The most important thing about any state is its welcome sign at the border. After that, it’s all just downhill. Without a good sign, how can you possibly be a good place to visit? Along the route I plan to take pictures of 48 state signs, and here, on this page, I’ll share with you everything there is to know about these signs, so you can decide whether states are even worth visiting.
State 1 – Arizona
Stop being impatient. I started in Arizona, so it doesn’t make any sense to take a picture on the way out. I’ll show you the sign as I come back in at the end of the trip.
State 2 – California
When I saw this crappy California sign I couldn’t help but wonder if the administrators who decide on the signs ask each other in some meeting, “Should we make our welcome sign nice, or should we make it crappy?” And then someone says, “Let’s make it crappy.” I don’t know if this is an active decision or if these things just happen by default. Regardless, California’s sign left much to be desired. Having said that, California is such a beautiful state packed full of cool people and places, they get a pass in my book. Look, if you’re a state like Illinois, you’d better have a really really cool sign, because that’s all you have going for you. But if you’re California, you’re kind of like the steakhouse that’s so good they don’t even need to advertise and there’s no sign on the door. If you don’t like it, “no soup for you,” just get out. We don’t need to earn your business in California. Cali’s border at Yuma happens on a bridge, and this early in the journey, that shoulder looked pretty narrow. Writing this after almost being killed at every state sign in the East, that shoulder now looks like a football field. Crossing this border again, I’d stop and take a picture. Instead I used a GoPro for this.
State 3 – Oregon
Oregon has a crappy sign because there’s only one post and they only used two colors and one font. Hear me out though – they weren’t going for minimalist – they were going for laid back. This sign communicates the low-key nature of the people of the state, and I think they were thoughtful about conveying that. Also, because the people in Oregon are very laid back and cool (from what I found), I believe the people who made this sign were probably not too worried about it. The discussion went something like, “Everyone okay with the outline of the state, two colors, one font?” “Sounds good to us Jerry.” “Can we hold up the sign with one crappy sign post?” “Yep.” “Done.”
Now the incredible thing about Oregon’s sign is not the sign itself, but the massive space in front of it for cross-country travelers to stop and take pictures. They were extremely generous and considerate by putting that space here, knowing people like to stop for pictures without getting killed. The space was the biggest I saw, other than the one at the North/South Dakota border, which actually was paved in the shape of a loop. Thanks Oregon for that.
State 4 – Washington
Is Washington’s crappy sign tiny, or is it just far away? You decide. Honestly, you have to hand it to Washington for making a huge, beautiful rest stop to welcome you to the state after coming in from Astoria. But really – you have to wonder why they’d then put the sign everyone wants a picture with about 100 yards away from that beautiful rest stop. Way to think it through, Washington. I bet Washington D.C. (not even a state) wouldn’t have done it that way. But they also disagree with you on other recent legislative issues, so I understand that maybe you’ve done this sign placement to rebel. I see you workin’ WA. You just like to throw it right in the face of the traveler. “You go ahead and stop, but you can’t get to our sign.”
State 5 – Idaho
Idaho has a crappy sign that makes you work for it. “Welcome, hahaha, now drag your ass another eight miles before we offer you a map or some coffee.” At least Idaho uses two posts so the sign doesn’t fall over. They also have two fonts and two colors (if white counts as a color). It’s hard to see from where you are, but there’s a white border around the sign, so in that regard, they’ve outdone Oregon. But they don’t have the shape of the state anywhere on the sign, and instead they’re going for some sort of a text-only kind of vibe. I think that’s okay because Idaho isn’t shaped well for sign-making. When you’re the shape of Idaho, you can’t even shop for clothes at regular stores, so there’s almost no way to make a sign work. Now, if you look at Minnesota, there’s a place that decided to go all-out with some state-shape pride (see down below). I’d give this sign maybe a 4. It’s doing what it’s supposed to do, but it’s barely reaching the ante to play. Let’s work a little harder Idaho.
State 6 – Montana
Montana has lots of signs, and some of them are very well-done. This colorful display behind me is just one of two you’ll see on the way in from North Dakota. It’s a little bit crappy because even though two posts are holding it up, you can see that they’re not very straight. I don’t blame the creators of the sign, but the installers obviously weren’t taking much pride in what they were doing.
So, this was actually taken coming back out of Montana along Robert Pirsig’s route, near Bowman, North Dakota. I look happy here, but I was really just getting over being sad from a couple of days before when I realized the Montana sign was mounted above the freeway coming in from Idaho in a construction zone, with almost no way to take a picture of it. Even though this here may have been one of my favorite days of the entire journey, I was still disappointed in the first sign I got that I was in Montana. Had I come in from the North Dakota side, I wouldn’t have been so melancholy.
