13. North Dakota

State Facts
Nickname: Peace Garden State
Home of: the world’s largest Turtle and Holstein statues
Famous for: the movie Fargo
Official fish: Northern Pike (apparently stinky and far too bony)

So here we are. North Dakota. Quote from the Lonely Planet: “Isolated in the far US north, North Dakota is the least visited states” The book practically try to talk us out of going there ūüôā so one more reason for us to visit. Great Plains, farming lands, whiteness and dead-straight roads for hundreds of miles -they say: “you can see where you’re going but it takes a day to get there” We thought, the only way to understand the meaning of it is to drive through it and experience the vastness.
As usual we chose the small side roads instead of the highway. We prefer these routes as so much more to see and it doesn’t make any differences to us as we can’t go too fast anyway. According to one of our¬†guidebooks¬†there was a little town by this small road we have chosen, called Fort¬†Ransom¬†(population 105!) which was worth a visit. The town had a lovely woodland around it with camp facilities so we stopped there for the night. Came across with John, the enjoyably personable park ranger, who kindly welcomed us and gave us a spot in the camp with the finest view of the Sheyenne River. After a night of listening to the coyotes “singing” and after having our morning beverages we were about to set off when John (the park ranger) popped by and delivered an invite from the local school. They invited us for a pop-in, introduce BURT and ourselves to the children. We were more than happy to do it! The school was small with only a handful of pupils and a few teachers but was very well rounded, and seemed very much an excellent learning environment for kids (if all schools were like that we’d have more prospect of a relaxed and healthy education for our young generation) This was a real treat for us to see. The kids and the teachers were absolutely delightful and instead of a half an hour quick “swing-by” we stayed there for over 2 hours. It was difficult to leave as we thoroughly enjoyed the chats to the kids and the lovely hospitality of the teachers. Thank you for the opportunity to introduce BURT and talk about our (non)plans.

ND School visit
School visit, Fort Ransom ND
January 2013

As we left, we popped in for a coffee in to the local cafe/store, and stayed for another¬†unplanned¬†couple of hours. It was just impossible to leave as everyone who came in to the shop wanted to know “what the¬†heck¬†we were doing with THAT vehicle!?” It was fun and everyone seemed so friendly that, again, it was hard to leave. But every nice morning has to come to an end and at around midday we finally set off.

Again, we didn’t want to use the bigger roads and found a farming gravel road (which was for public use too) with gorgeous scenery by the two sides of it. Within 5 miles down on this fun, gentle roller coaster road we stuck and our enjoyable morning was followed by 3 hours shovelling! The snow was powdery and about 80-100 cm deep. There was a point when it crossed our minds that we might just have to stay the night and maybe a few more or maybe even wait till April when the snow melts to get out of this dip. Then we shovelled more. I had the brilliant idea to used our sand ladders! They were quite useless as the aluminium metal + snow made the rigid tyres more slippery so didn’t go anywhere. Also what else made it a bit more challenging was that, as we stuck front and couldn’t go any further ahead, John had to manoeuvre in reverse and upwards and that way it was harder to keep the front and back tyres in line. So more digging and shovelling. Finally we thought; OK there’s no¬†shortcut¬†to this, we just have to dig the tracks wide and deep to the ground and all the way up to the top of the slope. That finally did the trick and we made it out. Soaking wet and freezing at the same time but we were very pleased to continue our journey and if we plough on without a stop we can make it to Bismarck before the end of the day.

Digging 01 North Dakota January 2013
Digging 01
North Dakota
January 2013
Digging 02 North Dakota January 2013
Digging 02
North Dakota
January 2013

So back on the road, towards west on I-94 now, to save time. Another 130 miles of dead straight road, but the sun is beaming and we are discussing snow-shovelling techniques (gotta kill time with something…)

Bismarck was a quick 2 nights stop by a hotel with hook-up possibility, free pass to their swimming pool, really friendly people, Starbucks on the corner and wifi.

Who says there’s nothing in North Dakota? We certainly had a wonderful and an eventful few days here. We sure did experience the “nothingness” and for us, it was really Something!