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Published January 06, 2013, 12:00 AM

Stately travelers

As North Dakotans visit the other 49 states, non-local travelers save North Dakota for last
Fargo - When Mark Lindquist traveled to the East Coast a few months ago for a friend’s wedding, he knew there was a short side trip he needed to take.

Fargo - When Mark Lindquist traveled to the East Coast a few months ago for a friend’s wedding, he knew there was a short side trip he needed to take.

At the time, Lindquist, a Fargo native now living in Honolulu, had been to all 49 states. The only state he hadn’t visited – Maine – was just a short drive away.

So Lindquist drove across the border, bought some locally-made wine for his friend’s wedding gift, and in doing so joined the ranks of a dedicated travel group – tourists who visit all 50 states in the union.

Locally, these travelers – otherwise referred to as “50-staters” – range in age and occupation. Some are retired, while others travel for business.

But whatever their motivation for traveling, all seem to agree that a trip has to have a reason in order for it to count.

In other words, it can’t just be a layover in an airport.

Faye Miller, of Inkster, N.D., hit all 50 states in 2004 before she turned 50 thanks to a mixture of personal and business trips.

“Sometimes it was vacation, sometimes it was to attend national conventions or regional conferences for organizations I belong to,” Miller said.

Richard Logan, of West Fargo, started his 50-state quest because he was interested in trains, and later, fire trucks and police cars throughout the country.

Now, he has a picture of at least one of those three items from each state.

“I drive everywhere and combine all my interests on each trip,” said Logan, who just recently returned from a 20-state, 6,000 mile journey.

Kathy Frankhauser, meanwhile, made it a point to return home from each state with a souvenir thimble to prove where she’d been.

Frankhauser, of Fargo, and her husband Curt decided when they were married that they wanted to hit all 50 states as a personal objective.

About 10 years ago, they completed that 30-year goal with a road trip through the East Coast, she said.

While Frankhauser’s accomplishments concluded out East, other local travelers say they saved Alaska or Hawaii for last, while some said it was that one random state they missed for some reason.

Vicki Gelling, for example, is stuck on 49 states, but not due to any fault of her own.

“I was driving to Maine while in New Hampshire a few years ago when a freak tornado hit and the border was closed,” Gelling, of Fargo, said. “So, I was unable to hit my 50th state.”

Miller’s last state was Rhode Island, which was somehow passed over during the rest of her travels.

“I’m not sure why we missed it before,” Miller said, adding that she made a special trip to the East Coast just to hit her last state.

National travelers

For 50-staters not from North Dakota, meanwhile, the Peace Garden State has taken on a surprising role: It’s often one of the last states visited.

According to Alicia Rovey, founder of the All Fifty Club, an organization that recognizes the accomplishments of 50-staters, North Dakota is often one of the last stops for its members.

“When I look at what state people have not been to, it’s usually Alaska or North Dakota,” says Rovey, for whom North Dakota was the 46th state that she visited.

The reason for this, she thinks, is that when people start their 50-state journey, they often travel to places like Yellowstone or Glacier national parks, but don’t travel to North Dakota along the way.

“Then they come back later and decide they want to visit all 50 states, but they’ve already skipped North Dakota,” Rovey said.

Additionally, she thinks the state may be one of the last to be visited because there’s no specific, popular reason to come here, as with other states.

“The state is beautiful, and it’s such a wonderful place, but there’s just not a specific attraction for people to go to,” she said.

Rovey and other All Fifty Club staff will try and promote North Dakota to the club’s members in the future, she said, so they know to stop here when they’re in a nearby state.

“We’re recommending that people hit North Dakota if they’re going to be traveling close to it, so they don’t have to make a separate trip,” she said.

Those travelers who do end up making a separate trip to check off North Dakota, meanwhile, will find tourism staff ready to acknowledge their accomplishments.

Danella Myers, marketing coordinator at the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, says there is a special certificate and magnet available for tourists who stop in and mention that North Dakota is their last state.

The Visitor’s Bureau has offered the certificate for several years, and plans on promoting it more in the future so 50-staters know to stop in and get their picture taken, Myers said.

“We thought, ‘Why not make it kind of a big deal for these people? ’” she said. “And it is a big deal for them.”

Indeed, no matter from where the 50-staters hail, and no matter how long it took them to fulfill their quest, they agree there’s a huge sense of personal accomplishment when they cross off the last state on their list.

When Lindquist drove across the border of his 50th state earlier this summer, for example, he recognized that it was the culmination of many years and many thousands of miles of traveling.

“It was one of my goals,” he said. “I made it a big occasion.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535