Colorado

Pick up the Continental Divide at our previous state and follow it South. It will take you through the heart of Colorado. High mountain passes. Even higher peaks. If you’re hankering for a summer snowball fight — this is your place to visit.

Gold and later silver, drew people to this state of natural wonders. Ranching and mining continue to be important in the 21st Century. They have been joined in recent decades by pharmaceuticals and aerospace industry. And beer.

In the Western portion of this state we visited dinosaur fossil fields on one trip. We marveled at the scenery and highway engineers on another. And we visited Denver.  While there we watched coins being minted, visited a first class museum, and toured the capital building.

colorado-1994scan_pic0001View from the Capital in 1994.

Plenty left to see on my next trip. Mines and ski resorts and railroads.

 

Wyoming

On one of our family trips through Wyoming (Cowboy Country) we crossed three creeks – their names tell a story.

Hungry Horse Creek    – Okay, dry plains, sparse grass

Dead Horse Creek     — A bad year for grazing

Crazy Woman Creek  — What do you expect after the horse dies?

Actually, I’ve enjoyed all my travels in this state. Majestic mountains. Wide vistas. Clean air. Miles and miles of grazing land. Some come to Wyoming for the hunting. It’s even possible to buy a license to hunt the elusive Jackalope.

Bring both your sense of humor and adventure as you explore the least densely populated of the states.

Did you know Wyoming was the first US Territory to give women the vote? And they brought the right with them when granted statehood in 1890 (thirty years before the rest of the nation).

wyoming-1994scan_pic0001Posing with Ester Hobart Morris outside the state capital.

Montana

Big Sky Country!  Stop at any highway turnout and enjoy the view.

Be prepared to stay a bit. This is the fourth largest of the United States. The eastern portion of the state could easily be (and probably was) the landscape for Western movies. Cowboys. Cattle. Wheat. Native Americans. Use your imagination and the ranchers will be on horses instead of four-wheel drive pick-ups.

Continue west and you’re into the Rocky Mountains. The continental divide wanders along the crest – separating waters which end up in the Gulf of Mexico from those that flow to the Pacific Ocean. The roads here will have steep climbs, daring bridges, and tunnels. Turn off the A/C, roll down the windows, and fill up on the forest scented mountain air!

Be sure to include a visit to a National Park. Today’s photo, again from my 1969 journey, is one of the highlights in Yellowstone.

montana-yellowstone-1969-scan_pic0001Natures hot water “relief valve”.

Also known as “Old Faithful”

South Dakota

We travel north from our last stop to reach South Dakota.  This is an agricultural state with a thriving financial industry. Do you like four seasons? This may be the place for you. Hot summers. Cold winters. Prevailing westerly wind. And the Missouri River bisecting the state.

Several of our family vacations transited through this state. As a young girl I was introduced to the Black Hills. Mt. Rushmore and pig-tail bridges stayed in my memory from that trip. There’s gold too. It was discovered in 1874 and instrumental in bringing whites to the region. You can buy “Black Hills Gold” jewelry to this day.

Don’t forget to stop for your glass of “free ice water” in the small, but famous town of Wall.

south-dakota-1969-scan_pic0001This fine wildlife specimen was captured on black & white film in September of 1969. Do you suppose his descendants still offer a photo opportunity today?

Kansas

Miles and miles of blue sky above the prairie. Be prepared for wide vistas while driving through this state. Smack dab in the middle. The geographic center of the 48 contiguous states is accepted to be outside the small town of Lebanon.

Kansas came to be part of the United States via the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. And when Lewis & Clark led their expedition on the Missouri River, they likely camped at least once in the northeaster portion of the state.

My introduction to the state was on a family trip. One of the differences my young mind latched on to was the fact that windmills were shorter. Cattle and wheat were the main features of the rural landscape.

