Thursday, July 21, 2011

State Impressions and Book Requests

I threatened to do this post awhile back, and since the thoughts aren't leaving my head, it simply must be written! Even though I fear it's going to be way way too long.

So, this past month when we drove back and forth across the country, I was extremely impressed with the different and unique personalities I felt as we drove through each state... even the ones that we did just that.. drove through. And so I thought it would be fun to write those thoughts out, especially since many of you are from those states, and it would be fun to get your reaction to my impressions. Don't you think? I may even figure out a way to make this a bookish post, just you wait!


Ah, I have to say this one boring state to drive though, at least along I-80. All brown and dead looking. This is strange since it's the state that has Yellowstone! One of the most beautiful national parks ever! BUT, Wyoming also has these:

There were hundreds, all over the place, and we called them windmill farms. I'm fascinated with them. They scream high tech space age science fiction to me! Oh, they are so cool and other worldly looking! Book I need for this state: something like cowboys and aliens! Or I know,  a cowboy space opera like Firefly! Ah, that would be one fun book!


Landscape-wise, not much better than Wyoming, though we now have grass instead of dirt. Lots and lots of grass. Nebraska is what I think of when I hear about the plains, or the prairies or the grasslands. It was also in Nebraska that we saw a beautiful sunset, then minutes later turned around and watched an impressive moonrise. I took a video: (beware the music, it was my son's turn to drive so he go to choose! You'll also see in this video that Nebraska wins the prize for most bugs killed on the windshield!)

We don't see stuff like that so much here where the mountains get in the way. Book I need for this state: a pioneer book for sure.... Little House on the Prairie for big people? With lots of romantic sunset scenes!


Oh boy, this state seems to have the monopoly on beautiful farms! We wondered if there is a code between them all to have not a weed, or a piece of junk in sight. And all green and perfectly groomed! I loved driving through this state for sure. Book I need for this state: a farm story, but not a depressing one (Like A Thousand Acres), a happy one please.


One of my good high school friends came to college here, and so we were excited to drive through Champaign Urbana so we could finally say we'd been there! And I also thought much about Ibeeeg while driving through Illinois, even though she was still far from where we were. Book I need for this state: a college/friends sort of book perhaps? One about enduring friendship/sisterhood, yes?


Indianapolis gave us lots of traffic, construction and a wrong turn! But that wrong turn lead us right past the speedway, so that was cool.  And then today while watching John Green live on YouTube (dang that was fun!) I remembered he's from here so... Book I need from this state: a racing book by John Green! Ha! Maybe just a racing book then.


This state was our destination for the weekend. It was fun to meet the Latino/Hispanic people that my son lived and worked with while he was here. I loved the state! I loved the people! Ohio also has lots and lots of trees! Book I need for this state: something about Latino people coming to the States to make a better life for their family.


Horses! Yes, we were thrilled that this state actually truly had miles of rolling white picket fences surrounding huge horse farms! And beautiful horse race tracks too! I don't know why, but it was so cool to see a horse race track. I'm not even into horses that much, but they are cool I must admit. Book I need for this state:  a horse racing book along the lines of Seabiscuit.


This is the state where we started to really notice the heat and humidity. Sorry Tennessee! And Gatlinburg was such a tourist trap that all I wanted to do was get out of there! But then the Smoky Mountains were cool and so was walking on that famous trail. Book I need for this state: An Appalachian Trail story perhaps? Like A Walk in the Woods. However, I also saw lots of signs about the Hatfields and McCoys, so I'd love a book about them too please.

North Carolina

After coming out of the park and trying to find our way back to the freeway, we drove through a lot of small quaint mountain towns in North Carolina. They looked like fun restful places to stop and stay awhile. It also made me think of back country Appalachian places and stories. Book I need for this state: A bed and breakfast story (think Lorelei Gilmore's inn) or a book about people living in the back country... remember that book Christy?

