Last January when New York was freezing into a concrete snowcone, Alan Hogenauer had to get away for the weekend. But instead of going to Florida or Tahiti or some other similarly sun-blessed place, he bounded off to the frozen wastes of North Dakota.
Taking along his 6-year-old son, Bill. Hogenauer in one weekend crossed the barren Plains state, while temperatures dived into the minus 50's to snowmobile his way to remote Knife River Village National Park. Then he returned to the relatively mild blizzards of Fargo, the state capital, making sure while there to take the crosstown bus.
What motivated this mild-mannered, mustachioed executive at TWA to journey to the frozen plains in the worst winter in memory? Was it adventure, romance, a secret business deal? No, explains Alan Hogenauer, 35, bubbling with enthusiasm, he had to go to North Dakota because he had never been to Knife River nor taken a bus across Fargo.
The foray was an excuse for Hogenauer to work on his "lists" of places to visit and things to do, like going to each of the nation's national parks or traveling by bus in every state in the union. He has 127 such lists, 55 of them completed, which, he says, have given a "special purpose" to his life. Among his achievements are visits to every county in Maryland, flights on each of the 18 possible airport pair routings between New York and Washington, and journeys to each of the state capitals.
"I really don't want it to come off as a joke," Hogenauer says. "A lot of people don't have this compulsion and think it's crazy, but I've learned a lot by this stuff."
From command center at his suburban Port Washington. L.I. home, Hogenauer sifts through his lists, thinking of ways to complete the uncompleted. Among these yet-to-be-conquered lists are treks to every province in Kenya, a visit to each U.S. state at least five times, and traveling by bus on all seven continents. The costs of these quests runs in the thousands of dollars. Hogenauer admits, although his executive job at TWA helps get him free or reduced-rate tickets.
"My wife goes along with it but she doesn't understand the degree of intensity, the compulsion I have," he says. "It's almost like a personal thing. If you tell me there's a new national park, I'll do almost anything to get there."
Hogenauer's wife of 12 years confirms that observation. "I knew he liked to travel when I married him," Sally Hogenauer, a native knew the extent of his wanderlust. I don't see him as much as I'd like to but at least it's never dull. You know, he's known to call from the office to ask if I'd mind if he flies over to Bahrain for the weekend."
At National Park Service headquarters in Washington, Hogenauer already is something of a legend. There are 312 national parks under its control and Hogenauer has set foot in 262 of them.
"We discuss him around the office periodically," says Duncan Morrow, a Park Service public relations man. "I don't think there's anyone who works for the Park Service who has been to as many as he."
But being a man of lists isn't all busrides and accolades. There are trying moments. "There's nothing more frustrating," Hogenauer says gravely, "than going somewhere and finding out that something or other's been declared a national monument or something two weeks after you've just been there."
It happened a few years back when he journeyed to Texas to visit, among other list-related items, the birthplace of President Lyndon Johnson. A few months later Johnson died and was buried in the same area. "Darn, when he died I had to go back there to the presidentail burial place," Hogenauer recalls.
In seeking the reasons for his compulsion, the TWA marketing executive singles out a 1959 train trip, taken with his mother, across country to the West Coast. All those state capitals and quadrants of America intrigued him.
Despite his wayward eye. Hogenauer manage to stick around long enough to graduate from the Bronx High School of Science and Hunter College and be hired by the phone company. He liked his work, but after compulson to follow through on their two years the itch came back - North Dakota and the world were beckoning.
"I finally realized," Hogenauer says, "there was a world I hadn't seen working for the phone company. I knew other people talked about going to all those place but I wanted to do it, so I did."
So Hogenauer went back to school, studied geography at Columbia and got a job with Trans-Australia Airlines. In 1965 he quit and began the first great list-fulfilling trip - by Land Rover from Perth, Australia to Edinburgh, Scotland. At times things were perilous. In the high mountains of Afghanistan the food was inedible, so he and his wife subsisted for weeks on a diet of peanut butter and Coca-Cola. But surviving that trek, Hogenauer was hooked - listomania became his driving passion.
In the ensuing years Hogenauer managed to get other jobs in Africa and latin America, until he became the master of six continents. Antartica still beckons, even more remote and miserable than North Dakota in the winter. "I'll make it there some day," he states flatly. And do what? "Land there and say I've done it."
"I don't know what it is," he adds, shaking his head. "I've always been sort of neat and organized. This list thing is just a logical extension of that, a finite expression of it.
"I don't like to be late. You know I am very punctual. The synchronization, you wouldn't believe on my trips. But when I finish, I kno it's worth it. Because, I have something people rarely have - a sense of having completed something."