Posted 8/11/15 (Tue)
Welcome to North Dakota! Bring me your tired, your hungry, your cold and wet! But be careful out there!
Several years ago, I suppose in the mid eighties, North Dakota was reported as the “least” visited state in the nation. It was a satirical look at our proud state. This lady flew into Hector International Airport in Fargo. It showed hers as the only luggage on the carousel. Then she was filmed wandering through the airport. The only person there. Outside was a ripping blizzard. She toured North Dakota visiting many of our highlights. The eternal flame at Minot. Which the wind had blown out. She visited the geographic center of the continent at Rugby. Where the snow plows roared by covering her with snow. She visited beautiful Lake Sakakawea, where she stood on the ice-covered lake in a blizzard as the snow plows roared by. She climbed the snow-covered capital steps in Bismarck as the snow plows roared by. Many people were upset. I thought it was funny. But, as you are probably aware, I am a little different.
This weekend I was invited to join a group from Washington, D.C., in Medora. I was invited because I am married to Shirley. Enough said.
We met at the Roughrider Hotel and boarded a bus to take a tour of the South Unit of the park.
No one warned me that the bus driver had been training for the Daytona 500 with a 40 passenger bus. You know those tight turns on the narrow park road? The ones you creep around with a car? This guy was determined to set a land speed record that, if I were a swearing man, I would swear we took the turns on two wheels!
Our first stop, and again, I am on a bus full of people that had never visited North Dakota, was one of the damn prairie dog towns. Prairie dogs are a prairie version of city rats. They ruin the land. And are destroying a once beautiful park. But that is my opinion. Which, by the way, is usually right.
Anyway, the guide gave us a quick tutorial on the prairie dog. They are cute. They live in towns. “But stay on the bus. There can be rattlesnakes that have moved into the burrows. There is poison ivy around the town. The prairie dogs have been known to carry and spread bubonic plague.” There was a young boy standing out in the middle of the town as we sped by. I hope he lived.
Our next stop was…Well, we didn’t stop completely. We kind of slowed down as we passed a bunch of wild horses. But it was on a curve and the bus was leaning quite a bit so most of the people didn’t get a chance to view the horses. They were holding on to each other and trying to keep the luggage from smashing into the weaker passengers. Puke bags were being distributed and oxygen masks dropped from the ceiling.
We did see some bison. But the guide warned us. “Do not get out of the bus around the bison! They are very dangerous animals and are rutting this time of the year. They will attack anyone or anything that threatens them!”
Our next stop was out on a point where you could view scoria-covered buttes and some of the unique flora and fauna of the park. “But for God’s sake, stay on the path. The rattlesnakes and poison ivy are rampant throughout this area! Dammit, get back from that people-eating tree!”
We did see a few more bison off in the distance. And we did see a couple of more wild horses standing on a ridge fighting flies. And the guide did explain how the park service is naming the horses. But that is a story for another time.
As we exited the park and pulled into the oasis of Medora, the group started straightening their clothes, picking the luggage off the floor, and shakily disembarking the bus.
They seemed relieved when I said the next stop, which would be more relaxing was the Little Missouri Saloon.
Welcome to North Dakota! Now you see why many of us drink!