South Carolina

We experienced an awesome thunderstorm while here. I took some video:

Other than that, all we saw here were trees. The freeways were like a tree tunnel! That is so not like Utah! Book I need for this state: a good treehouse book! Or perhaps, a tornado book because that thunder storm made us feel like one was heading our way for sure!


Ah, it was all about Savannah for us in Georgia. Savannah was hot, but cool. How can that be? But it was! Full of history.... including pirates, and the Civil War and something about some dude that killed someone? Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil! That was it! Book I need for this state: one on EACH of those subjects!


My impressions of Florida.... hot, humid, lots and lots of rain, very green, and Orlando which seems to be all about theme parks, you know? Book I need for this state: is there a novel set in a theme park? Please, let me know!

Alabama and Mississippi

We drove through the bottom teeny tiny bits of these two states, so they just sort of blended together, and FLEW by! We stopped for a moment near Mobile for a fast geocache, but it still wasn't even enough to give much of an impression. I feel bad about that. But these states for sure make me think of the deep deep south. I wish I could have experienced that a bit more. Book I need for this state: something about the deep deep south!


Here we had New Orleans and lots and lots of water. It was fun to walk around the French Quarter of New Orleans for an hour or two. Then, once we were back on the road, it was like one long never ending bridge! Were we crossing rivers? Or lakes? Or a bit of both? That was memorable. Book I need for this state: anything historical about New Orleans I would love. Then maybe a book about living on the water here?


We drove through Texas two different times... just before OK and just after. The first bit was mostly about the big city of Dallas. Yes, we survived it. It took us forever to go around that belt loop though, to start heading north and find our hotel in Denton. But even with the accident and traffic jam, we survived. The second bit was very desolate, and not any big cities in sight. It felt depressed and like something from The Grapes of Wrath. I'm not sure we had a very good first impression of Texas, though we did take this cool cloud/sun picture.

Book I need for this state: a BIG book! :) (No scratch that, I don't need any more of those!) It was after I got home that I remembered Friday Night Lights takes place in Texas, so I think I just need to read that book once and for all.


All I could think about while driving through this state was cowboys cowboys cowboys! In fact I even had to look up where The Cowboys lived, and found out it was just a little way off our freeway. But, dang, we didn't go visit. Book I need for this state: a cowboy book of course! I'm a sucker for these, really.

New Mexico

Suddenly, the landscape turned deserty... and we were finally out of the humidity! Yeah! Things were brown, but beautiful. Very southwestern, and lots of Indian influence here. From cowboys in one state, to Indians in the other. This is what I loved so much! Book I need for this state: Something Indian, like an experience living on a reservation (An Absolutely True Diary etc. etc. type) or even a cowboy/Indian book. I like those too. Dances With Wolves or something.


We went over the border, and bam, we had green mountains! Driving through these small Colorado mountain towns was lovely. I could retire here, except for the winters I suppose. Book I need for this state: something about a skiing trip perhaps? Or mountain cabin location?


Yay, home again! And things went from green to brown again. But a nice national park, cool formations sort of brown. Did you know Utah has tons of national parks? All that driving through the country and only one national park did we come across! Book I need for this state: hmmm... a national park experience? Aron Ralston had one here!

Well! I hope that was as much fun for you as it was for me! Did I drive through your state? Did I get a good impression of it? Or am I completely off? Do you have some good suggestions for books I can read about any of these states? Have you driven across the country and thought the same thing, how every state is so different? What was your favorite? Least favorite? Would you do it again?

I would so do it again!


  1. Fun post! I love the book requests. I need some of those too. I'd love to read more books set in AZ now I live here. Makes me remember reading These is My Words :)

  2. Ha! I love it! One of these days I'm going to take a huge road trip. I've never been to Wyoming but my sister drove through it and was about as impressed as you were. She was single at the time and when cars would pass they would check out the guy drivers. She said even the guys weren't worth looking at. ;)

  3. I grew up in Nebraska and I think you got it about right, at least for the part that you probably drove through. The upper northeastern corner is a little more hilly and filled with more trees and farm country, but the middle and especially western part of the state is plains and some rugged terrain. Wish I could think of a good book to recommend for the state but nothing is springing to mind right now.

