Can One Have Too Many Hobbies?

Over the years I have had numerous hobbies.  In HS I started collected quotes. Somewhere I even still have the journals I wrote them down in – I think I had 4 by the time college was over!)

Since I was little I have loved reading. I like to pick authors who write series books – they have one character and stick with them on a long journey over numerous books. What can I say, I get invested. Then I get sad when the story ends. I get even sadder when I know its a standalone.

I enjoy watching TV. Who doesn’t like watching drama’s, or even a mindless dramady.  I am not afraid to put it out there, some of my favorite shows are (or were) on the CW or ABCFamily Channel.  I even still watch General Hospital. I mean, who doesn’t love being able to shut down their real world or the make believe land presented on the TV screen?

I also enjoy listening to music. I love picking out lyrics that mean something, whether they have relevancy now or in my past, or could have in the future, I store them away for usage later.

I am also a bit fanatical about the New York Rangers. I am counting down the days until pre-season hockey starts up (48 more days!).  I try to watch as many games as I can, I read the game reports, I follow trades, standing changes.  Some may say I obsess a bit, but I’m a New York hockey fan, we take that seriously!

Of course, I also love to run and workout.  Not going to lie, this has been a rough 5 months with my lack of ability to do much of either. Turns out I can run, as long as my neck is taped, something I never had to worry about before. I still cannot lift anything above my head or carry on my shoulder, so that limits many other exercises I can do.

There is also my love of travel. Yes, to me this is a hobby because I have goals associated with it. I want to visit all 50 states (if I can run a half in each, well, two birds, one race!).  I want to see as many UNESCO World Heritage Sites as I can. I wan to gather stamps in my passport.  This is a hobby, its something I want to do, it’s something I enjoy doing, it’s not something I am required to do, its my choice.

So again I ask, can someone have to many hobbies? Sometimes it’s hard to find time to work on all my hobbies.  Sometimes it’s tough to be able to afford them all.  My DVR often gets backed up because I would rather be running or reading then watching TV.  Sometimes I have a list of movies I want to see but never got a chance to see them in the theatre. When that happens I get sad because without video stores, it’s getting harder and harder to locate a movie that was released 6, 9, 13 months ago!

What are you favorite hobbies?

Balance Act – Work & Travel

open roadAs I mentioned last week, I am lucky enough to work remotely.

But given that freedom, I am hesitant to use it to the full joys of virtual employment.

So far I have been able to work remotely locally, or on weekend trips to visit friends in Maryland.

I am nervous to test the limits of just how remote I can work. It stems from my lack of knowledge on available Wifi elsewhere.  I know that, through my cable provider here on Long Island, that I can access Wifi from almost everywhere.

I can go to the boardwalk or a local park and do work, but can I go to any of the 20 or so states I have not yet visited, easily access Wifi and successfully complete my work for the day?

I need to jump out of my comfort zone, just pack a bag, pack a car and hit the road right?

What are you favorite American Road Trips or Travel Destinations?

American Vacation Policy Fails Again

travel is the only thing

I am a traveler. I also have a full time job as a meeting/event planner.  I am a bit of a workaholic.  I love what I do. I also love to travel.

There has been many a discussion regarding how infrequently American’s travel. How we work to much and lose money each year by not taking those 2 weeks of vacation the corporate world has allowed us to earn..  There is even a  MasterCard commercial about it!

What I have figured out is that it is hard to take a proper vacation with only 10 vacation days allotted to us each year.  Relaxing vacations to a beach location can yes happily occur with only 10 vacation days a year. But a true trip, the ability to actually see and explore the vastness that is Planet Earth – 10 days per year is definitely not enough.

I am single, I have no children, very little over head and bills I pay off each month. I can afford to travel.  I NEED to travel. Yet I run up against a vacation policy that isn’t very forgiving when it comes to grand trips, experiences, adventures.

In the past 8 years, I have spent 2 weeks in Italy, 2 weeks in China, and 2 weeks in South Africa.  At the time of each trip, I was freelancing.  I worked as an independent contractor for meeting & event planning companies. I may have ‘lost’ money by taking each trip because I wasn’t working as a salaried employee, so I was not given paid time off (PTO). In the long run, I am ok with that, I gained so much more by the experiences I had, the things I saw, the things I ate, the people I met, the world I ventured in to.

