By The Grand Forks Herald
His name is Dakota Van Deursen. He's a senior at Pembroke Hill High School in Kansas City, Mo.
He's 18. And up until Friday, he had been in 49 of the 50 states of our nation. Every state except North Dakota. It was on Friday that he came to North Dakota. He said he came to Grand Forks to have lunch with me as he completed his lifetime dream of visiting every state in the nation. He knew how I went viral after writing a review of the Olive Garden.
I could hardly believe it. His visit to me was as exciting as having a lift station named after me at 15th Avenue and Belmont Road. It was as exciting as being on big time television shows.
We met for lunch at the Bistro in the CanadInn.
Dakota, who is tall and lean, told me he always has loved to study maps. He always has kept travel diaries. And plenty of friends and family members have helped him reach his goal of visiting all 50 states.
Right now, he has applied to three different colleges and is hoping to study in the field of science.
He is a likable, down-to-earth young man. He has traveled with various friends and relatives. His trip to Grand Forks was with his parents, Sloane Simmons and Harl Van Deursen, and a family friend, Sherry Jackson.
Jackson said North Dakota is the 34th state she has visited. Her goal, too, is to visit 50. She wonders why — when there is so much in this world to see — people keep going back to the same places.
Through the years, Dakota has traveled with grandparents and friends to the various states of the nation. Not too long ago, he was trying to mop up his visits to the northeast part of the nation. He flew to Boston with friends and drove to Rhode Island. On that trip, he picked up visits in Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire.
He missed Delaware. And rather than seeking out far away countries on his spring break, he was able to fly there.
He remembers vividly "the Faces" in the Black Hills of South Dakota. He loved southwestern part of the other Dakota. The coldest he remembers being was on a spring break in Michigan. The hottest was in Arizona when he saw the Grand Canyon.
Alaska stands out in his mind. He remembers Denali Park and the cruise he took down to Vancouver.
He got the notion of visiting all the states when he was 5 years old. His mother remembers him sitting back in his car seat always reading maps.
Dakota has always kept travel diaries. "It's something," he says, "that I picked up from my mother."
After reaching his goal of visiting 50 states, he ended up sitting in the Bistro of the CanadInn with me and his parents and their friend Sherry. He said he was thinking it is about time he started writing thank you letters for family and friends who have helped him.
Marilyn Hagerty: Dakota Comes to North Dakota - The Grand Forks Herald