JOPLIN, Mo. — Four friends from Joplin have completed the impossible: travel all 50 states in just seven days. Click below for the full interview with Nate Williams, Brian Mehrens and Josh Willis.
Nate Williams, Brian Mehren, Josh Willis and Chris Watson packed their bags and hit the road to break the record for traveling all 50 states. The previous record for the trip was eight days and 20 minutes. The four Missourians shattered the record, completing the trip in a mind-boggling six days, 17 hours and 31 minutes.
Josh Willis said the passion for traveling is something that is in his blood.
“My grandfather, he’s a traveling missionary, so he’s been all over the world,” Willis said. “When he first came from Australia to the U.S., he worked a freighter all the way to the west coast.”
“I think it was two-fold,” Nate Williams said. “This record is a challenging record to break. It requires a lot of driving, which we love, but it also allows us to help promote something that we love, which are road trips.”
Willams said the hope was to encourage people to take more road trips and experience the culture different states offer. The crew considered themselves honored to have the opportunity to visit every state, even if it was for only a few minutes.
“Even though it was a really quick trip through some of the states, we really got to see such diversity in the U.S.,” Brian Mehren said. “Even just getting a small glimpse of part of a state, you still get to experience some of the beauty that the United States has to offer.”
The four friends hit the road, modifying a route that was published to be the fastest way to travel the entire country. According to Williams, they thought the route could be improved.
“We took it, changed it, made it as fast as possible,” Williams explained. “One thing that we did, we really wanted to show, and prove, that we’d been to every state, so we wanted a photo in front of every state’s ‘Welcome To’ sign. So we modified the route to go to every ‘Welcome To’ sign, because we think that is part of America as well.”
Before hitting the road, Williams, Willis, Watson and Mehren got in touch with Tipsy Elf and acquired the iconic Americana “onesies” worn every day. Willis said the company “stocked their closets” with apparel for the trip, all of which he plans to continue wearing.
Along the road, the men made memories; memories Mehren said he will never forget.
“So we’d wake up one morning and maybe only spend a few minutes in a state, but we got to experience at least a few minutes in every state,” Mehren said. “Even sometimes in the middle of the night, we got to experience some of the beauty of the stars and the quietness out in the middle of the desert.”
They spent a total of 134 hours in the car together by the end of the trek, traveling over 7,000 miles. Williams said, upon returning the car to the rental service, employees did not believe the mileage was accurate.
“They said, ‘you need to go see management,'” Williams exclaimed. “‘You had to come here, because we don’t believe you drove 7,007 miles in 5-and-a-half days.'”
After returning the vehicle, the crew piled into a plane for the final stretch of the trip. The record breaking quest was one they will never forget. Willis said beyond just the sights, the people they met along the way were unforgettable.
“We were in the airport and Brian and I were waiting to board, and there was a service woman that just got back from Africa,” Willis said. “She’d been deployed for a couple years and she saw us wearing these ‘onesies,’ and she was just ecstatic. She thought it was so awesome, almost like this warm welcome back. We were some of the first Americans that she saw.”
The men were proud to promote America and culture during their venture. The four overcame challenges of driving through sleepless nights and even taking care of “strange noises” from the car.
Williams said through it all, they knew they would complete their goal of breaking the record.
“We knew that no matter what challenges come, that we were going to break the record,” Williams said. “We were doing this for America. We knew that if our car ever broke down, that bald eagles would swoop down from heaven and carry us through the finish line in record time, and they would do it for America.”
In less than one week, Williams, Willis, Watson and Mehren made their mark in American history, keeping in mind the “American flag represents, not just the red, white and blue, but the red, white and do.”