Excerpt: Geo Kids by Array
Massey State Line Selfies
We’ll let you in on a little secret: this whole idea about going to 50 states seemed like a really bad idea at first, and we can easily tell you whose bad idea it was: our dad’s. And here’s another secret—he wasn’t even thinking of getting to each state. Instead, he wanted to make our lives as miserable as he had been as a kid.
Hey! This is Jim, and I think the boys’ last sentence needs some explanation. Here’s what happened. We were driving to New York City from our home in Maryland. As we passed a state line sign on I-95, the major interstate connecting our communities, I remembered what it was like when my parents made my three siblings and me take photos at state line signs when we were kids. My parents thought it was a great idea. My brother, my twin sisters, and I disagreed. We’d pile out of the station wagon, and as I was the youngest, I was always shoved into the middle or the backward-facing seat, so I’d have to climb out from there. We’d have to stand by the sign with traffic racing past, trying to look happy that we were standing at a sign in the middle of nowhere. We hated it.
So why repeat that misery? There’s more to the story. Today, I love those old, faded Kodak pictures. They make me think about the crazy haircuts we had and the clothes we wore, and mostly they take me back to a time when my family just had time to be together. No one else around, making the kinds of memories you can only make as a kid.
So, yes, I thought I could make Sawyer and Lawson a little annoyed by taking pictures, but I also thought those snapshots would be something that would one day help them remember what it felt like to be a kid in a car headed towards adventure with your family.
Sawyer and Lawson here. You heard that, right? We can blame our dad for this. But that means he gets a lot of credit too, because somewhere along the way, a couple of selfies turned into a bigger idea: what if we could take selfies in every state?
Here’s how we got there. We didn’t call it the Massey State Line Selfie Challenge at first. We were on the Massey Lampoon 55-55 Vacation because when we researched the first road trip we were about to take, Mapquest told us we were going to be on the road for 55 hours and 55 minutes. That seemed impossible to us! One of our friends told us we should sing the entire time (we didn’t). We weren’t exactly certain what we were getting into. It was our first big summer road trip as a family—driving from Maryland to a family wedding in southern Missouri and then on to see grandparents in northern Iowa before going to Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. If you map that out, you’ll see there aren’t many great airplane connections between those areas, so mom and dad said we’d have to drive.
We piled in our Honda Pilot one morning at about 6 a.m., and about two hours later, our dad told us to get out because we were going to take a selfie at the West Virginia state line. Here’s a direct quote from Sawyer as we got out of the SUV that day: “I hate my life.” Dad said he thought at that moment we had achieved the refrain of a great family vacation. After we grabbed the quick photo, we thought that was the end of it. In fact, we said, “We are not doing that again!” Less than 50 miles down the road, we realized we WERE doing that again. Pennsylvania was calling with a sign that said, “State of Independence.” Yeah, right. We weren’t feeling much independence; we felt pretty trapped in selfie land.
Then came Ohio (“So Much to Discover”). And Indiana (“Crossroads of America”). A little professional trick—we grabbed both Ohio and Indiana within a mile of each other by taking a picture at the exit of one state and the entrance of the other. That works pretty well to tackle two states at once. And an amateur trick—Lawson tried to pretend he’d fallen asleep in that mile so that he could get out of taking a selfie. It didn’t work.
And then we got to Illinois. As our parents wrote on Facebook when we got there, “There’s no ‘noise’ in Illinois, but I heard plenty when it was time to take this picture.” We were 662 miles into our road trip, all in one really long day, stuck in the back, wondering when we’d get there. We didn’t take time to do anything more than grab some food and gas along the way—and, of course, take those selfies. By the time we rolled into St. Louis that night, we had five states and 830 miles down. Our parents’ Facebook page posting from that day said that we called it the fourth best day ever. We wish we could remember what the top three days were at that point in time. What we know is there were many, much greater days to come!
The next morning we added our Missouri state line selfie to the list, and we went to the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. You can go up inside the Arch, and you should be prepared for a pretty crowded tram ride to get there. But it’s worth the effort when you look out the windows and can see for miles. There’s the Mississippi River and the city skyline, and you can even see Busch Stadium, where the St. Louis Cardinals play baseball. We didn’t have time to go to a game that day, so it’s now on Lawson’s bucket list. That happened a lot—the more we saw, the more we realized we still had to see!
We went from St. Louis to Iowa, then to South Dakota. By the time we headed back east to go home, we had added Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan to our list. It took us 18 days of visiting and touring, and driving to cover 4223.9 miles, going through 12 states, and each of us sleeping in 13 different beds. Somewhere along those thousands of miles, our parents had time to do some math, and we realized: Hey, 12 states is almost one-fourth of the way to every state!
This is Emily, and I think this is where our parental Type A personalities kicked in. More specifically, we calculated 12 states meant we were 24 percent of the way of getting to all 50, and we knew we had one more road trip to Florida coming up in a few months. I wondered—purely hypothetically—what it would take to clear the map. That’s all it took to give Jim the encouragement to say, "we’re going to do just that, and we’re going to do it before Sawyer gets into middle school." From that point on, the Massey 50 State Line Selfie Challenge was on. And those 4223.9 miles, which seemed so monumental at the time, would turn out to be just the beginning of an incredible family journey.