Eagle family finishes 50-state odyssey | VailDaily.com
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Eagle family finishes 50-state odyssey

Connie Steiert

EAGLE If you can name all 50 states and their capitals, and even point out their locations on an U.S. map, give yourself a pat on the back.But, can you picture what every state looks like? How many of us know each states roads and byways, or can describe each states natural wonders and historical highlights?The Lagace family of Eagle can. Ask teenagers Noel or Addie Lagace what their favorite spot is in any state in the country, or to describe what its cities look like, or how tough its hiking trails are, and theyll tell you with barely a pause. Just last month, the Lagaces capped off a 17-year-long, 50-state excursion, and did it in style, swimming with the dolphins in Hawaii. (Noel and Addie) should be able to recall at least something in every state, says mom Cindy.When 17-year-old Noel was just a baby, the family embarked on their state-by-state, border-to-border tour. By the time sister, Addie, 15, was born, Noel was already an experienced traveler. The girls rode long distances in the car, and hiked miles of trails on mom or dads back.One of Noels earliest memories is of playing in the giant redwoods of the Northwest. What she remembers most about her lifelong travels, however, is how diverse the country is. I just remember how beautiful it all is, in different ways; from our mountains here to Hawaii, says Noel.Pop-up camperThe 50-state odyssey began as their mothers mission, and continued mostly by accident. When I met Kevin, I had traveled to every state, except North and South Dakota, says Cindy, who helps run the Vail Childrens Center. She made it to the Dakotas when Noel was just a few weeks old.There was no conscious plan to duplicate that feat with her daughters and husband. Yet, early family vacations were often spent visiting distant relatives, and the Lagaces would pass through several states along the way. Traveling the country became a family passion. I really wanted to do it, says Kevin, who works for Beaver Creeks fleet maintenance department.Each summer, the Lagaces roll out their pop-up camper and pack it with food and supplies for their three- to four-week treks. The family loved the road trips, and they are passionate campers and hikers. The girls say theyve found friends in every campsite, floated down countless rivers on inner tubes, and found treasures on and off the beaten paths.Beaches to BroadwayThe Lagaces travels have themes during a historical tour they visited Independence Park in Philadelphia, Valley Forge and George Washingtons headquarters before Washington D.C. became the nations capitol. The family also visited Gettysburg and Pearl Harbor. Theyve traced the Oregon Trail, following ruts cut deep into solid rock by countless wagon wheels, and followed the old, famed Route 66 through the southwest. Then there was the Laura Ingalls Wilder trips, visiting the places where Little House on the Prairie books were set. I think it was really special to read all of Laura Ingalls books and then to get to visit all the houses, Noel says. The girls even participated in a Laura Ingalls Wilder look-alike pageant.There also were mountain trips. Cindy encouraged family treks through the Tetons in Wyoming and the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. She shakes her head in amazement as she recalls one treacherous hike in the Shenandoah Mountains when the girls were very young. Weve been to gorgeous, untouched places, Cindy says.Kevin and the girls, on the other hand, gravitate toward warmth and beaches. Theyve played on the beaches in Rhode Island and Virginia. Kevins favorite beach trip was the coastal drive through California and camping every night on the shore, he says. Theyve explored National Parks, such as Sequoia, Jackson, and Cumberland. Noel and Addie participated in the National Parks Junior Ranger program, taking the pledge and receiving a badge for each park visited in return. The foursome has visited the cities, taking in a Broadway production of Beauty and The Beast in New York City, and standing on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. Theyve toured plantations in the south and horse farms in Kentucky. And, adds Kevin, Weve been to some neat little towns on the prairies.Alps or the Bahamas? One of Addies favorite memories is of biking through the San Juan Islands off Washington State when she was 11. The family ferried between islands, catching glimpses of orcas.I truly believe it (traveling) is a massive learning experience, Cindy says.Addie says having a mental picture of a place helps her studies in school. The girls have bought photo albums to class to share with friends when their studies turned to places theyd visited.Its helped me see that theres more than home, Addie says. Theres all different cultures, languages and foods.Furthermore, their travels may have had a hand in shaping the girls futures. Noel, who will be a senior at Eagle Valley High this fall, has decided to study marine biology in college in Hawaii. Addie, a sophomore, wants to head back to the beaches of California when she goes to college.Next summer, the family plans to head to Nova Scotia. After that, Kevin dreams of the Bahamas, while Cindy has her sites set on Swiss Alps.Vail Colorado


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