Ryan’s US Travel Guide: Part 1 of 3

I’m a big US geography nerd. Last fall I read the book How the States Got Their Shapes and have never been so enthralled with a historical book. Beginning today with Part 1, I thought I’d take a look at each of the states I’ve visited and highlight my experiences there. Who was I with, why was I there, etc. And pictures! As of March 2011, I have visited 29 states (30 if you count DC), with plans to cross three more off the list this spring (Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island). Let’s begin this mystical journey!

Note: Listed in chronological order that I visited the states, of course, because I keep track of these sorts of things…

1. South Dakota
First Visit:
August 1982
Most Recent Visit: December 2010
Of course I was born and lived the first 23 years of my life in South Dakota, and one day down the road when Lauren decides she wants to get out of the city, we’ll return and buy a bar in a small town in my home state… right, dear? I’ve visited just about every touristy attraction there is in the state… Mt. Rushmore, the Badlands, Crazy Horse, Storybook Park, the Corn Palace, the state capitol, the world’s biggest pheasant on top of a liquor store in Huron, and the legendary falls of Sioux Falls, to name a few. But believe it or not, I have never been to the mighty Sturgis Bike Rally. And another future goal is to visit the Geographic Center of the US near Castle Rock.
Must-See Attraction: The Glanzer farm, of course!
What to Avoid: Huron Mall

SOUTH DAKOTA: A picture I took on the farm of pheasants flying.
SOUTH DAKOTA: A picture I took on the farm of pheasants flying.

2. Minnesota
First Visit:
April 1992
Most Recent Visit: Currently…
I was the last kid in my class to leave the state of South Dakota, and I was very stressed about it (and naturally, I was the only one who noticed this fact, or cared). But Dad, Regan, Alex, and I crossed a mile over the border near Gary, SD for an auction shortly before I turned 10. I visited Minnesota for real in 1995 on the Andrew Graham family trip to Canada, stopping to camp a night or two, and again in 1996 when we took in a couple Twins games, and from 1998-2000 I tagged along on the annual Hanson trip to the Twin Cities for Valleyfair, MOA, and Twins games. In 2002, Kyla Madsen convinced me to go work at Valleyfair with her for the summer, and I was back every summer of college. In 2006, I moved up full-time and lived in Eden Prairie and eventually Minneapolis. Aside from the many attractions of the metro area, I’ve visited International Falls, Bemidji, Duluth, Rochester, St. Cloud, and Albert Lea.
Must-See Attraction: Target Field
What to Avoid: Hwy. 212 between Dawson and Chaska… super boring.

Ryan and Lauren in Minnesota
MINNESOTA: Me and Lauren on the shore of Lake Superior, Oct. 2009

3. Iowa
First Visit:
June 1994
Most Recent Visit: March 2010
Iowa had long been a state I’ve visited only for the sake of passing through en route to somewhere else, never as the destination. The first time I visited Iowa was when the Glanzer family took our first out-of-state vacation to Kansas City in 1994, and we took I-29 south through Iowa, Nebraska, and Missouri. In 2001 after graduation, Brandon, Guy, and I stopped in Dyerville to see the Field of Dreams movie site on a road trip home from Michigan. In 2006 I finally snapped my streak of driving through Iowa when I visited a friend in Des Moines for a weekend, and then again in 2010 Lauren, her brother and sister, and I visited Ames for Lauren’s granddad’s 90th birthday bash.
Must-See Attraction: Field of Dreams site; Wes Buchele plaque on Iowa State campus
What to Avoid: Council Bluffs Burger King

IOWA: Lauren and her brother and sister walk down the street of Ames at night.
IOWA: Lauren and her brother and sister walk down the street of Ames at night.

4. Missouri
First Visit:
June 1994
Most Recent Visit: August 2006
Once again, the Glanzer family vacation to Kansas City in 1994 marked my first visit to the Show-Me State. While on the Missouri side of KC, we took in a Royals game, visited Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun, and the zoo. I would make a second appearance in Missouri in 1997 when the family passed through en route to Tennessee, and a third in 2000 for a church youth group trip for one week in St. Louis. More recently, in 2006, the gang went down to Maryville to visit Jeff LaPlant in college at Northwest Missouri State for a weekend. Also in the summer of 2006, the gang took in three Twins/Royals games in KC. I once claimed I wanted to reside in St. Joseph, the most typical, average American city I had seen. Yes, I am quite acquainted with Missouri.
Must-See Attraction: The bar in Maryville where you bring your own cups.
What to Avoid: Men’s public rest area on I-70 near Jonesburg

MISSOURI: The gang tailgates before a Royals game.
MISSOURI: The gang tailgates before a Royals game.

5. Kansas
First Visit:
June 1994
Most Recent Visit: February 2003
Our first visit to Kansas was once again on that Glanzer family trip in 1994, but our reason for visiting Kansas was not good; our cousin Eric was at a hospital in Olathe attempting to recover from a farm accident and we went to visit. Surprisingly, the only other time I’ve been to Kansas was driving through one night in February 2003 when Brandon Hanson and I were road-tripping to Tucson for spring break. It was dark that night and snowing furiously. We got backed up on the highway outside of Wichita for quite a while as the storm blew through.
Must-See Attraction: Umm… the sign at the border that says “Welcome to Kansas”??
What to Avoid: Holcomb farm house where the Clutters were murdered.

