There's an odd feeling when you cross an item off your bucket list, and last year was a big one. As part of my cross-country adventures, I finished my goal of visiting all 50 states in the U.S. (and Puerto Rico too). Ending with Florida. As I stepped out onto the beach, facing the Gulf of Mexico, I pondered not only the strangely warm water, but that this was the farthest south in the country I'd been, and it was my last state.
A year ago, my carefully planned route was listed here. The "Southern Segment" from Pennsylvania to Arizona was carried out pretty much to plan, with the addition of a detour up to Hot Springs, at the welcome insistence of my Aunt. But the "Western Segment" never quite came. You see, last year not only had adventure and the challenges of facing hours of being alone with only a very well behaved Australian Shepherd and some audio books in between the highs of social interaction with dear friends and family, but it also had physical challenges.
An improperly diagnosed infection threatened to sideline me, but I still launched into the Southern Segment, willing myself to improve and not be shut down by the side effects of various medications.
It was worth it to go white water rafting with my cousin in Charlotte, to spend a day wilting in Savannah with my dog, to go on banana yellow speed boat adventures to isolated beaches with old friends and their children in Naples. To visit other friends in New Orleans and Baton Rouge and have the most perfect pot of tea with a much needed productive day in my friend's lab on campus. To struggle with getting my hydrophobic dog back into a pontoon boat in Arkansas, to meet new friends at delicious barbeque found at a gas station in Austin. To catch up with an old friend in the little town of Fredericksburg, reminding me that there are happy little corners where you least expect to find them. To power through the long drive to a decadent hotel room in Las Cruces before the last stretch to the oasis of my mother's home in verdant Green Valley.
But that took the last of what I had. It was time to rest, heal, and work. And figure out where to set down roots. The 50 states were done, even if the last segment of the epic road trip didn't lead me full circle. You never can tell where life will take you, and that's my reason for embracing a bucket list with the best of intent of experiencing opportunities as they present themselves. For you can never tell what tomorrow will bring.