Ten years ago in 2006, Ed and I took our “two Dakotas trip” and enjoyed ourselves very much. That time out we were mostly in the middle and southern part of North Dakota. Side Note: this is where one of his most popular photographs, “Trotters Church” is from.
Trotters Church, North Dakota
This time we drove a northern route pretty close to straight across coming from the east on State Rt. 66 and dropping down to US Hwy 2 at Rugby for most of the remainder.
From Wikipedia –
“A large portion of the western segment of US 2, and a shorter piece of the eastern segment, follows the old Theodore Roosevelt International Highway. This auto trail, named in honor of the late former president and naturalist Theodore Roosevelt, was organized in February 1919 to connect Portland, Maine with Portland, Oregon.”
Along this way there are endless miles of crops; several kinds of grain, sugar beets, corn, canola and some sunflowers although not as much of them as we saw before farther south in North Dakota. As in Iowa the country is generally flat but the farmsteads are farther apart and many of the towns are really only a few houses and maybe a grain elevator, perhaps a church. Not too much going on.
Canola fields. North Dakota is the #1 producer in the country.
The land varies with sections sometimes offering softly rising hills and then back to total flat, we started seeing Prairie Potholes, glacial ponds mostly small at first then larger ones as we went west. These water sources are everywhere and make this land vital to migratory birds. Even so, what remains is only half of what once was and there is a real effort to save the ones not filled in over the years by agriculture.
A large prairie pothole. The farmers plant around these vital waterfowl habitats.
We spent two nights at the Dale & Martha Hawk Museum and RV Campground outside of Wolford. While we do not recommend this as a campground (it’ll do but don’t expect much and bring your BUG SPRAY) we do recommend coming to see the museum, five bucks a head will get you in. In fact, if you have any interest in old machinery and farm equipment not to mention STUFF and more stuff, put it on your MVL (Must Visit List)! We wandered around and around just flabbergasted by the amount of restoration work and attention to detail. We were flabbergasted by the unbelievable numbers of antique tractors, harvesters, cream separators, cars, blow torches, drill presses, hand tools of every kind, fire trucks, machine belts, typewriters, carriages, old washing machines, on and on and on, building after building, and that doesn’t touch the doll collection, the clock collection, the old church, the old one room school….it’s just flabbergasting! It’s also FUN!
For those of us who have spent time riding a tractor, notice the radiator and fan are turned sideways to blow the hot air out the side instead of back across the operator.
As we headed down US Hwy 2 we noticed a lone church about a quarter mile up a dirt road in the middle of nowhere (there’s a lot of that out here). It was so lovely in a classic picture book church way we had to go see. Although aesthetically more refined then Trotter’s Church it has the same sense of simple, honest faith and beauty.
The Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church built in 1915 by Norwegian settlers, services have not been held here since 1988.
We saw more and more oil and gas derrick pumps and fewer crops as we got further west. Many of the vehicles on the road were related to this industry. To the credit of the drilling companies, most of the pumps, rigs and buildings are painted to blend into the surrounding landscape but the gas burn off flares mark the location of many. It’s not the booming gas and oil market it was but there are still lots of jobs to be had.
Up and down, pump, pump, pump.
We spent our last Dakota night at the Lewis & Clark State Park in Epping and recommend this spot to both RV’ers and tent campers alike. The drive to the park down scenic County Road 1804 slides into the N.D. Badlands and is especially pretty after the flat country before. The park on Lake Sakakawea, a reservoir formed from the dammed Missouri River, has a lovely campground and we had no visible neighbors. We had a short walk and met our friendly camp hosts Curt and Sheila, one of the plusses of our travels. It was a nice goodbye to North Dakota.
The beginning of the North Dakota Badlands along our walk at the Lewis and Clark State Park.
Sunflowers, you just cannot help but smile…🙂
At Rugby, N.D. it’s the geographical center of North America. You know, Mexico, USA and Canada. This might give you an idea of how large Canada is if the middle of the continent is all of Mexico and way more than most of the USA.
and literally in the middle of nowhere, near the middle of North America is the lovely old Tunbridge Church.
The sign on the door invites you to enter but please be respectful.
Still sitting to the left of the alter is an almost in tune piano. In the dust on the piano bench and the pews behind it, it is obvious people have sat. Ed asked me to play Beethoven’s “Fur Elise”. I tried but it’s been too many years and my fingers forget how.
North Dakota is #1 in the country in honey production and we saw hives everywhere.
This is the only operational Hackney Auto-plow in the country. Many of the machines here are still operational.
This 1929 Model A Roadster with mail carrier’s attachment was originally used by Wallace Froelich a mail carrier in the Crary, ND area. This is what’s known as American Ingenuity.
1923 (possibly) Horse drawn hearse converted to a Model T pickup was once used as a chicken house by May Bristol. More American Ingenuity.
Some of the 1350 blow torches in the collection all donated by the same man.
A thing of beauty, while not the surrey with the fringe on top it was nice to have the shade.
A wooden thresher. In its day, it was what the modern combine is now but stationary with the wheat brought to it by human harvesters.
A one room schoolhouse that had all 12 grades.
A tall case clock decorated with ball point pens that is a must for the serious collector.
A North Dakota landscape of grain.
Okay, so not all the pumps are painted camouflage but note the gas flare and the one in the distance.
A greener form of energy, windmills are more and more prevalent across this breezy country.
Marti is cooling her heels in Lake Sakakawea on the Missouri River.