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Rambling Through 48 States on Two Wheels - Phil & Estelle McDonald Have Traveled to All 48 Continental States by Motorcycle
June 11, 2008 - When talking with someone who has traveled to all 48 continental states in the U.S., one might think they’re conversing with the driver of an 18-wheeler.
But Phil and Estelle McDonald have personally traveled through 48 states on two wheels. The Knightstown couple has seen the country on motorcycle, traveling thousands of miles during nearly 25 years of vacationing on the road. The couple is well-known by residents of the area for owning the bait and tackle shop in Knightstown for decades, as well as years of community service.
Almost every year they have traveled to a different destination, fulfilling a goal of visiting every state in the continental U.S., as well as the many tourist attractions those states offer. Their travels have taken them to Mount Rushmore, Niagara Falls, Alaska, the Grand Canyon and everywhere in between.
They’ve ridden through blinding snow storms on the way to Pike’s Peak in Colorado and torrential downpours across Alaska and Canada. They’ve battled the Santa Ana winds in southern California, watched whales off the coast of New England, and kept a safe distance from alligators in Florida.
It’s been a whirlwind ride that the McDonalds have enjoyed together for more than 20 years.
“I don’t know why anyone would want to travel to a foreign country when there is so much to see in the United States,” Estelle (pronounced Esta-lee) said while thumbing through a photo album that sampled a recent 6,000-mile trip.
During one western trip to see Mount Rushmore and the Roswell Museum (Area 51), among many other locations, they rode through more mountains than they had anticipated.
“We really didn’t realize there were so many mountains out west until we made that ride,” Phil said. “We knew that was a mountainous region, but I guess I had no idea what we were up against. By the time we got through with that trip, I had had my belly full of mountains.”
The McDonalds began traveling the states when their youngest child completed high school in the mid-1980s.
They have been to Texas four times and traveled a good portion of the Historic Route 66 Trail, visiting the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Tex. From the Lonestar Brewery Company in San Antonio through the Rocky Mountains, Atlantic City and upstate New York, the couple has met many people and encountered an array of breathtaking scenery and landmarks.
Phil’s choice of motorcycle started with a 750cc Honda, and he moved up to an 850cc Suzuki, which he estimated he rode to 24 different states. A 1200cc Kawasaki Voyager became his bike of choice, and he’s on his third one right now.
The trips have always occurred when the couple took vacations, and they never knew for sure how far they would go on any particular trip.
“We were never in a great big hurry to get somewhere because we wanted to make sure we saw the interesting things on the way,” Estelle said.
“We might ride anywhere from 15 to 750 miles in one day,” Phil said. “We were on vacation, not on a schedule, and we wanted to see the country.”
They avoided interstate highways whenever possible, and always detoured to unique locations such as The Devil’s Tower or the Old Faithful Geyser, both in Wyoming.
While in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., the McDonalds encountered unusually high lodging prices at the area hotels because of a major event that was ongoing at the time. “I asked a local guy where we could get a good price on a room,” Phil said, “and he directed me to the very last hotel at the edge of the city. He told me to say that I’m just not going to pay that much for a room and he said that they wouldn’t let me walk out without coming down to my price.”
He then laughed. “They let me walk out.”
From the hundreds of giant windmills in Iowa, to the White Sands of New Mexico and the “worst drivers in the country” in Connecticut and New Hampshire, the couple has seen the United States from a unique perspective - on two wheels in some of the best, and worst, weather conditions.
“It’s really been a lot of fun and quite an experience,” Phil said. “But we’re getting a little older now and the long trips are probably a thing of the past.”
“We’re still going to take some more trips,” Estelle said, looking at photos from last fall’s 6,000-mile west coast trip. “But if we ever go to California again, I think we’re going to go by car.”
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