However, in addition to those trips, since I was freelancing and working remotely at the time, I was able to take a few other shorter trips throughout the year: a long weekend in Maryland, a long weekend in Las Vegas, wherever I wanted to go I was able to. I could easily take my work with me.  However, had I been working full time and not freelancing, I most likely would not been able to do that as I would have used up all 10 of my days.

We are an overworked society that places to much emphasis on learning and working then on experiencing the world, or even our own country.  Case in point, if you haven’t already seen the letter floating around social media from the father back to the school principal regarding his children’s “unexcused” absences so the father could run the Boston Marathon! (Yes, there is not scandal within the running community as he may not have legitimately qualified for the Boston Marathon)

American’s have falsely been labeled as non-travelers.  This is probably because it has been said how few passports American’s as a whole actually hold.  A 2011 article on CNN informs that only 30% of all American’s hold a passport.  I can believe this number.

Truth be told, our country is a phenomenal one.  The amount of things to see and experience are astounding.  Each state has its own historical value to showcase, even if it is not as historically long as many other countries around the world; each state, each city in America has it’s own historical flare.

IMAG3027We have our National Park system, we have various national landmarks or monuments scattered around the country.  There is plenty to see domestically, but we just do not put a priority on see it all, we put the priority on working long hours, on making more money then your neighbor.

To push that point home even more, according to an article in the Atlantic (The Only Advanced Country Without National Vacation Policy? It’s the US), America practically the only developed country that does not have laws in place requiring a certain amount of paid time off per year.

Every time I travel, I run in to folks from countries with amazing vacation policies thus allowing their citizens to take a two weeks grand trip somewhere and still have vacation days left over for shorter trips somewhere else!

There are now some companies that are giving unlimited PTO.  This can be a double edge treat. To me this can mean the work is going to so continuous that the employee will not actually get to use their unlimited PTO?

Why do we put so little value on traveling and vacationing while the rest of the world is always out there seeing it all?  Is it because back in day when the country started there was a bit of an isolationist mentality? Is it because of how high a premium we put on making/having money?

This article on CNN, Why is American the ‘No-Vacation’ Nation?, puts everything in to nice little boxes of why we don’t do it and why the rest of the world embraces it.  A large part has to do with our limited vacation time compared to countries like German or New Zealand who are given 6 weeks vacation a year, from day 1 at the job.  This is in addition to the national holidays they are given.

How did our super advanced, democratic championed nation lose the focus of how important vacation and travel is.  Now only in terms of relaxing and decompressing, but for those with children, for educational purposes, for learning about other cultures, other historys, other lands.

As I noted in the image above, Travel is the only you BUY that makes in RICHER in the end.

What are you next big trips planned?
I’m working in either a Mediterranean Cruise, Iceland, Peru, some good old American Road trips…I just can’t decide, and I’m not sure I have enough PTO to handle all of that (even though I do work remotely, and wouldn’t mind working while away, to a certain extent, I still want to SEE the places I venture to!)

Another Wonderful Maryland Weekend (Friends & ADPi)

IMAG3034This past weekend my sorority at the University of Maryland College Park celebrated its 75th anniversary on campus!  Big deal right?  Many of us thought so as we arranged our schedules to attend the reunion/celebration.
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IMG_20150423_091246I started by heading down on Wednesday so I could visit with some of my friends from my time living down there.  I left around 6:00am, just as the sun was rising.

The drive down wasn’t to bad, until I approached exit 32 on the I-95 approach to the DC Beltway. From there it took me nearly an hour to drive something that with little to no traffic should have taken me about 20-25 minutes.  Needless to say, my lack of patience with traffic for no reason rear its ugly head and I started yelling for no reason. Not my finest moment – but I had already been in my car driving for nearly 4 hours, I was done.

The day went by rather smoothly, until I went to move car for the third time (damn 2-hour parking limits by my friends apartment). I discovered a ticket on my car!  I was so mad, I mean, I went out every 2 hours to move my car all day, yet I still got a ticket.  Turns out they have zoned the entire street the same zone. I kept moving my car within the same zone.  I did not see any of these zone signs, only the time limit signs. Also, this was the only street that had ANY spots on it. I drove around 15 minutes at one point to no avail.  Stupid.

