Karen and I went to the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. The space program has come a long way. Exoplanets are the rage. Mankind is leaving Earth.
Fairbanks is in the middle of the state. Nome is in the Seward Peninsula close to Russia. Point Barrow is on the Arctic Ocean. The Alaska pipeline carries oil from Prudhoe Bay. I rode the Alaska Railroad from Anchorage to Denali National Park in 2006.
Michael and I went to the Grand Canyon. We attended the star party. The population of Arizona is mostly in Tucson and Phoenix. The Saguaro cactus is in the Sonoran Desert. Clyde Tombaugh worked at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff. He discovered Pluto in 1930. Karen recalled the cat and mouse at the San Xavier Mission. Legend had it the world will end when the cat catches the mouse. We rode past Yuma at night.
Interstate 40 runs through Little Rock. The Ozark Mountains reach into Arkansas from Missouri. People go to Hot Springs National Park hoping to be cured.
Americans flocked to California after World War II. The state's economic and political influence is huge. It is first in manufactured goods and farm income. Fruits and vegetables are grown in the Central Valley. Much of eastern California is desert.
Interstate 25 runs through Colorado Springs up to Denver. Rocky Mountain National Park is northwest of Denver. Denver is called the Mile High City because it is 5280 feet above sea level. Denver's financial district is called the Wall Street of the West. Mining and natural resources are vital to the state's economy. Karen and I drove through Durango.
Hartford is the capital. The insurance industry began here. Yale University is in New Haven.
The boundary between Delaware and Pennsylvania is an arc, the only rounded "state line" in the nation. Delaware is home to corporations. Dupont makes Wilmington the chemical capital of the world.
Michael and I went to Daytona Beach and down to the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. Destin is in the Panhandle. Retirees move to Florida to live in condos.
Atlanta is the capital of the New South. It is a commercial, financial & transportation center. It was the corporate headquarters of SunTrust Bank. Michael and I saw the Yankees play the Braves at Turner Field in 2009. We went up Stone Mountain. I-75 runs to Atlanta.
80% of the population lives on Oahu, in and around Honolulu. I climbed Diamond Head Crater. Pearl Harbor is the harbor for the town of Pearl. Pineapples are an export.
Idaho and potatoes are synonymous. Karen and I had lunch in Pocatello while on the Grand Tour.
Chicago is on Lake Michigan. The Sears Tower is now the Willis Tower. Michael and I went to Wrigley Field to see the Yankees play the Cubs.
I-65 runs from Louisville through Indianapolis to Chicago. Pam and I recorded in a studio in New Albany. She did "Old Time Country Song." My mother and I saw shows at the Derby Dinner Playhouse in Clarksville.
Iowa is a farming state in the midwest: pigs and corn. Soil was deposited by glaciers. Iowa is a caucus state, and Des Moines is its capital.
Interstate-70 comes out of Kansas City and heads for Denver as the Great Plains rise toward the Rocky Mountains. Kansas City, Kansas, is a satellite of Kansas City, Missouri. Kansas is in the center of the United States, and I passed through it on a Greyhound in 1978. Farms dominate: corn and wheat.
The Ohio River flows along the northern border of Kentucky. The Kentucky Derby is run at Churchill Downs in Louisville the first Saturday in May. Bardstown Road is the hippie section, and I met with songwriters. Coal is mined in the Appalachians.
Oil refineries play a role in the state's economy. New Orleans was changed by Hurricane Katrina. Lake Pontchartrain flooded the city. Creoles are a blend of French and Spanish. Cajuns are descended from French colonists driven from Nova Scotia (Arcadia) by the British.
Maine has as much land as the rest of New England combined. Mainers catch shrimp and lobster. They manufacture machinery. Augusta is the capital. My plane landed in Maine before flying to Frankfurt, Germany.
Babe Ruth was born in Baltimore. Returning from Iceland, I was detained at the Baltimore airport because I had no luggage.
My parents and I went down to Boston during our New Hampshire stay. It is the state capital, and the history is overwhelming. Fenway Park opened in 1912, and is famous for its left field wall: the Green Monster.
Michigan consists of an Upper and Lower Peninsula. Motor City is a better name for Detroit than Renaissance City. It is home to the American automobile industry. Henry Ford popularized the assembly line with his Model T. Famous musicians are Ted Nugent and Bob Seger.
