And N. Dakota makes 50

After more than 60 years my husband checked off the final item on his list. He visited his 50th state: North Dakota, that obscure state with low unemployment on the Canadian border.
His check list began in 1951 with his father’s surprise extension of a short trip from their home state of Indiana to Kentucky and Tennessee (3 states, 1 country – the USA). Quite unannounced and seemingly unplanned, his dad took the family to Washington D.C. traveling through North Carolina, Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Penn. New York City, NY and back home through Ohio. (11 states).
His senior class trip in 1959 to Washington D.C. added West Virginia (12 states).
In 1960, he and his friends took a camping trip around the three of the five Great Lakes, including time in Canada which added Michigan (13 states, 2 countries).
In 1965, he took off on a camping trip west traveling through Illinois and Wisconsin that included South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado and Salt Lake City, Utah (19 states).
He traveled to Minnesota to see his sister in college, (20 states).
This lists skips over the innumerable trips to visit family in various states, but it does include the trip Disneyland in 1975, with a three-month-old. We loaded up the family station wagon and headed west and checked off Missouri, Oklahoma, California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and across the corner of Arkansas (so we could count having been in the state) and back home again to Indiana. Oh yes, and that trip included a brief excursion across the border to Tijuana, Mexico (28 states, 3 countries).
We tucked in a Christmas trip to Disney World in 1980 when I was expecting our last child. Driving through the night, we went through Alabama, Mississippi and stopped in New Orleans, La. for the night before heading off to Florida and back home through Georgia (33 states).
In 1981 with a 7-week-old child, my husband’s supervisor wanted him to go to Massachusetts for training with more than a week between the two sessions. My guy talked the company into allowing him to combine his travel money and time with his vacation time. We spent a month traveling and camping in the upper northeast part of the U.S. including a stop to climb up to the top of the statue of Liberty before checking off: Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. While he studied, I stayed with the children in a tent trailer in a charming park with a lake. Between his two weeks of study we went to see the 46-feet changing of the tide along the Atlantic coast, meandered up to New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, then went home through Niagara Falls, Ontario and Michigan (39 states, 3 countries, 3 provinces in Canada.)
In 1983 we went to South Carolina to the oldest son’s graduation from basic training in the Army (40 states).
In 1989, between jobs, he said, “let’s go west and see the national parks.” In less than three weeks, we saw 17 parks, 3 families of relatives and at least crossed the borders to add Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and back to Arkansas via the southern part of the country. He had a wonderful trip (47 states).
Church and business trips to Mexico tallied up 6 states in Mexico. Trips with grandchildren and exchange students have taken him to Washington D.C. four, or is that six times? I do lose track of these things after a while. A business trip sent him to England for a week (4 countries for him).
In 2003, we unexpectedly landed in Alaska in the middle of the night to re-fuel before flying to Indonesia. We looked at the stuffed polar bear, peered out at the shadow of Mount McKinley and snapped pictures of it with the sun shining as we flew over it on our way home via a layover in Taiwan. (48 states, 6 countries.)
A couple years ago we went to Hawaii and celebrated the oldest son’s 25th wedding anniversary with a renewal of vows on the beach (49 states).
I thought that we had all 50 states.
I was wrong. We didn’t have North Dakota. I knew I had been there. My brother verified that my traveling father had taken us there in the 1960s.
My husband wanted to check off that 50th state for himself. I did not particularly want to travel that far just to check of a state.
I suggested he go to North Dakota and help build a house with Habitat for Humanity.
It took him about two seconds to begin making arrangements. Traveling with the second oldest son, he headed north a month ago. They helped frame in a duplex and when the weather turned surly, they headed south to Dinosaur National Park. He came home a day shy of four weeks, loaded with stories, souvenirs, pictures and a big, “Thank you for letting me go” (50 states, 6 countries).
He had a grand time. As did I — I stayed home and sewed.
This morning he told me that he had visited 50 states and 6 countries to my 5. I missed his week in England. I think I can live with that.
I’m not sure he can.
(Enjoying her easy chair, Joan Hershberger is a reporter at the News-Times. E-mail her at