I’m so excited!!!! This is the first time during this trip that I’ve worked on a post in the week that it actually happened. That is HUGE!! Just a little bit more, and I’ll be caught up! In all honesty, though, there is one post from prior to departure that still needs attention. It will be worked in shortly. In the mean time…here we go.
Found a few oldies in the funny file: 1) Last year, in Conway, Arkansas, we passed Toad Suck Park. Is that like sucking crawfish heads? 2) Deciding on a name for a place is important. It conveys an image, tells a story. Wonder what the folks who named the Kennel Club steak house in Batesville, Mississippi, were trying to say? 3) Also in Mississippi, we saw signs for bridge/road weight limits that were 57,650 pounds. Doesn’t that seem a little arbitrary? Couldn’t they have rounded? 4) In Lexington, North Carolina, there is a company called Mock Tire. a) Are they just fake tires? b) Do they mock you as you drive down the road? c) Are the tires only designed for mock vehicles? Or even better…mach vehicles!! 5) In Tennessee on the way to Georgia we saw a sign that said “Inappropriate Truck Route”. What is an inappropriate truck? Are there enough of them to have signage? Wouldn’t it have just been easier to write “No Trucks”?
Thanks to the earlier shakeup with flooding further north, we had to shuffle our driving days and ended up traveling on Sunday, April 23. That meant not being able to find a local church to enjoy. Boo, hiss!! (We made up for it later in the week by watching Ian Grimm’s Easter sermon, which was very good. He is the son of Lori and Jimmy, and pastors a church in Ames, Oklahoma.) The drive for the day started north out of Sioux Falls on I-29, picking up US-14 in Brookings, where we stopped for breakfast at Perkins. After that, we pointed Brutus due west and continued straight over to Fort Pierre (pronounced pier), where we arrived at the Riverview RV Park at about 2:30 PM Mountain time. Interestingly, everyone in Fort Pierre goes by Central time since Pierre, the capitol of South Dakota that sits across the river, is in Central. Although cold and a bit windy, it had been an absolutely beautiful day for a drive.
Monday started out with a pre-sunrise view of Pierre from our RV that was just spectacular. You just can’t have a bad day after that. We decided to play tourist. After getting in a little writing in the morning, we headed out to see the South Dakota Capitol. This is our second visit to this town (see previous here), and last time we checked out the outside, but didn’t have time to go in. The building, built between 1905 and 1910, has similarities with the Montana Capitol building, which we toured here, and is really beautiful. On the way in, they had a Medal of Honor gallery featuring South Dakotans who have had that honor. There were nine men represented, and all of their stories were amazing…Charles D. Roberts (1898), Willibald C. Bianchi (1942), Arlo L. Olson (1943), Herbert A. Littleton (1951), Woodrow W. Keeble (1951), Leo K. Thorsness (1967), Patrick Henry Brady (1968), and Michael John Fitzmaurice (1971) were listed. The one that caught our eye, though, was Joseph Jacob Foss. Captain Foss served as executive officer of Marine Fighting Squadron 121, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, Guadalcanal. According to his citation, while flying his F-4F Wildcat, he personally shot down 23 Japanese planes and severely damaged many more. He added 3 more notches to his nose in one day in early 1943. His citation, though, came from an air battle 10 days later on January 25, when he led his 8 Marine compadres in “Foss’s Flying Circus” and 4 Army P-38s into a battle against superior numbers. His team struck with such force that four enemy fighters were shot down and their bombers were turned back without ever releasing a bomb. Why did he stand out? Well first, he was a Marine. Semper Fi! Second, we later saw his portrait on the wall. Every South Dakota Governor is represented, and Joe Foss was the 20th from 1955-1959. Pretty impressive, huh?! He didn’t stop there. He was also a Brigadier General in the South Dakota Air National Guard, the first Commissioner of the American Football League, host of The American Sportsman from 1964-67, and president of the National Rifle Association (NRA). Even in his later years, he made the news. On January 11, 2002, an 89-year-old Foss was flying out of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport to speak at the NRA and the US Military Academy. His pacemaker kept him from going through the metal detectors, so he was searched and detained because of the findings…his Medal of Honor, a dummy-bullet keychain (clearly marked), and a replica bullet and small nail file (both with Medal of Honor insignia). Airport security wanted to confiscate and destroy all of it, but they allowed him to ship the Medal and nail file back to himself. Joe’s quote afterwards…”I wasn’t upset for me…I was upset for the Medal of Honor, that they just didn’t know what it even was. It represents all of the guys who lost their lives – the guys who never came back. Everyone who put their lives on the line for their country. You’re supposed to know what the Medal of Honor is”. Foss is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, and I think the next time I go there, I’ll look him up.
