Los Angeles native finds warm welcome in North Dakota on his quest to visit all 50 states
FARGO - Brandon Eicher spent a year seeing all 50 states, but one of the Chicagoan's favorite memories was from a bar in a little prairie town in southeast North Dakota. "So warm, so welcoming," he said of the friends he made at the Silver Prairi...
FARGO – Brandon Eicher spent a year seeing all 50 states, but one of the Chicagoan’s favorite memories was from a bar in a little prairie town in southeast North Dakota.
“So warm, so welcoming,” he said of the friends he made at the Silver Prairie Saloon in McLeod, population 27. “It was as if I was a resident of McLeod, grew up there and it was just another Saturday night.”
Though a Los Angeles native, he has Midwestern roots on his father’s side, Eicher said, and it always bothered him that people on the coasts call places like McLeod “flyover country” as if there wasn’t anything worth seeing or doing there.
“I found some really, really incredible things in between the coasts that I never knew about,” he said.
Eicher began his cross-country journey in January after joking that he travels so much for work that his New Year’s resolution should be to see every state. After 49 states and a few continents thrown in for good measure, he met his goal in Utah a week and half ago.
The trip to McLeod by way of Fargo was in October, followed by a scenic drive to Banning State Park north of the Twin Cities.
He documented travels on his Instagram page. The state park made the cut, but McLeod and Fargo didn’t, mostly because he wasn’t happy with how his photos turned out.
Lost in North Dakota
“One of the mantras of this year was ‘Go out and get lost,’ ” Eicher said. His goal was to find something “amazing” in each state.
His aunt, who grew up in western North Dakota and graduated from North Dakota State University , told him he might get some good photos in the Sheyenne National Grassland southwest of Fargo.
He found some hay rolls there and planned to shoot them under starlight. To kill time until nightfall, he drove to nearby McLeod and walked into the bar.
At first, he said he mostly sat and listened to the locals talking, but they soon invited him to tell them a little about himself.
“Absolutely North Dakota nice,” he said later of the encounter. “Folks that I interacted with went out of their way to know me, to understand me and my story in ways you wouldn’t find in other places.”
Before he left, one of his new friends told him, “Don’t forget McLeod,” and, failing to find him a T-shirt with the town’s name on it, gifted him with a beer koozie, he said.
Eicher ended up not getting much of a photo because the stars weren’t out that night, he said, but he still has the koozie.
He drove to Banning State Park the next day, enjoying some of the 10,000 lakes he found along the way. A Juicy Lucy burger at Matt’s Bar in Minneapolis rounded out his Minnesota experience, though he said he liked the burger at JL Beers in downtown Fargo better.
Eicher’s journey was made possible by his job –he’s a philanthropic-management consultant in higher education – both because he flies for work and because he has a lot of frequent-flier miles as a result.
He said he thinks most people can make the same resolution; they just need to extend their timeline to a decade.
On the Web: Eicher’s Instagram page is at Instagram.com/50st8s .