The Exeter Bulletin — Summer 2001
Lois and Mort Reed '37
July 15, 2001
On the Road Again
You could say Mortimer "Mort" Reed '37 is all over the map. Introduced to travel at an early age by his father, Reed continued his travels after graduating from MIT while working as a writer for Better Homes and Gardens. By 1948, he had traveled to all 48 states (at that time there were only 48 states).
"One day," Mort says, "I walked by a Rand McNally store and there was a county map of the United States. I thought it would be kind of fun to see how many counties I had already visited." He spent a year researching records and train schedules to determine which counties he had physically been in (flying over doesn't count). Then he colored in those areas on the map with an orange pencil.
Today, some 53 years later, Reed still has that map, and together with his wife, Lois (who began traveling with him in 1994), he will complete his journey and color in the last remaining area this summer.
The total number of political subdivisions in the United States is 3,089: in addition to 3,009 counties, there are 64 parishes in Louisiana and 16 boroughs in Alaska. Mort explains, "I have visited all the counties, all the parishes and all but seven boroughs in Alaska. We have a trip planned this year to Alaska to get to the seven boroughs you cannot reach except by water or air."
Now retired and living in Arizona, Mort and Lois are seasoned travelers. Mort says, "If I pull out the atlas, pencil and paper, Lois starts to pack. We usually plan the trips ourselves and share the driving by changing shifts about every hour. We rise early, and by 6 a.m. we are on the road. Around 2 p.m. we stop for the day. That gives us a chance to see the communities where we stay."
Mort and Lois agree that it's not just checking off the counties that's important, but "having fun and enjoying where we have been, what we have seen and whom we have met." Some of their best experiences have come about by chance, like the time they came across a fur museum in northwestern Nebraska. "It was not listed in our travel plans," recalls Mort, "but we decided to stop for a few minutes. We were there for one and a half hours. It was fascinating—we learned all about the history of the local fur traders and saw a display of about 150 hunting rifles." Museums have taught them a lot, he adds, not only about local color but also about our nation's history.
Photos that Lois has taken during their travels now cover an entire "picture wall" in their kitchen. "It's a unique way to share our adventures with family and friends," says Mort. During their upcoming trip to Alaska, Mort and Lois will be staying in the remote town of Bethel at a bed and breakfast that stands on wooden stilts. "We'll be spending two nights in a town of 5,000 people," says Mort, "and I suspect that before we are through, we will have talked to a third of the people there. They'll be wondering why on earth people from Arizona are visiting Bethel, AK!"
What's next on the itinerary? The Reeds are planning a driving trip through all the counties and ridings of the Canadian provinces. Some provinces have counties, while others are comprised of ridings (the equivalent in area of a U.S. county). "This will get us up through the Northwest Territory, the only province in Canada we have not yet visited."
As Mort and Lois set out on new adventures, this heritage is being passed on to their families. Two of Mort's three children and two grandchildren have started their own maps. "We have learned an awful lot about our country," says Mort as Lois agrees, "and we have had some delightful experiences. If we do nothing else, we hope to inspire others to travel."
— Alice Ann Gray