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In one month Peggy Butler has seen license plates from 38 different states, some of them from northern states such as Maine and Alaska.  - Contributed photo
In one month Peggy Butler has seen license plates from 38 different states, some of them from northern states such as Maine and Alaska.
— image credit: Contributed photo

By Peggy Butler

Ever since the last week in July we have been scouting out all the different state license plates we could see on our small but popular island.

We originally thought that Hawaii would be impossible, but we often see cars with Hawaiian plates. What ferry did they sail in on and how do we find it?

Then there is Oregon.

You can’t go anywhere without seeing Oregon. In fact, both Oregon and California must love it up here.

Of course “Beautiful British Columbia” is almost as common — but we all know that isn’t a state.

Texas, however, is a state and it is surprising how many Texas cars are up here, given the long drive.

Florida is surprisingly frequent. What do Florida and Texas have in common? A clue is that we often see the orange and gold plates from Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

Since temperatures in those states reached well past 100 degrees throughout the summer we suspect that our cool fresh breezes brought them here.

However, so far in one month we have seen license plates from 38 different states, some of them from northern states such as Maine and Alaska, which certainly have their own cool breezes. With gas prices ranging from $3.55 to $4.65 throughout the U.S., it costs a pocketful to reach our remote and pristine island.

As I’ve sailed on the ferries this summer, I’ve enjoyed the contagious thrill people experience visiting the San Juans, as they rush from end to end of the ferry, heavy cameras around their necks and backpacks bouncing. It’s a lot of thrill for the buck.

I have to admit that when the loud speaker on the ferry says “there is a pod of orcas on the starboard side . . .”, I rush along with the other several hundred passengers to watch the magic of an orca pod, and I never get tired of it.

I am sorry for the poor sweating souls in the following 12 states whose license plates were never spotted: Connecticut, Arkansas, Kansas (are they tending the corn?), North Dakota, New Hampshire, Rhode Island (not enough people to share?), Pennsylvania, Nebraska (more corn?), Wisconsin, Iowa, Mississippi (they miss-iss-iss--ed!), and sweet Alabama (ya’ll come).

That means we have seen the following state license plates:

Alaska, Arizona (a purple cactus), California, Colorado (a lot of these with the outline of a mountain range, in red or green), Delaware, Florida (an orange tree), Georgia, Hawaii (a rainbow), Idaho (quite a few Idahos — they are close); Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland (an elegant crane or heron in a marsh), Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York (more of these than you would expect), Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma (very colorful), Oregon (a tree grows through it); South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah (the fabulous redrock arch), Vermont (totally green), Virginia, Washington (orcas, Mount Rainier, lighthouses, bicycles, lighthouses, American flags, an elk, a couple of skiers, the head of a cougar, and a big W — does that stand for Dubya? And a cartoon), West Virginia and Wyoming.

We have not seen Washington D.C., but we have seen a lot of U.S. government plates.

Canadian visitors came from British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.

Sightings of missing states are encouraged. Please report any sightings to this paper.

Perhaps by mid-September we will have seen ’em all.


— Peggy Butler and her family have lived with pleasure on San Juan Island for four years. She dedicates this investigative report to the ferry advisory committee, with thanks for keeping us afloat.

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