Wish You Were Here:

 

Postcards From All 50 States

 

(Plus Canada and Mexico, Too)

 

A Special to Libertarian Crusader Diary

 

Kay at No 48

 

by GARY L FINCHER

 

  

April was the third anniversary of the first printing of LCD, which means Kay and I have been on the road for over three years now.  Three years? Only three years. It seems like a lifetime and in a sense, it could be viewed as a different life; these past three years certainly do not resemble the years before I knew Kay. As recently as 1994, I couldn’t have imagined that I’d be teamed up and living on the road with my wife as business partner, though I’d always considered that to be the ultimate lifestyle. Yet that dream came true in early 1995 when Kay and I left her hometown of Appleton, Wisconsin, and never looked back.  It’s remarkable to think that in little more than three years, Kay and I have been to all 48 states together (49 after counting Alaska), all but one Canadian province, two Mexican states and even a territory on the edge of the frontier. Notching all 48 contiguous United States was a milestone for us, realizing that no doubt most married couples never achieve that or get to share that much of America together. So we consider ourselves both lucky and blessed to have had the opportunity to visit every state between Canada and Mexico and between the Pacific and Atlantic.  A by-product of our three years of interstate travel is that the USA has become a much smaller place to us, as we’ve become familiar with her roads and her cities. In addition to our 48-state feat (now 49), we’ve crossed the country coast-to-coast a dozen times, traveled every major interstate highway, performed work in about half the states and gotten to intimately know almost 40 cities scattered all over the North American continent.  This article is a celebration of our achieving 49 states together. It’s about two people getting to know one another through the shared experiences of the ups and downs of life on the road.  The following is a state by state recounting of all the places Kay and I have been to or seen, all having taken place in a span of time covering a little more than three years. [Editor’s note:  although Postcards was originally written in 1998, it was revised in 2008 to reflect four more years on the road for us, after which Kay passed away in 2002.]

  

 

 

 

Kay, Yankee posing as "Southern Belle", in front of an antebellum-style home in Mobile, Ala.
Kay, Yankee posing as “Southern Belle”, in front of an antebellum-style home in Mobile, Ala.

AL

Coincidentally enough, Alabama was the very first state where Kay and I worked after going on the road together. Having come from the winter deep freeze that is Wisconsin, this Dixie state provided a nice little respite from the February temperatures up there.

 

When we first reported to our Alabama project, we met with our client just south of Birmingham, the state’s largest city, where we peered down from the top of Red Mountain and saw the entire city shimmering below us.  The first city in which ever worked side by side was Auburn, home of prestigious Auburn University with its free-market Economics Department and the Ludwig Von Mises Institute, a libertarian think-tank on campus that Kay and I visited. We actually set up shop on the Auburn campus and worked there for a week before moving on to other parts of the state.

 

Across the state there’s Tuscaloosa, home of the Crimson Tide of the University of Alabama.  We worked that campus for a whole week, during which time we met my friend Paul, who works political projects like we.  Back across the state is another major university, at Troy, where we sat and worked the student crowd on a cheery spring day.  Not far from Troy is Dothan, our little pit stop on the route between Montgomery and Florida.

 

I can remember the night Kay and I first breezed into Gulf Shores, and the way we felt when we saw the ocean for the very first time as a couple, after dark, the water glistening under a starry sky.

Kay and Gary’s first beach stroll together, at Gulf Shores, Ala.
Kay and Gary’s first beach stroll together, at Gulf Shores, Ala.

I can remember shivering on the shores of Mobile Bay, victims of a rare cold snap, barely getting time to deliberate on the cold gray waters before having to jump back into our heated car. Mobile the city was intriguing, especially to northern-bred Kay, with all its ante-bellum, plantation style homes and azaleas all in bloom. Once, we took a circular drive, starting out from Mobile, heading south to the shrimping village of Bayou La Batre, continuing to Dauphin Island and taking the auto ferry across the mouth of Mobile Bay to Fort Morgan, along the coast back to Gulf Shores, then back up to Interstate 10 and over to Mobile again. Then I can remember leaving the Mobile area and driving up to Montgomery in a late afternoon torrential downpour that was so heavy we could barely see.

