Most men enjoy competition, whether it be sports, card games or the sheer volume of alcohol one can imbibe. However, in the grand scheme of all things gaming, these pursuits are quite trivial. Card games are determined in a sitting, sports in an afternoon, and the effects of drinking go away eventually (if things didn’t get too out of hand).
My favorite game isn’t played in one sitting. It’s played through your entire life and on a planetary scale; it’s about bagging. He who bags the most states, the most countries and the most continents (hell, even tectonic plates) wins the game.
What’s a bag?
A bag is a state, country or other significant geo-political unit that you’ve visited to a level that you can say “Nevada, yeah, I’ve been to Nevada.” Your trip to this mysterious land must be somewhat substantial; it’s not enough to put a toe over the border or to drive in a mile then turn around. There are three criteria that a trip into an unconquered land must meet in order to count. For the purposes of brevity, I’ll use state to refer to any geo-political entity.
Criteria #1, Locality: you’ve got to get out into the thick of it
A good rule of thumb is that you need to have your “feet on the ground”. This rules out airports, highways, any trip where you don’t get out of your car, riding a boat through without stopping, etc. There’s also a fudge factor in that you can’t step a couple of feet away from any of those things and have it count. The immediate support structure of these things are out too, meaning no truck stops, airport hotels etc.
Criteria #2, Uniqueness: it has to be representative of the state
You can’t drive through a state, stop a little ways into a local town and eat at a McDonalds. That’s Anytown, USA, and it’s in no way indicative of the local culture. You need to go somewhere or do something that’s quasi-unique for the state or the cultural / geographic region the state is in. Eat at a locally owned place that makes local food, visit some historical site, see something that screams “Georgia”.
Criteria #3, Memorability: it can’t be a throwaway experience, you need a story
A bag isn’t a bag unless there’s a story. The local eatery off the freeway doesn’t count unless something story-worthy happens. It doesn’t have to be life changing, but just something to take the experience from bland to memorable.
As you can see, all three criteria are not by no means deterministic, and an argument can be made for many borderline cases. The following are some examples to help flesh out the record, but everyone’s requirements as to the three criteria are not the same.
Things that I WOULD count:
- I had a layover in Las Vegas that turned into a day-over: two of my flights were canceled back to back, so I took a taxi into the strip. Over the course of 5 hours I gambled at nine separate casinos until I lost a total of a dollar in the slot machines, making just enough to buy myself a drink. (local, unique and definitely memorable)
- I drove through Nebraska the long way, stopping twice in the middle of nowhere to take quick naps on the side of local roads. The speed limit is 75 the entire state except for a 20 mile stretch right around Omaha, and I got pulled over doing 79 in a 65. Lunch was uneventful, at a local eatery in Omaha. (I count this because while no one experience was all three, the trip as a whole meets my standards)
Things that I WOULD NOT count (but some people would):
- I’ve rafted down the Rio Grande twice, which runs along the Mexico / US border in Texas. We put in on the Texan side, and throughout the course of the trip stayed on the Mexican side several times. One night was a frightful experience where a mountain lion roared at us on and off throughout the evening. We took out on the Mexican side of the river and had to pass a border guard to get back into Texas. (while it was memorable, the river is like a highway and both sides are effectively the same, meaning locality is questionable and uniqueness possibly lacking)
Things that I USED to say didn’t count, but now I’m saying do count: (updated 8-11-07)
- While on a road trip running through South Carolina, we stopped off in Columbia (the capital) where we ate at a Chain Eatery (TM) in the downtown area. Arguably local, arguably unique as we were in downtown and could see the capital building, but not really that memorable. However, as it’s been a point of contention for so long and I’ve recounted EXACTLY what I did in South Carolina many times, it’s become quite memorable to me.
The picture below is what you sorry lot get to compete with. It might look like a lot to some people, but I guarantee it looks like a boring life to many others. Now I can’t finish without getting philosophical at least once, so here goes. I’ve often been questioned on the legitimacy of the game, on exactly what justification there might be for bagging countries, states, etc. To that, I answer simply:
2007-02-14: I bagged Oregon.
2007-09-11: I bagged Japan and North Dakota, and correctly marked Netherlands, Scotland and South Carolina (see above) as bagged.
2008-03-04: I bagged Belgium and Luxembourg.
2009-04-01: I bagged India and Nepal.
2010-01-28: I bagged El Salvador.
2010-06-10: I bagged Spain, Morocco, Portugal, Andorra, Norway and Sweden.
2010-08-16: I bagged Mexico.