1 Rivet Member
1975 31' Sovereign
Join Date: Jan 2008
Ya Oughta go ta North Dakota!
North Dakotans have a song, "You Ought to Go to North Dakota!," whose lyrics include: "...to see the cattle and the wheat and the folks that can't be beat...." But there's so much more.
I was raised in northeastern N.D. and have travelled all over the state. Every spring, I haul my '75 AS from my home in Colorado to a farm I own near my hometown. I'm joined for a week by old friends from North Dakota, both coasts, Chicago, Colorado, Texas and Minnesota, who come because they love the tranquility of the place, the unadorned loveliness of the rolling plains, the endless sky, and the openness of the natives. They also like the suds and spirits, food bbq'ed outdoors, the huge, blazing campfires with no restrictions, and tall tales. One evening, when it finally got dark, the crew "discovered" the sky and moved their camp chairs out of the farmstead's trees so they could see all the stars. There weren't any clouds, no city light pollution, and nothing in the way of a 360-degree view of the heavens. They were awestruck and sat out there on the edge of the farmstead till past midnight. Me? I'm a North Dakotan. I'd seen it many times before, the unblinking thousands of mini-spotlights, often with the Northern Lights. Ho hum. I beat the crew to bed by two hours.
We also like playing inexpensive golf on sweet little, tree-lined golf courses that almost every town up there has. One year, we moved our get-together to central N.D. to golf on the town courses around Lake Sakakawea. The crown jewel of these was The Links of North Dakota, a true links course of national stature east of Williston. The Links has RV parking. Other championship courses out west are Hawktree at Bismarck and the awesome Bully Pulpit at Medora. Medora is a great tourist destination with an outdoor, summer musical and plenty of RV slots, some along the scenic Little Missouri River. (Medora also is of historic pioneer importance and is the gateway to Teddy Roosevelt National Park and the Badlands.) But I dwell too long on golf.
Sure, if you want to make time, take I-94 or I-29. But if you want to see gorgeous farm and range land, some cool small towns, and stunning prairie vistas, take the state and federal highways. They all go east and west or north and south. There are only a couple of diagonals in the state. Plus, they all are good roads. They might look like trails to nowhere on the map, but virtually all N.D. roads are wide and in top shape.
Travel? U.S. Highway 2 is an excellent route. Start in Grand Forks, which has all the amenities of a bustling college town, including a great state RV park along the Red River in East Grand Forks, Minn. Devils Lake is 100 miles west and the city anchors an attractive resort area. There are three or four RV campgrounds around the lake itself. All the cities and most of the towns on U.S. 2, like other N.D. communities, have either RV campgrounds or city parks with hookups. Suffice it to say, nothing is real expensive in N.D., except for gas.
I've taken any number of other east-west routes off the interstate to get the Red River Valley in the spring and have found good places to eat, golf courses to challenge, and city parks to camp at. Returning to Colorado, I've stopped at Devils Lake to fish and then headed south on local roads with the same results. I usually stay over in Bismarck at Fort Sibley State Park's dynamite RV campground along the Missouri River. Maybe the nicest RV campground I've ever come across.
Fuel and food? Jeez, it's not the 1930s! I've never had a single problem in either N.D. or S.D. coming across fuel or food. Indeed, N.D. is an agricultural state where neither diesel nor gas is scarce. In fact, in the event you do run out on the road, there's every chance that the next pickup will be a farmer/rancher who'll help you get to the next town.
Scenery? It's exceptional, if you stop to smell the prairie roses. North Dakota's elevation rises from 750 feet where the Red goes in Canada to 3,500-foot White Butte near Amidon. More of North Dakota's surface is water than any of the states directly south, including Texas, or west from Montana to New Mexico. The Northern Plains are anything but barren. Like Sundance said earlier on this thread, N.D. is crammed with wildlife. The Prairie Pothole region is nesting ground for millions of waterfowl. Outside of the Valley, the landscape is hardly flat. (The Valley, well, it's flat, but then it has some of the richest farm land in the world. Should we complain?) The prairie everywhere swells into rolling hills dotted with groves of trees along the streams. Its colors are richly saturated, and the sky, both day and night, commands everything. Plus, I would like to see any other state match a North Dakota sunset, including those three on the West Coast. The larger rivers, like the Red and the Sheyenne, are edged with thick woods. Both the Missouri and Little Mo are spectacular. If you want a trip, start anywhere on the Little Mo and follow it through the Killdeer Mountains until it reaches the Missouri.
Someday, I want to boondock through North Dakota. I would anticipate no trouble camping on public or private land, with permission. But, more on that later. I could go on and on about N.D., as if I haven't already. In short, my advice to the wary traveller is: Go. You'll be surprised.