Voices from the Road

A 57-day road trip to presidential sites, state capitol buildings, and quirky attractions

My trip’s purpose was to visit all 26 states east of the Mississippi River. With that in mind, I identified categories of places to see. Destinations became state capitals, presidential sites, national parks, and quirky locations, among many others. Presidential sites included presidential museums, libraries, birthplaces, homes, or anything personally connected to a U.S. president. 

Of course, the main highlight rose from a quest to visit every state east of the Mississippi. I’ve now been to 48 of the 50 states for the second time since January 2014. And in April 2022, I’m revisiting Oregon. Following that, I only have Hawaii remaining on my “visit again” list—I was there many years ago but only for a couple of hours while in the Navy. So far, I’ve spent at least one night in the remaining 49 of the 50 states. 

On this trip, I saw so much of the country east of the Mississippi and realized I could have spent months traveling. While that wasn’t possible, I enjoyed my trip and accepted that I could be seeing so much more. Road trips come down to whether you want to see a lot of different places or if you want to go in-depth in particular locations. Here are some highlights from my 57-day road trip.

Presidential sites

I visited a total of 23 presidential sites on the trip, including libraries. On past trips, I saw four others: Lincoln, Kennedy, Nixon, and Reagan. The most recent, the Obama Center, started construction in August of 2021 with no currently scheduled completion date.

The Jimmy Carter Presidential Center in Atlanta, Georgia
Luckily, the Jimmy Carter Presidential Center in Atlanta, Georgia, reopened after being closed for COVID-19 restrictions on the day before I visited.

For every president since Hoover, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) administers the library function of the centers. Separate funds (usually non-profits) are used to build and maintain the sites to meet NARA standards.  

Before, presidential centers ran from non-existent to elaborate presentations of their homes. For example, in modern-day Louisville, Kentucky, Zachary Taylor’s home remains private—it’s the only remaining building related to the 12th U.S. president. 

State capitols

Other state capitol buildings in the U.S. range from traditional domed buildings to more ornate to unassuming buildings. Overall, I visited 22 state capitol buildings on this trip but I couldn’t enter some of them due to COVID-19 restrictions or weekend closures. 

Wisconsin state building in Madison
The Wisconsin State Capitol building was my first visit to a state capitol. Amazingly, there was no security guarding the entrance. It’s one of two state capitol buildings I entered without any security. 
Old, French-styled building where the New York State Capitol is located
The New York State Capitol obtained its inspiration from a French building; many claim that the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) in Paris inspired the building. The construction took 32 years to complete, and it finally opened in 1899.  
The Vermont State Capitol Building with a golden dome in Montpelier.
The Vermont State Capitol building resides in Montpelier, the smallest U.S. state capital based on population.

National parks

National parks often play a prominent role for many travelers. During my travels, I visited Indiana Dunes National Park on Lake Michigan, Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio, Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, Congaree National Park in South Carolina, and Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky.

Quirky attractions

Quirky locations attract my attention wherever I go. I love to visit anything that’s deemed “the largest”  in the world.

Overall I visited nearly 30 quirky locations, including the World’s Biggest Basket, the World’s Largest Cuckoo Clock, the World’s Tallest Filing Cabinet, Bamahenge, and the Future Birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk of Star Trek fame. Casey, Illinois, hosts 12 Guinness World Records. The World’s Largest Wind Chime, constructed in 2011, became the first, followed closely by the World’s Largest Rocking Chair. Incidentally, the rocking chair replaces a then-world record rocking chair in Fanning, Missouri, located on Route 66.

Other highlights

As a baby boomer, visiting Woodstock was high on my must-see list. This 1969 event quickly became a defining moment in the counterculture movement of the era.

This part of my trip presented the opportunity to visit New York City where I saw the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Central Park, and anything else I could cram into 2 full days. 

Overall, the trip became another exclamation point on my life, as road trips always do.

Stan’s road trip

Meet the Roadtripper

Stan Wiebe