  4. Fun post! I've lived and traveled through most of the states you mentioned, and I miss a little bit of all of them. About Texas, we've been in El Paso these last two summers (because of husband's work) and even though before coming here I was a little nervous (Ciudad Juarez is really a few blocks from where we live), I've grown to love this city. It doesn't have the natural beauty of the Utah mountains, the green of Tennessee or North Carolina, the charm of New Orleans, but it has something special. I love it here, even though it's terrible hot and desolate. It must be the awesome combination of cultures. Yep. That must be it.

  5. I love roadtrips through the states. I'm an Indiana girl, so welcome to Speedway (I live about 10 min from there!). I'd recommend Bill Bryson's "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid" for Iowa. It's hilarious. I've also heard Shoeless Joe (the novel Field of Dreams is based on) is a good one for that state. I think Lonesome Dove is perfect for Texas, even if you've decided you don't need another one for that.

  6. I couldn't agree more, Wyoming was the most boring drive ever for me! I've been on a road trip similar to yours, tons of fun isn't it?

  7. Great post. Fun to travel the states from my desk.

  8. the only theme park books I know of are the Kingdom Keepers series - it's sort of fun, especially if you are Disney fans!

  9. Nevada Barr does books that take place in state parks.
    Clyde Edgerton is a good one for NC, I love his books.
    Good luck with this project.

  10. Oh my goodness that is journey! I've driven through most of those western and midwestern states and I totally agree with your summaries!

  11. Melissa: Yeah, we skipped Arizona this trip! But These is My Words would be a good one for that state.

    Jenny: You've never been to Wyoming? And it's so close? Never to Yellowstone? You really should try Yellowstone! I bet there's some nice Wyoming guys, just maybe not driving I-80!

    Carl: It would be nice to see more of many of these states then just the major freeway that goes right through them. Oh, and I was thinking you'd have a good cowboy space opera book suggestion for me!

    Yamile: I remember looking at the freeway we were on at one point and wondering if we stayed on it where would we end up, and El Paso was the answer. I-10 maybe it was? But we had to start heading north.

    Melissa: I've always wanted to do this sort of trip so it was fun that it finally happened. The Bill Bryson suggestion sounds perfect! And Lonesome Dove is perfect too, I read that years ago and loved it.

    JaJo: It was tons of fun! For sure. Even the kids did great being in the car for so long.

    Ann: Glad you enjoyed it! Hopefully I didn't put Texas down too much for you!

    Heather J: We aren't very big Disneyland fans, I mean it's fun and all, but not twice a year or anything. But books about it would be fun.

    Page: I have read a Clyde Edgerton book, but I'd totally forgotten were it took place!

    Amused: Oh, good. Glad to know I wasn't totally off in my impressions...

  12. As an Iowan, I am also looking for books set in Iowa. Two off the top of my head are Dwelling Places by Vinita Hampton Wright and The World Still Melting by Robley Wilson. Two non-fiction Iowa memoirs are Little Heathens by Mildred Armstrong Kalish and The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson. I also enjoyed The Snows by Sharelle Byars Moranville, a YA book set in Iowa.

  13. This is a great..great..great post. How fun it will be to come up with a list to match the states you traveled. I am going to give some thought for your Illinois book. ;)
    One time Suey, you and I will have to get together. It will be a darn shame if we never do.

    I am very glad that you had a fantastic trip.

  14. Totally fun post. I LOVE it. The books I'd recommend for a living-on-the-water-in-Louisiana read is THE HEALING SPELL by Kimberly Griffiths Little. It's a MG book, but it's a great story about a girl living on the bayou. The author's LDS and about the sweetest woman ever!



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