Monday, August 23, 2010

Enchanted Highways

Aug. 23, 2010

Another wonderful day! This morning, we woke up at 7 am to find that the 90+ degree weather from yesterday had become downright cool! In fact I dressed in long pants and Joe wore a sweatshirt, and my feet were cold in sandals. We left our campground a little before 9 am for our drive to South Dakota. If we had gone the fastest possible way, it would be about a 4 hour drive, but we took a longer way in order to drive on the “Enchanted Highway”.
The Enchanted Highway begins with the Flying Geese sculpture we saw a few days ago on our way to Medora . The highway goes due south from there, with seven or eight other huge metal sculptures by the same artist along the way. So that’s the direction we took. We were charmed by the folk-art quality of the sculpture, which were not just huge but whimsical and with small special touches (fx, the Grasshopper was surrounded by smaller grasshoppers and large waving stalks ofwheat, and the parking lot border matched the wheat; the Fisherman’s Dream was surrounded by a border of waves, etc.) We stopped at each one to take photos, and at a few of them, we let Roxy out to run around at the same time.

The Highway was Enchanted in another way, too—we were the only ones on it! Well, not entirely; but I don’t suppose that we saw more than a few dozen cars on the entire length of highway. At one stop, I stood in the middle of the road and took photos in both directions, crossing back and forth repeatedly. Joe used the chance to clean off Mo’s windshield. During the entire time, not a single car or truck passed in either direction—it was at least a 10 minute stop. It would have been simple to see anyone coming—the road was as straight as an arrow, with only a gentle up-and-down over the hills. When we DID see a vehicle, it was always a pickup truck or a larger transport truck—we didn’t see any “regular” cars and not another RV or anyone else who appeared “touristy”. Once, Joe missed the driveway for the turnout at the sculpture; he simply stopped Mo and backed up on the roadway. There was no one coming in either direction.
We reached the end of the highway in Regent, ND, a small town with one street. There was a gift shop, a co-op grocery, a post office, a gas station, an American Legion hall, a small billboard announcing that Regent was the hometown of one of ND’s US Senators, and that was pretty much it. We drove right through but a half-mile later I said to Joe, “I think it was a mistake not to get gas there; I don’t know when we’ll see another gas station.” So we went back and got gas. We also went into the gift store, took photos of the last metal sculpture (which, unlike the others, was not quite so monumental and we’d missed it somehow), and mailed a postcard in the little post office. The cutest thing we saw was a metal evergreen tree (another sculpture, of course)--there were *real* birds nesting in it!

It turned out to be a very good thing we’d gotten gas, because it was many many miles later before we passed another town of any size. Some places which are on the map literally don’t exist, or all they have is one building (seriously; we ate lunch in Reva, South Dakota—there was one building called “The Store”, which had a post office drop, a small convenience store selection of groceries, and a couple of booths to sit and eat your purchased sandwich at. And that was it for the entire town.) That corner of the world—southwest ND and northwest SD—is very very sparsely populated, and again, we just didn’t see many cars for hours.
What we DID see was absolutely beautiful farmland in North Dakota—thousands of acres of wheat fields, interspersed with sunflower fields. The gently rolling countryside stretched literally to the horizon, and was gorgeous. The day was beautiful—sunny, with fluffy clouds—and our eyes just drank it all in for hours. This is why we love travelling this way; there is simply no way to comprehend how huge and how beautiful our country is without driving through these miles of “nothing”. It is really something.

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