No Kansas photos on record…

6. North Dakota
First Visit:
July 1995
Most Recent Visit: March 2007
In the summer of 1995, I joined good friend Andrew Graham’s family on a camping trip to Canada, and on the way we passed through North Dakota. As Andrew’s dad, Albert, was driving north on I-29 near Grand Forks, Andrew’s little brother Jeffrey, who at the time was maybe 7, put his hand’s over Albert’s eyes as he sped the down highway, asking “guess whooooo?” Albert swerved and we all laughed. I passed through North Dakota again in 2000 on the high school choir trip to Winnipeg, and we stopped at the Fargo mall on the way home to stall when the bus had to turn around after forgetting someone at the border. The only time I visited North Dakota specially was in 2007 when Jason, Patrick, and I went to visit Hot Lunch in Rolla for a weekend.
Must-See Attraction: Patrick’s grandma’s house and Roger Maris display in Fargo.
What to Avoid: The rest of the state.

NORTH DAKOTA: Jason works on the giant pizza from D&B's in Rolla
NORTH DAKOTA: Jason works on the giant pizza from D&B's in Rolla

7. Illinois
First Visit:
August 1997
Most Recent Visit: June 2008
In 1997, the Glanzers and Bells packed up and hit the road for Gatlinburg, Tennessee for the wedding of Uncle Brian. This was a great opportunity to check a bunch of states off my list. On the way there, we cut through southern Illinois and stopped for gas near Vienna, IL. In 2001, Brandon, Guy, and I visited our band teacher Mr. Ehrke at his mother’s house in Chicago and got the full tour, where I passed out of exhaustion at Navy Pier. In 2003, I was traveling with Justin Springer, Jeff Gwost, and Libby Boggess to Cedar Point amusement park when Springer’s van broke down outside of Rockford, IL. We sat in a ditch for hours waiting for a tow truck. In 2005, I stressfully navigated through a flash flood at night outside Chicago en route to Detroit. And in 2008, Lauren and I visited her family in Lake Zurich and took in a Cubs game.
Must-See Attraction: Wrigley Field; lunch buffet on 91st floor of Hancock Building
What to Avoid: Thrifty car rental shop in Rockford; I-90 outside Chicago

ILLINOIS: Biiiiig three! Lauren's uncle Dave, grandma Joyce, and me visit Harry Caray's in Chicago.
ILLINOIS: Biiiiig three! Lauren's uncle Dave, grandma Joyce, and me visit Harry Caray's in Chicago.

8. Kentucky
First and Only Visit:
August 1997
The Glanzer and Bell family caravan cut through extreme southwestern Kentucky on this same road trip. I remember only a few things about my very brief time in Kentucky, including how the Interstate suddenly seemed to get nicer after crossing the border from Illinois. On the way home, I think we filled up with gas somewhere outside Lexington.
Must-See Attraction: Giant Louisville Slugger bat in Louisville
What to Avoid: Border with Indiana; apparently not noteworthy enough to remember

No Kentucky photos on record…

9. Tennessee
First and Only Visit:
August 1997
The destination of this Glanzer family trip was Gatlinburg, Tennessee, a tourist trap town in the Smoky Mountains highlighted by Dollywood and the Guinness Book of World Records museum, which I nearly cried because I wanted so badly to visit. This was the last time I remember childishly whining to Mom and Dad because I didn’t get my way. We stayed in some sort of rented condo deep in the mountains. Right before the wedding, I became violently ill with a migraine headache and was forced to stay behind while the others went on without me. While they were gone, I discovered the quick cure for headaches that works to this day—put my head underwater right next to the hot tub jets for ten seconds.
Must-See Attraction: Smoky Mountains
What to Avoid: That damn Guinness World Record museum… what a waste of time.

No Tennessee photos handy for this post…

10. Indiana
First Visit:
August 1997
Most Recent Visit: March 2005
The Glanzer minivan plunged through the heart of Indiana on our drive home, driving through Indianapolis by mid-day. In 2001, I would return while driving to and from Michigan, and again passing through in 2003 en route to Cedar Point. While Indiana has never been my destination, I have spent two nights there, both on the same spring break trip in 2005. On the way there, we stopped for the night in a dumpy hotel in Portage, and on the way home we had one final hurrah at a hotel in Angola. The second hotel is where two friends “played bar” in the bathroom and poured boxed wine on themselves.
Must-See Attraction: Gay’s Liquor in Angola
What to Avoid: Whatever hotels we trashed while staying there.

INDIANA: The gang eats at the Angola, IN Applebee's on spring break in 2005.
INDIANA: The gang eats at the Angola, IN Applebee's on spring break in 2005.

Coming up next in Part 2 tomorrow…
Wisconsin, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, California, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas

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