Greetings from Alexandria, VA. I’ve returned to where I was back in mid-March with one BIG difference. On October 9th I went to Delaware, and now I have officially been to ALL 50 states (plus Washington DC & British Columbia) on this trip. That is a total of 23,773 miles since I left Troy, NH on January 21st. I put the ROAD in road trip!
I know this leaves months worth of travel unaccounted for, so let’s get to it!
The next part of my trip took me from Wisconsin to Washington via Minnesota, North Dakota, and Montana. From my break in WI, I headed directly to Minnesota……well not directly. I stopped in Chippewa Falls, WI for a lunch of fresh & amazingly delicious cheese curds (shout out to the nice lady at the visitors center who told me where to get the best cheese curds in town) and ice cream. THAT is Wisconsin done properly!
From WI I headed to a campground right on the Mississippi River. It was beautiful and there was not another camper there – score! I took my time finding just the right site then got out of my car. Instantly I was engulfed by a swarm of mosquitoes – Ahhhhhhh…..get ‘em off! Get ‘em off!! I took a quick picture of the river, dived back into my car and drove another hour to a less picturesque and more crowed but nearly mosquito free campground. It was an hour well spent.
In a quest to get out of the heat and humidity and see cool stuff, I pointed my car toward the geographic center of the US – Rugby, ND. On the way I passed huge fields of sunflowers reaching toward the sun. Beautiful! One afternoon, I stopped in Lakota, ND (pretty much in the middle of nowhere) for lunch. I had the roast beef special (including dessert) for a mere $5.25. Not only was it delicious, but the local folks were a hoot. My 70-something waitress was born and raised in town and she wanted to know what was I thinking when I stopped in their tiny town.
Then I was in the geographic center of the US! How did I know? Because there was a huge monument, a signpost and several folks with RVs taking photos there. I followed my own photo ops with a trip to the Prairie Village Museum located just behind the monument. This place was huge! My brain ceased to be able to absorb all the cool stuff I was seeing far before I’d finished looking around. From their website – “All of our historic buildings are fully furnished and connected by a boardwalk encircling the village square … The Prairie Village Museum includes six exhibition halls and 20 historic buildings … Our vast collections span the 1880s through the present, with an emphasis on the turn of the century through the early 1950s. We hold between 15,000 and 20,000 artifacts, including Native American objects, household items, home furnishing and clothing, farm machinery and tools, taxidermy, and vintage and antique cars.”. Little did my brain know that there was much more to discover this day!
From Rugby, ND I popped into Fort Mandan. From their website – “Fort Mandan was the Corps of Discovery’s winter home from 1804-1805. Through the winter, Lewis & Clark interviewed members of the nearby Mandan-Hidatsa villages to plot maps and plan the next phase of their journey to the Pacific Ocean. They also had the good fortune to meet a remarkable young woman named Sacagawea.” I got a great picture of a six foot steel statue of Lewis’ Newfoundland dog Seaman who accompanied Lewis and Clark on their entire trip.
Then I headed 30 minutes West to Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site. From LewisandClarktrail.com (because they really do say it best) – “This site was once home to several villages of Hidatsa and Mandan Indians, with a population of 3,000 – 5,000 people. These villages are where Lewis and Clark obtained the services of Sakakawea and her husband Charbonneau. Visible remains of earthlodge dwellings, cache pits, fortification ditches and travois trails are in an extraordinarily fine state. Museum has exhibits of Indian artifacts and crafts, an orientation film and a full-sized earth lodge.” I spent time in the reconstructed earthlodge and took a walk past where the villages had been and along the river. The sense of history was palpable. I ended this fun, history filled, brain numbing (in the best sense) day staying in a yurt at the idyllic Cross Ranch State Park on the Missouri River. It was lovely!
Next stop, Theodore Roosevelt National Park (TRNP). The park actually has two sections (called south unit & north unit), and I went to the southern unit near Medora, ND first. On the way I traveled the Enchanted Highway, a 32 mile stretch of two lane highway populated with huge scrap metal sculptures made by Gary Greff. Click the photo below to see them all.
Then I drove through the town of New England because I
really liked the idea of New England in North Dakota.
I took a ton of pictures.
Eventually I got to TRNP. Note to self: ND in late July can be HOT! Really, Really hot. 100 degrees hot. Seriously from the time I got there until 6pm when it started to cool off, all I managed to do was set up my tent then sit in the shade and read a book. Oh and sweat, I managed to sweat as well. Around 6ish I started my drive of the loop through the park, and it was magic. Prairie, mountains, badlands bathed in golden light. Wild horses and bison roaming the landscape and the road. Just miles from the campground, I had to stop for at least half an hour as a herd of bison blocked the road. The ranger I spoke with while waiting told me that their trucks get rammed by bison at least once a month. I was glad I didn’t have to find out if my car insurance covers misadventure with bison. I didn’t get back to my tent till after dark. The last miles of that drive were pretty dark. Very dark. Turn on the high beams because the lows just aren’t cutting it dark. Note to self: If it seems your low beams aren’t working maybe they aren’t. Both were burned out. Luckily, I knew exactly how to change out the bulbs which I did a few days later.
The next day at the park I encountered my first New Hampshirites on the road! It only took 6 months. The park was just as amazing (and much cooler) when I went through it at 7am. My full day of hiking and sight seeing was capped by brilliant stars, northern lights and then thunderstorms that left everything wet and hotter than before. My drive to the northern unit was lovely as was my new campground on the river. Not any cooler, but lovely. This part of the park was striking with long picturesque views and more bison. This is officially one of my favorite national parks!
My drive of several days to Usk, WA for the 41st Annual Kalispel Tribe of Indians Powwow took me by Nashua & Hindsdale, MT and through Glacier National Park. When I drove through at 6am, Glacier NP was filled with views of majestic mountains, big horn sheep, a little rain, an excellent rainbow and was blissfully cool.
In a remote northern area of the park, my campground on a lake was worth every bump of the long, rough dirt road it took to get there. Oh, and the huckleberry pie and coffee I had at the middle of nowhere café on the way was pretty great, too.
During my stop in Kalispell, MT, I got new tires for the car (so needed!) and the heat shield properly reattached (not crucial, but the rattling was driving me crazy). Oh, and they replaced the zip ties and paper clip (yes, you may call me MacGyver) I used to re-secure part of my front tire well with an actual bolt. Next stop, 41st Annual Kalispel Tribe of Indians Powwow. Click on the photo for more info about the tribe.
This is a huge powwow! They have a permanent structure specifically for this annual event. And the huge portable shower truck hauled in by an 18 wheeler was a thing of beauty that I was happy to use. I camped in the big field out front that quickly filled with other attendees and participants. I was glad to have gotten there early and to have excellent neighbors who shared their coffee with me in the morning. The Grand Entrance which started the powwow was a beautiful thing to behold. The powwow arena swirled with color as every dancer who would participate in the event came into the arena to the singing and drumming of those who would compete audibly. My photos do no justice to what I saw or felt. It was amazing in every way. By 10pm I couldn’t keep my eyes open. In my tent I fell asleep to the sounds of drumming and singing as the celebration went into the night.
From this deeply memorable event I continued heading west and north through Cascades National Park. There I was treated to views of towering, snow covered mountains, glaciers, and the striking turquoise color of Diablo Lake (which I was surprised to discover also has a power plant on it). This was a great driving day! Good thing I was enjoying driving because there was much more of it to come…..
Stay tuned for the next blog post where I cross the boarder into Canada and head to Alaska!
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