Continuing the tour, we saw a display of miniature replicas of each First Lady’s (or First Husband’s in the case of the current Governor, Kristi Noem) inauguration outfit. I enjoyed seeing the changes through the years on those. You can also access the Senate and House chambers. Most interesting to me…Governor Noem’s office door has a sign that said “please walk in”. How welcoming! You know we did, too. There we spoke to two ladies in the outer office, who shared a bit of information about Pierre and the lake area. They were very pleasant and welcoming and made you feel like you were right at home, despite being from another state.
After finishing up the inside of the building, we walked around the lake next door, where they have quite a few monuments and memorials. You can also see the back side of the Governor’s Mansion from there. Next to Capitol Lake is a unique water fountain that was once ON FIRE! You read that right. The fountain water came from an artesian well drilled in 1910. The water flowed upward naturally, and along with it came methane gas. The flame burned constantly until the early 1980s, when the wind would blow it out. The lighting mechanism has since failed, and there are underground leaks associated with it, too. Prior to then, people came from all over to see the burning water. That would have been so cool! Today the fountain is still a component of the veteran’s memorial, and many local organizations have advocated for repairs to restore its flaming glory.
Back in Brutus, we drove around the block to see the front of the Governor’s Mansion. One of the coolest things we noted on our last trip was the lack of a wall between the Governor’s house and the street. Sadly, since that visit 2 years ago, they’ve had to put a metal fence up. The lady in the Governor’s office said it was very controversial in town, but apparently some jacka**es were peeking into the windows at night. For goodness sake, that is her HOUSE!! We were also told that the Capitol security, including metal detectors, was only added 3 years ago. Covid restrictions or the lack thereof brought the crazies out of the woodwork, and threats were a common occurrence. The ladies appreciate the extra safety, though, because they do get a LOT of calls from strange folks. In fact, one came in while we were there that sounded like it got pretty nasty. Another neat thing around Pierre is the Trail of Governors, which will be statues of every South Dakota governor. Many are already installed, and they are adding three per year until the trail is complete. I particularly like that they show many of them doing regular stuff like hunting, walking the dog, etc. One is even ready to box somebody’s ears! LOL
Our next stop was at The Pizza Ranch for lunch. It’s a chain in this part of the country and actually serves pretty good chicken, too. Done there, we ran a few errands, then MW dropped me off at Arby’s to do a little writing while he went exploring on his own.
His first stop was the Oahe Mission School and Chapel. Stephen Return Riggs was a missionary to the Sioux in Minnesota. In 1837, he had a son, Thomas L. Riggs, who was also delegated to serve 25 years later. His first assignment was with the Teton Sioux in South Dakota. Then in 1874, with his wife and baby son in tow, he headed north to serve the Two Kettle and Sans Arc Sioux at Bogue, North Dakota, which would be called Oahe Station. There Riggs, along with a carpenter and the Indians, built a combination school and church. The annual Dacotah church meeting was held there, along with baptisms and weddings. O A H E means “a place to stand upon”, which is as close as the Sioux get to a foundation. The little church/schoolhouse became the religious center of a very large area. Its bell, a gift of a New England Congregational church, is inscribed “Wakan Tanka Ohala Po” or Praise Ye the Lord. As European settlers arrived, they attended services at the chapel, which were originally conducted in the Dakota language, but switched to only English by 1931. The original site was flooded with the building of the Oahe Dam, but the little building was moved to its current location prior to that. It remains as it was when it served as a school and church. There is still writing on the blackboards from Louisa Irvine, the second wife of Thomas Riggs. Today services are held at the little chapel at 8AM on Sundays from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
His next stop was the Oahe Dam. Y’all know he is a sucker for a giant dam, and this one is pretty big. In fact, it is one of the world’s largest earth-rolled dams with 92 MILLION cubic yards of earth fill and 1.1 MILLION cubic yards of concrete! Named for the Mission above, this one created Lake Oahe, a 230-mile long reservoir (the 4th largest in the U.S.) with 2,250 miles of shoreline that runs from Pierre, South Dakota, to Bismarck, North Dakota. Construction began in 1948, and James S. Robbins invented the world’s first rock tunnel boring machine during the project. Completion came in 1950, and President Kennedy dedicated it in 1962, just 4 months before yours truly was born and the year it began generating power. It stands 245′ tall and can hold back 23.5 million acre-feet of water. Building a dam always comes with positive and negative consequences. The dams seven generators have a capacity of 786,000 kilowatts. That’s enough to power run 314,000-786,000 homes per year, depending on usage. In this case, the negative is that it submerged 150k acres on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation and 56k acres on the Standing Rock Reservation. That acreage included prime agricultural bottom land, and the loss dramatically affected those on the reservations.
