Like the other publications in the Journals Unlimited “Write it Down” series, Let’s Go See All 50! is rooted in this simple philosophy: “Life is an adventure. It is not the destination we reach that’s the most rewarding. It’s the journey along the way. So write it down! And treasure the memory forever…” The title says it all here. This is a journal that helps you systematically record your travel experiences throughout America so they can be retrieved, shared, and remembered over and over.
When my review copy of this journal arrived in the mail, I noticed a couple of things right away. This spiral-bound publication is compact (7.5 x 9”) and built to stand up to the rough handling it’s sure to receive on the road. And hey(!), it was printed in Bay City, Michigan, my hometown. (Also Madonna’s birthplace, but I digress.)
What would you logically expect in a journal compiled by someone who urges you to “Write it Down!” as you visit the 50 states? Well, you’d expect a journal divided into 50 state-labeled sections, and that’s what author Stephen Martin has provided.
Before I get into the nuts & bolts of the journal, let me tell you a few things you need to be aware of if you are considering becoming a 50-state “journal-ist.” This is not a guidebook, so you’ll need to get your touristy information from other sources. This journal was not published specifically for national park collecting, so you’ll find only about two dozen national parks named or map-indicated within its pages. There are no photographs, sketches, or drawings (just some watermark-like figures), so don’t expect eye candy. The maps in this journal can be used only for the crudest sort of navigating, so you’ll need other tools for that purpose.
The author has provided an outline map of the United States near the front of the book. It is handy for general reference use, and you might want to use colored pencils to shade in the states (or parts of states) that you’ve visited. Incidentally, you should consider embellishing the various state maps with notes of your own, as by indicating locations of places or events with special meaning. After all, a journal is for recording personal things, and where you put those records is up to you.
It does make sense to organize information, of course, and Let’s Go See: All 50! has a pretty darn good flow to it. Let’s say you’re logging North Dakota (which happens to be the only state I’ve never personally set foot in; I’m kinda saving it for a special trip). You turn to the four-page section for North Dakota. In the upper right corner of the first page you see that North Dakota is “The Peace Garden State” and there’s a greeting that reads: “All 50 means we’re waiting for you, too!” There is an inset map that shows the state’s north-central location in the Lower 48, plus a larger map that shows where some key features are -- in this case, a few highways and lakes.
The second page of the section is where you begin recording (on ruled lines) information that matters. What’s the date of your visit? Who are your travel companions? For what main reason(s) have you visited this state? What have you enjoyed most and found most interesting? (There are separate sections for recording “enjoyed most” and “found most interesting,” though few journal-ists are likely to appreciate the difference in those two concepts.) At the bottom of the page there is a section labeled: “Next trip here I would like to (do, visit, see, etc.).” This is a wonderful provision. Can you visit any state, just cross it off your list, and think of no reason to go back? Even North Dakota? And if you haven’t yet visited the state, this section would be a great place to compile your personal list of things to see and do when you finally get there.
Page three is for miscellaneous note-taking, functioning pretty much like ruled notebook paper. Page four provides more lines for note-taking, but adds something special in the form of three “fun facts” about the state. This is North Dakota, so we are told these things: Rugby is the geographical center of North America. The Sitting Bull Burial State Historic Site marks the original site of the famous Hunkpapa Lakota leader’s grave. The Dakota Dinosaur Museum in Dickinson houses .… a complete real [italics mine] Triceratops and Edmontosaurus.
I don’t have a lot of complaints about this journal, but as a professional geographer I have to ask: Since most of the 50 state maps have plenty of room to show the locations of key attractions (such as major national parks), why are the maps so lacking in these useful details? And since distances are so important to people planning and recording trips, why are no map scales provided?
I can see that this journal would be lots of fun for “collecting states” and would make a fine gift for anybody who travels or aspires to travel this wide and wonderful country of ours. Once you get going as a journal-ist, you are certain to want to collect more states and “capture your personal journeys.” Later -- perhaps on a rainy day, or when the grandkids visit, or when you are very old and can travel only in your memories -- you can take out your Let’s Go See All 50! journal and relive your trips. I’m going to start recording trips in mine this month. You can order yours at this site.
Author: Stephen Martin
Publisher: Bay City, MI: Journals Unlimited, Inc.
Price: $18.95 plus shipping