Most RVers eventually get a map of the USA to put on the side of their rig or to display inside as evidence of where they have been and how many states they have visited. So of course, we got one. Actually, our son gave it to us for our first Christmas in the rig. So, then we pondered on when do we get to place the sticker on the map? What signifies that a state has been visited and can now be “checked off”? Do we check off any state we have visited or start over with only states in the rig?
For some, just spending one night in a state can mean checking it off, especially those “fly over” or in our case, “drive through” states, whichever those might be for you. For others, they might have an elaborate system or criteria that must be met before a state is officially visited and deserves a place on the map.
What are the rules?
The rules can be whatever works for you. This can be as simple as one night spent in the state. If that is your rules, does it count if the night was spent in a Cracker Barrel parking lot? Or does it at least need to be in a campground? And what about a state as big as Texas? If you simply watch the flat prairies and occasional herd of cows as you drive by, but don’t get out to explore – have you seen or experienced Texas enough to count?
Well, everyone has to develop their own criteria for “counting” a state as completed. We defined it but I still struggle with it. Does visiting Nashville really qualify as having experienced Tennessee? What about a state as big and diverse as California where visiting the northern section is a wildly different experience than the southern section? But we had to start somewhere so until they develop a map that lets me add a sticker for every region or county, we have to live by our stated criteria and simply note those states that we want to revisit and see other areas.
So for now, we only place the state sticker on the map if we have:
- Been to the state in our rig. We are fortunate to have done a lot of travel before we started RVing, but even if we have visited a state before, the map is for Big Al, our RV, travel only.
- Purchased something from a local store like an independent grocery, coffee shop, bookstore or speciality store. Yes, it is a great excuse to go shopping but it also leads to some great finds and usually a souvenir with a purpose. For example, we bought a chef knife from a local culinary store in Ouray, CO for my husband’s birthday and a book on local author Flannery O’Connor in an historic bookstore in Savannah.
- Visit a farmer’s market when available. This can be hit or miss depending on the season and locality ,but we enjoy visiting the local market and seeing locals sharing their home grown produce or homemade baked goods. Plus it is always good people watching as neighbors meet up. One of our favorites was the incredible and large market in Asheville, NC where they sold plants and held classes to teach customers about the herbs and vegetable plants. But I also enjoyed the five table market in Dubois where the vendors were all helping one another.
- Have a date night out at a local restaurant. This is always a fun way to get out locally and experience local dishes plus we have had fun experiences like discovering Morris Day and the Time playing at an small outdoor area in Carrollton, GA or meeting a couple celebrating their anniversary in Freeport, MA.
- Enjoy a local speciality like a type of food or local brew. This goes without needing explanation and is often combined with date night. We have learned that craft beers and wineries are found everywhere in the USA – literally in every state and nearly every city.
- Visit at least one “famous” site (at least, well-known or important to the area). This is a natural because it is often the reason we are even going to a state, but even in some smaller areas, you can find a historic site or place of interest even if it is the world’s largest ball of twine.
- Stay at least a few days and nights so not just passing through for one night. Since we don’t like to drive cross country very often, this isn’t hard to so but we have times when we weren’t able to check off a state even after a few nights stay due to the above criteria. For instance, when driving from AL to CO this year, we stayed outside Oklahoma City for four nights at a very boring parking lot campground and due to COVID, nothing was really open. So, we still have to return to OK and explore before we are allowed to check it off.
What are your rules?
Everyone is different and this is just our set of basic rules. We may change it based on the state’s size, but for now it works for us. What criteria constitutes having visited the state and being able to “check it off” for you? Let us know in the comments your thoughts on our list and any of your rules.