State 7 – North Dakota
This crappy sign is within about 1000 feet of the Montana sign, above, on the opposite side of the road. My favorite part about the sign is that it’s riddled with bullet holes. I didn’t hang around the sign for too long on account of said holes. If you’re a welcome sign connoisseur like me, you’ll notice this one is supported by a third leg. Most only have two. Way to insure that investment, ND. “We’d better put a third leg on there so it can stand up to more shootings.” “Good call Chuck.”
I saw a lot of signs out on the road. This was the only one that was all shot up like it said something bad about a rapper, or maybe another state sign. One font, two colors – poor effort. Three legs, nice white border – gets some points back. I’d give it a 3.
State 8 – South Dakota
This sign wasn’t that crappy, and it was at one of my favorite borders, due to the absolute peaceful nature of the area. The farmlands here are so vast, and the roads so seldom traveled, that it was possible to go for minutes standing on this beautiful highway without seeing a single car. Just north of this sign, coming South from Bowman, ND, a young farmer, most likely a son or hired hand, threw me a wave and a grand smile, and I felt as if the trip was truly underway. At this border there are huge turn-out loops and paved areas so visitors could take pictures near the signs. It’s the opposite of places like Massachusetts where residents are paid commission to run over travelers who stop for pictures.
The sign itself only has two legs, but that’s better than one. It has three colors, two fonts, a nice green border, and even a picture of some sort of group of guys on it. Those guys smushed their faces REALLY close together for that picture, and that’s crazy because they had lots of room to their right and left to spread out a bit more. But either way it’s better than just the outline of the state, and I bet it’s cool when one of those guys drives by the sign to be like, “hey kids, that’s me on there!”
State 9 – Wyoming
This is a state that takes its signs seriously. If you’re any other state and you see this state’s sign, you have no choice but to check yourself and say, “we can do better.” Look at the massive posts, the multiple colors, the picture, the cowboy, the fonts – and just the size of the sign itself! There’s so much here to discuss. There’s a big area to pull off of the road and take pictures with the sign. It’s just one of the best things a state can do for its image, to put up a sign like this. I’d give this sign a 7 out of 10. I can’t give it higher than that because there’s some poor grooming of the grass around the posts, and once you see Ohio you’ll realize that landscaping can make a sign a lot more pleasurable. Nobody’s perfect, Wyoming.
Also, while I was on this trip I was alone most of the time, so it was really a nice surprise to run into some ladies out on the road. I’m not going to post any “details” about what went down at this stop, but let’s just say a good time was had by all….
…okay honestly we just took a picture. That’s it.
State 10 – Minnesota
At this point in the trip I was a bit goofy from all the hours on the cycle. So, I bought a South Dakota hat for $3.00, and I wore it to look official in case I got hassled by border patrol or customs at the Minnesota border. I found that there are no such things. Also, it was really incredible to me to reach Minnesota, which I considered to be my sign that I had reached “the East,” at least in my book. I actually got excited about it, then sad. The West, so far, has been the most incredible part of this journey. Minnesota was another state I’d only “tap.” I grabbed this picture, headed in-state only enough to exit and turn around, and then went right back into South Dakota for the night.
State 11 – Iowa
This was an easy sign to grab. Thanks Iowa for both the thoughtful welcome sign, and the wide shoulders. You’re alright.
State 12 – Nebraska
Nebraska mounted their Sioux Falls sign way up high on a bridge where stopping was impossible. Thanks for that, Nebraska. This was a state where I decided to just get in and right back out. I have nothing against Nebraska. In fact, I find their people to be some of the best! That’s also probably because they grew up playing Mancala in the field with kernels of corn and had nothing to do but become excellent conversationalists. I think we all know Nebraska isn’t the most interesting place to lay a highway, and so it was probably an appropriate state to “clip,” on the way to its fascinating neighbor to the East, Iowa.
State 13 – Illinois
I’m not trying to pull the wool over your eyes. I’ll be honest. This picture was taken on the way back into East Dubuque, Illinois, after I got the Wisconsin sign, down below. So, I’m keeping these in the order of the state visited, as opposed to the order in which the pictures were taken. If you’d like to rant about that, I really do get it, and I’m available to get into it with you at firstname.lastname@example.org. This sign was, like the Wisconsin sign below, right by someone’s house, and I felt like getting out of there before I was hosed down. Massive, attractive sign though. Good job Illinois. Look they even made the second “I” look like the shape of their state. Take a moment to appreciate the contrast between this one and Connecticut, then decide whether every state really deserves two senators.