I did get a pretty picture of some blossoming trees.  Something we are sorely missing up here on Long Island.  This cold winter has lingered so much a majority of our trees have not yet bloomed. So much for a pretty spring (though my allergies are content).
IMG_20150423_160009Wednesday night my friends and I went to one of the bars in Bethesda so I could happily watch the Rangers take game 4 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in overtime against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Thursday was more of the same, some relaxing, some working, just enjoying being in Maryland.  That night we did a girls dinner.  This was a monthly tradition a few of us started a little more than 3 years ago.  It has since fallen to whenever we can make it happen (frequently when I manage to visit) as life has gotten in the way. But it was great to see my girls again. We were missing a couple, but a good gathering none the less.

I voted to go to one of my favorite little Pizza joints in Bethesda, Mia’s Pizza (check the menu here).  They have a nice assorted of Italian flare, mostly your basics with some culinary additions to spice up the dishes a bit and test our your taste buds.  I tend to stick with the Magherita Pizza (I do have food allergies after all) and I love it.  There was some pizzas ordered, one pasta dish and one eggplant dish ordered and everyone left satisfied.

From there it was on to poker night with some more local friends where I discovered my poker skill are still strong as ever!  This pleased me as I haven’t played poker since November.

IMAG3026Friday the weekend really started.  It was time for REUNION weekend to begin. My friend and I drove up to Baltimore to meet some of our ADPi girls for a quiet dinner.  My friend who lives in Baltimore, and it a bit of a foodie located a lovely restaurant for us.  Bond Street Social is located right on the water, has ample seating inside and when its warmer, a good deal of outdoor seating as well.  I reviewed the menu prior, thought I’d be fine, turns out it was more difficult to find a meal then I anticipated, but in the end they catered to my allergy. I was a wonderful Whole-Wheat Pasta with pan-seared steak and asparagus. It was delicious.

The next morning we went up to the Hampden area for brunch at an adorable place called Woodbury Kitchen.  Very rustic feeling when you enter the place.  Probably because the area around there reminded me a steel or paper mill that is being converted in to condos.  I loved the feel of the street it was on.  Not a very large menu, but definitely something for even the picky eaters.  Again, the food was wonderful and everyone left satified.

We then walked around Hampden for a bit.  A very hipster area. Reminded me of parts of Brooklyn.

From there it was back to DC to prep for the party at the Samuel Riggs Alumni center on campus. It was starting to rain when we arrived at the party, but that didn’t dampen any Sam Pre -Partyspirits. It was TERRIFIC to see so many old friends. So many friends who shaped a probably the best 4 years of my life.

We chatted, we took to many pictures to count, we caught up on lives beyond what is posted on FB, we reminisced, we questioned what was going on with those who weren’t there.  In a way it felt like we were going to just another sorority formal, getting all dressed up, taking pictures.

Of course we had to venture down to Route 1 to hit up two of the bars that still remain from our days in college park!  A little stop at RJ Bentleys, a pop over to Cornerstone.  We even talked (joked?) about going back to the house to make late night nachos!

I finally got back to my friends and passed out around 1:00am only to wake at 7:00am for no reason.  I didn’t have to be back in College Park until 11! But I was equally as excited to go back and see the brand new ADPi house. Nothing is as it was 13 years ago when I left it. I IMAG3040knew they had gutted and re-did the house, it looks wonderful, it’s just not the house I spent 3 fabulous years living in.  But we did find the scrapbook from the year we first pledge ADPi, what a laugh we had looking back through it!

While we were at the house we had the pleasure of meeting a sister who joined back in the early 1950s!  She was so excited to be there, to talk to everyone. She even donated a plate she received at the Centennial celebration for ADPi back in 1951! Talk about memorabilia.  She reminded us how special the bond of sorority sisterhood is.

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We toured the new house, explained to some of the newer sisters what it looked like beforehand. The bathrooms in the center of each hallway, we  had some quads not just doubles and triples. It looks nicer, but so different. I think I would have been equally as happy living in this house as I was living in ours, but I would have missed my time in the CLUB 1-5 Quad!