The last thing MW found wasn’t expected. It seems that on September 1, 1927, at exactly 4 PM, Charles Lindbergh landed “The Spirit of St. Louis” in a pasture just northeast of Pierre. It was about 4 months after he made the first ever solo, nonstop flight from New York to Paris with minimal navigation equipment and no radio. Wow! His Pierre visit was part of a nationwide tour of all state capitals to promote interest in commercial aviation. Lindy was greeted by a crowd of 3,800, including the Governor, the Mayor, and representatives from 39 South Dakota counties. There was much cheering and celebration surrounding his visit, and the site of his landing served as the Pierre airport for the next 12 years. What I found most interesting, though, was Governor Bulow’s speech. In it, he predicted that someday some man would leave earth, journey to the moon and return to tell of it. Now that was pretty forward thinking in 1927! Before coming back to pick me up, MW wandered around a bit at Runners, which is a giant store a bit like our Rural King back home with some of everything.
There is a lot to do in Pierre, and we only scratched the surface. The lake offers amazing fishing and water sports, and there are many museums and other places to visit. I recommend that you add it to your South Dakota list.
River View RV Park sits up on a hillside overlooking the river and Pierre on the other side and is within an easy drive of shopping, dining, and most everything else available in the area. The property offers a campground store and play room where there is always a jigsaw puzzle in progress, plus other games and loaner movies and books. There are also a family meeting room, laundry room, shower facilities, a playground, basketball and sand volleyball courts, a dog park, an adult recreation area, and boat parking. Owners Lila and Cody Briggs built the campground and are super friendly and helpful, making sure you know about the things to do in the local area. All 52 RV sites are full hookup, pull thru, and they also have a tent-camping area. Water posts are heated, and they are open March 1 thru December 1, which is a longer season than most campgrounds in the Dakotas. There is free wifi and cellular signals are strong. We also had plenty of over-the-air tv channels. On the hillside, I expected there to be some noise, but it was pretty peaceful. There was a fierce wind occasionally, though. We would stay again if in the area. For this stay in April 2023 we paid $105.84 for 2 nights.
Still on a screwy schedule, Tuesday found us up and out at about 8:30 AM. That was fortunate, because giant, fluffy snowflakes started falling about the time I closed the truck door! We first headed west out of Pierre on US-14, then turned north on SD-63. A few minutes after departure, we were in the stew…that’s a snow, sleet, and rain mix that is much more than soup! Really!! It kept up and about 7 miles south of Eagle Butte the roads were slushy enough to be really concerning on the grades. The scenery was absolutely beautiful, though, and just a few miles north of Eagle Butte, the weather cleared up nicely. We saw mule deer with thick, winter coats, lots of wild turkey, a few pheasant, buffalo herds, and of course, horses and cows. I even caught a glimpse of a golden eagle just touching down on her nest! Our route took us through the Cheyenne River Sioux and Standing Rock Sioux reservations. South of McLaughlin while looking for animals, I happened to see a truck down an embankment that seemed to have run off of the road and hit a tree. I had no cell signal at all and the embankment was pretty steep, so we drove the few miles into town and went to the police department. There wasn’t anyone in the office…it is VERY rural, but a lady in the county offices next door called someone so we could report it. Don’t know how things turned out, but I sure pray all was okay.
Back on the road, it was just a few miles to the state line, and we entered North Dakota. We turned east on ND-24 over to ND-1806, a scenic route that runs along the Missouri River. In the northern part of the Standing Rock reservation, we saw some pretty extensive prairie dog towns. You can sure tell why ranchers hate the little boogers. They’re adorable, but just decimate a landscape! We also saw several herds of buffalo. For lunch we stopped at the Prairie Knights Casino & Resort, a big facility in the middle of nowhere at the edge of the reservation. The food, just sandwich fare, was very good, and we had a terrific waiter/bartender named Kai. After that, we drove the last leg through Mandan, passing the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery and a Trail of Tears statue. The latter was done by artist Peter “Wolf” Toth, and there is one in every state. By 2 PM local, we were at the Bismarck KOA Journey.
