The Dakotas

16 Jun

06-01-13 BROOKINGS SD IMG_7535

Thirty-six states are now complete, with just 14 more to go.

Jim and I recently returned from North Dakota and South Dakota – yes, they are two separate states, even though I find myself referring to them as “The Dakotas” more often than not.

We met with Iowa State alumni only on the far eastern side of the states (so close to Minnesota it almost felt like cheating) because, well, that’s where they live. We didn’t get to travel to the wild-west part of either state, which was sort of disappointing. But then again, we didn’t have to compete with family vacationers in their slow-moving recreational vehicles at Badlands National Park, Mount Rushmore, Theodore Roosevelt National Park – or even Wall Drug.

Our first destination was Fargo, N.D. It’s really hard to go to Fargo and NOT think about the hilarious 1996 Coen brothers’ movie of the same name, even though the film was actually set in Minnesota.

06-02-13 FARGO 173F7946

Despite its reputation for brutal winter weather, Fargo is a very nice city with a cool, historic downtown area. It’s also home to North Dakota State University. Jim and I took a quick drive around the campus and had our picture taken in front of the big bison sculpture before getting down to business.

06-02-13 JOHN IMG_7782

We met first with John Wheeler (’84 meteorology), well known in the area as a television meteorologist for ABC-affiliate WDAY-TV since 1985. I get the feeling that if you want to know what the day’s weather is going to bring in Fargo, you check with John.

06-02-13 EMILY IMG_7706

Equally successful is John’s wife, Emily Williams-Wheeler (’86 interior design), an artist and art instructor who owns Studio e. Emily took us to Fargo’s West Acres Mall, where she just completed painting a brightly colored children’s mural.

06-03-13 TRAY 173F9250

Driving south, we arrived at the home of 2005 grads Trey & Becah Fliehs in Groton, S.D. Becah (chemical engineering) and Trey (journalism & mass communication) are farmers – and also owners of a Caribbean-inspired company called Team Cocktail. Becah is also the technical manager at a nearby POET ethanol plant. (That’s Trey and Becah with their three-legged dog, Trip, short for Tripod.)

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Our last visit during this brief trip to the Dakotas was with Walter Bones (’73 animal science), a farmer and former South Dakota secretary of agriculture. Walt operates (along with two brothers, a brother-in-law, and three nephews) the family farm near Parker that was homesteaded by his great-grandfather in 1879. So there’s a lot of history there.

We’re back in Iowa now, with stories to write, photos to look at, and more trips to plan.

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