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10:24 a.m. - April 04, 2007
Know Your States - Part Four!
Is it time?

Yes, itís time!


This is the fourth installment of this series, so letís get to it!

New Mexico - Ah, New Mexico! When I went out with Liz to Arizona for the first time as a married couple, we drove, and went through New Mexico on US 60. It was great, because both of our jobs were stressful at the time and tooling through eastern New Mexico on that highway was peaceful and tranquil and relaxing. It was just about two hours of beautiful nothing, which is what we needed.

Thereís hope for all small states, since New Mexico has been a hotly contested state in the last two presidential elections. Itís electoral votes have been in the balance until the wee hours, when Tim Russert and Tom Brokaw were both slap-happy.

New Mexico has two, count Ďem, two state vegetables Ė Chile and frijoles. Thereís no truth to the rumor that New Mexico leads the nation in per capita sales of Pepto Bismol.

New York - It seems that there are three distinct areas of New York: The City, Upstate, and the tony Ďburbs of New York City and Long Island. Ok, that may be four places. I donít wanna offend!

Of course, even in NYC, the five boroughs all have distinct character and flavor. They all have unique issues as well. And the other four always pick on Staten Island. Listen, I know how that feels. The thing is that I sometimes need a map of NYC with me when watching Law And Order.

I really enjoyed NYC, but Iíve also had some great drives in upstate New York. Around the Adirondacks itís quite beautiful and peaceful. New York is a state for all states of mind. Hey, maybe I can copyright that?

The state fossil of New York is the prehistoric crab Ė also known as that nosy neighbor who lives in the rent-controlled brownstone next door.

North Carolina - I have several readers in the Tarheel State, and Iíve really enjoyed my trips through there. I love mountains, and North Carolina definitely has them in spades. They also know how to build roads in mountains as well, so the switchbacks arenít as brutal. Memo to Tennessee Ė take heed.

Hopefully, one day, the family and I can get back down there to see the mountains and drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway. My parents took me on a vacation like that when I was a teenager and that was a great time. I loved every minute on that road.

The state reptile is the Eastern box turtle. No word on whether itís a fan of UNC or Duke.

North Dakota - You know, Iíve said a lot of nice things about most all of the states Iíve visited. Well, I didnít mind parts of North Dakota, but the stretch east of Minot on US 2 about put me to sleep. Of course, that was at the tail end of my trip to Alaska, but I perked up immediately when I got into Minnesota. Though I did see the geographic center of North America in Rugby, and that should tell you how big Canada really is if the center of North America is in central North Dakota.

The western part of North Dakota is OK, and the people are nice, though people in Minot can really stick away the long island ice teas when theyíre on special at Applebeeís.

Despite that experience in seeing the long islands being quaffed, the official beverage of North Dakota is milk. Figures.

Ohio - Iíve got good friends living in Ohio, and I really kind of like a lot of the state. Sure, I-71 is heinous between Columbus and Cleveland, but I hate interstates anyway. At least Ohio realizes that even though it has three decent sized cities, itís still a Midwestern state just like Indiana, and isnít snobby about anything really.

Of course, having Cleveland as part of the state will keep you humble. Burn on, big river! (I KID! I KID!)

I have spent a lot of time in Ohio, so I know the people are nice and down home. I wouldnít mind living in some areas, but I bet Iím not welcome in Cleveland now.

The official insect of Ohio is the ladybug. Ok, so thatís where they are all coming from. Ohio, I love you but keep your damn ladybugs to yourself. There are about 10 skidillion in our house.

Oklahoma - Oklahoma is a rugged state. Itís pretty rural, and in the western part the towns are few and far between. My grandmother was born in Big Cabin (exit 283 on the Will Rogers Turnpike) before the state was a state. Lizís Dadís family farm is in Shattuck (way out west by the Texas panhandle Ė true BFE land).

Reading about the history of Oklahoma in the early days saddens me, because itís just another string of broken promises that this government made to the Native Americans. But, some say, without breaking these promises, we wouldnít be where we are today.

Well, I guess if you want a ginormous statue of Oral Robertsí hands, then I suppose the promises we broke are good for us all.

The official poem of Oklahoma is called ĒHowdy FolksĒ. Sure, itís dedicated to Will Rogers, but still, itís not Keats, or Pound, or even Ogden Nash.

Oregon - Iíve only been through Oregon once, but it definitely was worth the trip. On my trip to see the west coast for the first time, I drove the state on US Highway 26 from Ontario to Seaside. And that was a great trip. I learned that (at least in 1993) there were no self-service gas stations in Oregon. I learned that this dude named John Day was important enough to have a town (actually two Ė John Day and Dayville), a river, and some fossil beds named after him in east central and central Oregon.

Who? This guy. Thatís who!

I need to get the family out there again and explore the eastern and southern parts of Oregon, and also see the Pacific again.

The state dance of Oregon is the square dance. Do-si-do. I was actually hoping it was the frug, because we need more people doing the frug. (Or the watusiÖ)

Pennsylvania - This state is surprisingly large when you drive it from end to end. But itís also beautiful, even though the first thing you think of is Pittsburgh (steel mills) or Philadelphia (crime-ridden big city) or even Scranton (home of inept middle managers).

But meandering along US 6, US 30, or any of the other US highways and state roads leads you to a state that has vast scenic areas and quaint small towns. Stay away from the interstates and turnpikes and Pennsylvania is a great state to explore.

The official beautification and conservation plant is the Penngift Crownvetch. Thatís what SHE saidÖ

Rhode Island - Technically, itís ďRhode Island and Providence PlantationsĒ but you canít fit that on a license plate.

The stubborn Rhode Islanders were the last of the 13 colonies to ratify the constitution, as they were aghast at the centralized federalism of the document. That strikes me ass odd, because a small state like Rhode Island would seem to benefit from a centralized government. Cranky anti-federalist William West almost caused a civil war over it.

Did you realize that Rhode Island itself was actually just the island that Newport is on, and Providence Plantations referred to the mainland part of the state? Well, now you do.

The state rock is cumberlandite. Fitting, itís only found in quantities on a four acre lot in Rhode Island three miles east of Woonsocket. I just wanted to type in Woonsocket, really.

South Carolina - There are some nice places in South Carolina, but to me, the state seems a bit crowded. There are just a few mountains, but there is a nice coastline that unfortunately seems filled with tourist traps and playgrounds for the well-to-do.

One thing interesting (to me) is the unique Gullah language and culture on St. Helena Island and other sea islands. Itís pretty interesting stuff.

The state shell is a lettered olive. Well, I can see why. Theyíre purty.

Thatís it, thatís 10 more states! I hope you enjoyed this penultimate episode of Know Your States, but donít fret Ė thereís a whole WORLD out there!


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