Visiting all 50 states

Many 50-staters have a litmus test for what

Many 50-staters have a litmus test for what counts, such as a staying the night in the state or having a memorable experience like visiting Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. (Credit: Alejandra Villa)

It's a proud achievement for a certain type of traveler, and a worthy goal: Visiting all 50 states.

For those who take the quest seriously, crossing the border or stopping at an airport doesn't necessarily give you the right to say you've been there.

In fact, many 50-staters have a litmus test for what counts -- eating a meal there, staying the night or spending a certain amount of time. Some even require what one 50-stater calls a "National Geographic moment" -- a memorable experience like visiting Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.

Others take a more relaxed approach: Cross the border, drive through or put your feet on the ground. At Four Corners Monument, tourists often crouch on the marker where Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado intersect so they can be photographed with a hand or foot simultaneously in each of the four states.

The sole criterion for counting states toward membership in a group called the All Fifty Club (allfiftyclub.com) is "that one should breathe the air and set foot on the ground," says club founder Alicia Rovey. But many members have their own standards: "Some do not count it unless they spend the night in that state or visit the state capital. More unique ones are sighting native birds of that state, playing a round of golf, donating blood in each state." There's no way of knowing how many people around the country and the world have been to all 50 states; the All Fifty Club has just 80 members. Membership is $10, and associate membership is available once you hit 35 states.

Robbin Holliday, 57, of Cincinnati visited a lot of states as a kid on family road trips. As an adult, she traveled widely as vice president of a TV station group. One day, looking through a collection of postcards she'd sent her grandmother, she realized she'd already been to 45 states. From then on, it was just a matter of crossing off what was left.

Her last state was North Dakota, which, along with Alaska and Hawaii, frequently crops up as the final frontier for would-be 50-staters. "I joked for five years that I was saving North Dakota for my honeymoon, but I never got married, so I went on my own," she says. "I went to Theodore Roosevelt National Park."

Luke Anderson, an administrator at the University of Colorado in Boulder, is on a quest to play disc golf -- where you throw a Frisbee-like disc into elevated baskets on a course -- in every state.

"I've played 285 disc golf courses in 39 states," says Anderson, who chronicles his trips at disctrips.com. "I'd like to wrap it up by age 40 -- eight years from now. It's given me an excuse to visit lots of places, and especially the places between places -- like small towns -- that I never would have had another reason to see."

Visiting all 50 states is also popular among retirees, though they often start their travels earlier in life. Queens resident Dorothy Wilner, 86, decided "years ago" that seeing all 50 states would be "one of my minor goals in life." She and her husband, Milton, took different routes each time they drove to see a daughter in Seattle so they could check off more states; other times they'd tack on a few days to travel if Milton, a psychologist, had a conference somewhere. But "we couldn't just drive through or fly over or stop in the airport. We had to physically have both our feet in the state on the ground," she says.

David Bykowski, 51, of Broken Arrow, Okla., is "on 49 with Alaska to go." His job in engineering required a lot of travel and "before I knew it, we were taking the kids everywhere and seeing everything. I started counting every state we'd seen and figured out I was pretty close."

He has just one regret: He spent the night in every state he's been to except for Maine, where he only had lunch. "I feel that it's cheating," he said.

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