North Dakota, the Peace Garden State or Roughrider State, was welcomed into the union as our 39th state on November 2, 1889, the same day as South Dakota. It is the only state with its own, state-run bank, Bank of North Dakota, which arose out of early agrarian movements. The state is 19th in size, but 47th in population, and 20% of them live in Fargo. Bismarck, the capital, also has a good percentage, but more than half of the state’s residents live in rural areas. The economy, which was once mostly agriculture, is now driven more by oil production out of the Bakken formation. Light petroleum and crude make the top two spots on their export list with 45.9% of all exports. Wheat, corn, and soy beans are all in the top six, totalling 9.1%. Some interesting notes for your drive around the state: 1). Underground missile silos out in the middle of wheat fields. 2) The small town of Rugby, thought to be the geographic center of North America. 3) The tallest artificial structure in the western hemisphere is the KVLY-TV antenna. 4) The largest statue of a buffalo at Bismarck. 5) The largest Guernsey cow statue is west of Bismarck. Some notable North Dakotans are singer Peggy Lee, actors Angie Dickinson and Josh Duhamel, writer Louis L’Amour, baseball player Roger Maris, bandleader Lawrence Welk, and guide Sacagawea. I love the wide open spaces, flats, and occasional rolling hills of the plains states. In this one, though, the beauty of the terrain in the southwestern corner around Theodore Roosevelt National Park (pics here) cannot be rivaled. I wouldn’t mind living in the Dakotas (or Montana or Wyoming), but MW is turned off by the 58″ of snow they got this past winter. (According to one lady, the snow started in mid-October and never melted until mid-April.)
Wednesday was mostly about errands, so we headed into town. Along the way, we got our first up-close look at the North Dakota State Capitol. Their first state capitol, completed in 1884, burned down in 1930 in a fire most likely started in a janitors closet where rags used to varnish furniture were piled. As it burned, legislators, employees, and citizens all tried to save as much of the contents as possible. Then Secretary of State Robert Byrne managed to save the original copy of the state constitution, suffering injuries in the process. Employee Jennie Ulsrud was burned as she tried to save records from the state treasurer’s office. The unfortunate event caused the state to have to build a new Capitol during the Great Depression. The result is the Skyscraper on the Prairie, the tallest building in North Dakota, with its 18th floor observation deck being the highest vantage point in the state. Sadly, much of the original Art Deco ornamentation in the plans from Holabird and Root, the noted Chicago firm of the day, was eliminated, including a 50′ statue in the entry plaza, decorative etching on cornice stones and the metal panels between windows in the tower. Interestingly, on the Capitol website it states: “The abandonment of exterior embellishment does not deny the building’s Art Deco roots; rather, that simplification links the building with the International Style, an architectural order which dominated commercial construction after World War II.” Art Deco ornamentation is beautiful. Except for the height thing, which is cool, this building looks like any of a thousand plain city high-rises. I found a photo of the original Capitol, which makes this one even more disappointing. What were they thinking?
Before heading back to Petunia, we stopped in at Kroll’s Diner for lunch. This is a basic diner with a twist…they also have German food. You know MW was all over that! I had a basic chicken sandwich, but instead of fries, tried the Knoephla Soup. It had chicken, potatoes, and dumplings! MW went for the Sauerkraut Fleischkuechle, which is beef, sauerkraut, and pepper jack in a deep-fried pastry. Both were delicious!
Thursday I headed out to take care of the weekly chore at Boulevard Laundromat, which was one of the best I’ve been to…clean with lots of tables. Before heading back, I stopped in at Culver’s for a little lunch and writing time. (I really have to get out of the RV sometimes!). That was about it except for more writing in the evening.
Since we’ve been through this area before (post here), we didn’t do a whole lot of touristy stuff. When you come through, be sure to check out what’s available. A few that we’ve seen before are Lewis & Clark historical sites, the National Buffalo Museum, and the Dakota Zoo.
Bismarck KOA Journey is northeast of Bismarck. Just about a mile north of I-94, it offers access to all of the shopping, dining, and recreation activities in the area with ease. The grounds have quite a few trees and the gravel sites are level. Amenities include a campground store, laundry, showers, picnic shelters, on-site propane sales, pool, playgrounds, basketball court, and dog walking area. Lodging includes 4 cabins, and 117 RV sites, most of which are full hook-up, with 40 including premium patio areas. All are stacked in pretty close, though. Right in the middle of a commercial area, we thought it would be noisy, but it turned out okay. Cell signals were strong, and there was a lot of over-the-air tv. Although not a destination place for us, the owner was really nice, and we would stay again if passing through. For this stay in April 2023, we paid $177 for 3 nights.
