Chapter 103: The Definitive Guide to bagging States and Countries

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:

‘Never Been’ is reason enough.

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.






10 responses to “Chapter 103: The Definitive Guide to bagging States and Countries”

  1. I’ll bite… I am game for your life-long competition. Quickyl though, how do I make a sweet-ass map like yours?

  2. lark

    Well, I think I can safely say I’ve at least bagged South Carolina!

    Does Vegas count if I lost a dollar in only one casino’s slot machine for one drink? I was there for three days and saw Cirque Du Soleil’s O, the world’s first full HD 100″ LCD, and porn stars at the adult entertainment convention…

  3. Pat: combine the following two:

    Lark: Anything involving porn stars counts as a bag. If there was one thing to do in South Carolina, what would it be?

  4. Stickle

    Giammo plays this game too. His rules for a bag are different though…

  5. lark

    In my neck of the woods, the most wacky attraction might be Gaffney’s giant peach water tower, the Peachoid. (I never actually knew it was called the Peachoid until today.) Did you know that SC produces more peaches than GA? Apparently, there’s another Peachoid in Clanton, AL, so it might not be unique, but definitely memorable.

    Other than that, drinking cheap beer and shooting wild animals would be reserved for those that had a little more time to spend in SC. Even more authentic: posting a Confederate flag sticker (or the real thing) prominently in the back window of your pickup truck.

  6. Dad

    What are the orange spots on your map? Are you trying to wiggling out of your own rules?

    Correction on Mexico, you camped and hike in Mexico and it was a Mexican lion that wanted to eat you. You just did’t meet any Mexican people due to the remote and inhospitable location.

    I though you spent a spring break in Amsterdam. It doesn’t appear to be filled in on your map.

    What are the rules for bagging Oceans and tectonic plates?

  7. Awesome that you finally got to Oregon! We’re very curious about that bag. AND you also were in Scotland the summer of 1983. You were 7 months old and had your first taste of ice cream there. You visited Killin, a small Scottish town on Loch Tay, the hometown of your great-great-great-grandfather David Mitchell (born 1782). At one restaurant, you were called a “bonnie bairn” and the waitress carried you around. Pretty good bag for a baby. I’m guessing the orange map areas are your questionable bags.

  8. […] new states bagged for Mark (his rules, not mine): […]

  9. Bill

    Russia and China are just begging for it.

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