I have a cousin who is in a sorority at college park now, I see some of her pictures with these big wooden letters and I have always thought those who have been fun to have when were in school.  Well, I finally got some pictures with some big wooden ADPi letters! I was happy 🙂
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I did make it up to campus for just a bit.  Went to the bookstore to get myself some new gear, and something for the nephew (have to start brainwashing him now!).  I even got to see Testudo and Kermit while up there.
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Until next time College Park!
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That Time I: Spent a Weekend in NYC

IMAG2851As most of the running world knows, last weekend was the United NYC Half Marathon. I live only 45 minutes away from NYC, but opted to stay in the city for the weekend.

I ran with American Cancer Society DetermiNation team, we were meeting on race morning at 6:15am, so if I stayed on Long Island, I would have had to leave for the city at 5:00am, by staying in the city, I gave myself an extra hour of sleep on race morning! This is a key item on any race readiness list.

Friday afternoon I met my mother at the Penn Station waiting room with our luggage so I IMAG2848could ventured over to the United NYC Half Marathon Expo to pick up my bib, tee and other necessary race items.

Of course, I found the finisher shirt I wanted, but as I was unable to run for nearly two weeks, I wasn’t feeling my confidence in my ability to finish, so I didn’t want to own any finisher items just yet (flash forward 2 days, the website no longer as the shirt I wanted…..).

I also stopped by the DetermiNation table to pick up some flags for my race shirt as I was running in Memory and in Honor of some folks close to my heart.

Afterwards, my mother and I checked in to our hotel (Hilton Garden Inn Central Park South) and went to dinner.  We have always loved the restaurant Serafina in NYC, so of course, this is where we went off to! My first of two pasta dinners in prep for the race.

On Saturday, my mother and I had planned our day around the DetermiNation team dinner downtown starting at 6:00pm. Backtracking from there, we decided we had time to see a Matinee!  I will never pass up a chance to see a show, so at the TKTS booth in Times Square we got ourselves some tickets to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

IMG_20150314_134902This is a show unlike any show you would expect people to be flocking to or expect to be such a huge Broadway hit.  The show is about a young boy with autism, how he relates to the world, how he interacts with his family, his neighbors, his world and how he overcomes certain things.  I don’t want to spoil anything, but I do suggest everyone who can go see it!

I was definitely moved by the show, left amazed by the acting, by the storyline, by everything involved – the production value was amazing.  This is based on a book written by Mark Haddon.

After the show we went downtown for the team dinner where I met other DetermiNation runners, heard some amazing speakers, and was reminded why I choose this charity to run with.  We heard from Dr. Sener, who has been involved with ACS since the 1980s and also had a large part in starting the DetermiNation team!IMAG2858

We also heard from Nora McInerny Purmort who lost her husband late last year to cancer after a 3 year battle.  Throughout his treatment he gave his best efforts to stay positive and keep his sense of humor.  Our shirts were made up in his honor.

After the dinner, we got back to the hotel where I did my final prep for the next morning.  I stuck my flags on my shirt, I gathered up all the items I needed for the next morning, we taped my neck and knee and by 10:30 I was fast asleep with dreams of actually getting myself across that finish line!

Wait to hear all about my race day in my next post!

That Time I Spent the Weekend in NYC

It’s that time of the year again! Holiday time in NYC which means my friends from MD come up for a girls weekend (YIPPEE!!!)

We started this in 2012 because I missed my friends after I had moved back up to Long Island and my friends want to see NYC at Holiday Time when the windows are done up and the stores have some amazing sales!

So this year we started planning at the end of September, of course that was just to set the date everyone was available to play. The previous two trips have been the weekend just before Christmas. This year seems the best weekend was a week after Thanksgiving!

Once we had the date secured on our calendars, it was time to search for a hotel. You know how this goes, hope for the best, expect the worse. It’s holiday time in NYC, so of course hotel prices will be high (granted NYC most of the year hotels are pricy). We searched on all the hotel search sites because we weren’t sure what hotels were in the area we were looking.  We found that staying in the Herald Square area of the city works best.

Based on our parameters of Date and area we settled on the Radisson Martinque at 6th Avenue and 32nd Street.  It was easily accessible for me coming in on the LIRR to Penn Station. I just had to exit at the 7th Avenue exit, cross 7th then walk straight down 32nd Street and boom, there was the hotel waiting for me at the corner.