 

We spent the preponderance of our first Alabama stay in the city of Huntsville, a modern, well-landscaped city in the northern part of the state. We got to know this city from one end to the other, having driven all over town every day for several weeks.

 

On a day trip from Huntsville, we went to Guntersville Lake, a larger-sized lake on the Tennessee River just to the southeast. I can still remember, in the serenity of dusk with no one else around, Kay and I sitting on a wooden dock at lake’s edge, and hearing nothing but the sound of insects and the occasional splashing of water by jumping fish. 

 

AKFor Kay and me, the USA’s largest state represents our 49th and most recent conquest in our states collection. And although there’s so much area in the state we couldn’t possibly have covered, we nevertheless were fortunate enough to see a handful of Alaska’s highlights and landmarks.

  

How can we forget, on a dark, quiet December afternoon, at a distant, faraway border station, crossing into the frozen unknown that was, we needed to constantly remind ourselves, another U.S. state we were seeing for the first time?

 

 

 

 

 

Gary at the Alaska sign (top photo); Mt. McKinley in the Alaska Range (middle photo); Gary at Denali National Park (bottom photo)
Gary at the Alaska sign (top photo); Mt. McKinley in the Alaska Range (middle photo); Gary at Denali National Park (bottom photo)

AK range

 

Gary at Denali

Gary floating up Alaska’s Inside Passage
Gary floating up Alaska’s Inside Passage

A little more than 100 miles from the Arctic Circle, Kay and I plied our trade in the Fairbanks area for over a week, operating out of the cute little town of North Pole, ironically just before Christmas, in time to get a local postmark on our holiday cards and packages. As would be expected, we had to deal with some really cold temperatures in that area, down to and including 40 below.

 

On our way south from Fairbanks, we got to see some of the old original Frontier, set against some of the wildest and most rugged snow-covered mountain terrain we’ve ever laid eyes on. Kodak moments were everywhere along the highway that took us through Denali National Park and by the mountain range that included Mt. McKinley, highest peak in North America. And there’s nothing quite like driving along an empty stretch of Northern road at night and looking up into a starry Alaska sky and seeing the Big Dipper, bigger than you’re ever seen it before.

 

We spent several weeks in and around Alaska’s largest city of Anchorage, a quite pretty city backgrounded by high, snowy mountains in the distance. Some of the sights around the Anchorage area we saw included the frontier town of Palmer, the wild Kenai Peninsula out in the Pacific, and frozen Portage Glacier just south of the city.

Gary shivers at bitter cold and frozen solid Portage Glacier south of Anchorage, Alaska (top photo); Ice-free harbor at Valdez (bottom photo)
Gary shivers at bitter cold and frozen solid Portage Glacier south of Anchorage, Alaska (top photo); Ice-free harbor at Valdez (bottom photo)
Gary shivers at bitter cold and frozen solid Portage Glacier south of Anchorage, Alaska (top photo); Ice-free harbor at Valdez (bottom photo)

However, the most scenic of Alaska’s winter locales to us was the little port town of Valdez. Endowed with piles and piles of pure white snow and set between the ice-free waters of Prince William Sound and high mountains right there in town so close you can touch them, Valdez is how we remembered Alaska as the cozy community turned out to be the last place we stayed before we made our exit and headed back to the “lower 48”.

 

ABKay and I have stood in the refrigerated coolness beneath the towering glacial peaks at Lake Louise, in awe of the piquant beauty of its milky-blue waters set against such a majestic backdrop.

Kay searches out the skyline of Calgary, Alta.
Kay searches out the skyline of Calgary, Alta.

