Across the Heartland

Prev Up Next


Hi Boys & Girls,

Umm, Umm! That was good! Grilled steak and Potatoes Theodore. Another satisfying campfire dinner. Wish you all were here to share in the delights. Well, maybe not all of you... some perhaps. Anyway, here, is Theodore Roosevelt NP, North Unit, in the Badlands of western North Dakota. Today is... ummm, let's see... yesterday was, I mean yesterday I was in.... uhhh... yeah I guess it's Tuesday, the 31st. Oh my gosh... the last day of August (Happy Birthday tomorrow Dad!). Ok. I remember now.

Let's see. Last time I was in Tahquamenon Falls State Park. Well, I woke up the following morning and packed up and headed toward the falls about 10ish. Did you know that these falls are the 2nd largest east of the Mississippi? Well, they are! They are about 200 feet wide and about 50 feet tall - of good size. They are only a short hike (1/4 mile) from the parking so I got to them in no time and it was worth the strenuous hike. I mean they would have been worth a strenuous hike. They're set in this forest of old-growth (never, ever been harvested) hardwoods which is a delight unto itself. The falls are curved across the top and on the far side you can see the dark, Pre-Cambrian rocks that the river has cut it's path through. An interesting thing about the falls is that the water is brown and there is all this foam at the bottom. It turns out that the drainage basin is comprised of the aforementioned old-growth forests including hemlock bogs so there is a lot of organics and tannins as well as soils all finding their way into the river. I got a nice picture of a "pillow" of foam at the bottom for you all to enjoy. :-) I took a whole bunch of shots of the falls, playing with different things on my new camera so we'll see how it all turns out.

I decided to just head west instead of trying to take some scenic route along the lake (Superior) or elsewhere in the Upper Peninsula. I figured I'd gotten a sense of it (and would more so driving through) and I was feeling the siren call of Glacier. So I took off along route 28 which was an ok drive - not terribly scenic, but easy on the eyes when driving along it. In Munising though the road comes back to the shoreline and turns into a very scenic stretch for about 40 miles until it reaches Marquette where you head inland again and continue on almost all the way to the Wisconsin border where you pick up Rt. 2 which I rode all the way across Wisconsin (#47) to Minnesota.

By the time I got to Minnesota though it had started raining and I hadn't really decided where my final destination was going to be for that day, nor which route I was going to take, so I pulled over to the welcome center to figure it all out. It was already about 6 PM and I was feeling a wee bit tired. I finally decided that I would try to put as many miles behind me as I could that day and that I was tired of driving on these Podunk, 2-lane highways - I wanted an Interstate by gum! So Fargo, ND became my new driving goal, about 250 more miles. Unfortunately, the Interstate part wouldn't occur until just before Fargo, but the next day I would be able to haul ass. I figured that there really wasn't anything I wanted to see in Minnesota so why not just drive through it at night so I could get some distance for the day. So off I went.

And it poured! So I'm thinking... "What's the weather going to be like where I want to go?" and "Rain sucks when you're camping!" Fortunately, it cleared after an hour or so, which made driving a lot easier of course, and with the light traffic I got into Fargo about 11 PM. I still didn't know how or when I was going to get to Glacier so I had to pull over to figure this all out. From Fargo to Glacier is 900+ miles and after thinking about that I said... "Hey stupid! You're on vacation." Which meant I was really saying that I was done for the day and that I would take 2 more days to get to Glacier. No way was I going to camp in Fargo so I got a motel room for the night and crashed about 2 AM after going on-line for awhile. That bed felt oh so good!

Oh wow! The hairs on the back of my neck just went up cause all of a sudden a whole bunch of coyotes started yipping and howling. Cool!! Oh, oh. I just remembered... the Sixth Sense!!!! By the way. As I'm composing this I hear these rustling noises all around me. Now I've been telling myself that it's these little chipmunks that I saw earlier... Stupid imagination!

Bright and early the next morning I packed up and got on the Interstate (that would be freeway to you LA people). Cruisin' at 77 - so nice! Now, it's been said by some that ND is flat... well, they're right - at least on the eastern side. It is so flat and BORING! However after not too long it started to be rolling hills and actually wasn't too bad. But, there really isn't too much to see; an occasional lake to break up the constant view of fields of crops. They do grow sunflowers in this part of the world though and those are a sight to see. A glowing sea of golden yellow for acres and acres at a time. I actually looked forward to the next field of them that would come into view. I however cannot recommend that one come all the way there just for the sunflowers.

It's about 350 miles across ND so even cruisin' like I was it took awhile; especially when I had to slow it down cause the Interstate became a single lane, for miles at a time, due to construction. If you ever drive in ND be aware that it may be several exits before you come to one not adorned with a "No Services" sign. Watch your gas gauge. I got a little bit low there at the end before refilling. In fact I think I ended up putting in the most gallons ever. Wheww! At the gas up place I saw a sight I will never, ever forget. There was this enormous man bending over the counter ordering something who would have been a candidate for the "Best Crack" award. The guy was displaying big-time - talk about glare - but he had no butt. It had traveled up front to his stomach which was huge! It was all I could do to not be rude and stare. I really could not believe what I was seeing. Truly! Etched forever into my brain cells - unfortunately. :-(

After escaping from there I drove up to the visitor center of Theodore Roosevelt NP and was told that the North Unit was more scenic and less crowded. So I decided to head up there. Get this though. The South Unit is on Mountain Time, but the North Unit is on Central Time. Both visitor centers are open to 5:30, local time and I left the South at about 3:20, which means I had to book to get up to the North Unit's visitor center as it was about 60 miles away!. Fortunately, the speed limit on the 50 miles of rural road I had to drive had a speed limit of 65 (which meant of course I could go 80 - there ain't no cops wasting their time out here). Made it in time, got the info, then headed north for another 15 miles to Watford City to provision up. I had been informed at the visitor center that you need to bring your own firewood as they don't sell any. Well, neither do they sell it in Watford City. Uh, let's see, grasslands, range, just a few trees, summer.... Duhhhh! Anyway, I was getting desperate! Camping without a fire? Doesn't work. Finally, at the local Ace Hardware I asked if they had firewood - "No.". Well, how about Dura-Flame Logs or such? "Well, let me see". Hallelujah, I am saved! They had some so I grabbed 2 boxes. Hey. Flame is flame!

So, here I am, in North Dakota, kickin' it around a roaring, well burning, campfire with all the sounds of night surrounding me, with a bazillion stars overhead. It's alright! I think I'll stay here for 2 nights 'cause I'm tired of driving (Glacier is still 575 miles away) and the weather up there is not the best, but is supposed to improve later in the week (I think), and its warm here - seventies still at 9 PM - the sky is clear, there's stuff to see - buffalo, mountain goats, elk, badlands, etc. - and I just feel like relaxing. So there!

Take care,

P.S. 5100 miles so far.