The lobby was nice and big. There was a couple of couches and chairs for sitting, with enough to stand milling around without really being the way of anyone else. Check in was fairly easy, though when I showed up at 2, they said they had no rooms available because check in was a four so I should leave my bags with the bell desk and come back in 2 hours. Now I travel a lot for a living, I often show up at the hotel prior to the official check in time where I am still able to get a room with little hassle. Sometimes they tell me the reason why one is not available: we were sold out last night so rooms are still being cleaned, check out time hasn’t occurred yet so we don’t have any clean available rooms at the moment. But if check out is at 12:00 noon and it’s now 2pm, either tell me you were sold out last night and don’t have any rooms cleaned yet, or say I am waiting for some clean rooms to show as available, don’t just dismiss a paying guest.

As I do travel so often, I rarely back down from a check in desk staffer who lacks customer service skills so of course I asked when would the earliest time a room be available? Finally she searched in her screen and come up with something available around 3pm.  I could handle that, it was closing in on 2:30 already. So I found a couch space and read another James Patterson book on my Kindle (FYI: I finished NYPD Red 2).

So I checked in and went on up to the room. For a NYC hotel room it was quite roomy.  It wasn’t big by normal hotel standards, but it was nice sized for four adults and one pack n play. The shower didn’t drain easily, but really that was the only major complaint I had about the hotel. They have two sets of elevator bays so depending if your room is towards to the front or the back you have options of which set of elevators you want.

Friday night has become our annual trip to a delicious Jewish Deli. This year we were up to Katz’s Delicatessen on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. We attempt to hire an Uber since it was 2.5 miles away, but the first few got cancelled, the one we got messed up and cancelled the car when we got in, then with the surge, tried charging us $48, so we hopped out at 3rd Avenue and 13th Street, gave him some $$ and walked the rest of the way down. We walked up to 2nd then down to Houston. The deli is at Houston and Ludlow right on the corner – you can’t miss it with signage like this:

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When you enter, you are handed a ticket – don’t lose this ticket, you need it to pay and leave the deli (and there is a hefty cost if you do lose it!). We opted for table service instead of counter and seat yourself service.  We had a bowl of pickles brought over and then we each ordered.  I ordered a hot dog and salad (as did my friend Meg) and my friends Lana and Jess ordered Matzoh Ball Soup with Half Reuben. Delish all around! Lana fed her 18 month old daughter some new food to try, most of it was a hit (though the pickle took two tries…)

We then hailed a cab back to our hotel. It was raining when we walked down there, so we opted for the cab ride home.  We made great time right until 30th street. The protesters were back in Herald Square Friday night, 2 blocks from our hotel.

Saturday was spent walking around the city, enjoying the holiday sites. Well, it was supposed to be. We didn’t make it any further then Herald Square because it was pouring all day long.  My friend did manage to get a Santaland picture of her daughter with Santa (well, sorta, the kid wasn’t having anything to do with Santa!).  We then did a bit of shopping at Macy’s.  The sales weren’t quite there were when we visited the weekend just before Christmas, but a sale was taking place.

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After a bit of shopping along 34th Street, it was time to start searching out a restaurant for dinner. However, the hotel concierge wasn’t on duty anymore at 5:30 on a Saturday evening just when we were looking for recommendations!  What hotel does that during one of the busy seasons?

So we just asked the front desk for some help, and found a lovely restaurant up on 3rd Avenue call La Giara in the Murray Hill area. It was still raining, but it was only a 7 block walk (5 cross down and 2 up town) so we hoofed it again.

I must thank whoever at the front desk recommended this place to us, it was great!  We called just before we left to check availability. They held their last table for us (4 adults and a high chair!). A few minutes after we sat down, my friend placed an order of Mac & Cheese for her daughter, they were quite accommodating. The decor was interesting – red brick walls (red was an overall color theme), a couple of booths, a number of regular tables. The space wasn’t very big, but it was big enough to fit about 15-18 tables of varying sizes. We were brought water relatively quickly, and we had just the right amount of time to review the menu when the waiter came back over to take our orders.

IMAG2362The menu wasn’t large, but had enough variety that we were all satisfied with options, and our actual orders. The food was delicious, everyone was thrilled.  My friends daughter gives it two hands up, as she tried a little of bit something from each of our plates and was happy with each!

