin to visit all the hidden gems that each state has to offer. I've been in Michigan over 46 years and still discover outstanding places every year.

Awesome! Thank you!
Of course! It was fun to write that up, and you absolutely should shoot for something similar in retirement. It's amazing how much you can see in a week on the road, and when you put a bunch of such trips together, you can really feel like you've been to a place. I've at times been paralyzed by the sheer number of places there are to see and visit, but then I really just realized it's far better to do and see what you can than to get caught up in the details for fear of having to see "the best" or not "do a place justice" if you don't stay long enough (people make this worse when saying things like "You really can't do Yosemite in less than a week" - I'd far rather see a place for a day than not at all, plus this helps inform future choices about where to go).
 

JHZR2

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Dec 14, 2002
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46,763
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New Jersey
I love road trips. The problem is the places I want to go require 20+ hours of driving through places Ibe been. So as much as I want to drive my vehicle to all these places, flying is more time effective. I guess this is where automated driving may come in handy…

Thanks for sharing!
 
Joined
Jul 23, 2021
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745
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PA
Great writeup OP. I also really appreciate these US road trips. I've traveled to 5 continents, dozen(s) of countries, and lived a lot overseas. But I can honestly say that the US road trips and locations trump distant foreign adventures for the most part, with some exceptions of course.

As a rough estimate I think I've lived in about 20% of the US states, and I've traveled to probably 75% of them plus or minus, legitimate being there, doing stuff type of travel. We have so much right in our own front and back yards, we are very blessed. It's not that difficult to get to a big diversity as well; most people are within a day drive of many states in all directions. Very simple and affordable too.
 
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