The Canadian Rockies in and around Banff National Park are quite monumental in appearance, high and jagged, dark blue-gray in color with splotches of white snow and ice all over their slopes. The area abounds with peaks and glaciers and rushing rivers. The scenery kept us spellbound from the British Columbia border all the way down into Calgary, on the prairie floor below. At night, Calgary’s glow can be seen from high into the Rockies, while in daylight, the city’s skyline glistens in the sun from miles away.

 

  

  

Gary stands beneath towering glaciers at world-famous Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies

Gary stands beneath towering glaciers at world-famous Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies

 

 

Below, Gary at Banff National Park, Alberta
Above, Gary at Banff National Park, Alberta

South of Calgary, Kay and I surveyed the endless amber wheat fields of southern Alberta, rolling past all the little farming communities around the hub of Lethbridge.

 

And finally, we’ve driven across central Alberta, all the way from the plains of Saskatchewan through Medicine Hat and Edmonton, the continent’s northernmost metropolis, over to the remote wilderness landscape of British Columbia.

 

Expansive prairies of Alberta behind Kay
Expansive prairies of Alberta behind Kay

AZI can remember like it was yesterday our first trek to the desert southwest, rolling into Arizona just in time for the onset of hot weather. As we settled into Phoenix to get down to business on our work project, the mercury soared as Kay experienced triple-digit temperatures for the very first time in her life.

 

I remember driving out of the desert floor when the thermometer read 110 in the Phoenix area, and climbing into the higher altitudes of Prescott Valley, thereby experiencing a fifty-degree drop in temperature in a mere few minutes.

 

Back in Phoenix, sweltering discomfort turned to a blistering hell after losing our car and having to get around the city on foot during all of June in roasting hot temperatures that sometimes reached 115°. We operated under similar conditions in Tucson, 120 miles to the south, for the entire month of August. By the end of that baking summer, we knew the cities of Phoenix (along with surrounding Maricopa County) and Tucson (along with surrounding Pima County) inside and out.

Kay poses against the orange-brown rock formations at Sedona, Ariz
Kay poses against the orange-brown rock formations at Sedona, Ariz

During happier times in Arizona, I can recall panning for gold (and finding some) in the cool alpine air of Arizona’s high country.  I remember that cool summer air those times we drove through Flagstaff on the Interstate.  Just a little bit off the mountain from Flagstaff, we noticed the roadrunner-cartoon like orange rock formations at Sedona.  I remember those crazy mountain curves through the canyons when coming in from New Mexico and finally leveling off while going through Show Low.

Kay checks out London Bridge, now spanning the Colorado River at Lake Havasu City, Ariz.
Kay checks out London Bridge, now spanning the Colorado River at Lake Havasu City, Ariz.

Kay at London Bridge

I remember being awe-struck at crossing the legendary London Bridge (yes, that’s the London Bridge) at Lake Havasu City and scoping out the blue-blue waters of the wide Colorado River. I remember that whole winter we spent snowbirding in another Colorado River town, Bullhead City.  I remember staying at cheap-rate motels in modest Kingman.

 

  

Gary pans for gold in the Arizona High Country

Gary pans for gold in the Arizona High Country

  

 

 

I remember seeing the desert floor completely covered in towering cacti at Saguaro Cactus National Monument, and our stepping back into the Old West as we followed the Clantons and Earps at the OK Corral and then Boot Hill in Tombstone.

Gary and Kay at Saguaro Cactus Nat’l Monument (top & middle photos); Kay shoots from the hip at OK Corral in Tombstone, Ariz. (bottom photo)
In the “Cactus Southwest”: Gary and Kay at Saguaro Cactus Nat’l Monument (top & middle photos); Kay shoots from the hip at OK Corral in Tombstone, Ariz. (bottom photo)

Kay at Saguaro

Kay at OK Corral

I also remember meandering down the park road in the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert with Kay, stopping to savor the sights as often as we could along the way. And I definitely can’t forget, in the crispness of an October day, sharing the first-time wonder of seeing the awe-inspiring, magnificent Grand Canyon through Kay’s eyes.

