Tuesday, 3 August 2010
Jamestown ND to Medora ND ~365 miles
After a fantastic night’s sleep at the Jamestown Quality Inn (which was packed – where did all of these people come from??) we repacked our bug-spattered car (ick!) and headed out in search of breakfast. We tried a place across the street which didn’t open until eleven, but some of the women working there pointed us in the direction of the Depot Cafe downtown. After a bit of searching we found it, in the “mall”. It was a happening place, although we were the youngest patrons in there by about 20 years. But they knew how to make a good breakfast! The place was full of railroad memorabilia and all of the menu items had train names. Kim and I both had “The Fireman”, a ham and cheese omelet with hash browns and toast. Good way to start the day!
After a short ride through downtown, we arrived at Frontier Village and the National Buffalo Museum – what a great time we had! Frontier Village was great – an old West street lined with museum quality shops and services – a newspaper office, post office, saloon, blacksmith, dentist’s office, barber shop, church, school, law office, bank, general store, etc. Writer Louis L’Amour grew up in Jamestown, so there is a Writer’s Shack that honors him and his books. There was a stagecoach, so we paid our $5 fee and hopped aboard. What a ride! We were practically hysterical! It was fun for ten minutes, but we determined that we would have been whiny pioneers! We rode out of the village and past a few buffalo grazing, then returned back to the stagecoach station. From there we walked down to see the World’s Biggest Buffalo, which is one of Hampton Inn’s Landmarks. We first discovered these mostly restored pieces of Americana on Route 66, and now we are on the lookout for them. It was a big buffalo, all right – 60 tons!! We walked through and looked at most of the exhibits, then drove down to the buffalo museum to try to see White Cloud, an the only female albino buffalo in North America. It was a hot day (for North Dakota) so she was down in the shade of the trees, pretty far away, but we got a few photos of her. It was almost noon and we had not gotten on the road, so we opted to skip the museum and get going.
Our goal today was to get to Medora, in extreme western North Dakota. We had been duly warned about the boringness of North Dakota, so we had searched high and low for places of interest so that the drive wouldn’t just be interstate all the way. Our first detour took us south of Jamestown to pick up a section of “A Very Long Straight Road” which goes from Hickson to Streeter, North Dakota. They were not exaggerating! What we didn’t expect along this straight road through the prairie was lots of water! And it came right up to the road, in lots of places! It appeared that some of the water had appeared unexpectedly and had flooded out areas. There were even seagulls! What was really odd was that it wasn’t clear from where the water came – no rivers, just seemingly random ponds and lakes. We enjoyed the drive out in the country and on our own. Shortly after the town of Gackle (spelled out in red, white, and blue tires) we turned back north and rejoined the interstate, headed for Bismarck and another state capitol. Best things about the interstates out here – no traffic (NONE!) and 75 mph speed limits!
On the way to Bismarck, we passed the World’s Largest Sandhill Crane in the town of Steele. It was behind the Lone Steer Motel/Cafe/Lounge and there was a pretty little memorial garden there. It was a nice little diversion…
The North Dakota state capitol in Bismarck is one of only four capitol buildings in the US that are skyscrapers (you may remember the Louisiana state capitol in Baton Rouge from last year’s trip, and Florida and Nebraska are the other ones). We didn’t think the building was very pretty from the outside, but we loved the art deco interior. Again, symbolism abounded inside. We had a wonderful tour guide, Taryn, who shared some of the fun facts about the capitol. Here are a few things we learned: The sculptures in the huge Memorial Hall represent farming and mining, the two largest industries in ND; the chandeliers represent heads of wheat, weigh 1000 pounds each, and contain 109 light bulbs each; the lighting in the House chamber represents the stars and moon at night, while that in the Senate chamber represents sunrise and sunset; the bronze doors of the elevators depict the pioneer experience; and there’s a really cool room that serves no particular purpose (it’s a back entrance to the Secretary of State’s office) that is lined in “monkey wood” – you can see the faces of different animals in it. We enjoyed the views from the 18th floor, especially of the mall with “North Dakota” spelled out in flowers. Across the way from the capitol was the state historical museum and a statue with Sacajawea and her papoose.
From Bismarck, we went south to see Fort Abraham Lincoln, but when we got there, we learned that the park had just closed (at five PM), so we turned around and visited the ND Veterans’ Cemetery next door, then continued west, bound for the Enchanted Highway. But first, we saw the World’s Largest Holstein Cow, “Salem Sue”, a statue of a cow so big (38 feet high and 50 feet long!) that we could easily see her from the interstate. We just took pictures from the road and chose not to stop for this one. Erected in 1974, Sue honors and advertises the dairymen of the area, their superior herds, and the production of high quality milk.
The Enchanted Highway runs from Regent, ND, to the interstate due north, and it is lined with some of the World’s Largest (are you spotting a theme here?) Metal Sculptures. It was easy to see where to get off the highway, as “Geese in Flight” holds the Guinness World Record as the largest scrap metal sculpture in the world. It was erected in 2001 and is built of used oil well pipe and oil tanks. Other sculptures along the way were The Deer Family (2002), “Grasshoppers in the Field” (1999), “Fisherman’s Dream” (2006), “Pheasants on the Prairie” (1996), “Teddy Rides Again” (1993), and “Tin Family” (1991). Which one is your favorite?
On the Enchanted Highway, we saw lots of pheasants by the road. They hang out right along the sides of the road (something we had noticed on our Roadside Giant Tour in 2007) and this year I even got some good photos of them! We also saw beautiful fields full of sunflowers in full bloom (second largest cash crop in ND) and we enjoyed the rolling green hills dotted with big rolled bales of hay. By the time we got to Dickenson, we were pretty hungry, so we stopped at the first place we found, El Sombrero, and wolfed down some pretty good Mexican food. It was dark by the time we pulled into Medora, so we found our hotel and lugged in our stuff. We loved having our own little Teddy bear to greet us!
Thinking North Dakota was a lot more fun to cross than Kansas,