Many years later, in 1994, I drove the length of the state with my sons. We had a grand time. But be aware that not all 16 year-olds are accomplished photographers.

kansas-1994-scan_pic0001Non-roaming buffalo and visitors at Hayes, KS

Texas

Our route turns West again. Into a state with a reputation for BIG. It’s large enough to be a small country. And for nearly a decade it was The Republic of Texas.

Texas, perhaps due to size, contains great variety. Coastline on the Gulf of Mexico. Eastern pine forest. High plains. Arid plateau. Something for every tourist.

My tourist trips to the state varied also. In 1992, in a driving trip with two boys, we visited San Antonio and Waco with a side trip to view dinosaur footprints in a state park. (Did I mention I was with youngsters?) Later, in 2000, I flew into Houston to visit relatives. Space center. Galveston Island. (The gulls have no manners – they’ll steal your hot dog right off the grill.) Shorter visits later introduced me to Georgetown and Austin. Still plenty to explore when I find the time to pack my bags and gas up the car.

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BIG (Texas sized) rockets at the Johnson Space Center

Louisiana

Water. Pelican. Marsh. Jazz. Swamp. Alligator. Bridge.

One quick lesson during my limited driving in Louisiana: Don’t assume you’ll be able to pull off the road to dry land. Afraid of bridges? Be the passenger instead of the driver.

The history of this state is rich and varied. Early French settlers grew sugar. Ownership of the territory changed from French to Spanish to French to American. Cotton became the top crop with slave labor. Battles were fought during the Civil War for control of the vital Mississippi River. Music flourished.

I’d suggest a tourist study the guide book before arrival. Louisiana is more than New Orleans. The western portion of the state contains it’s own share of American history. Baton Rouge and the plantation country along the Mississippi offer a mix of attractions.

Then again: don’t omit New Orleans. Did you know this bustling port was the first place many immigrants set foot on American soil? Portions of my own family arrived on sailing ship and departed on steamboat — headed North. Stroll in the French Quarter in the evening. Listen to the music. Absorb the sights and sounds of this unique place.

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New housing in a traditional style.

Arkansas

Do you have a hankering for diamonds? Not afraid to get muddy? Then include a stop at Arkansas Crater of Diamonds State Park.

The Ozarks extend from Missouri well into Arkansas and have provided a rich place of folk art and music. Another type of music predominates in the delta region.

In the spring of 2001, I decided to introduce myself to this state. I started on the eastern side, drove through the rice growing region, and paused in a river town.

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Barges, levees, and a local museum made the day interesting. Then I headed west across the state. The landscape changed, more hills, more forest, and by the time I reached Fort Smith, I was on the edge of the Great Plains. Abundant variety. Needed more time to explore fully.

Missouri

Show Me. Convince Me. Prove It.

At the crossroads of North, South, East, and West American culture — Missourians tend to be skeptical. Location also makes for contrasts in many areas. We have delta in the southeast. Wooded mountains in south central. A portion of the Great Plains in the northwest, and rich mid-west farmland in the northeast. Don’t like the weather? Wait until tomorrow. It’s sure to change. Sometimes from one season to the next.

Location also makes for great variety for both resident and visitor. Like history? The Pony Express started in St. Joseph. Steamboats plied the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. Prefer the outdoors? Hiking and canoeing are popular in the Ozark area. Night life more your style? Try the Branson theaters or the urban delights of Kansas City and St. Louis.

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Enjoy a stroll in a public garden.

 

Iowa

Straight roads. The width and surface varies as Iowa roads follow the section lines. Think late summer, tall corn on both sides, and you detect on-coming traffic by the dust cloud on the gravel road.

Yes, the norm is changing. Modern highways cross the state. More roads are paved. But the corn still grows tall, interspersed with soybeans and farmsteads with large hog houses.

The constant wind sends greetings from the pigs to passing motorists. Don’t turn up your nose as you pass. Think — BACON!

The Mississippi River forms the eastern boundary of this fine state and here the land is rolling and fertile. The cities are small and proud. Their factories process food and manufacture machinery.

Pause as you drive through the state and discover little treasures.

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Buffalo Bill is one of Iowa’s notable sons.