Not all goals need to have prima facie importance. This isn’t high school debate. Denying yourself an adventure because it isn’t “serious” enough is a tragedy.
Travel is serious, and aficionados will attest that the opportunity to meet and relate to other people in their space should be treasured. But travel can be abstract, or worse: commodified.
Somehow, the moment you quantify your travel goals they become trivial to many. The more specific your goals, the more disdain they seem to attract. Or apathy. At least until folks turn super grey and start collecting national park walking stick steel decorative pins.
Well my friends, get ready to roll your eyes, because I’m announcing my big plan for 2019.
My travel goal is to eat pizza in each of the fifty states of the USA within the calendar year!
Let’s talk about what that entails.
This is my goal, so I can set it up my way. The rules are simple. Consume a slice of pizza at a fixed latitude and longitude in the USA. I can be in a car, but the car must be parked. I can eat slices from the same pizza in multiple states; there need not be fifty separate pizzas.
Good style is a different matter. Ideally I’d find a new, local pizza venue in each state. I’d talk to somebody new, perhaps even drink a beer, run a new trail and make some new friends. I’d love to climb a pitch or even crank down on plastic in each state. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
In some states I already have an opinion. In Alaska, the pizza must come from the Moose’s Tooth. That’s probably my favorite pizza in the country. In Arizona, it needs to be from Flagstaff’s Pizzicletta. Which is a good competitor for the pizza GOAT. In Hawai`i, it should come out of my family’s oven.
Again. Let’s keep in mind the context. This is my first “Fifty in 50” sort of goals. I haven’t even been to all the fifty states in my life. I have a full time job with a desk. We can always iterate on these goals. Just the goal of visiting each state feels worthy to me. In a calendar year? Adventure! In the process of visiting each state, I expect to learn a considerable amount.
Finally, with good style as a secondary goal, we can always make multiple attempts on some of the more remote states like Alabama and the Carolinas.
I shamelessly poached this idea from one of Brendan Leonard’s recent IG posts. He mentioned eating pizza in 36 states so far this year. That was quite a thought. I’ve been lucky enough to hit most of the American West in the past few years, so fifty felt within reach. It also just happened to hit after the Outdoor Arts & Rec Trail Running Film Festival, which appears to have inspired a group trip to the White Mountains next year for the Presidential Traverse. Adventure begets Adventure.
Certain states I’m familiar with. I know how to operate Arizona and Colorado. I spent almost a decade in Texas. I’m close to Oregon. I’ll be in Hawaii for New Year’s Day. But that’s not what this challenge is about. I’m looking to learn how to get to new places.
Here’s a sketch of my plan. I’ll fly into Fargo on a Friday night. I’ll each a pizza and drive down, hitting South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa the next day. I’ve got a friend who’s a physics professor in Lincoln, Nebraska, so I’m hoping to at least meet up with him along the way. (Surprise, Frank!) Kansas City lives across two states, and I can eventually drop through Oklahoma and into Dallas.
I mentioned the Presidential Traverse. The timing isn’t clear yet, but I’d love to check out the Green and the White mountains in a 10-day period, as well as Maine. I’ve got a great friend who also happens to be a physics professor at Boston University. She’s keen on my goal. So Massachusetts seems to be a great hub to spoke out for a bunch of pizzas.
I’ve heard some crazy stories about bouldering over a lake filled with Alligator Gar. It seems like there is so much to do outdoors in Chattanooga - and infrastructure to do it - that this is a no-brainer. It’s been on my list for a while. Chattanooga is also close to Georgia and Alabama, and I’m considering a four to five day trip that finishes with a drive north to Lexington.
A different kind of coastal environment than I grew up in, the Gulf coast is a place I’ve been curious about for a while. If I can get on to some islands, so much the better! Why not eat 60 slices? Although this might just end up being a road trip from Houston to Florida.
So yes. 50 Pizzas (slices)
It’s a silly goal, but having the capacity to travel that far in a calendar year can lead to all kinds of trouble. The point is exposure to new things, new places and new people. Pizza is just the vessel, it not the excuse. If it takes me a few years of “Fifty in 50” projects to wrap my head around this country, then so be it. Maybe I’ll make this a habit.
I’m itching to get started, and will post updates periodically here and on IG. If I really get bored over Christmastime, I’ll even set up a map.