Biggest public display of affection: Minnesota
When Patty and I got to the Twin Cities and found the Mary Tyler Moore statue, we had to bow down and break out in song, "Who can turn the world on with her smile?" After all those joint viewings of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" over the years, we just had to pay homage.
Most predictable natural phenomenon: Wyoming
Again, it's almost unfair to have Yellowstone in the same category with everything else. And, even if you're given a timetable to know when to expect "Old Faithful" to spout off, it's still amazing to see the magnitude of this geyser -- and all the others in the region -- go off like alarm clocks. The force, hues and sheer power of these explosions is mind-boggling.
Biggest disappointment: Massachusetts
On one excursion we were pressed for time, and Patty and I had to decide between two sites we really wanted to visit in Massachusetts: Plymouth Rock and Cape Cod. We settled on Cape Cod and made the drive almost to the end. Regretful that we hadn't visited Plymouth Rock (particularly with our fascination by all things Thanksgiving), we went back later. I have to admit, I was underwhelmed by "the rock." It was contained in a fenced-in enclosure and didn't hold much allure. Maybe I had just built myself up too much for it.
Biggest break with familiarity: Hawaii (the Big Island)
On the Big Island of Hawaii, the beaches have black sand, formed by the lava in the region. Oooohhh ... I was thinking it may be like tar. It wasn't, just a little more coarse. Very strange, though.
Along the way, we learned a lot more about our country than its geography. We learned the spirit of the people in each region -- how we're alike and how we're different. Some stereotypes were definitely left along the roadside. And we were surprised that some states were much more stimulating than we'd thought. In some cases we were looking at particular states as steppingstones to get to others, and we found out we often enjoyed those along the way more than those of our destination.
South Dakota was a huge surprise. Not only did we enjoy Mount Rushmore and the Badlands, but we delighted in quaint places like Mitchell, home of the Corn Palace (a structure whose facade is reconstructed every year -- entirely of corn!).
And I had a very heartwarming experience in South Dakota that restored my faith in mankind. We had stopped at a welcome center, and Patty and I had just purchased some particularly stunning headgear -- Nordic Viking hats with long, blond braids! While we donned our new headdresses and regaled a little girl with "Make New Friends," I inadvertently left my purse on the bench.
I didn't notice it was missing until we stopped at a restaurant several hours away. I immediately called the Division of Tourism in South Dakota, and they were able to get in touch with the welcome center. The wonderful state employee who was manning the information booth had spotted the abandoned purse and put it behind the desk.
Now, the challenge was getting reconnected. I had to get the purse back that day because we were flying out and I needed my ID. None of the major national delivery services could get it to me that same day.
That's when we discovered our new best friend, Eldon, who ran an in-state delivery service. He offered a combination of flying and driving services to get my purse to me in time for our flight -- for just $25. I couldn't believe it! You'd better believe I wrote glowing letters to the state of South Dakota about our positive experiences.
Sometimes we became obsessed with getting to specific destinations. When we hit the North Dakota line, I wouldn't settle for just any town. I had to go to Fargo! (Blame it on my book club.) So we traveled hours out of our way so I could see the legendary home of Marge from the movie.
On to the continents
Having completed all 50 states, we're now on to continents. Even with that whole wide world out there, we've realized Dorothy was right. "There's no place like home." And every time I return, I see those mountains beckoning me back. Almost Heaven, for sure.
Linda Arnold is a Charleston businesswoman and a Sunday Gazette-Mail columnist. She may be emailed at livelifefu...@arnoldagency.com.