Bravely we soldier on, like Dante into Inferno, toward the worst state in the union. We reach the midway point today, folks, so abandon all hope ye who enter.
A quick refresher: We decided to poll members of the Gawker staff, asking them to rate each American state on a scale from 1-10, based on whatever criteria they so chose. We then averaged everyone's scores and came up with this list. We're not geographers or social scientists, just people who enjoy discussing all the ways each state, all raggedy 50 of them, are awful. So, we're going from least-worst to worst, so our final day will see America's shittiest province duly crowned. We've covered states 50-26 so far, which means we're smack in the middle today. Let's get started!
Fitting in many ways that the Hoosier State would wind up smack in the middle. It's an average state that does things averagely.
The Good: Well first it must be said that without LaGrange County, Indiana, we might never have Devil's Playground, a fascinating look at the many Amish in that area and their strange tradition of Rumspringa. So thank you, LaGrange! Besides curious looks at the Amish, Indiana has Indiana University in Bloomington, a terrific school in a great town, home to amazing scientists, that weirdo sex-freak Alfred Kinsey, and most importantly the wonderful little movie Breaking Away. The rest of the state has cute little towns like Culver, exemplary bits of small-town America. In terms of big-town America, Indianapolis is the second-largest city in the Midwest, so it's got that goin' for it.
The Bad: I mean, it's Indiana. It's the state you drive through. Quite literally: Indiana has more miles of highway per square mile than any other state. Plus those Amish? They're interesting, sure, but they're also kind of weird and, as Devil's Playground taught us, not as innocent as our stereotypes would have us believe. Speaking of lost innocence, ever been to Gary, IN? You'd remember. Also, South Bend is a frozen pit full of terrible Notre Dame kids. Even you, Rudy.
Final Score: 5.08
24. New Hampshire
The state that's not Vermont is certainly a place to live free, though some of it makes you want to die.
The Good: No taxes! Simply no taxes anywhere! You could kill a man and not pay taxes on his corpse. There are just absolutely no taxes in New Hampshire. The Granite State is also full of lovely mountains for New England-style (read: lame by many people's standards) skiing (Waterville Valley!) and for hiking. Most of the state is actually pretty beautiful, from Lake Winnipesaukee to the Franconia Notch. Plus, did we mention there are no taxes? Nobody taxes you on anything, ever! You will never pay a single tax in your life when you live in New Hampshire! (Except of course the taxes that you will have to pay to the state of New Hampshire and to the federal government.)
The Bad: Well, everyone in New Hampshire is crazy. They like their guns, they don't like their gays, and they don't want their kids voting. A lot of the crazy hides out in the desolate northern wilds of the state, though there's enough in the dull cities of Manchester and Nashua to go around. (Concord is a nice town, at least.) New Hampshire (and Vermont, to be fair) can sometimes feel like the Texas of the north, a place with a fiercely and obnoxiously individualistic sense of state pride. It's too much! Calm it down. It's just imagined borders, that's all. That's all. New Hampshire's biggest problem, though, is that the Old Man of the Mountain on their state quarter? That fucker done fell off.
Final Score: 5.05
The long, lean welcome mat to the deep south, Tennessee is a complicated state, one full of mist and memories and, of course, music.
The Good: There's no denying that Nashville, with its tambourine heart and guitar string veins, is a great city. Sure country music might not be everyone's thang, but it's hard to not be a fan when you're in Music City. Outside of Nashville, Tennessee offers Great Smoky Mountains National Park (shared with North Carolina), the surprisingly pleasant city of Chattanooga, music festival Bonnaroo (though that might be a bad thing), and of course the true soul and spirit of Tennessee, Dolly Parton's Dollywood theme park and resort in Pigeon Forge.
The Bad: Pull up a chair, this could be a while. There's racism, sexism, and homophobia. And sure every state has that stuff, every single one, but shit in Tennessee is institutionalized. Plus it's full of toxic waste. As for other Tennessee cities, the only way Knoxville would be fun was if they actually did fill the Sunsphere with wigs, and Memphis? Oof, Memphis. Every damn day those ducks at the Peabody try to get the hell out of Memphis, but they never quite make it.
Final Score: 4.93
The Bluegrass State is a jumble — part South, part North, part Midwest, even. Kentucky doesn't know what it wants to be except just plain old Kentucky.
The Good: Bourbon. Thank you for bourbon, Kentucky. Yum! Glug glug glug. Bourbon. Thank you also for the Humana Arts Festival, probably the US's most important theater festival, held at the renowned Actors Theater of Louisville, which is a fun town. Kentucky's other major city Lexington, the "Horse Capital of the World" (Vaes Dothrak would beg to differ), isn't bad either. The University of Kentucky is ranked highly in science and medicine programs, and if you want you can go to Transylvania University and become a vampire, you can! Mostly, though, yes thank you for bourbon.
