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TRAVEL Q&A

. . . and Two Dakotas Make 50

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By Scott Vogel and Christina Talcott
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, February 10, 2008

Q. In support of my quest to visit all 50 states by age 50, my wife and two young sons have agreed to accompany me this summer to the final two on my list, North and South Dakota; however, none of us enjoys long car trips. Can you suggest a family-friendly way to complete my goal?

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Jon A. Gerson, Kensington

A. To be honest, both North and South Dakota were a little miffed when they -- or rather their tourist offices -- heard that the Dakotas were the last places in the United States you wanted to visit. But they acknowledge you'll have to log some highway hours, since, as Sara Otte-Coleman of the North Dakota Department of Commerce (800-435-5663, http://www.ndtourism.com) pointed out, there are no trains or direct commercial flights between the two Dakotas. To cut down on mileage, we suggest flying into North Dakota's capital of Bismarck, in the center of the state, and out of Rapid City, on the western side of South Dakota, close to Mount Rushmore, the Badlands and the Black Hills. From Bismarck, drive due south to Pierre, which Wanda Goodman of the South Dakota Office of Tourism (800-732-5682, http://www.travelsd.com) called "an adventure community." That's your cue to ditch the car and rent some bikes for the trip to Farm Island Recreation Area and a camping trip under the stars, or rent canoes and ply the Missouri's calm waters. From Pierre, Rapid City is about a three hours' drive west.

In total, Bismarck to Rapid City is only about six hours. You'll roll over gentle hills in the Missouri River valley, past radiant fields of canola (June) or sunflowers (August). Go in early August and your boys should quit their moaning about Dad's 50-state obsession. Why? Because that's when the tiny town of Sturgis hosts its annual motorcycle rally, a surprisingly family-friendly event (605-720-0800, http://www.sturgismotorcyclerally.com). Once your sons hear the roar of thousands of choppers, they'll know: You saved the best for last.

For a high school graduation gift, our daughter is going to Italy with her aunt. Because she is a minor, are there any documents we should obtain in the event she needs medical attention while overseas?

Craig and Traci Renner, Waldorf

There absolutely are. You should create a power of attorney document allowing your child's aunt to authorize medical treatment, and that's not all. Current concerns about international child abduction means your daughter might need to prove she has parental consent to leave the country, so you should also prepare a notarized statement to that effect, one that is signed by both of you.

Postscript

With regard to our suggestion that travelers can save money by bringing frozen meat to the Bahamian island of Eleuthera (Jan. 6), Perry Joseph of St. Louis says: "U.S. security may confiscate foods such as frozen meats and cheese. . . . It's not the way you want to start a trip -- having over $100 worth of food taken away from you." Joseph, who runs the Web site http://www.eleuthera-map.com, adds: "Have you ever tried surrendering four filet mignons and four strip steaks to airport security? Trust me, it's a lousy experience."

Send queries by e-mail (travelqa@washpost.com) or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071). Please include your name and town.


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