States of Mind – Part 7

For the past ten years I have been making an effort to visit all 50 states. As my personal quest nears its completion, I decided to write down recollections of the 46 I’ve seen so far, listed roughly in chronological order of my first visit. This multi-part series began on July 1.

My wife was born in Missouri and still has family there. I had changed planes in St. Louis back when TWA was still in business but I didn’t count Missouri on my list of states until we drove across it in 2002. I was excited to see Hannibal, because my grandmother often told us that we were distantly related to Mark Twain. I’ve traveled to St. Louis a lot since then and it has become one of my favorite cities, especially for the restaurants. I highly recommend tourist attractions such as the Gateway Arch and the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. In 2008, my wife and I made an excursion to Branson and saw a Jim Stafford show.

Kentucky is a “pass-through” state on the way to and from St. Louis. We usually stop in Paducah for food and gas. Not fully satisfied with my Kentucky experience, my son and I went to the World Chicken Festival in London and loved it. In later years, we sometimes took a different route to St. Louis so we could see the original KFC in Corbin and the giant baseball bat in Louisville.

Once we became Southerners by choice, we had several occasions to visit relatives and friends in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia. We took in some of the obvious tourist things like Coca-Cola World, the Georgia Aquarium and The Varsity. One weekend, we drove to Atlanta for the sole purpose of seeing Rockapella in concert at Georgia Tech. We’ve also enjoyed several improv shows at Dad’s Garage and the Whole World Theatre.

My quest became a motivating factor while planning every vacation. Where can I go that I haven’t been before? When I had some time off that coincided with the kids’ Spring Break, we visited two of the eight states that border Tennessee. We got a motel room in Huntsville, Alabama, the night before touring the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. We had lunch at a local BBQ joint in Decatur called Big Bob Gibson’s that we would see on TV frequently in the following years.

From Alabama, we continued west to Tupelo, Mississippi. It was within reach and offered a kitschy destination: the birthplace of Elvis. It’s not as opulent as Graceland but still an essential stop for Elvis fans.

More states tomorrow!

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