Gary tries to lift stumps at Petrified Forest (top photo); Kay against the backdrop of the Painted Desert (bottom photo)
Gary tries to lift stumps at Petrified Forest (top photo); Kay against the backdrop of the Painted Desert (bottom photo)

Kay at Painted Desert

Kay smiles as she poses against the spectacular view of the Grand Canyon in northern Arizona.
Kay smiles as she poses against the spectacular view of the Grand Canyon in northern Arizona.

 

ARMy memory takes me back to the autumn splendor of the Ozarks, driving along enjoying the rustic hues of the mountain woods. We found hillbilly heaven in Eureka Springs, a charming little Ozark village where we stayed overnight in a honeymoon cottage, followed early in the frosty morning by a hearty country breakfast that included eggs, country ham and biscuits n’ gravy.  Springtime in Fayetteville is just as nice, we found, as we travelled through with our windows rolled down, warm spring breezes blowing in as we rolled along through the Boston Mountains.  That trip up from Texarkana through DeQueen, Mena and Fort Smith, hills all the way, can be a nice one.

 

 

Kay strolls the streets of Walnut Ridge in the Ozark Plateau of Arkansas

Kay strolls the streets of Walnut Ridge in the Ozark Plateau of Arkansas

 

We’ve traveled Arkansas from the soggy delta lowlands near the Mississippi River in the east that includes West Memphis, through the central Ozark highlands in the middle of the state that includes a stroll through Walnut Ridge, and navigated our way more than once through Little Rock going in all different directions.

 

 BCAI can’t forget the time Kay and I came down from San Diego and into the chaotic madness of Tijuana, and getting caught in the squeeze and having our bumper almost torn off by a crazed Mexican returning home.

 

Things quieted down, though, after cruising south out of the crazy city and we got a chance to roll down the coastal highway that runs along the mighty Pacific Ocean.   As we got deeper and deeper into Baja California, we not only got occasion to see the ocean waves at their grandest and a sunset over the deep blue vastness, but we got to see Mexicana culture we could never have seen in any decadent border town.

 

Gary stands by the beautiful blue waters of the Pacific in Baja California, Mexico.
Gary stands by the beautiful blue waters of the Pacific in Baja California, Mexico.

At Ensenada, on the spectacular Baja coast and over 70 miles inland, we stopped and ate at an outdoor patio cafe that possessed an ambience that left no doubt we were south of the border. We said “Olé!” as we polished off our big shrimp cocktails and Mexican fruit drinks, then headed into the hills of interior Old Mexico at dusk to catch a glimpse of the haciendas de ganado and vaqueros before making re-entry into California in the mountains east of San Diego.

  

BCI’ll never forget driving across the Canadian border and into sparkling Vancouver, in British Columbia, where Kay once lived, in the 70s.  Almost surrounded by water on all sides, with a range of mountains to the north, Vancouver ranks with the most beautiful of North America’s cities. Kay led me on a rediscovery of her old hangouts, including the quaint Gastown section, the University of British Columbia on the scenic western peninsula and the picturesque native-carved totem poles of Stanley Park.

 

Gary in VancouverA little bit north of Vancouver we discovered a jewel in Howe Sound, as picturesque as you can get, with deep blue waters of the inlet juxtaposed against multitude forested islands with snow-capped mountains in the far reaches of the horizon.

 

  

Kay on Vancouver Island

  

 

 

Gary in Victoria (top photo), Kay on Vancouver Island (middle photo) and Gary in Vancouver (bottom photo)
British Columbia’s many totem poles: Gary in Victoria (top photo), Kay on Vancouver Island (middle photo) and Gary in Vancouver (bottom photo)

 Gary in Stanley Park

Across that body of water lies Vancouver Island.  Kay and I sailed by ferry into Victoria from Port Angeles, Wash., and checked out the British-flavored Victoria, with its pretty little harbor and imposing Provincial Parliament building.  It’s a huge island, and we just had to explore it too.  The road straight across that goes through real fern-lined rain forests that Kay and I took goes through Alberni in the middle – totem poles all abounding – before ending at the sea at Pacific Rim National Park.  Ucluelet and Tofino are little salmon-fishing villages on the Vancouver Island’s western coast, where we talked to some local fishermen about the state of the fishing industry.  We watched one night from Campbell River as a huge Alaskan cruise ship made its way up the Inside Passage.  We stayed at a little bed & breakfast run by a refined Canadian woman at Comox, on an estuary.  And our ferry trip back to the mainland always started from Nanaimo.

