Wow...it's hard to believe that our family goal and quest to see and experience all 50 states has finally been accomplished. As we crossed the border from Virginia into West Virginia I was overwhelmed with emotion and I could feel my chin quivering as I tried to hold back tears. I could not believe it was all coming to an end. We were crossing the finish line and instantly a million memories of all the places we'd gone and crazy things we'd done came flooding back to me in random flashes. I so wanted to pull over and cry happy tears but we had a National Historical Site to get to and things to see on a tight timetable to be able to make our final flight back home. It was only once we got home that I was really able to unpack all my feelings and fully absorb all that we'd accomplished together as a family-one passionate mom and 3 awesome kids. Back when we started out 13 years ago I could not in my wildest dreams have imagined all the wonderful and crazy adventures we would have, nor all the changes that have taken place in each and every one of us from then till today. It has been an epic ride for sure and one that I would gladly do all over again if I had a time machine to transport me back. While I am beyond thrilled that my family pursued our dream all the way to the end, there's a little bit of me that's sad that the ride has come to an end. That's not so say that we won't have family trips (although with 2 kids now in college who knows for sure) but our annual road trips to knock a few more states off our list are no more.
When we started out my hope was to create a family history for my kids. In that endeavor I think I succeeded beyond my wildest expectations. Every part of their childhood is marked by some road trip memory, every state associated with a particular age in their life. As my children grew, our trips moved eastward and our themes and history grew more sophisticated and intense. At the onset we were discovering nature as we explored forests and volcanoes and watched salmon swimming the Columbia River. At the end we were discussing the politics and military strategy of the Civil War and the economics of the plantation system. We've laughed and cried, triumphed and at times failed but we've done it together as a team. I feel great satisfaction knowing that when my kids recount their childhood to their own children one day, it will be filled with amazing stories that they will be asked to repeat over and over again.
Often times when we think back on our lives, the past is often a blur and if seems as if that life was someone else completely. People often say in conversation, they don't know where the time has gone, they turned around and their kids were all grown up. Those 13 years were the best of my life because they were so fully lived out on the road year after year. There are so many details I remember because those vistas out on the road are etched in my memory. We truly have accomplished so much and I hope I can continue to live my life so fully.
In addition to discovering who we are and growing together, we also discovered that America is truly an amazing country. Its true beauty revealed in the diversity and richness of individual cultures across each and every state that we were blessed to experience. The question I am asked time and again is "What is my favorite state?". Honestly, I have no answer because it's the same way I feel about my 3 kids...I have no favorite. All the states are beautiful each in their own unique way. Our lives are forever richer for all the accents we've heard the regional foods we've tasted, the art, architecture and landscapes we've had the great pleasure to witness.
My advice to anyone contemplating a trip or even taking on the goal of seeing all 50 states like we did is - seize the moment and give yourself the most amazing gift. Find a way and make it happen! Share it with your family and make the most amazing memories that will carry you through a lifetime. And while you are out on the road enjoying the thrill of discovery, I guarantee you will no doubt find out what TRULY makes America great.