Friday was an odd start to a travel day. Since Minot is only a couple of hours north, we decided to head out around 11 AM and have lunch at the HuHot Mongolian Grill before ever leaving Bismarck. When we lived in Greensboro, North Carolina, we found a HuHot in Greenville, South Carolina, once on a trip to Georgia. We thought it was pretty darned tasty and a unique concept, even making a trip to Greenville specifically to go once. Sadly, that one closed, but they are spread out all across the plains states, northwest, and west. After a delicious meal, we walked over to Target next door, then hit the road north on US-83. At Wilton, we continued north on ND-41. It was a mostly sunny day, and we enjoyed the wide-open spaces. At Turtle Lake, we stopped to get a look at their giant turtle, Rusty, a Roadside America attraction. I’m always on the lookout for wildlife, although MW is actually better at spotting it, which is amazing considering he is doing most of the driving. We saw quite a few pheasant, a couple of bald eagles, what looked like two different golden eagles, plenty of hawks, and an abundance of water fowl. It is always odd to me to see what I call seagulls flying inland, but there were a lot of them around the lakes. We were really surprised to find the lakes frozen, some of them partially, but some completely, even large ones. At Velva, we turned northwest on US-52 and ended up at the RoughRider Campground just west of Minot, North Dakota, by about 3 PM.
Saturday was our tourist day in Minot. We’ve passed through town before (post here) and visited the Scandinavian Heritage Park, which is pretty cool. The other two things we wanted to see weren’t going to work out this trip…the Dakota Territory Air Museum was closed, and it was too cold and windy for the Roosevelt Park Zoo. So we headed into town for lunch at Ebeneezer’s Eatery & Irish Pub, where both MW’s Reubano (corned beef and ham hoagie) and my Sweet Thai Chili Wrap were very good. After lunch we drove around downtown a little bit, made a quick stop at the hardware store, and scoped out church for the next day. Later back at Petunia, I started setting up my new leveling system…more on that later…and did a bit of writing. In the evening we explored the campground, walking a little and taking some pics.
It’s time, once again, to pick up on the soap opera saga that is Brutus. Our last installment saw MW taking him to a local mechanic in Sioux Falls, who could do nothing because he could not duplicate the issue. Moving on from there, we’ve traveled to Bismarck and Minot, and it’s not getting any better. Here is what we have…when we first start out in the morning, whether towing or not, there is a grinding noise. To me, it sounds like something turning that has sand in the grease. BUT, it only happens when it is cold, then virtually disappears, although it does seem to be getting more frequent and louder. While here in Minot, MW figured out that he could not get it to shift into 4WD Low. Not a terribly big deal since we almost never use it, but still, what is causing that. So we have narrowed down the issue to the transfer case…we think. Our next stop will be Moose Jaw, so we are planning to take it over to the Chevrolet dealership, which is conveniently located right across from the campground. Maybe they can figure it out. Stay tuned for the next gripping episode!
Sunday morning we headed out early for the traditional service at the First Baptist Church in Minot. Their building was very non-traditional and reminded me a little of a KOA office with the A-frame in the middle and wings to either side. Inside was a very warm and welcoming sanctuary. As we walked in, one of the ladies let us know that they have been in a pastor search for quite a while, and she thought they would be selecting the young man, Brandon Smith, who was preaching on this particular morning. After hearing his sermon on finding peace in times of trial, citing the exodus, I think he will make them happy. We were wondering if he brought his young family, a wife and three children, up to visit Minot from Stockton, California, in the winter, though. LOL. Afterwards I dropped MW back by the campground and headed out to find a rug for the RV and pick up a few groceries. Later in the afternoon I put in a couple of miles walking. It was beautiful with warm temps, but man, that wind was cold!!
The RoughRider RV Resort is a year-round campground just on the outskirts of Minot, where you can find ample shopping, dining, and entertainment options. Amenities include a store, laundry, playground, basketball hoop, horseshoe pit, river access for fishing, bathhouse, and free wifi. The campground is wooded, and level, with gravel sites. Sites had picnic tables and fire pits, and some of the end ones, like #24 that we stayed in, have a little larger “yard” area, too. They offer 118 RV sites that are 30- & 50-amp and have plenty of room for big rigs. Most are full-hookup, pull-through, although there are a few electric only and back-in. They do have an odd, opposite direction entry for some pull-through sections, which makes the RVs end up back-to-back and door-to-door. We find that an odd way to set it up, especially stacked in closely. For tent campers, there is a neat area right on the river. Cell signals were strong and there were plenty of over-the-air tv channels. The owners were very helpful while we were there and accepted packages prior to our arrival, which was nice. We found this campground very peaceful, and would stay again if passing through. For this visit in April 2023, we paid $137 for 3 nights.
Another week gone. Next up…CANADA! See you on the path!!
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