On the Road: Minnesota and North Dakota

[message type="custom"]On the Road is a series of posts highlighting the "getting there" portion of my epic road trip through the western US - not focused on a specific destination but rather some [seemingly random] observations along the way, mostly to give the folks outside the US and idea of what the country looks like beyond NYC and Hollywood movies.[/message] After having no luck finding someone to join me through various road trip groups on Couchsurfing, I made a post in the Minneapolis group and bingo!

Meet Thomas - a  PhD student from Graz, Austria and my car mate for the northern states portion of the epic road trip.

Thomas with the old style gas pumps

Thomas is studying history and working on a thesis comparing the effects of Spanish influenza on two communities - one in Austria and one in Minnesota. Just in case you are wondering why Minnesota (as I certainly did), it was because his school has a relationship with the university here which essentially paid for him to do the research in the Twin Cities area last year and finish it up this year. Hey, I'd take that too!

To warm up Thomas for the trip, I couldn't come up with anything better than a nine and a half hour dash through Minnesota and North Dakota on his very first day.

Minneapolis to Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Our destination - Theodore Roosevelt National Park which encompasses a portion of North Dakotan Badlands - if it is anything even remotely as awesome as the Badlands in South Dakota, it would be worth the drive! Let's hope so.

The plans to leave Minneapolis early morning didn't materialize so after stocking up on food and the last few camping supplies, we got on the road around 10:30. Good thing western ND is on mountain time "giving" us an extra hour. Why would we care? Well, we weren't sure if the park and/or the campground will close before we get there...

Driving through Minnesota is not very exciting

Besides some road construction and continuously hiding all of its 10,000 lakes from our view, Minnesota didn't present us much to write home about.

Dare do I ask what is legendary about North Dakota

Rolling into North Dakota, the weather has cleared up and the sun was out. Nice at first but soon we were wishing we could jump into one of the myriad lakes and ponds tempting us along the road.

Another farm, another pond

Ironically, there seemingly was a lot more water around us now that we left the land of 10,000 lakes.

Wooden utility poles submerged in water

Rail tracks int the middle of a pond

I wonder if the water sticks around or if they all dry up during the summer months?

The scenery has changed once again to an alternating combination of farm fields and rolling hills.

Rolling hills of North Dakota

And giant cows.

New Salem, ND - home to giant cows

Neither of us expected so much variety in ND so the next few hours [almost] flew by pretty quick and soon it was time to turn off onto the Enchanted Highway to check out some gigantic sculptures along the way.

Geese in Flight - the first sculpture of the Enchanted Highway

More on that in another post.

Once back on the interstate, it was another 30 miles to go and soon we were rolling along the streets of Medora looking for the park entrance. Surprisingly, it was right in the middle of town and it was open! Hurray! Moreover, the campground still had plenty of spots left (some taken up by bisons - pretty cool!) so we could finally set up for the night.