Thanks to an upbringing as a Military Brat, plus an insatiable wanderlust, I’ve visited or lived in all but four of the fifty states. And when I say “visited”, I only count a state when I’ve traveled at least 100 miles in it, had a meal there or stayed at least one night. So my upcoming roadtrip, planned for August, is designed to knock some of the remaining four off the list. For the record, those four states are North Dakota, South Dakota, Hawaii and Wisconsin. No disrespect to my friends from Wisconsin, but I really have no interest in visiting. I’m definitely not going to do a roadtrip to Hawaii, so North and South Dakota are my destination. Of course, along with other states I’ll pass through on the way. My road trips always have a theme and I brake for all historical sites, so expect a lot of Lewis & Clark, Chief Joseph’s retreat, the Oregon Trail and Teddy Roosevelt.
Of course, to get to North and South Dakota, I’m passing through Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. I’m already researching all the places I want to stop there. But poor North and South Dakota? You won’t find a lot of guidebooks, websites and tourist information about them. Doesn’t anyone go there? Other than oil speculators, which by the way, are one of the reasons I’m doing this trip this year. What little I read about North Dakota in particular says it’s quickly becoming an oil-soaked, fracking-polluted wasteland of seedy trailer park gim-crack boomtown shanties and strip clubs. If I want to catch any of North Dakota’s beauty, I feel I’d better get out there and see it soon. And by the way, that goes double for Montana’s Glacier National Park. Scientists have just moved forward the date for which all the glaciers will disappear — to 2020!
So back to North and South Dakota. I’m sending out an appeal here. I need recommendations for things to see and less traveled roads to get to those sights. I’ve already planned on showing up at the expected places: the Missouri Breaks, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, the Badlands, the Black Hills, Deadwood. I’m also planning to hit some Indian reservations which will probably be heartbreaking, but which I feel I should see. I’m coming in from Montana on the High-Line, the little traveled Route 2, where it looks as if I’ll hit Fracking Central when I get to North Dakota. Again, that won’t be a pretty sight, but I feel I should bear witness.
So again, I’m asking, what should I see, what shouldn’t I miss, where should I eat? Just a word of warning: don’t send me to anything to do with Laura Ingalls Wilder. I know this disqualifies me from proper American girlhood, but I couldn’t stand those books. Ditto Mount Rushmore or the Crazy Horse Memorial. If I happen to be driving past, I’ll look in. But I’m very reluctant to see desecrated sacred sites that are slaps in the face to Native peoples and to the environment. When I look at Mount Rushmore, I don’t focus on massive faces of Presidents. I see an even greater slag heap underneath from all the dynamiting. Also, don’t send me to any major cities. I have no desire to see Bismark, Fargo, Rapid City or any of the major interstates that reach them. Give me back roads, small towns and good honest diners. Oh, and I expect to eat a lot of steak, but don’t suggest Rocky Mountain Oysters. I’ve eaten grasshoppers in Oaxaca and chicken feet in Beijing, but I’m NOT eating bull balls. Period.
So c’mon, Internet Peeps, help me out here. I await your Dakota suggestions.
Buffalo picture from Theodore Roosevelt National Park flicker site.