Nebraska Skies, Sept 2014. 

Road To 50

I hit a big milestone last Friday. 50!

Not 50 years old, I’ll save that for another 15 years. 50 states.

It’s a goal — a bucket list item — that I always had in the back of my mind as something I wanted to do.

I’ve driven cross-country twice and taken countless trips through New England, the South and the West Coast. A few years ago I went to look at what states I had left and realized I had 6 states I had never visited all in the Midwest.

North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and Wisconsin.

I’m talking visited and have had an experience. No cheats, no stretching the truth. I can tell you something I’ve done in each and every one.

Taylor is at 49. He only has Hawaii left. Pretty much since we met I told him we’d go for his 40th birthday. “That’s so sweet,” you might think.” Well, not so much. I did it with a bit of a twist because I always figured my midwest states were closer and I’d get to mine before him. Ha!

I don’t mean to keep going back to the losses we’ve had this year, but truly because we’ve had such a tough year and because we know that you really shouldn’t put anything off, I started talking about going to Hawaii this year for Taylor’s birthday, a few years early for his 40th. He deserves it. I wanted to give that to him as a gift. We have a plan to go later this year.

We were sitting together one night this summer and I somewhat facetiously said we needed a vacation from our vacation. We kicked around some ideas and Taylor turned to me and said, “What if we take a road trip and go to your last states?” Me: “You’d do that for me? Let me get to 50 first? That’s the most selfless thing anyone has ever done for me!” Taylor: “Yes. Absolutely.”

Well one thing led to another and we found ourselves mapping a route and I started a shared GoogleDoc for places to see and things to do along the way.

In the end, we drove 2,500 miles and slept in 6 states in 6 days. One for every state I needed. We went to the Badlands and Mt Rushmore, visited a wild horse sanctuary where 600 mustangs run free, visited Kansas State University and the birthplace of Harry Truman and his presidential library and walked along the Platte River and went to Seed Savers HQ in Decorah, Iowa and walked along the lake in Wisconsin and toured Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin. We saw buffalo and prairie dogs, spotted cattle for hundreds of miles and corn as far as the eye could see. We drove in big blue skies and overcast skies. We ate some great food but also drank a lot of crappy coffee and spent way to too much time in the car to call last week a “vacation.” We stopped for photos all along the way, or more likely, turned back the car to get the “shot” that we had just missed. All in all, it was everything I could have ever wanted.

So while this is a story of triumph — 50! It’s also a story of love. I still can’t believe Taylor let me get to 50 first which I believe stems out of me wanting him to get to 50 this year and not a few years from now. This is a story of making the time to do something just to do it. I get no reward, no balloons for this goal. This is also a story of priorities. We are not stuff people, we’re just not. We spend our disposable income on experiences and even then are frugal. We know what makes us happy. Being outside, being in new places, seeing new things.

Your goal might be to get to 10 states. Or visit the Grand Canyon. Or it maybe isn’t travel related at all. It doesn’t really matter if you plan your whole life or spontaneously wake up one day and do something new. I think the goal is to feel alive. Because life is beautiful gift that someone gave you but it’s up to you to give it back to yourself. Birthdays are a good reminder of that.

I was sooooo excited that I decided I had to capture the moment, no matter how ridiculous! There are two videos…one is the celebration of 50 and the other is a Oscar-style thank you speech. The tears and spontaneous dance party were unfortunately captured off camera.

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