They’ve been everywhere, man

Highland couple has traveled to all 50 states

News LeaderJuly 9, 2014 

LAST STOP — Dick and Betty Eilers pose for a photo during their recent trip to Alaska, the last of the 50 states the Eilers have visited.

MARK HODAPP/NEWS LEADER

The world may be getting smaller, but it’s still a big country. Not many can say that they’ve seen it all. But Dick and Betty Eilers can.

When the Highland couple recently returned home after taking a two-week Alaskan cruise, they successfully completed the last leg of a 43-year pursuit — traveling to all 50 U.S. states.

Betty Eilers said they had no idea when they took a family vacation to Florida in 1971, that they had taken the first step of the adventure.

“But after making a few trips, we started to realize if we traveled to ‘this state’ or ‘these states’ on a journey, we could possibly do it,” she said.

Other than their 2004 trip to Hawaii and their most recent trip, the Eilers have driven to most of their destinations. In the early travel days, the Eilers completed most of their family vacations pulling a pop-up camper in tow. They have since advanced to a motor home in recent years.

Dick said he really wanted to drive his motor home to Alaska.

“But the gas prices are just too high,” he said.

The Eilers three grown children, Katie (Ambuel), Angie (Neske) and Wendy, accompanied their parents to all the lower 48 states, only missing out on Hawaii and Alaska.

The Eilers try to stay at or near national parks or in KOA (Kampgrounds of America) campgrounds on their trips.

The Eilers also try to visit historic Civil War battlefields, which Dick finds intriguing.

Growing up, Dick said his parents didn’t like to travel.

“I guess, I got the itch to travel once I got older,” he laughed.

The Eilers also like to tour historic sites, museums and mansions on their trips.

“We like to sight-see,” Betty said.

But the Eilers believe there is no such thing as taking a so-called “scenic tour” on a trip.

Dick said he intentionally tries to find some unique site not on the map while making a trip.

“I once drove 12 miles out of the way to find the largest ball of twine in Cawker City, Kan.,” he said and smiled.

Betty recalled another trip where they saw the Pipeline National Monument, located in southwestern Minnesota. Pipeline was traditionally used to make ceremonial pipes that were vitally important to Plains Indians religious practices.

“Someone recently asked me if we’d ever consider using a GPS,” Betty said. “Our GPS is our M-A-P.”

The Eilers are not sure where they will take their next trip, but it may require a passport. Betty, who recently retired as a secretary with Highland Elementary School, said she’d like to see Nova Scotia, Canada.

“I know it’s not in the United States,” Betty said and laughed.

The idea intrigues Dick, who recently retired as vice president of Dynamic Technology Inc. in St. Louis.

“That sounds like a good one,” he said.

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