Cruising the country

Elton Richardson has visited all 50 capitols

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Elton and Madeline Richardson shared a lot of memories in their 62 years of marriage: Raising a family, working in the state Capitol in Olympia, and delving into real estate were just a few.They also shared a passion for history and travel, which culminated in a two-year trip to see every state capitol in the continental United States.

“I worked security in Olympia, and Madeline was a tour guide,” he said. “After being at the capitol, we decided it was a goal to visit all 48 of them.”

The two also visited several historical sites, including all the battlefields of the Revolutionary and Civil wars.

In addition, their tour included national parks and monuments, such as Niagara Falls, Yellowstone, Branson, Miss., the St. Louis Arch, Mount Rushmore, the Florida Everglades, Key West, space centers in Florida and Texas, the Statue of Liberty, the top of the World Trade Center and the Alamo, to name a few.

Other highlights of the trip, which lasted from 1991 to 1993, included visiting the Connecticut state capitol and an unusual tour guide in Oklahoma.

“They were remodeling the capitol there at the time, so there was no guided tour,” he said. “So, we conducted our own. A gentleman came up and asked us what we were doing, and if we needed help. Then, he took us all around and gave us a great tour. Afterward, he introduced himself as a state senator. We had no idea.”

Their cross country trek took place in a 26-foot motor home, with plenty of cupboard space for Madeline’s extensive craft collection.

“She was a real craft lady and very much enjoyed it,” Elton said.

Elton’s daughter, Susie Keeney, recalled thinking that the two-year trip was too long.

“I was so excited for my parents when they decided to take their trip, but when they were gone for two years I was thinking that was too long,” she said. “That Christmas they were in Florida, and we were hosting our first AFS exchange student. She had become so much a part of our family that we couldn’t imagine them not getting to meet Sara. So, for Christmas we decided to follow the family to Disney World and spend the holidays with Mom and Dad in Florida.”

Madeline and Elton spent the next 15 or so years as snowbirds, cruising in their 36-foot motor home to RV parks in southern California, Arizona and Texas, returning to Camas permanently in 2008.

Madeline passed away in 2011. In the summer of 2012, Elton and Keeney were invited to visit Madeline’s sister, Jan Thurston, who lives in Alaska.

“I thought, ‘sure, why not?’” he said. “So we went to Juneau, and that was my 49th capitol.”

Adds Keeney, “Dad and I had such fun on the ship. The weather was amazingly warm and sunny. The gift of quality time with my dad will always warm my heart. He had spent the last many years caring for my mom, so to see him be able to relax and have fun meant so much to me.”

They were accompanied by Elton’s brother, who passed away this winter.

“We’re were very grateful for the memories of this trip with him,” Keeney said.

With 49 capitols visited, there was only one left, Hawaii.

Three weeks ago, Elton visited it as well.

“The plan was for two of my brothers to take him to Hawaii and stay in a timeshare condo,” Keeney said. “My brother Bob got engaged on Christmas and then decided to turn the trip to Hawaii into a wedding also. So while I was willing to let them share the 50th capitol tour without me, when they added the wedding I decided I needed to get in on the fun.”

Elton, 85, was excited to visit his last capitol, but said he’s probably done with big trips.

“I discovered on the Hawaii trip that I am starting to get old,” he said. “Honolulu is one of the busiest cities in the world, and I found an hour plus of walking and sightseeing was more than what I wanted to do.”

After visiting every state in the country, some on several occasions, Elton is happy to exercise daily and stay at his historic Camas house. It includes a large map of the United States, crisscrossed in red marker of all the sites he and Madeline visited.

“I don’t really know of any other places to go,” he said.