Welcome to the SKMB - clever avatar and name! I vaguely remember that - I was reading WOTC last summer. I'm sure SK intended that to signify another world. My husband and I were explaining the movie 'Salem's Lot to the kids just yesterday at lunch - about the Glick boy floating in the air and scratching at the window. Now we're all dying to watch it and I'm itching to read it again.
Welcome to the board. I looked up the passage you are referring to, it's in Part II of Wolves "Telling Tales", Chapter IV "The Priest's Tale Continued (Highways in Hiding)". 2nd stanza.
Callaghan is telling his story to Roland & Co and is talking about leaving New York by crossing an old plank bridge..I quote
I am me, I am here, and I'm even sober - at least for the time being - and New York is at my back. So is the town of Jerusalem's Lot, Maine, with it's uneasy dead. Before me is the weight of America, with all it's possibilities. This thought lifts him, and is followed by one that lifts him even higher: not just one America, perhaps, but a dozen. . . or a thousand . . . or a million. If that's Leabrook over there instead of Fort Lee, maybe there's another version of New Jersey where the town on the other side of the Hudson is Leeman or Leighman or Lee Bluffs or Lee Palisades or Legborn Village. Maybe instead of forty-two continental United States on the other side of the Hudson, there are forty-two hundred, or forty- two thousand, all of them stacked in vertical geographies of chance.
And he understands instinctively that this is almost certainly true. He has stumbled upon a great, possibly endless, confluence of worlds. They are all America, but they are different.
So Callaghan, I guess, came from one of these many other versions of the world "where the US only ever had 42 States"
Doesn't explain why the number is 42 though?
Although it is the answer to "The Meaning of Life."
Yes, there are 6 states that make up New England so that combined with the 42 mentioned would make 48. When the term "continental US" is used it generally means the lower 48 and excludes Alaska and Hawaii because they are not contiguous.