Today we were up and out by 7:15 AM on the road to Bismarck. We were greeted by an amazing sunrise, which is a terrific way to start a day. The land here changes quickly, and it is interesting to me that you can be driving along in the flattest area, then top a rise and be in fairly significant rolling hills. The weather was clear and breezy for the most part, and at some spots you could see forever. Our first stop was the Bismarck Visitor’s Center, where we found information on the Dakota Zoo and a nice piece of pottery to add to our collection. The lady on duty there said the zoo was really nice, so we headed over to get a little walking in. On the way we stopped in an overlook on the Missouri and looked at a replica of the keel boat that Lewis and Clark used on their great trek. It had lots of storage, but was very small. It is amazing that they went so far in it.
Once at the zoo, we enjoyed walking around in the cool weather. The spaces were very open but designed to provide visitors with good, close-up viewing opportunities. They had a large variety of animals (including lions and tigers), but the most notable part had to be the coyotes. There were two adults in a large fenced area. There was one dominant male, who was pacing around at the far end of the enclosure. The subordinate one was trying to eat some fruit on the other side. As soon as the Alpha caught sight of the other trying to eat, he came flying across the field and ran the other away from his lunch. Alpha then trotted back to the other side of the field without even looking at the food. This happened a couple of times, and each one resulted in the submissive animal skulking near the fence for a few minutes before returning to the food. Finally, the Alpha had enough. He saw the other one eating again and raced across the field to run him off. Then, to ensure he was done with this activity, he walked over and took a leak on the food! Seriously! We were cracking up. The other coyote, undaunted, hung back for a few minutes, then casually walked up and continued eating. Take that, Alph
We spent a couple of hours walking around the zoo, which totaled up to more than a couple of miles. My new knee felt it for sure, but it was good exercise after sitting in the truck so much. After we saw all there was to see, we followed another recommendation from the Welcome Center and headed over to Sickie’s Garage & Burger, which they said was the best burger. This place was great!! They had awesome burgers, onion rings, cheese curds, and milk shakes. We had enough left over for dinner, too, which is always a bonus.
After lunch we were on the road again to see the World’s Largest Holstein Cow in New Salem, North Dakota. It is a huge statue on top of a hill that has a view for miles. We did have an issue with Penelope at this stop. There was a round parking area at the end of a dirt road with a switchback to get up the hill. We had no issues getting up there, but there were several cars there when we reached the top. We figured we would go take a look, then everyone would be gone when we came back to leave, making it easy to turn around and head down. Well, turns out there was one guy who hiked way up to the top of the hill and sat a bit. When we came down to head out, he was way up at the top. No problem. We just did a little maneuvering to try to get out around his car. No luck. By this time he had hiked back down to the platform just above us. MW is backing up the trailer, trying to get it positioned to make a tight turn, then pulling forward to no avail. The turn was just too tight. I figured we would just wait a few minutes for him to come down, when I looked up and saw that he was sitting up there just watching us!!! Uncool!! About 10 minutes after we started the process, he got up and headed down the hill to ask us if we wanted him to move his car. Do you think???!!!
When we left New Salem, we headed north and ended up at Fort Stevenson State Park. The terrain was flat again west of Bismarck, but changed again going north. The campground is right on a large lake and has tons of spaces. There were a few folks camping, but not too many. The weather was cool and windy all day, and we were able to sit outside in the afternoon when it was about 60 degrees. Later when we went to bed, we had to close the windows because the temperature was dropping fast. Finally, some cooler weather!
More pics from today:
I woke up late this morning, and realized that I had slept HARD! I love it when the weather gets really cool. By the time I got cleaned up and ready to go, MW had already showered, put his stuff away, took a long walk, and was waiting for me to get done. We headed out for the morning, and MW saw a sign for Wally Walleye (a giant statue of a fish) in Garrison, so we had to go check that out. We headed west to Parshall. On the way we saw a fox trotting along beside the road in a field. We stopped for gas, and after pumping, MW noticed that the keys were hanging in Brutus’ ignition. Bummer! However, it all worked out. The gas station also had food and tables to eat at, so we went in and sat. I called AAA, who initially said it would be about 30 minutes. In the mean time, the clerk said that the Sheriff’s office would come out and open it for free. Just after that, AAA called back to say it was more like 1-1/2 hours. The Deputy suddenly looked like the best option, and he was. He showed up about 30 minutes after we called and took care of the issue. He was very nice, and we ended up chatting with him a bit. He said that they don’t have to deal with too many violent crimes in the rural areas of North Dakota, but they do have some meth and pill issues. The drugs are brought in for other places like North Carolina, Arizona, and California. (Yes, sadly, our state is contributing to their drug problem!) It is sad that those problems are even touching the very remote areas.
After the break-in, we continued to New Town, then went to Arnegard to find an open Post Office. This was an interesting town. The main road going through was paved, but the downtown roads, including Main Street, were dirt. It felt a bit like something out of the old west. We headed back over to Watford City and headed south. It was interesting that, once we were north of the Missouri River, there were lots of pumping oil wells and drilling rigs. There were also plenty on the Fort Berthold Reservation. Not too far south of Watford City, the rolling plains quickly became the North Dakota badlands. We entered the Theodore Roosevelt National Park for the North Unit drive. OMGosh! I’m not sure there are enough pretty words to describe this place. It is VERY rugged and colorful, and completely different from the badlands in South Dakota. The abrupt changes from field to bluffs to river could only be painted by the hand
of God! We saw buffalo grazing, but did not get to see any bighorn sheep. Our intention was to stay in the Juniper Campground in the North Unit, but it was so early when we finished that we decided to continue to the South Unit so we could get an early start in the morning. We made it to the southern section by mid-afternoon, only to find that the campground was already full. Luckily there was the Medora Campground right down the road, which was large and easy to maneuver. We settled in, cooked some dinner, and watched a little TV before turning in.
More pics from today: