Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

October 28, 2012

A proud travel milestone: Visiting all 50 states

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

But for those who take the quest seriously, merely crossing the border or changing planes at an airport doesn’t necessarily give you the right to say you’ve been there.

In fact, many 50-staters have a specific 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 called a “National Geographic moment” — a memorable experience like visiting Mount Rushmore in South Dakota or walking down Beale Street in Memphis, Tenn. — to cross a state off your list.

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. (I photographed my own children doing this on a road trip one summer.)

David Bykowski, 51, of Broken Arrow, Okla., is “on 49 with Alaska to go.” 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.

Like most people who aspire to see all 50 states, Bykowski didn’t start out traveling with a goal to hit all of them. Instead, he came to it accidentally after realizing he only had a few left. 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.”

The sole criterion for counting states toward membership in a group called the All Fifty Club — http://www.allfiftyclub — is “that one should breathe the air and set foot on the ground. Thus driving through the state counts if you get out once, but airport layovers do not,” said 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 a lot 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.

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