Monday, November 9, 2020

50 before 50: North Dakota and Montana

 So, as I have already covered, I decided when I turned 40 that I need to see all 50 states before I turn 50. I told Missy about this goal, and she immediately started working on knocking a few off my list - North Dakota and Montana. 

We decided the best time to leave would be right after Election Day, since my family is very pro-Trump and I am very VERY not pro-Trump. Our thought process that was no matter which way the election went, I may need a little space. Little did we know, the Election Day would turn into Elections DayS. So we scheduled our departure for Wednesday November 4th. I left work early and picked Missy up. I had a post it with the states that were still counting votes and who I thought the state would be called for. I mean, that's how CNN keeps track of things too, right?

We headed north and our first stop was in falls in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. However, their must be a drought because the falls weren't very fall-y. But still pretty. I would love to go back when they are more fall-y. Next we went to Watertown, South Dakota to the Terry Redlin Art Center. This was a great stop. The museum is so nice! Our last stop for that day was the Walla Church which was legit in the middle of a cornfield. I have a weird love for churches that also have cemeteries, so this was also a cool stop. However, I think I would have enjoyed it more if it wasn't pitch black because #scary. Next, we headed to Fargo, North Dakota to find a place to eat - we ended up at Lucky 13 to eat their version of the juicy lucy, the juicy lulu. It was probably the best one I've ever had! Then we checked into the hotel, and since the television didn't work, the room was comped! #score During the whole drive we were listening to CNN, and then we were watching it on our phones/ipads - still no election results. 

The next morning we woke up to no election results. We went to Kroll's Diner in Fargo for breakfast and then hit the road for Medora, North Dakota, home to Teddy Roosevelt National Park. But first we stopped in Jamestown to see the Worlds Largest Buffalo. This site also boasted actual live buffalo and for some reason my friend Missy, who hates animals, LOVES buffalo. But alas, we found none. Next we stopped in Bismark to see another statue - the Four Headed Thunderbird - and I saw a TJ Maxx so why would I not stop? And I found a great Rae Dunn piece. 

After that, we made one more pit stop in New Salem to see the World's Largest Holstein Cow. The cow is absolutely enormous and on top of a hill and you could see for miles....but we were in the middle of North Dakota, so not a lot to see. Still, it's always fun to be up that high. 

So at this point, we were in a new time zone and I was thinking to North Dakota the most boring state ever? I didn't think anything could be more boring that eastern Nebraska and we got closer to Medora and Teddy Roosevelt, it became BEAUTIFUL! 

Finally, we hit Medora, which is a great little town...but literally almost everything was closed. We stopped at a gas station and the gas pumps were old school - like where the numbers roll and you can't use a card at the pump. It was amazing. Unfortunately, we were told there that pretty much the entire town was shut down for the season. Luckily the national park was still open so we headed into Teddy Roosevelt. It was absolutely beautiful - we hit it right at sunset. Even Donald Trump acting like a moron and making his stupid, ignorant statement couldn't ruin the ambience. 

We stayed at the Rough Riders Inn. I really liked this place. Not just because of this library, but...kinda.

We walked to one of the two bars in town that were open and serving food, then went back to the room to watch more election coverage. Still no results. Remember how we left town to get away from the election results? At this point we were thinking we still wouldn't have a president when we returned. 

We woke up the next morning to head to Montana. We found a quaint place to eat breakfast, Cabin Cafe, and then headed into Medicine Rocks State Park. 

After that, we ended up driving through a sliver of Wyoming - this was a surprise, I didn't realize we would be hitting another state! 

I've been to Wyoming before, so we just cruised through and broke our way into South Dakota. 

Now, yes, I've been to South Dakota before, but I feel like when you're that close to that state you should ALWAYS spend time there. There's so much to explore. So we headed to Spearfish Canyon first, because last time we were there we didn't get a chance to spend a lot of time there. First we hiked Devil's Bathtub, which was so fun. The trail took you back and forth over a creek and you had to step on rocks to get across the water. I loved it...until, on the way back, I slipped on a slippery rock and fell. And then my foot quit working. Regardless, we went to Roughlock Falls and did that short hike. 

We found a place called Killions for a late lunch/early dinner and they had ranch dressing in a squeeze bottle! It was like they never wanted us to leave. 

We headed to Hot Springs next, and checked into our room for the night. Guess what - still no election results. We worked on our plan for the next day, and I was a negative nelly about going to Mount Rushmore - I was annoyed we didn't have a new president yet. I said I didn't need to go to the park. 

The next morning we drove to Wind Cave National Park, which butts up to Custer State Park and...Missy finally got her buffalo fix. Actually, more than a fix, she should be set for life. I bet we saw 200!! And some were literally inches from us. I have never been so terrified and I am fairly sure I have immediate-onset-arthritis from gripping the steering wheel so hard. 

We stopped to get out and stretch and walk a small trail when my phone started BLOWING UP - they declared Biden the winner!! I got teary eyed and wanted to go to Mount Rushmore. We headed that way, driving by Crazy Horse on the way - still no progress from four years ago, when there was no progress from when I was 16. 

Mount Rushmore! Why was I such a brat, thinking I didn't need to see it again - you ALWAYS need to see it again. 
We stopped in Rapid City next, to grab lunch and walk around to see the president statues in town. Then we hit the road to Badlands National Park - this place is always so freaking beautiful. 

We hit the Badlands at sunset, which means we were driving to Mitchell in pitch black and the wind was a BITCH. Again, immediate-onset-arthritis. 

We stayed at the Thunderbird Inn in Mitchell which was...interesting. But whatever, we were there for 12 hours and Biden was president, so not a lot could ruin the day. It was uncomfortably hot in the room, though, so I got about five minutes of sleep. 

The next morning we went to a diner right next door, and then took a quick drive by the Corn Palace because why not, we were there. Next we headed to DeSmet to see the Laura Ingalls Wilder school, the home Pa built and the gravesites of Ma, Pa, Carolyn and Mary. (Laura is buried in Missouri.) (Yes, I love Little House on the Prairie). 

After that, we hightailed it home - the wind was a bitch, and we were in the car for a long time! We made one stop at the first Casey's we came across because #donuts. 

Thank God I took a few more days off at the end of this trip to recuperate. 

This was the best way to knock two states off my list. I am so thankful to have Missy in my life, who is always up for anything (including adding like 100 miles to our trip so I could look at some headstones).