How very Italian themed of them, they have a pasta press when you first walk in!
Again, we walked back to our hotel and just chilled in the room talking and catching up. Sunday morning, we checked out and I walked back down to Penn Station to catch a train while my friends made their annual stop at Ess A Bagel to bring some NY bagels back down to MD with them!

As always, it was amazing hanging out with some of my girls in my home town. I wish more of them would visit more often – but I am working on it!

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Window Seat Musings

So I’ve been home from San Francisco for 3 days now.  Apparently my mind is still sitting in that window seat contemplating things….contemplating travel, the world, things.

Theres no better time to contemplate traveling across the USA then as you fly over it.  What it would be like to travel the land by train or car or bus.  See it on the ground instead of 32,000 feet above.  Drop off the radar for a bit and just explore.

There’s no better place to think of and consider random life altering scenarios then confined to a window seat on an airplane 32,000 above land, staring down to the far off horizon for 6 hours.  Sometimes it’s fluffy clouds reaching the horizon.  Other times it’s looking down to the plains below or the mountain ranges that just stretch on forever.
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On my flight this past Saturday the sky was extremely clear once we flew beyond the Rocky Mountains where everything appears gray and overcast from the time we hit Nevada. I do have to thank for American Airlines here because their interactive map was much more interactive and detailed then the interactive map on United Airlines.  On American you had full control over the map.  I followed the flight path, was able to zoom in if I was curious just what area of a certain state we were over, I was able to zoom out pretty far if I wanted to see the entire country.  On United, the map was on an automatic zoom, only three levels: the world, the country, the state(s) we were over – not exactly interactive.

It was at this point, as we started to fly over the plain states, that I spent the majority of my time listening to a movie (Million Dollar Arm or Begin Again) but staring out the window to what was below us. The afternoon was so crisp and clear that I saw everything below me.  The plains are wondrous to view.  I saw streets, highways, rivers, lakes, barns, farms, silos, towns, cities, everything.
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It made me think.  Really truly think.  From 32,000 feet above ground, the towns or cities I saw appeared to be close together.  I pictured myself driving from one town to another, aimlessly covering the vast country, learning more about the land, the people, the culture then I have ever learned before. We know so little about it. I just want to see and explore it all. As we were over the plains states, I keep thinking of the song Fly Over States by Jason Aldean (see the lyrics below to better understand).

Each time I fly I have thoughts such as these.  I wonder whats going on beneath the clouds.  I wonder what it would be like to not get on my return flight, to stay in the city I landed in or to just go somewhere else from there.

Each airport I’m in I stare at departures board, try to see where the flights departing near my gate are going. I imagine trying to change my ticket to hop on one of those flights.  I search the board for all the international flights to see what fun and exotic places are leaving soon then wonder if I can afford that ticket?

Have you ever thought of just showing up at the airport, carry on in hand to buy a ticket to someplace random, someplace you haven’t been to yet?  No plans made prior, just going, just winging what could become a most phenomenal trip?  I have.

One day I will make that happen……..one day when my bank account could afford a hit like, it will happen. I am making this a public online promise that one day I will enter the airport and purchase a ticket to someplace I haven’t before with no prior plans in mind but to travel and experience something new.

 Fly Over States – Jason Aldean
A couple of guys in first class on a flight
From new York to Los Angeles,
Kinda making small talk killing time,
Flirting with the flight attendants,
Thirty-thousand feet above, could be Oklahoma,

Just a bunch of square cornfields and wheat farms,
Man, it all looks the same,
Miles and miles of back roads and highways,
Connecting little towns with funny names,
Who’d want to live down there in the middle of nowhere?

They’ve never drove through Indiana,
Met the men who plowed that earth,
Planted that seed, busted his ass for you and me,
Or caught a harvest moon in Kansas,
They’d understand why god made
Those fly over states,

I bet that mile long Santa Fe freight train engineer’s seen it all
Just like that flatbed cowboy stacking US steel on a 3-day haul
Roads and rails under their feet
Yeah that sounds like a first class seat

On the plains of Oklahoma
With a windshield sunset in your eyes
Like a water-colored painted sky

You’ll think heaven’s doors have opened
You’ll understand why god made
Those fly over states

Take a ride across the badlands
Feel that freedom on your face
Breathe in all that open space
And meet a girl from Amarillo
You’ll understand why god made
You might even wanna plant your stakes
In those fly over states
(Ya)

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