The Bad: Sigh. Other than the crippling poverty of the Appalachian eastern part of the state (ravaged coal country), you've got: guns, gay-hating, the perfect absurdity of Rand Paul, juvenile racism, this place and this fucking place, and of course forced beard eating. It's not nice to judge Kentucky on creaky stereotypes, but good grief Kentuckians just keep doing embarrassing stuff. Maybe it's all the bourbon.
Final Score: 4.87
The mysterious potato state is America's most secretive, a place of mountains and valleys where few fear to tread.
The Good: Idaho is weird. That's a good thing! There are no major highways running North-South in Idaho, so if you're in Coeur d'Alene and need to get to Boise, it's gonna be a while. But that makes it interesting. Americans probably know the least about Idaho, maybe more than any other state, and you get the impression when you're there that that's how they like it. The state is also a beautiful one, rugged and big-skyed, full of great skiing and other outdoorsing. As small Western cities go, you could certainly do a lot worse than Boise. Which, if nothing else, is really pleasing name to say. And, of course, where would any of us carb-chompers be without potatoes? We've Idaho (partly) to thank for those.
The Bad: Well, all that mystery and secrecy and isolationism? It creates some pretty weird people. Weirdest of all, of course, being ol' Wide Stance McGee. There's also the Sun Valley area, a beautiful place tragically overrun by insanely annoying celebrities. Also, that whole no North-South roads thing? A bit of a drag. Mostly though, Napoleon Dynamite is all Idaho's fault and that's nearly unforgivable.
Final Score: 4.83
20. North Dakota
America's least-visited state is a cold and desolate land oft forgotten by the outside world.
The Good: Personally I suspect this got such a high ranking because of the movie Fargo, even though most of that takes place in Minnesota. But of course there's also the lovely terrain — places like Teddy Roosevelt National Park that are as stark and as bison-ridden as one imagines when one thinks of the badlands. Everyone's healthy there. And college is reasonably cheap. Mostly North Dakota isn't the worst-worst because what can you really say about North Dakota? It's just North Dakota.
The Bad: North Dakota is chiefly terrible because you will die of snow there. There's just so much snow that is out to kill you. Though, really, I ask you: Why are we even talking about North Dakota? I mean, it's probably not even a state!
Final Score: 4.71
The iconic Cowboy State is certainly beautiful in parts, but it's harsh and unforgiving in others.
The Good: Well, lots of western Wyoming is beautiful. Towns like Cody and Jackson Hole are about as picturesque spots in the Rockies are you're likely to see. Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks loom large and spectacular in that corner of the state. If you like to be alone, Wyoming is the place for you: it's the 10th largest state by area, but the least populated. At 536,000 residents, Wyoming has less than a hundred thousand more people than Staten Island but almost 1,000 times the land. So you can be pretty alone! And you'll probably have a job, as Wyoming's unemployment rate is under 6%.
The Bad: If you don't like being alone, Wyoming is pretty freakin' desolate. While the western part of the state is verdant and dramatic, the eastern plateau once you get out of the Black Hills is an eerie, windswept martian landscape. The joy of driving past Emblem, WY, population 10, is quickly replaced by the dreadful idea of actually living there. And while Wyoming calls itself the Equal Rights state, based on the fact that it was the first to allow women the vote, its racially homogenous nature can lead to problems. And obviously Laramie has some scars to deal with on other fronts. But really the main reason to hate the state is that Dick Cheney, while not born there, hails from Wyoming. So it breeds devil warlocks, is what I'm saying. Wyoming is the demon warlock capital of the U.S.
Final Score: 4.60
Big Sky country is full of natural wonders and human horrors. You'd probably like to spend more time with the grizzly bears than the people.
The Good: OK, the people in awesome western Montana towns like Bozeman and Missoula are pretty cool. A little mountain-man crazy, sure, but otherwise good, fun, decent people. And the towns themselves are great — scenic and lively themselves, and also a short drive from the great outdoors. Speaking of the great outdoors, there is a lot of it — from Glacier National Park (go to Serranos! It's good!) to ski country, Montana is mountainous paradise.
The Bad: Well, western Montana is. The eastern high prairie part of the state can be pretty bleak. And, again, the people. Montana knows how to breed crazies, from Unabombers, to firebombers, from gay haters to race haters. Montana is refreshingly wild, but distressingly so, too.
Final Score: 4.57
The countdown continues tomorrow with seven more states!
The Worst 50 States in America: Day 1
The Worst 50 States in America: Day 2
The Worst 50 States in America: Day 3
The Worst 50 States in America: Day 4
The Worst 50 States in America: Day 5
The Worst 50 States in America: Day 6
Photos: Indiana (via caelestis/Flickr); New Hampshire (via samolo/Flickr); Tennessee (via scmikeburton/Flickr); Kentucky (via cgkinla/Flickr); Idaho (via jstephenconn/Flickr); North Dakota (via tonyjcase/Flickr); Wyoming (via kkanouse/Flickr); Montana (via sebastian_bergmann/Flickr)