Mom fulfills missions, visits 50 states with son

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Former Ferdinand resident Melissa Taylor recently achieved a personal goal of visiting all 50 states with her son Kade before his high-school graduation. 

Guest Columnist

In the 1970s, my family made it to Florida, but it took summerly increments to finally get there.

For our first summer vacation, we made it all to the way to Bowling Green, Kentucky, where we stayed in a motor lodge before running out of money, or gas. Or maybe my parents merely ran out of patience traveling with two boys. The next summer, we stretched our travel ambitions beyond Kentucky to Nashville. The next summer, we ventured farther south to Gatlinburg (Tennessee still). Flash forward a few summers: we found ourselves all the way in Ormond Beach, Florida, along the Atlantic. After that, we returned to Florida every summer.

Our total tally of states involving overnight stays was six: Indiana (by default), Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Georgia, Florida. We did experience a few miles of Michigan only because mom misread a road map in northern Indiana.

I can’t help but reflect on these travels with my parents thanks to news that former Ferdinand resident Melissa Taylor recently achieved a personal goal of visiting all 50 states with her son Kade before his high-school graduation. Each state had to involve an overnight stay.

“When Kade was four, we took our first road trip. It was a 7-hour drive to Michigan. We stopped once to get gas and have lunch. He never complained, and I knew I’d found my traveling buddy,” says Melissa, of Sellersburg. “I definitely think I have enjoyed our trips more because of Kade’s company. When he was young, it was fun to see the wonder in his eyes when experiencing something new. As he got older, we enjoyed the laughs when our adventures didn’t quite go as planned. I think visiting different states has given him a deeper appreciation for home. He enjoys exploring with me but always looks forward to returning home to see family and sleep in his own bed. We have had some adventures not go as planned, but he knows from those experiences that we can get through setbacks and obstacles.”

Here are some of her “travels with Kade” highlights:

• I love the vistas driving through Utah. The scenery changes every few miles, and it’s all breathtaking.

• We had a long drive across North Dakota. Every hour or so along the interstate there are silly tourist attractions like the World’s Largest Prairie Chicken. We enjoyed exploring those.

• The Mississippi Gulf Coast is where we go to just relax. There are miles of boardwalks and piers where you may or may not see another person as you watch dolphins play in the water. Kade will often say he misses Mississippi when life gets hectic, and we need a break.

• When I booked a cabin in Buffalo, Wyoming, in 2015, the agent asked if we were coming for Longmire Days. I had never heard of the A&E show. The event brought thousands of people each summer to the tiny town where the show’s story is based.  We were able to meet many of the actors at charity events throughout our weekend there.

• We attended a minor league baseball game in Papillion, Nebraska, to watch July 4th fireworks in 2013. We sat near the visiting team’s dugout. Kade was 10 and made friends with some of the players.

• We had a mechanical problem on a flight to Las Vegas in 2012 and had to make an emergency landing in Missouri. We ended up sharing a room that night in an old, rundown hotel in a nearby town with a couple we met on the plane. It was awful at the time, but now it’s a story we laugh about.

• We visited six New England states in the summer of 2014. Our first stop was a ski lodge in the Vermont mountains. Ski resorts are really cheap in the summer! Heavy winter snows had melted and washed out many bridges on the way. We followed a number of detours through small towns, and finally the directional signs stopped. We ended up in a heavy forest on a very bumpy dirt path barely wide enough for our new vehicle in the dark. The Garmin, my Verizon phone, and Kade’s AT&T phone all lost service. I was sure we were going to find an unmarked missing bridge and plummet down a cliff or encounter an ax murderer along the road.

• We took our first ‘big’ road trip in the summer of 2009. We drove to Jacksonville and spent a week driving A1A. That trip is probably when I committed to the 50 states goal because after that experience I knew we could do it.

Three months ago, mother and son touched down in Hawaii, their 50th state.

“When we landed, I really just felt excitement. I love all our travels, but it was like I'd checked the last item off our to-do list and I could just relax and enjoy it. Kade very rarely posts on social media, but he uploaded some photos and a thank-you for the experiences our first night there. That meant a lot,” says Melissa. “Kade often asks about a certain place we visited (often a random hotel room). We enjoy trying to figure out what state/city the memory is from and seeing it from our different perspectives. He was really young on the early trips.”

Sums up Melissa: “I am incredibly thankful for all the memories.”

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