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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.