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Posted 6/13/17 (Tue)

By Jack Dura
Farmer Staff Writer

Off to the west, rain clouds swirled threateningly as my Jeep whizzed past the ruins of the Maza schoolhouse.
Welcome to Towner County.
As my wheels crossed the county line, that was it: I could check off visiting all 53 North Dakota counties.
“Woop-de-doo,” my dad sniped from his lawn chair the day before, relaxing under the camper awning while most of his words fell on the only ears listening: those of his loyal bird dogs, both leashed to small trees.
Yet as we parted ways on Memorial Day, I charted a course and cruised north to Cando as the old man and his dog-and-pony show returned to Fargo.
Later, I set my Jeep down near Cando’s Audi Theatre (then showing “The Space Between Us”) and paced Main Street’s colorful businesses.
“You can do better in Cando!” a sidestreet sign proclaimed.
A woman inside the town’s Dairy Queen was cleaning tables, and at a gas station, a dad showed his daughter how to refill a car’s wiper fluid.
Typical small town life.
(Or is it? What do I know? I’m from Fargo.)
So there ya go, 53 counties and it only took 27 months. Three years ago, I’d hardly been anywhere north of I-94 and west of 281.
Heck, before last August, I’d never been to the Medora Musical (if that’s an accurate gauge of North Dakotaness).
But when you leave the snowglobe of Fargo-Grand Forks-Devils Lake-Jamestown, it’s a different world.
All is not flat.
Well, at least not like a tabletop.
Hills? What are these?
To get an accurate sampling of North Dakota, tourists are directed to travel the rectangle of Interstates 29, 94 and U.S. Highways 85 and 2.
Yeah, you can do that. You’ll at least see every Applebee’s in the state.
My co-pilot Sabrina and I shot to Alkabo on a long weekend last year, stopping in over three dozen small towns where we met two other Sabrinas in Medina and Max.
Life is a highway.
But it doesn’t have to be some Interstate blur.
Then again, not many folks would consider a vacation to Alkabo with 14 hours in the car stopping at every tiny town between there and Medina.
At least Sabrina shares my taste.
I doubt there’s any award that comes with visiting all of North Dakota’s counties, but the photo opps along the way suffice.
A porcelain horse in New England points the way to the city’s tax office.
Just outside Amidon, a human doll waits for speeders in an old cop car.
And in Wahpeton: the world’s largest catfish statue.
“Woop-de-doo,” as Dad says.
In some ways, a sense of mystery is gone for me after Towner County.
Have I peaked as a North Dakotan? What else is out there?
Every single town left on the map, I guess.