Ohio family throws a dart, visits Dickinson over July 4
The Westerfield family has an interesting hobby. Every year, around the start of the new year, Bob and Jen Westerfield produce a map of the United States, a dart and a blindfold. They throw, and when the dart lands—where the dart lands—that's when they know where they'll be going for their next vacation.
These "dart vacations" have seen the family of five travel south, east, west and now north as they strive toward a goal of visiting every single U.S. state. This year, their dart has brought them to Dickinson and North Dakota.
"Truly everywhere we've been we have enjoyed," Bob Westerfield said, sitting in his camper at the Camp On the Heart campground in Dickinson on the morning of the Fourth of July. "Every trip is great. When we sat there (at the Medora musical) last night and Jen looked at me and she said—and we say it all the time—she said 'gosh, I love what these dart trips do.'"
The Westerfields weren't in Dickinson long, just a few days in the heart of summer, long enough to catch the Medora musical, throw the first pitch at the Big Sticks Fourth of July game, attend some local events and they'd be back on the road again, the journey being just as important as the destination when it comes to these annual voyages. North Dakota is the 15th state they've visited in 15 years.
It all began with an off-hand remark.
"One day I said to Jen 'y'know what, everywhere I've ever been I've liked. I bet I could take a dart and throw it at a map of the United States and I could be there and I would enjoy the heck out of it,'" Bob recalled. "So the next Christmas she gets me a gift and as I unwrap it, it is a map of the United States with a dart."
Jen had taken the effort to not simply acquire a map, she had affixed it to a turntable and created a spinning dartboard/map, on which their first destination was decided: Marsh Island, Louisiana, which proved a great place to get away from, well, everybody.
"There's no inhabitants, it's a game reserve," Bob said.
Though even though their first trip took them out to an uninhabited island, it was enough to convince them both that they wanted to do these trips "forever".
"Even though we ended up at a games preserve we ended up seeing things we never imagined, we saw where they make Tabasco sauce," Jen said. "We just learned so much on that first one and we said 'there'll definitely be a second one.' And the second one was Happy, Texas. They had a show similar to Medora, with horses."
Over the years, they've added some rules to the dart game—they will only travel to towns which are large enough to have a high school, and they will only travel to each state once. Oftentimes the family ends up going to places not usually advertised in travel brochures—though sometimes fate throws them an easy pitch.
"One year it landed in Spirit Lake, Iowa, which is a vacation destination. That was cool because it had never hit before anywhere you'd actually go on vacation," Jen said. "That was unique and different but ... we had a blast there."
Still other trips have allowed them to experience truly incredible things, as one trip to the land of an Oklahoma rancher illustrated.
"We stayed on his ranch. We pulled our RV onto his farm ... at midnight, it was all dark. He came out, said 'here, plug your RV in here, we'll see you in the morning,'" Bob said. "When we woke up the next morning ... there were horses all around (us)."
This rancher was trying to help maintain the pure blooded wild mustang populations on his lands, Bob said, and he demonstrated an uncanny closeness with the horses who lived there.
"(He) took us up into the hills and did this weird call with his mouth," Jen said. "And you could just feel the ground start shaking (as he called a herd of wild mustangs)."
The family, which includes children Boyd, Ben and Elle, have gotten to experience the American extremes, visiting rural states like North Dakota and big urban centers like New York City.
"I could live here (in Dickinson) easily," Bob said. "We started to ask the family—would you rather live in a city like New York City or would you like to be in the vastness of North Dakota? It was pretty much split ... the only disadvantage of this is where we live in Ohio we can get to everything pretty quick."
When they aren't traveling, the Westerfields do sports marketing work. The family are big supporters of their local Little League teams as well.