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Wendy Reuer, Published October 11 2013

Georgia women save 'Best for Last' in visit to Fargo

FARGO – Susan Harman Alou isn’t the first person to make North Dakota the last stop on a quest to visit all 50 states.

So many others have saved the best for last that the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau has created a club.

On Friday – also Alou’s 79th birthday – she was awarded the CVB’s “Best for Last” certificate.

The certificates were created in 2012 when staff noticed how many travelers mentioned North Dakota was their last state to visit in the U.S., said Charley Johnson, president and CEO of the CVB

Since spring 2012, about 150 certificates have been awarded, said Danella Myers, CVB marketing coordinator. The CVB does not advertise the small token, but word of mouth has spread.

Those who receive the certificate get their photo taken, which is then posted on the bureau’s Facebook page under the Best for Last Club.

Myers and Johnson say they’re not sure why people save North Dakota for last, but most are pleasantly surprised.

“Fargo-Moorhead, in general, is usually a surprise,” Johnson said.

Alou and a friend, Vicki Ward, arrived in Fargo on Thursday. Greeted by a warm October day and sunny skies, the pair say they were surprised at the size, modern appeal and “just a lot of little things to see and do” in the area. The black soil of the Red River Valley was also a rich sight for the pair.

“We come from Georgia red clay!” the two said Thursday in Southern drawls.

“I can’t wait to eat the food grown here,” said Ward, 58.

One thing the Georgia women weren’t surprised by: the friendliness of northerners.

“We found everyone here to be so friendly,” Ward said.

After realizing how many states she had already visited, Alou decided in 1980 she would try to visit all 50.

She’s now met her goal, and has also visited most Canadian provinces and all seven continents.

Alou was adamant that she didn’t make North Dakota her last state to visit on purpose.

“It just worked out that way. But, I wasn’t really in a hurry to visit North Dakota, either.”

The retired accountant lived in 12 states and traveled extensively for work. Oregon and Vermont rounded out the last three states she had yet to visit.

While Alou checked North Dakota off her list of states, the visit was a check off Ward’s bucket list.

She said her bucket list includes making the most of life, and seeing and doing as many things as possible. She has been making an effort to live life to its fullest after a stage four cancer diagnosis in July.

“I plan to live a long life, but it kind of wakes you up a bit,” Ward said.

The women have been friends for about six years. They met when Alou became a massage therapy client of Ward’s.

The pair said they planned to take in a show at the Fargo Theatre on Friday night and will leave Fargo today.

Later this year, Alou will travel to Singapore and Cape Town, South Africa. Plans are still in the works to outdo the North Dakota visit for her 80th birthday.

Ward plans to follow up her trip with some skydiving in December.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530