Have You Visited All 50 US States?

03 August, 2017

In May, Kathy Pride was on her way to Santa Cruz, California to run a marathon. But when she landed in Oakland, it turned out the airline had lost her bag. It was not on the plane.

The running shoes that fit her feet just right? They did not make it. The clothes she planned to wear during the race? Nowhere to be found.

Pride rushed to a shoe store and bought a new pair of shoes. She went to a thrift store and found some clothes for the 42-kilometer-long race.

This was not just any marathon. It was one of the last marathons Pride needed to finish her goal since 2013: running a marathon in all 50 states.

Kathy Pride poses with Disney characters after the Walt Disney World Marathon.
Kathy Pride poses with Disney characters after the Walt Disney World Marathon.

A bucket list

The journey started innocently enough. Pride said she just wanted to cross a marathon off her "bucket list." A "bucket list" is a list of things people want to do before they "kick the bucket," or die.

In her first marathon, Pride stopped to rest with nearly two kilometers to go because she was too tired. Over a year later, at another marathon, Pride met Carol Goslin, who had run over 200 marathons, and run a marathon in all 50 states four times.

Inspired, Pride said to herself: "I'm going to do that."

Her favorite big marathon is the New York City Marathon. Her favorite small marathon was in Newport, a small city in the northwestern state of Oregon. She even did a marathon with only 10 other runners in West Virginia.

In early July, Pride completed her goal of running a marathon in every state in the northeastern state of Vermont.

The 50 clubs

According to the 50 States Marathon Club, almost 1,300 people have run a marathon in every state. Many have done it more than once.

Most people do not run marathons in every state they visit, however, but they do other interesting things.

Alicia Rovey runs the All 50 Club as part of her Travel Goal Getter website. She is an expert on people who have visited all 50 states. In 2015, she made Oregon her 50th state.

She said one club member would not make a state "official" until he had a beer there. Another person had to eat a slice of pie. A third person donated blood in each state.

People who have visited at least 35 of the 50 states can become members of the All 50 Club for a small fee. It has almost 3,000 members.

"Our youngest member, now, is age 2. His parents took him on some whirlwind trips, and he completed all before he was age 3."

In 2015, four people set off together to visit all 50 states. They did it in just over six days.

Generally, Rovey said people must have their feet on the ground and breathe the air in order to count a state. That eliminates travelers who drive through a state without stopping or change planes in an airport.

Rovey said careful planning is important for people who are trying to visit all 50 states. For example, you can cross a lot of states off your list with a visit to the northeast. She also has a tip about one of the state parks:

"In Yellowstone, that there's Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho is just about 15 miles or so from the Yellowstone area. So while you're there, take that extra time to go over and go into Idaho rather than planning a full trip later on. It's worth it to take that extra time when you're close. Because as much as your intention is to go back, it can take years to be able to go back."

The 50 state adventures

Laurie Chatham is from Pasadena, California.

She visited a number of states in the late 1990s with her husband and children. They were in South Dakota, visiting Mount Rushmore, the Badlands National Park and the Crazy Horse Memorial. And Chatham encouraged her family to drive to North Dakota.

"I said, OK we're driving two hours north and we're going to go through the tip of North Dakota, because I've never been. And they're like ‘oh, but it's all the same' and it does, in all fairness, look very similar, it's kind of plains... and beautiful but flat. So we did, and that's how we got North Dakota. I said ‘you'll thank me later on.'"

The drives to visit all 50 states can be long. For example, it can take 12 hours to get from Texarkana ( in east Texas) to El Paso (in west Texas). Chatham said her children wrote about their 50-state trips for their college application essays.

Chatham and her family did not have a big celebration when she made it to Vermont in 2006.

"I just said, ‘woah, I've been to all 50 states,'" Chatham said. "It just kind of felt nice to have done it."

A few years later, Chatham's children made Kentucky their 50th state and her husband finished all 50 with a trip to Florida.

Sue Fowler of Maryland traveled to the states with her parents when she was a teenager in the 1960s. Fowler rode a donkey all the way to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. She enjoyed the Dells of the Wisconsin River, an area with rock formations formed by glaciers.

Fowler has visited 48 states, with Hawaii and Alaska to go. But her parents did make it to all 50 states."The last state they went to was Alaska. And they went to the farthest northern part of the U.S., and my father stood there and had a big picture with a great big smile on his face and he was just very excited that he actually did it, he went to all 50 states."

Dave Halpert and Lisa Schor are a couple from Florida. They made Hawaii their 50th state last year. Halpert said patriotism played a role in his desire to visit all 50 states.

"It's something that people would just want to have to do," he said. "I'm kind of a patriotic American. It's a great country."

Lots of people like to go to Hawaii for a vacation. But what do 50-state travelers do in less-popular states?

"You know, there are some cities like Manchester, New Hampshire that don't have much to offer, but for one night, they all have something to offer. You walk around downtown, you go to a nice restaurant, you maybe go to a museum. So it's something that someone's gonna want to do."

Fowler said the perfect "50-stater" is someone who is curious about the U.S.

"My dad and I both had the same philosophy. We wanted to learn about the United States. There's so many incredible things in this country that people don't get to see and we were lucky enough to see them."

I'm Dan Friedell.

Dan Friedell wrote this story for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

Will you try to visit all 50 states one day? How many states have you visited? We want to know. Write to us in the Comments Section or on 51VOA.COM.


Words in This Story

thrift store – n. a store where people can purchase used clothing; the proceeds often are donated to charity

inspire – v. to make (someone) want to do something : to give (someone) an idea about what to do or create

whirlwind – adj. something that involves many quickly changing events, feelings, etc.

encourage – v. to make (someone) more determined, hopeful, or confident

plains – n. a large area of flat land without trees

glacier n. a very large area of ice that moves slowly down a slope or valley or over a wide area of land

patriotism n. love that people feel for their country