On Dec. 28, 2017, my family of four, including my husband, Ellis, and our two adult children, Michael and Marisa, arrived in Dallas. It was a momentous occasion as it marked the 50th state we have traveled to together since the children were babies. They are now 25 and 29.
We have traveled by car, bus, train, airplane, cruise ship and twice by RV. The only rule was that we had to go to the state together and we had to set foot in each state. On this road trip, we were “escorting” our daughter to Austin, Texas, to do an internship for her doctorate in physical therapy, and it provided the perfect opportunity for us to complete our last five states: Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas.
Since we started this trip in Alabama, we began with the 16th Street Baptist Church, where, in 1963, four little girls were killed, sparking the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which we learned more about by visiting the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute across the street, as well as later on at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin. Next we drove to Tupelo, Mississippi, to visit Elvis Presley’s birthplace, and his Graceland home and museum in Memphis, Tennessee. Have you ever been to the Peabody Hotel there to see the Duck March? Hysterical! Or the Memphis Rock and Soul Museum? Incredible!
The ribs at the Rendezvous were exceptional! And don’t forget about the blues/jazz music at B.B. King’s on Beale Street! Sad memories of Martin Luther King’s assassination were revived when we went to the Lorraine Motel, as well as JFK’s when we visited the exact location on Elm Street (outside the Texas School Book Depository) in Dallas. Since our adult children weren’t alive then, it was a real eye-opener for them as well. President Bill Clinton’s Library and LBJ’s were extremely interesting, especially when you could actually hear LBJ talking on the phone to MLK, Jackie O, and even Lady Bird rating one of her husband’s speeches as a B+. Once we reached our final destination — Austin — we checked out the beautiful state capitol, the gorgeous Driskill Hotel, the old Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, where they served us our food at our seats, had dinner at Stubb’s barbecue (delish), and saw a Christmas light show at Mozart’s Coffee Roasters. But the year would not have been complete without spending New Year’s Eve at an outdoor party in 20-degree weather where it snowed — in Texas! Thank God for the heating lamps, blankets and plastic enclosures. We stayed in our coats all night!
While driving all those hours in the car, we talked about all the trips we’d taken: all the ride parks we visited when the kids were younger; the RV trip with my mom and our dog, who went sliding through the length of the RV when I had to stop short; the helicopter rides we took to get to the dogsled camp on a glacier in Alaska and also over the Grand Canyon in Arizona; the time the kids took surfing lessons in Kauai, Hawaii; staying in cabins in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, the lobster races in Ogunquit, Maine, and camping in upstate New York, all with friends; seeing the Indianapolis Motor Speedway; the Seattle Space Needle; volunteering in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina; gambling in Las Vegas; the Olympic Village and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in Salt Lake City, Utah; visiting all the National Parks out West in an RV; staying at a bed-and-breakfast in Cape May, Maryland; visiting the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.; Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia; watching a rodeo in Wyoming; taking a limo from a cruise ship to Florida’s Universal Studios; observing the Amish in Pennsylvania and American Indian dance right here on Long Island. We saw white and blue mountain majesties, Mount Rushmore and the uncompleted Crazy Horse Mountain in South Dakota. We’ve seen many baseball stadiums and even the Little League World Series. We saw geysers, rivers, lakes, oceans and seas, plains and deserts. We saw crocs, lizards, huskies, snakes, horses, cows, pigs, fish, whales, birds, moose, you name it. We saw all kinds of buildings, bridges, parks, statues, museums, libraries. We ate local oranges, apples, peaches, peanuts, coconuts, potatoes, mahi mahi, fried pickles, corn dogs. We heard every kind of music: rock, soul, rhythm and blues, jazz, country and pop, old and new. But the greatest gift of all was seeing and experiencing our beautiful country together, meeting all the different people that make up this diverse United States, and discovering the reality that we are all brothers and sisters who love our country, love our children, love our ethnic/local foods, music, clothes, and love life, in general. And as I placed our last magnet of Texas on our collector’s map, which we’ve been doing since our first trip way back when, I realized what an awesome trip it’s been.