State 14 – Wisconsin
Wisconsin isn’t all about cheese curds and Aaron Rodgers. They’re also about signs. Someone took the time to make the shape of Wisconsin, and stick it up at the Northwest corner of the welcome sign. Notice the attention to detail – all capital letters, but the state’s name is slightly larger than the welcome part, showing us that pride that a state maintains even when its favorite athlete of all time ends up playing for a rival team and getting sponsored by Wrangler jeans. You know what else this sign screams? Generosity. “Hey Grant Co, you need a couple of posts to bolt your little green sign to?” “Go ahead and tack that sign right on our state sign.” That’s like when you’re 14 and your big brother is 16 and he gets a car and he drives you to school everyday. That’s pretty awesome of Wisconsin to do that for lil’ Grant. Also, East Dubuque, Illinois, is not nearly as scary as a friend told me it was. Yet, this sign, just north of there, was scary because it was in someone’s front yard. I just got that feeling that more than once a day, people are piling out of cars to grab pictures by this sign, and when I showed up early in the morning to do it, I just wasn’t sure whether I’d be waved at or shot. So, I took the picture quickly, and got right back into Dubuque, Iowa, where life seems to be perfect at all times.
State 15 – Indiana
I know what you’re thinking…this sign SUCKS. But let’s not get all pissy with Indiana just yet. That sign I found was very near to a massive, beautiful sign that any state would be proud to display. After all, they have to compete with Illinois, who replaced that “i” with the shape of their state. But, see, I didn’t get that big, beautiful sign on camera, because I had already stopped at this one. Also, the big beautiful sign is at a pretty busy interchange where squishy motorcyclists have a good shot at getting plowed down by people on cellular telephones. As I rode by the big tasty sign, I really did give it some thought – that sign was so good that I almost needed to stop again. Yet, you need to understand that each stop requires the removal of a ton of gear, the unplugging of headphones, the iPhone from its cradle, the charger, and then the removal of the selfie-stick from the bag, and a whole new original professional pose. And to be honest, that smile you see above had already tuckered me right out. Sorry Indiana. I really am. I didn’t do you any justice here. You deserve better.
State 16 – Michigan
Michigan is my home state, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to give them any leeway when it comes to their (our) southern border. It’s like they’re not even trying, but the problem is, THEY ARE. It’s one thing to just copy Tennessee (down below) and put the damn name of your state on a sign. But when you go out of your way to make a stupid M that looks like you hired a Banksy wannabe to draw the McDonald’s logo, you’re showing us that you actually DID try and that this was the best you could come up with. That M looks like the beginning of a Bob Ross painting, but instead of being a magical and relaxing VHS recording, it just sits there and sucks. Your M looks like two blue pac man ghosts running away from your crappy sign. Also what is that gunk at the base of your left sign post, barnacles? The Massachusetts sign is near the OCEAN and they don’t have barnacles. It’s like you’re leaving them on there to show off the fact that we have some big lakes. “Oh look we have so much water here that barnacles are on our sign post.” It’s like you went off-roading in your Jeep a year ago and you haven’t gotten it washed so you can look hardcore. Clean it up. Also, anyone who’s seen the YouTube website knows that the “Pure Michigan” branding has been obliterated by hilarious videos. So, when you see this welcome sign, you’ll probably just laugh. But it’s not that funny. Let’s have some pride. We have Harbaugh and Izzo here at the same time. Let them give the Department of Transportation a half-time speech – let’s fix this borderless sign, get back in the game, and realize that we’re not even in Minnesota’s league with this thing.
State 17 – Ohio
Ok it’s obvious I’m getting a little worn down here. My protective gear has been abandoned. I’m relying on a wet bandana to keep me cool, and my hair is destroyed. All that aside, check out Ohio’s border! What a breath of fresh air! If this was a magazine, Ohio would be a centerfold. Not only do they have a separate state line sign that they must have gone dutch on with Indiana, but also they have the Governor’s name, and the LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR’s name! Plus, there’s a motto on there, and a nice white border around the edge. There’s a separate sign-rider up top thanking the military members for their service, and notice – THREE POSTS. THREE SIGN POSTS holding that thing up. James Laurinaitis and A.J. Hawk couldn’t knock that thing down if they ran at it. Let’s keep it going – check out that landscaping! Bushes, trees, mulch, flowers. Welcome to Ohio! This sign may not be carved out of stone like Minnesota’s, but there’s some thoughtfulness behind this border. Everyone should visit here as long as they don’t plan to attend any of the universities.
