I know many people who have only been to two states—the one they were born in, and a lingering state of denial. I don’t understand people who don’t like to travel, but then again I don’t understand people in general.
Ever since arriving on these shores aboard the good ship Mayflower, I’ve made it a point to see all 48 of the continental United States as well as the massive iceberg way up north and the tiny semitropical archipelago in the mid-Pacific.
These are my capsule reviews of the 50 states that compose our fragile union like so many incompatible spouses.
George Wallace and Hank Williams are from here; despite that song they did, Lynyrd Skynyrd isn’t, and chances are that you aren’t, either.
In late June, the sun feels so close it’s as if you can stand on your toes and kiss it.
Most of this Southwestern dust pit is as serenely prickly as a giant saguaro, but Phoenix is the world’s largest and most unsightly parking lot.
The millions of roosters and hens routinely herded into slaughterhouses here were unable to tell the police about Governor Bill Clinton’s routine sexual harassment of the state’s female humans.
Too big to succeed, which is why it will eventually break into pieces and sink into the ocean.
It must have been so much more scenic before people arrived.
Mystic is a pretty little port town, but there’s nothing mystical about the rest of the state.
It’s a former colony that became the first state in the union and has done nothing since.
California, but with flying cockroaches.
Home to Deliverance, Ludacris, boiled peanuts, and peach-colored sunsets, the people are so friendly I don’t want you to know that, or else you might move here.
A nice place to visit, but the natives are getting restless.
There are a thousand natural hot mineral springs in which to boil your potatoes.
Apart from the 24-hour Greek diners on every corner in Chicago, the state has all the personality of cardboard.
As bleak, grey, and dreary as I imagine Poland to be, only with fewer Polish people.
Surprisingly this has perennially been one of the most literate states in the nation; the people and the livestock are surprisingly friendly, too.
When things suddenly got colorful, Dorothy told Toto she didn’t think they were in Kansas anymore.
A very laid-back and gentle place, probably because everyone’s on pills.
The only place on Earth where alligators speak French.
There are so many abandoned buildings in Baltimore, the state’s famous and delectable blue crabs have started to occupy them.
A great place to party, unless you’re a woman and Ted Kennedy’s driving you home.
So scary, even Ted Nugent left.
So cold, even the snowmen complain.
A humid haze of mint juleps and weeping willows and red clay and segregation.
Middle Americans sandwiched between two urban war zones.
You notice how big the sky and mountains are because there’s nothing to see on the ground.
Flatter and uglier than a rusty razor blade.
Prehistoric Flintstones desert scenery with a neon tumor called Vegas.
I haven’t been to the old Hampshire, but I imagine it’s better.
An industrial-strength concentration camp for douchebags.
Multicolored rock formations and multicolored vomit from suspiciously prepared burritos.
The only state whose residents don’t realize there are 49 other states.
Rolling hills and friendly hill folk—except for Asheville, where the hippie-hipsters walk around as if they have dreamcatchers lodged in their rectums.
A rectangle made of ice.
The place you have to pass through when you’re heading from east to west.
A state that knows it sucks yet is proud to admit it.
A rugged coastline and pristine mountain interior make this a paradise for lesbian hikers.
Come for the hoagies and cheese steaks, then leave quietly in the morning.
Not technically an island, so I call bullshit.
The unnecessary Carolina.
Refreshingly scenic, it’s the antidote to North Dakota.
The people are so fat, their muffin tops spill over into Georgia and Kentucky.
So awful, even its residents only give it one star.
The only place in the country where the scenery is so eyeball-poppingly gorgeous, I burst out laughing—on two different occasions, years apart.
Maple syrup, covered bridges, artisanal ice cream, and white people who fled New York in fear but still manage to be “progressive.”
Mountains on one side, beaches on the other, and not much in between at all.
The state that gave the world Jimi Hendrix, rumored to be the only black person ever to live there.
Coal miners and snake handlers and bootleggers and cockfights—in short, my favorite state of all.
If you look closely behind the cows, you will find serial killers.
A place where a man and his horse can be friends without there being any danger that people will notice.