THE LISTS ON THESE PAGES had their origin in a 9500-mile, seven-week trip across America during the summer of 1975 - from the nation's capital to Seattle, Washington, and home again.

Contemplating where we were going and where we had been became part of the fun for our family, which included three of our daughters, aged sixteen, fourteen and nine. Much of the journey was unplanned, with the exception of a stopover in Utah and two weeks' exploring Puget Sound. The rest of it was spent zigzagging our way by whim, visiting national parks and monuments, presidential homes and libraries, caves and dams, and everything and anything that struck our fancy, all the while steeping ourselves in historic and scenic America.

What sounded to friends like a scandalously long time to spend in a station wagon together, wandering at will, turned out to be much too short for a trip that all of us now remember as "our best time ever."

Each of us returned home with individual memories and "favorites"; and a name or place recalled even today conjures up an immediate image or frame of reference for all of us.

Over dinner or resting in our motel room at night," we'd spread out maps and books and get a good idea of the route we'd want to take and where we ought to stop to explore the next day. With a library of a half-dozen or so books that we referred to constantly, we found that we missed little once we hit a particular area.

Everyone's interests were not satisfied every day, but the range of experiences was so broad that the sum of it was a packed, seve-week adventure. It was a learning experience for the parents as well as for the children. Names and places we knew from school or newspapers or books came alive and took on new meaning.

If we had had these lists on our trek across America, they would have served as a guide to the diversity of America wherein, at a glance, you can note what there is to see and what there is to savor in this vast and wondrous land of ours - a memorable street, a great trout stream, a fun festival, the tallest buildings, a famous old home.

Lists can settle family and friendly squabbles (When did we visit Washington, D. C., or Yellowstone or Daytona Beach?); answer questions (What was that restaurant in Kansas City?); jog memories; and box the compass of experience, so to speak.

Using lists can also be a game. But no one loses. You record the fact when and if you have completed the activity or seen the event or watched the movie or visited the site or whatever is required for a particular list. At the same time, fill in the appropriate "when" and "what" and "where," and make whatever marginal notes you care to make, or none at all.