What I did on my summer vacation

Posted 9/6/23

This summer I visited my 50th state. It was a long time in coming, but I did it the right way—I saved the best for last!

I say that emphatically because I joined an elite club—the …

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What I did on my summer vacation


This summer I visited my 50th state. It was a long time in coming, but I did it the right way—I saved the best for last!

I say that emphatically because I joined an elite club—the “Best for Last” club, sponsored by the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau. This club is exclusively for folks who not only have visited all 50 states, but who also chose to visit North Dakota as their final frontier. 

I learned about this select group while sharing my summer plans with a friend, who recalled reading that North Dakota embraces the fact that people visiting all 50 states often leave North Dakota for last.

Let’s face it, it’s not the easiest or seemingly most glamorous place to visit. 

So the club, which has over 4,200 members, was created. 

With a real sense of excitement, I walked into the Visitors Bureau in Fargo on August 23 with my husband Rory, and proudly announced that I was there to join the club. The two tourism ambassadors on duty could probably tell by the silly grin on my face! 

They shared my enthusiasm, applauded for me, gave me a certificate confirming my membership in this elite club, and gifted me a T-shirt reserved for members.

I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit to tearing up just a little bit. 

This feat was a long time in the making—I attended a business retreat in Coeur d’Alene, ID about 25 years ago, thereby logging my 49th state.

My interest in traveling started when I was a very young girl and my family visited the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair. It was then that I first recognized there was a world outside of my backyard that awaited my exploration. 

My parents enjoyed traveling, and as a family we took several long-distance vacations by car, as many families did in the ‘60s.

I attended college in the Midwest, and after graduating took a job that involved relocating 16 times throughout the country, including Alaska, within a five-year period. 

In pursuit of my goal to visit the Fifty-Nifty, my rule was “no fly-overs,” no “passing-through.” I had to do something meaningful in the state for a visit to count. 

Also compelling me to complete the circuit was the opportunity to visit a college chum. We’d lost contact for a couple of decades until a mutual friend reconnected us the old-fashioned way, via email, before the days of Facebook. 

Melody Wambaugh and her husband Kirk visited us in Highland Lake in 2016 and we agreed that since they’d made the effort to see us, we would do the same and come to their ranch in the northwest corner of North Dakota. 

Each year at Christmastime I would write Melody and say that we were coming, but “probably not next year”—until 2022, when I penned, “get ready, we’re on our way.” 

We just returned from our visit to their ranch. The Wambaughs extended typically warm Midwestern hospitality. Their lives and livelihoods could not be more different than what we experience in the Upper Delaware Valley. The Badlands extend up their way, and the “desolate, grim beauty” (to quote Theodore Roosevelt’s observation of the area) is a stark contrast to our rolling hills, green forests and vibrant river. 

To say they live remotely would be huge understatement. Their ranch is two miles off a paved road, and their driveway extends an additional mile of gravel. 

As they took us on a bumpy thrill-ride tour of their 700-acre ranch and additional acreage leased from the government on which they graze their grass-fed Angus cattle, I experienced anew a real appreciation for the hard work farmers and ranchers undertake so that I can eat so well. 

In North Dakota, we indeed saw firsthand where the buffalo roam and the deer and the antelope play. 

For all of the bad-mouthing people do about America, it is good and healthy to extend one’s self, see new sites, get to know and appreciate folks from other regions, and remember just how blessed we are to live in such a beautiful, breathtaking and vast country.  

And, just maybe, you’ll also save the “Best for Last” and collect a new T-shirt, too.

best for last, fargo-moorhead, convention, visitors bureau, fifty-nifty


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