Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Week 38 - North Dakota Bound

Had I not ended the week with a 700 mile drive to North Dakota to visit Connie, there were a couple of other titles I could have chosen. Jam O’Rama because I made elderberry jelly and prepped wild plums I picked at the side of the road to add to the pear jam I made last weekend. Or My Kryptonite Spit because my temporary crown fell out 3 more times last week (for a total of 5!) But North Dakota had to win.

Having started and ended my day Thursday in the dentist’s chair, I was scrambling Thursday night to get packed and ready to leave first thing Friday. Had I not made a list, I would have forgotten something for sure. But I watched the premier of Survivor (like I’d skip that!), got everything done and got enough sleep so as not to be dangerous on the drive. After a few morning to do’s and another stop at the dentist (the metal part of the 12 hour old cap had come off while eating eggs for breakfast!), I hit the road armed with snacks and books on tape.

I had never been north of Sioux City, Iowa so most of the trip was new territory for me. South Dakota looks much like Nebraska and was uneventful. After driving north for 7 hours, I turned west at Fargo. North Dakota was so empty – no people, no towns – and more brown than Nebraska. The main crop is sunflowers but they were already drying so what would have been gorgeous when they were yellow was just more brown. After a brief stop in Jamestown to check out their state hospital (all boring, newer buildings), I made it to Dickinson just after 6:00 mountain time.

It was great to see Connie but her apartment was a disaster, with boxes everywhere, little furniture and holding an air of someone who’d moved in days ago rather than weeks. Oh well, I could fix that. We did a tour of Dickinson and went to a nice dinner at The Brick House, which is a far better restaurant than anything in Lincoln despite the comparatively tiny size of the town (<16,000 people.) Sheesh! I begged fatigue, blew up the inflatable mattress I’d brought and went to bed early.

I woke up at 6:00, which was actually late because of the time change, ate a day old donut and coffee and started looking around. By the time I woke Connie at 7:30, I had a plan. We rearranged her plants (she has tons so this was no small task) and then headed west to the badlands.

Dickinson and points west have a totally different feel than the rest of North Dakota – browner, wilder and more beautiful. We stopped first at the Painted Canyon, which is a smaller version of the Grand Canyon that is gorgeous. You drive over a hill and there it is spanning the highway. We got out at the visitors center and took lots of pictures then got in the car to head to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, just a few miles down the road. The entrance is in the cheesiest little fake wild west town but once you enter the park, you forget all about Medora. There’s a 36 mile loop drive that heads through the park, which is spectacular! There are prairie dog villages all along the loop and I made Connie stop at so many of them, she was losing patience. There are just hundreds of hillocks in a field, each with a hole in them and the prairie dogs pop up and down, calling to each other. You can get as close as 10 feet before they scurry down their holes. I couldn’t get enough! We saw 2 buffalo (excuse me, bison) close up – they are HUGE – and a herd further away. It was so cool. There’s no way to describe what a wonderful morning it was. After enjoying a buffalo burger for lunch, we headed back to Dickinson.

We looked at the 3 furniture stores in town for a small loveseat but everything had that enormous, puffy look so we gave up, stopped at the market for supplies then headed back to Connie’s to start working. I won’t go into gory detail but suffice it to say, after 3 hours we had touched every box and piece of furniture in the place and everything was where it belonged, even if that meant the boxes of books were on the wall where the yet-to-be-purchased new bookcases would be. We even did a wee bit of Décor8’ing so that the hallway, which is the first thing you see when you open the door, is a thing of beauty with art work hung and the lone piece of furniture looking like something from a magazine. After tons of shrimp cocktail, a salad and a couple of glasses of wine, we hit DQ for a blizzard then settled in to watch Mermaids, one of the many dvd’s Connie has and one of the 2 loose ones we found while moving boxes.

Sunday we ate a big breakfast then headed to Bismarck in separate cars for Connie’s birthday party at her sister Michele’s. She made knoefflah (sp?) soup, a German specialty that tastes like clam chowder without the clams, and a scrabble birthday cake that was cute. After we ate, we went on a driving tour of Bismarck, which included going down to the Missouri river, where I should have gotten out and put my feet in but didn’t. I left Bismarck at 6:00 for the drive to Fergus Falls, Minnesota – my stopping point for the night so I could get home for my 3:00 dentist appointment Monday. I stayed at a Super 8 and was in bed by 10:00. It was the end of a full week but still a long way from home. More on that next week.

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