Michael lived in Minnesota for a while, and I visited him in 1993 and 1994. We saw the Yankees play the Twins in 94. Minneapolis and St. Paul are the Twin Cities. The Mississippi River begins at Lake Itasca.
Elvis Presley was born in a 2-room house in Tupelo. Karen, Michael & I saw it on my 39th birthday. Michael was not yet a year old.
St. Louis' Gateway Arch is a National Park. From the top, Karen and I looked down on the Mississippi River.
I wrote a song called "My Heart Is In Montana" and recorded it with a girl from that state, famous for its big sky.
Karen and I drove through Nebraska returning from Las Vegas. I went to the Nebraska Star Party south of Valentine in 2018.
Nevada is first in gold and silver mining, but it was gambling that brought prosperity. Nevada is the driest state, and Las Vegas gets its water from Lake Mead behind Hoover Dam. I toured Death Valley in 1993.
29 NEW HAMPSHIRE
New Hampshire is one of the 6 New England states and the first to hold presidential primaries every 4 years. My sister moved to New Hampshire in 1987, and my parents and I paid her a visit.
30 NEW JERSEY
New Jersey is shaped like the number 8. Thomas Edison had his research lab in Menlo Park. He invented the phonograph and the electric light. Atlantic City is a resort town.
31 NEW MEXICO
White Sands National Park is inside the White Sands Missile Range. Roswell is famous as the site of an alleged flying saucer crash in 1947. It was a reconnaissance balloon.
32 NEW YORK
New York City seems separate from the rest of the state. It is the headquarters for major corporations and the home of financial markets. Michael and I returned to New York in 2009. We went to the new Yankee Stadium and to Carnegie Hall for Kristina in Concert. Squares are throwbacks: Times Square, Washington Square & Portland Square.
33 NORTH CAROLINA
Karen and I drove up the chain of islands called the Outer Banks. We went through Cape Hatteras and Kitty Hawk, where the Wright Brothers made that 12 second flight. Roanoke Island is the site of England's Lost Colony.
34 NORTH DAKOTA
The Dakota Territory was split into North and South in 1889, becoming the 39th and 40th states. Sacagawea was from North Dakota. A small population grows wheat, oats & barley. Hot summers, cold winters!
The Cincinnati Red Stockings were baseball's first professional team. I remember them as the Redlegs. The Rock n Roll Hall of Fame is in Cleveland. I attended the Arnold Schwarzenegger Fitness Expo in Columbus.
Oklahoma looks like a fist with a pointing finger. It is famous for the dust bowl of the 1930s. Cattle ranches & oil. The Red River flows between Oklahoma and Texas.
The great timber-producing state! Fishing! Trout and salmon! The Columbia River flows between Oregon and Washington. The Willamette Meteorite was found in the valley of the Willamette River.
Chester and I drove to Erie. We went through Harrisburg and past Gettysburg.
39 RHODE ISLAND
The smallest state is 48 miles from north to south and 37 miles from east to west. It gets its name from an island in Narragansett Bay.
40 SOUTH CAROLINA
I was in the army in 1970. My parents drove me to Columbia to Fort Jackson (named for Andrew Jackson). From there, I flew to Germany.
41 SOUTH DAKOTA
I flew to Rapid City. I visited Mount Rushmore, Badlands National Park & Deadwood. Mount Rushmore is in the Black Hills. Four presidents are carved into the granite: Washington, Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt & Lincoln.
Three stars on the state flag stand for west, middle & east Tennessee. Michael and I went to Elvis Presley's Graceland in Memphis. Nashville was called the Athens of the South before it became Music City. The Parthenon in Centennial Park is a replica of the temple in Greece. Music Row centers around 16th Avenue and is home to country music. Michael lives in Williamson County. Interstate-65 runs south to Franklin and Brentwood.
Chester and I were in San Antonio on the truck. Karen and I went through El Paso. The Texas Star Party is at Fort Davis.
The Mormons went to Utah in 1848. They grew crops by digging irrigation canals. Brigham Young's "right place" became Salt Lake City. Utah has a large copper mine. Karen and I went through St. George.
Vermont produces maple syrup. Stellafane (Latin for shrine to the stars) is an annual convention of telescope makers held in Springfield.
Karen and I went through Virginia Beach. We ended up in Richmond, capital of the Confederacy.
Aircraft manufacturing is a major industry. The Boeing Corporation makes jets. Mount St. Helens erupted in May, 1980, while Karen and I lived on Murfreesboro Road. Olympic National Park is in the Olympic Peninsula.
