Legend says that to find a solution to the seating problem, the Sisters of the Chapel made a novena to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. On the ninth and final day of prayer, a man appeared at the Chapel with a donkey and a toolbox looking for work. Months later, the elegant circular staircase was completed, and the carpenter disappeared without pay or thanks. After searching for the man (an ad even ran in the local newspaper) and finding no trace of him, some concluded that he was St. Joseph himself, having come in answer to the sisters’ prayers.
The stairway’s carpenter, whoever he was, built a magnificent structure. The design was innovative for the time and some of the design considerations still perplex experts today.
The staircase has two 360 degree turns and no visible means of support. It is said that the staircase was built without nails—only wooden pegs. Questions also surround the number of stair risers relative to the height of the choir loft and about the types of wood and other materials used in the stairway’s construction.
Over the years many have flocked to the Loretta Chapel to see the Miraculous Staircase. The staircase has been the subject of many articles, TV specials, and movies including “Unsolved Mysteries” and the full-length movie titled “The Staircase”, staring William Petersen and Barbara Hershey. https://www.youtube.com/watch?
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.
The All Fifty States Club has about 2,800 members who have accomplished the feat,
from all 50 states and 13 countries.
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. 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. With more unique ones being… 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. Visiting all 50 states is also popular among retirees, though they often start their travels earlier in life. I notice several folks have almost all the states, but are lacking one or both of the Dakotas.
That is one area it is very difficult to add to your list without specifically setting out to go there. But I found it worth the effort. The Dakotas appear to be on quite a few lists. I’ve actually spent a small amount of time in each. Other than the Black Hills, there’s not a whole lot to see or do.
But let me be the first to point out that if you do go….to either North or South Dakota, you can definitely expect a warm welcome and friendly natives!
Hint: go in the summer, it is not that pleasant in Minot when the winter winds whip across the plains. )
For Americans, traveling around the U.S. is also cheaper and less daunting logistically than traveling internationally. And because the U.S. is so big and diverse, every region has something different to offer, from cities to farms, from mountains to beaches, from Southern food to Tex-Mex.
Some travelers use apps or online maps to track their travels. Others use real maps. Alyssa Kauanoe sells a product online called JetsetterMaps ($28) that lets travelers “scratch off the states you’ve been to and get your own personalized travel map.”
Because there’s no real way to check on those applying for membership in the All Fifty club, “we don’t ask for proof,” said Alicia Rovey. “It’s also kind of an honor system.”
For a visit to count, Rovey says, “You have to touch the ground and breathe the air.” That “rules out airplane layovers.” But she says most 50-staters set their own stipulations: having a meal, spending the night, going to a historic site or spending time with a local.
Jefferson George visited 50 states in 50 days. He drove to the lower 48, starting in Maine and ending in Seattle, then flew to Alaska and before noon on day 50, made it to Hawaii. But he didn’t just set foot in a place to check it off:
“I wanted to see something of note in each state, whether it was an established attraction like the North Rim of the Grand Canyon or something maybe a little more obscure like the first paved road in America in a little town, Bellefontaine, Ohio.”
Beaufort resident Kelly Will takes on all-50-states project …
Kelly Will did the 50 states in a year, using social media to find families to stay with everywhere she went and immersing herself in each community for a few days. She’s written a book about the experience that she hopes to publish titled, “Little Miss Willful: An exploration of feminism, fear and faith across 50 states,” and said the education she got spending time with folks around the country was equivalent to “about six different master’s degrees in college.”
For some, the trips offer solace. Jen Miller, author of “Running: A Love Story,” set out to see the 18 states she hadn’t visited after her dog died and she was forced to sell her house “because of a terrible neighbor.” She got through the 18 in just one summer, and along the way, adopted a new dog in Boise, Idaho.
Kris Nazar, who came to the U.S. as a refugee from Poland in 1986, worked as a truck driver and drove a semi through the lower 48. He crossed off Alaska when he got a job helping to clean up the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 and plans to see Hawaii with his wife in 2019 as a 25th wedding anniversary trip.
WHICH STATES ARE LAST?
Rovey says more than half of the club’s 4,000 members name Hawaii and Alaska as their final stops. That makes sense: Those destinations require more planning, time and money than just driving across state lines. But the other place at the end of the 50-state road for many travelers is North Dakota.
“That seems to be a state that is not on the way to places for people,” said Rovey. “Many of our members have had to make a special trip to get there.” One recommendation for travelers hoping to reach all 50: If you’re close to another state, make that extra trip.
Former AP newsman Dick Lipsey is running a marathon or longer race in each state: “I have four states left and plan to finish up in North Dakota.”
Melinda Frederick and her husband have been knocking off the 50 states along with another couple. “We are simultaneously keeping track of each other,” she said. “We have an agreement we will all cross into North Dakota together.”
I thought North Dakota would be my last, too.
But my travels through the 50 states have been somewhat random compared with those who themed their trips or set deadlines. As it turned out, I got to North Dakota’s beautiful Theodore Roosevelt National Park a few days before I made it to Idaho. But I did mark the moment when I ended my quest. I made my husband pull the car over and posed for a photo beneath the sign that read, “Welcome to Idaho.”
Click or tap on the map below to count how many states you’ve been to, or click here to view the full graphic
Listen to AP Travel’s “Get Outta Here! podcast about traveling to all 50 states: https://apnews.com/afs:Content