Fargo, North Dakota, and Moorhead, Minnesota, share a visitors’ center near the state line. It is not a rare sight to see visitors declare that their “Bucket List” of visiting all 50 states is ending there. Many people on the chase for the 50 states finish their trek in North Dakota because it is harder to get to than most states, not to mention that for many months the weather is not welcoming.
Staff members at the Fargo-Moorhead Convention & Visitors Bureau exist to promote those adjoining states. They present the travelers with certificate declaring when and where they accomplished their mission. In August of this year, I spent three days each in Minnesota and North Dakota; they are my 39th and 40th states to visit.
I am not like the usual traveler: I almost always spend at least two days in each state. Others drive through states for a short time, not learning anything about the state except that it has trees, or is a desert, or is flooded with Waffle Houses. Often, I visit the poorer sections of a town, then the richer sections, then tourist areas which I don’t prefer but know my friends will want photos of. I seldom take tours but instead, move freely to meet individuals from a state.
Going to two or three new states every year, hoping to get all 50, is more of a creative hobby for me than the traditional “Bucket List” is. Those who are obsessed with getting all the states should use a better term than “Bucket List.” Think about it — the saying means you fell down, kicked the bucket and died. Is this what a religious person thinks about their demise, and not a peaceful scene?
Kicking the bucket is NOT what one should call it, maybe say that you fell down and went to God’s side. Another problem I have with a bucket list is that many people seem to undertake their mission for 50 states when they are very ill; when chances of getting a certificate such as North Dakota’s is quite unlikely.
Also, I don’t advise making a too-specific list such as visiting all 50 State Houses. Many are near the center of each state, but others are spread on the cusp with another state, or even many miles away from the state you came from.
The modern use of the term “Bucket List” emanates from a 2007 movie with legendary actors Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. Both are elderly men but differ a lot as Freeman plays a blue-collar car mechanic and Nicholson is a healthcare billionaire. They become friends as both are battling cancer and are restless to leave the hospital.
After the Freeman character writes a list of activities he hopes to do, he calls it “kick the bucket.” This buddy comedy-drama was a box-office success, hitting Number 1 in the United States and earning $175.4 million worldwide. However, critics had divergent views, some complimentary and some critical.
“‘The Bucket List’ is a movie about two old codgers who are nothing like people, both suffering from cancer that is nothing like cancer; and setting off on adventures that are nothing like possible,” wrote Roger Ebert, a top movie reviewer, in 2007. “I urgently advise hospitals: Do not make the DVD available to your patients.” Ebert died of cancer himself, in 2013.
Ebert had a big interest in how films showed cancer victims. He said: “‘The Bucket List’ thinks dying of cancer is a laugh riot followed by a dime-store epiphany. The sole redeeming merit of the film is the steady work by Morgan Freeman, who has appeared in more than one embarrassing movie, but never embarrassed himself.”
An unusual exhibit is seen at the Fargo-Moorhead visitors center, that must be explained. The capital city of Fargo, the largest city in North Dakota (125,000), was the name of a 1996 black-comedy. Only a small scene was shot in Fargo itself. The rest was in other parts of North Dakota and especially in Minnesota.
But at the welcome center, tourists get a chance to see the wood chipper where a character in the movie (“Fargo”) was killed. Guests get a large piece of wood and push down a false foot, to simulate a murder in the film. To me, that’s a weird way to welcome someone to your state. I’ll take Alabama’s rocket any day; it welcomes people coming from Georgia.
Greg Markley moved to Lee County in 1996. He has a master’s in education from AUM and a masters in history from Auburn University. He taught politics as an adjunct in Georgia and Alabama. An award-winning writer in the Army and civilian life, he has contributed to the Observer since 2011. He writes on politics, education and books.