Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Travel Tuesday: The Road Trip Continues Into North Dakota

Believe it or not, I'm still not done recapping our big Summer 2012 road trip! It won't be long now, but...if you'd like to catch up on past posts about the trip, here are the links:

After leaving Glacier National Park, we were exhausted from our day of breathtaking site-seeing. But we still had to get in at least a couple hours of driving because the clock was ticking. My mom was scheduled to be back to work on a certain day, so we couldn't linger. I purposely decided to take a different route heading east than we had taken while driving west so that we could see some different scenery. On our way back to Michigan, we started out on U.S. 2, which took us through northern Montana, and then transferred to I-94 before entering North Dakota. U.S. 2 was definitely a more rural route, taking us along a four lane highway very close to Canada. It was also flatter going, so not nearly as intense as driving through the mountains with a speed  limit of 70! U.S. 2 does go straight to Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and I'd love to go that way next time!

The Baker Massacre
Somewhere along U.S. 2 in Montana
There were lots of places I wanted to stop, and again it was difficult trying to have tunnel vision and driving past interesting museums and sites. The area is a hot bed of dinosaur fossils, and many little museums along U.S. 2 display remains. We didn't stop at any, and after spending the night in a little Montana town, pressed forward with North Dakota on our minds. Once in awhile we pulled over to read road side markers, like the one to the left, to learn a little about the local history. Under this particular sign, someone had so thoughtfully left a memorial in the form of a Crown Royal bottle. 

Baker Massacre
Baker Massacre memorial

Around here, we typically see things like teddy bears and homemade signs at road side memorials. Artificial flowers adorned with ribbons too...but I don't think I've ever seen a Crown Royal bottle.

abandoned bridge

We also stopped to snap a few pictures of this dilapidated abandoned bridge. It looked pretty dangerous to me, and nothing was blocking it off. But hey, we were in the wild west. I'm not sure if this was in Montana or North Dakota. Actually, the drop wasn't too far down, but still! I wouldn't want to fall in that murky water. Or trip on those rusty iron beams.

dinosaur sculpture
Gas station somewhere in North Dakota

Check out this gas station art somewhere in North Dakota. Appropriate, don't you think? Also, there is a baby or small child in the dinosaur's mouth. Sort of disturbing, but still interesting. I love finding sculptures in random public places.

One place I really wanted to visit in North Dakota was the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. However, it just wasn't meant to be this time. But I had read that if we pulled off at exit 32 (off of I-94, eastbound), the exit for the Painted Canyon Visitor Center, that we could get a decent view of the park and maybe even see some wandering bison.

So we had to pass up this ------------------------>

But...we did see this ---
right outside of our car! And at least 12 more like it, including a few babies. It was getting kind of late by the time we got there, so we didn't get out, but we did roll through and take some pics. Lots of other travelers were poking their heads out of their car windows and snapping photos too.

Where else can you see random, free-roaming bison just hanging out at a rest stop? I love the west! However, I just read some sad news. The Painted Canyon Visitor Center is supposed to re-open for the season on April 1st, but it is closed indefinitely due to budget cuts. This makes me sad, and really happy that we stopped! Hopefully the visitor center will be re-opened again soon.

Now, let's talk about sunflowers. I had no idea that North Dakota is home to field after field full of big, beautiful sunflowers. They are gorgeous. All last summer I wanted to find a field of sunflowers so I could take pictures of my kids in it. And here I was, zooming down I-94 going 75 miles an hour and passing who knows how many fields of sunflowers. There was no place to stop and get close enough. I was so bummed! I got a few shots at a rest stop, but we couldn't get close enough to the field for my liking. Just know, these pictures do not do the flowers justice, at all!

North Dakota sunflowers
North Dakota sunflowers

Since this was our first time in North Dakota, I wanted to make sure we did at least one touristy thing. Jamestown just happened to be on our route. Jamestown is known as "Buffalo City", probably because it is the home of the world's largest buffalo at Frontier Village. Basically, Frontier Village is a compilation of several historical buildings, such as an old post office and church, that have been donated by local residents. And of course there's the buffalo...which is, by the way, a statue. In case you were hoping to see the world's largest live buffalo. It was fun and kitschy and super duper hot.

Frontier Village Jamestown, North Dakota
Fun at Frontier Village in Jamestown, North Dakota

We didn't have much time in North Dakota, but we had enough time to see and appreciate some of this beautiful state. Bison and sunflowers and Frontier Village: a few more reasons to love a road trip. We wouldn't have seen any of this stuff from an airplane. I'm getting nostalgic for our time on the road!

Next stop: Mall of America.

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