48 WEST VIRGINA
Originally part of Virginia, it became a state in 1863, when people refused to secede from the Union. Coal and natural gas are industries. The Appalachian Mountains isolate. Chester and I went through Wheeling.
America's dairyland has over a million cows. Dairy farms produce milk, cheese & butter. I went through Milwaukee on my way to see Michael in Minnesota.
It took me 35 years to see Grand Teton National Park. I could have seen it in 1980, but wanted Karen to see Yellowstone. Devils Tower is in Wyoming. It is a butte made of igneous rock. It formed underground and was pushed up.
** WASHINGTON, D.C.
Washington was originally one of several cities in the District of Columbia. Now, it is the only one. The metro area reaches into Virginia. Half the people in D.C. work for the federal government.
INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL NOTES
1 I was in the army. They sent me to Germany. I landed in Frankfurt. They fueled the plane in Maine, but I did not get off. In Germany, they drove me to Bamberg, where I joined an Atomic Demolitions Munitions platoon. I had a security clearance. I sat in front of a typewriter! There was another clerk: Frank Flicker. He knew what was going on. I did not. I was in Germany from May to November. Back in the States, I was at Valley Forge Hospital In Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. I played ping-pong. I got an honorable discharge on April 16, 1971.
2,3 I left the country again in the summer of 1980. Karen and I went to Toronto as part of our Grand Tour. We went to the top of the CN Tower. Out west, we briefly stepped into Mexico, the outskirts of Tijuana. I recall feeling paranoid. Mexico would one day lead to Peru and Bolivia.
4,5,6 Fourteen years went by. Karen and I were divorced, and I was living with my parents. I wrote a book about Swedish ABBA, which eventually took me to Stockholm. A guy on the plane told me Sweden is called Sverige. I looked all day for a room and finally started a conversation with a young man working outside his shop. He said his mother had a room. I said take me to her. We settled on about $15 a night. My guardian angel Agnetha was with me. She saved me again when some dude chased me across the street. Two guys from Lebanon ran him off. Muslims, ironically! I think they were selling vegetables. Of course, Agnetha kept me from drowning in the Baltic Sea. I made trips to London and Helsinki while in Stockholm. Europe is hard!
7 Gaby and I talked about Chile, but it never happened. I wanted to see the southern constellations and found the South Pacific Star Party online in 2002. I flew to Sydney, Australia. It was a killer flight. I dozed. My head bobbed. Monte Wilson drove us through the Blue Mountains of Australia to the party at Wiruna. He arranged for me to sleep in the house. Australians are friendly.
8 I had it in my head to see the Northern Lights. After failing to see them in Alaska, I flew to Iceland. I landed at Keflavik, an airport built by Americans during the Cold War. Riding the shuttle into Reykjavik, I heard "One Of Us," by ABBA. Agnetha was with me. It was December, 2007, and there were 5 hours of daylight. The climate is harsh, and I felt rough. Looking out the window of my hotel, I saw the planet Venus shining next to Hallgrims Church. Once more, I failed to see the Lights but was glad I made the trip.
9,10 I went to Bolivia in 2012, for the Southern Skies Star Party. It took place at Lake Titicaca near La Paz. Cousin Larry and I had been watching Ancient Aliens on TV, and he said be sure to go to Puma Punku. I did! There were 8 of us in the group, and a guy had his telescope confiscated at the La Paz airport. He got it back, however. Leaving La Paz, I was taken into a room and patted down with my hands above my head. Passing through Lima, Peru, a girl inspected my shoe like she was looking for a bomb. Be careful in foreign airports!
11 I remember Karen and I saw a mural of Hong Kong in a restaurant. In 2016, she took me to the airport. She gave me encouragement. Riding to my Kowloon hotel in the backseat, I got sick from the twists and turns and threw up as I exited the taxi. I had a guide. We sang Elvis's "Love Me Tender." She escorted me up Victoria Peak. I saw Big Buddha on Lantau Island and ate lunch in a Buddhist monastery. I made it to Hong Kong before the riots.
12 I had to move my trip to Greece back to 2021 because of the pandemic. Again, I worked with Cynthia at Globus. I put together a plan. It is always good to have an exit strategy. I refreshed myself on how to board a plane. Classical Greece was between 500 B.C. and 350 B.C.