I’m a Traveling Man

Ricky Nelson had a hit with “Travelin’ Man” in 1961. I was in my last years of high school and have no doubt Ricky’s song influenced me. Since then I’ve seen a large percentage of our country and several foreign lands. For a poor kid growing up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I’d say I’ve done pretty well.

Prior to my high school graduation, I’d been to Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, New York, Delaware, and New Jersey. Since then, I’ve been to every state at least once and many states multiple times.

A few years back, at a meeting, everyone was asked to stand, state his or her name, and tell the group something interesting we had done. I used my travels as part of my introduction. Almost immediately I was asked, “Which state did you like best?”

Now that’s a difficult question to answer. Every state has its own pros and cons. There are so many factors I’d have to consider before I could give a definitive answer. For example, if I said that New Jersey is one of my favorite places and I hope to return there soon, many people would question my wisdom. For whatever reason, comedians like to take shots at New Jersey and, over the years, it has gotten a bad name. But my experiences tell me a different story.

Most of my visits to the Garden State have been to the South Jersey shore. I’ve experienced the beautiful beaches and boardwalks, caught my own seafood dinners, and eaten the freshly picked produce. I’ve also traveled to the northern part of the state and spent time in Peapack and Somerset. Those two towns are in a rural setting that would come as a surprise to those whose definition of New Jersey begins and ends in Newark.

I’m sure many people would expect me to list Hawaii as one of my favorites and they’d be correct. However, I see Hawaii as a place to visit; I would not want to live there. I’ve been to three of the islands and have had rental cars. It doesn’t take long to drive all over an island. My wanderlust goes insane in such confined areas. I’m one of the fools who believe an Interstate highway should lead to other states.

I like the laid-back atmosphere and exotic foods of California, but I’ve found similar attributes in Idaho. Rocky Mountain oysters are seldom found in West Virginia or Vermont. Speaking of Vermont, while Burlington, Vermont is one of my favorite cities, I’d rather travel to Burlington, New Jersey.

Did you notice I returned to New Jersey? It’s in my blood. My father was raised in New Jersey and a whole slew of my ancestors spent their lives there. Thomas Leeds and his sons, William, Daniel, and Thomas landed in the Burlington area around 1677. So my visits to the state always include genealogical research.

I like Florida, but only in the winter. It gets too hot in the summer. If I had my druthers, I’d spend summers in Maine or northern Michigan. I’d probably add North Dakota and Minnesota to the list of places to go in the summer, but my visits there have been limited. Perhaps that’s why I have trouble listing my favorite places; I don’t want to be unfair to the states I’ve seldom visited.

I know that Rochester, Minnesota is not the best place to be in the winter. IBM used to send me there frequently. On one visit in February, the outside temperature was minus forty degrees Fahrenheit… with the wind chill factor, it felt like sixty-five or seventy below. I love snow, but if it’s too cold to go outside to enjoy it, it’s only nice to look at through the frost encrusted window. It might as well be the white sandy beaches of Florida when the temperature and humidity force me to stay in the air-conditioned comfort of a hotel room.

I’ve spent a good deal of time in Connecticut, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Illinois. The bulk of that time was spent working, but I usually found time to take side trips and enjoyed visiting Hartford, San Antonio, Hot Springs, Hot Coffee and Soso, Lake Charles, Ardmore, and Elgin.

About a year and a half ago my bride and I took a two week trip to London and Paris. We got a great deal though a travel agent we found at www.travelzoo.com but got eaten alive by the foreign exchange rates. Until the dollar gets stronger, I think we’ll confine our travels to the good old USA. Believe it or not, there are still many places I’ve yet to see.

A partial list includes Yellowstone National Park, Jackson Hole, Albuquerque for their hot air balloon festival, and the Pony Express museum in St. Joseph, Missouri. Beyond that, I’d have to look up the various festivals and try to attend the ones I find most interesting.

I’m a traveling man and writing this post has me chomping at the bit to hit the road. With the price of gasoline continuing to soar, I’m glad one of our cars is a Toyota Yaris that’s been averaging better than forty miles per gallon. See you on down the road!

By the way, I’ve been asked to contribute to a web site for golfers. I couldn’t begin to describe myself as even a hacker. I haven’t swung a golf club (not counting a putter at a miniature golf course) in decades, but I do have some interesting stories from my younger days. My stories should begin appearing there soon. Check them out at http://www.stracka.com/.

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