 

 

Kay smiles at being in beautiful Tofino, on the Pacific Coast of Vancouver Island

Kay smiles at being in beautiful Tofino, on the Pacific Coast of Vancouver Island

 

 

 

Kay and I stayed overnight in Penticton, at the southern end of the lush and fertile Okanagan Valley, defined by beautiful blue Okanagan Lake. I remember taking the drive alone the valley, replete with breathtaking vistas overlooking the lake. I remember partaking in one of the multitudinous fruit stands along the route going into semi-arid Osoyoos.

Kay sits at the ferry docks at Kootenay Lake in interior British Columbia
Kay sits at the ferry docks at Kootenay Lake in interior British Columbia

 

At the enchanting little lakeside village of Nelson, Kay showed me the old house where she used to live back in the 70s. We stayed overnight in charming downtown Nelson and then took the ferry across the deep mountain waters of Kootenay Lake, to the tiny town of Riondel on the other side.  Creston, near the border with Idaho, is another town where Kay once lived.  We summarily toured it before heading into the Canadian Rockies that form the border of British Columbia and Alberta.

 

BC Interior

 

Three or four times now we’ve trasnsversed British Columbia on the TransCanada Highway 1.  Heading away from Vancouver, that means going through the mountain village of Hope and then along the Fraser River Canyon.  We would then go through the medium-sized city of Kamloops, and then deep into the mountains at Salmon Arm (where we spotted a wild bear once) and Revelstoke.  Seeing logs floating in the water against a blue-green mountain backdrop could be the perfect picture of the Northwest.  Glacier National Park is nothing short of stunning and breath-stealing.  That one night we camped beside the mountain river gurgling by with wild scenery all around and beneath enormous white glaciers was so soothing I don’t  ever remember any tossing and turning.  I remember seeing the Bavarian-themed mountain village of Kimberly – a little bit to the south of TransCanada 1, where we ate some German sauerbraten and kraut.

 

 

As we drove toward the interior of British Columbia, and away from the Pacific coast, we encountered the wild beauty of the forested Cascade Mountains, where winding curves yielded views of rippling steams through the evergreens at almost every turn. On our eastward venture out of Vancouver, we gave a lift to a hitchhiker, who turned out to be a local British Columbian who kind of served as a tour guide through the Cascades. Credit goes to our rider friend for pointing out the now-abandoned gold mines of yesteryear high up in the mountain cliffs.
Kay in the Bavarian-themed town of Kimberly, in the Canadian Alps, I mean, Rockies

Kay in the Bavarian-themed town of Kimberly, in the Canadian Alps, I mean, Rockies

 

 

 

 

 

Kay at starting point of the world-renowned Alaska Highway in Dawson Creek, B.C.

Mile Zero: Kay at starting point of the world-renowned Alaska Highway in Dawson Creek, B.C.

 

From our outpost of Dawson Creek, where the world-famous Alaska Highway begins, we set out on our 1500-mile odyssey to conquer the Great Northwest. Roving through mile after mile of the most rugged terrain the planet has to offer, and enjoying every awesome scene thrown before us, we navigated our way through the subfreezing landmark town of Ft. Nelson, where we witnessed temps for the first time that dipped to -50°, and even crossed the northernmost reaches of the Rocky Mountain chain before crossing into the even wilder Yukon Territory.

 Turn the page:

https://libertycrusader.wordpress.com/libertarian-crusader-diary/archived-back-issues/special-wish-you-were-here-postcards-from-all-50-states/page-two/

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s