Lance Burris remembers the precise moment when his family began an epic, all-American adventure. Like many big ideas, this one started simply. After a road trip from the Burris family’s home in Plainfield, Indiana, to Florida, Lance’s 10-year-old son, Brian, was playing with a wooden puzzle of the United States. “He asked, ‘do you suppose we could get to all the states?’” Lance says. “We took that on as a goal.” With his wife, Nancy, and their older son, Brad, in agreement, the Burris family formed their mission: to visit all 50 states!
Over eight years and in three different Ford Explorers, the family pieced together trips that often covered thousands of miles. Lance says the Explorer was the right vehicle for their long road trips. “I never had so much as a flat tire,” he says. “It just worked out well. We were happy with it and felt safe in it.”
As the Burris family pursued their goal from the late ’90s to the mid-2000s, Lance, a retired police officer and instructor at the law enforcement academy in Indiana, would attend FBI conferences around the country. The family tacked travel onto the work trips – when a conference met in Colorado, they drove on to Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota – and crafted their vacations around visiting as many states as possible. By the time Brian and Brad graduated from high school, they had visited every state in the country.
With Lance at the wheel – and the family mascot, a stuffed toy koala bear named Mel, on the dashboard – the family left no part of the country unvisited. New York City? Check. The Alamo? Check. Mount Rushmore? Absolutely. “Anything you could think about, we pretty much saw it,” says Lance.
In the process, Lance says, his sons received a unique education about the country. “I think it helped them grow a little bit; it helped them mature,” he says. “They know what a beautiful country we really have here.”
It’s a learning experience he’d recommend to any parent. Says Lance: “People need to get out, take their kids exploring, and see what’s out there.”
This self-described “Ford man” is still at the wheel of an Explorer, now driving a 2013 model. “If I have something to haul, I can haul it,” he says, “and at the same time, I have a family car.” He would know.