State 18 – West Virginia
Beating up on West Virginia is too easy, so you just shouldn’t do it. It’s like how you shouldn’t punch your prepubescent brother when you’ve already grown a full mustache. The amazing thing about West Virginia is that it employs a welcome crew to ride around in a beat up pickup truck perpetuating the WV stereotype. I was quite literally met at the border by a group of red-headed guys with mullets and sleeveless shirts in the back of a truck (and I have picture evidence, below). But I’ll tell you what – they waved like crazy and were the happiest people I’ve run into on this trip. So, poke all the fun you want, they have a welcoming committee that fits every West Virginia stereotype but also has more cheer in the back of one pickup than all of Massachusetts has in the state. Their sign is colorful, it has a stylish white border, and it even has the state seal on it. They’ve used italics in multiple places and added the Governor’s name. The only downfalls of this sign is that it has been hung overhead on a bridge and it’s off-center.
West Virginia Welcome Crew
This really happened. At the border. No kidding.
State 19 – Pennsylvania
Give it up for PA with it’s wide road-shoulder for safe stopping, and for supporting its sign with three legs the same way North Dakota did. Penn has gone above and beyond by adding technology such as a telephone number and website to its sign. And even though the sign is fairly simple and it’s difficult tot tell what the heck that green shape is, at least it has a nice clean, white border (ahem…Michigan? Michigan?). There’s no Ohio-esque landscaping – in fact it’s quite overgrown here. But, did I feel welcome? You bet your britches I did (they say britches for pants in some parts of PA). I don’t want to be accused of being overly positive with a fairly mediocre sign, so I’ll end this by saying that Pennsylvania has left too much space between the first letter of each word and the next letter. I get the attempt at increasing the font like that, but they half-assed it. Also, when you call that number the people don’t want to talk for very long and they have very little patience (or authority to make changes) when receiving feedback on the sign itself.
State 20 – New York
As people who live there will tell you, New York is pretty much the same thing as Pennsylvania, so it’s no surprise that the signs are similar. Nice, clean, white border – website right on there. They’ve also added a few buttons to click. The problem is that they’re broken links, in the sense that you can’t click them at all. They also chose to use two legs, so they’re taking a chance that this thing will go down at some point. Either way – decent effort for Pennsylvania’s sister-state.
State 21 – Vermont
If you’ve ever seen a fake smile, or someone about to laugh at a state sign – that’s one right there. Vermont just has a crappy little sign. This is the real sign. It’s not a state line sign on a back road. This is one of the main entrances and it you can tell that they just don’t care. Did I feel welcome? No. Was I happy? Only that I would be in New Hampshire within an half-hour. Vermont and New Hampshire are sometimes called the Yin and Yang of America by me. And in this case, I was looking forward to Yang, because Yin just threw up a $5 sign with 2 legs and 2 colors. It’s no wonder that in Monopoly, Vermont Avenue is one of the crappiest cheapest properties – with this kind of sign here, I bet the Hasbro guys didn’t even drive through the state – they probably just said, “Yep, put this down as a cheap one,” and turned right back around for Park Place. It’s too bad – I was really looking forward to visiting Vermont. Once I saw the sign I couldn’t wait to leave. Have all the mountains and vistas and grass you want – if your sign looks like this, you may as well just let Pennsylvania and New York overtake you. On the positive side, it has a nice clean green border. Still better than Michigan’s sign.
State 22 – New Hampshire
New Hampshire’s crappy little sign gets major points back for being bilingual, and for containing a very direct threat to visitors. “Live free or die.” They pretty much are coming right out and saying if you decide not to live free here, you can just die. That’s pretty daring, and pretty cool. Notice that people stopped to put stickers on this sign, because they were, in fact, living free. “I put stickers wherever I want.” And New Hampshire doesn’t even care. They don’t even clean them off. New Hampshire is like the Jennifer Lawrence of America. It’s beautiful, it doesn’t care what you think, and it doesn’t need to dress itself up with fancy signs for that message to come through. But be careful, because like Jennifer Lawrence, it can be fierce if you don’t live free in it. That’s enough writing for today.
State 23 – Maine
State 24 – Massachusetts
State 25 – Connecticut
State 26 – Rhode Island
State 27 – New Jersey
State 28 – Delaware
State 29 – Maryland
State 30 – Virginia
State 31 – North Carolina
State 32 – South Carolina
State 33 – Georgia
State 34 – Florida
State 35 – Alabama
State 36 – Mississippi
State 37 – Louisiana
State 38 – Arkansas
State 39 – Tennessee
State 40 – Kentucky
Okay I got artsy with this one. It’s my webpage and I’ll do what I want.
State 41 – Missouri
State 42 – Kansas
State 43 – Oklahoma
State 44 – Texas
State 45 – New Mexico
State 46 – Colorado
State 47 – Utah
State 48 – Nevada
State 1 – Arizona