A to Z Challenge: The M Towns #atozchallenge

During the month of April I am participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The challenge has each blogger select a theme and then do a post thematically from A to Z during each day of April , except Sundays. My blog is number 1337 out of 1670 participating blogs. This year my A to Z posts will take you across the back roads of America to many unique what other bloggers will be posting about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016

MThe M Towns

Mount Horeb, Wisconsin

Welcome to Mt. Horeb, WI
Welcome to Mt. Horeb, WI
A giant troll sculpture greets you at the Mount Horeb Welcome Center. Created by Wally Keller
A giant troll sculpture greets you at the Mount Horeb Welcome Center. Created by Wally Keller
Ahhh..trolls
Ahhh..trolls
Another Mt. Horeb Troll - for good measure
A Mt. Horeb Troll – for good measure
One of dozens of HUGE trolls in Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin
One of dozens of HUGE trolls in Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin
Grumpy Troll Brew Pub and Restaurant, Mt. Horeb, WI
Grumpy Troll Brew Pub and Restaurant, Mt. Horeb, WI

There is no better place to catch some trolls than in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin. Indeed, the main attraction for the town are the trolls. The town has created a “Trollway” along Wisconsin Highway 151 with many large carved wooden trolls visible from the road. Many of these were created by local artist Michael Feeney. We found a few on our visit….  Click here for a nice map of the town, with all of the trolls and other attractions.  Click HERE to read more about my 2012 visit and see more trolls.

Meadville, Pennsylvania

Sumoflam and Road Sign Flowers
Sumoflam and Road Sign Flowers
Road Sign Flower Garden in Meadville, PA
Road Sign Flower Garden in Meadville, PA
Stop sign flower in Meadville, PA
Stop sign flower in Meadville, PA
Balloons and more
Balloons and more
Roadsign art in Meadville
Roadsign art in Meadville

Traveling Interstate 79 North towards Pittsburgh, you can hop off of Exit 147 onto US Highway 19 and head towards Meadville.  Not too far off from there you will run into something interesting.  Along the road there is a giant menagerie of roadside art…all made from repurposed roadsigns that PennDOT had donated. Signs & Flowers is a garden of 12 large flowers made of recycled road signs and landscaping at the PennDOT storage lot in Meadville (photos below). In the spring and summer of 2001, Allegheny College art students, under the direction of art professor Amara Geffen, designed and planted the “garden,” which has quickly become a popular attraction for local residents and tourists. In the summer of 2002 Geffen’s students continued the project by constructing a 200-foot sculptural fence Read Between the Signs on the PennDOT property along Hwy 322.  See more photos and more of the story HERE.

Metropolis, Illinois

Welcome to Metropolis, home of Superman
Welcome to Metropolis, home of Superman
"Super" Family Trip - Metropolis, Illinois
“Super” Family Trip – Metropolis, Illinois
Sumoflam with Superman in Metropolis, IL
Sumoflam with Superman in Metropolis, IL
The Giant non-Superman Statue in Metropolis, IL
The Giant non-Superman Statue in Metropolis, IL

Many of us have grown up hearing the name “Metropolis” and associating with the big city that Superman.  Well, there is actually a town in Illinois called Metropolis and they celebrate their Superman status with an entire town square dedicated to Superman and a newspaper called the Planet. See more in my post about Metropolis from 2012 HERE.

Marshfield, Wisconsin

Jurustic Park
Jurustic Park
Welcome to Jurustic Park
Welcome to Jurustic Park
20 foot tall Jurustic Park dragon in Marshfield, WI
20 foot tall Jurustic Park dragon in Marshfield, WI
Clyde Wynia, the creator of Jurustic Park and the artist behind all of the work
Clyde Wynia, the creator of Jurustic Park and the artist behind all of the work

Marshfield, Wisconsin is located just north of US Highway 10 smack in the middle of Wisconsin.  And, about four miles north of Marshfield, you can turn off onto Wisconsin Highway 97 and then onto Highway E on the north edge of Marshfield at the Wal-Mart stoplight. Go north past Menards 3 1/2 miles to Sugarbush Lane for 1/2 mile and you will see strange metal sculptures — you are then at Jurustic Park, the brainchild of former attorney Clyde Wynia. Once you get there and park, you will likely be met by Clyde and he will give you the ultimate tour, tell you the stories (both real and made up all intermingled) and will demonstrate and explain some of his nearly 1000 pieces.  I asked him how many he has made and he said he has never counted them!! Jurustic Park is a MUST SEE destination if you are anywhere near. See my detailed post from 2012 about Clyde and Jurustic Park HERE.

Moenave, Arizona

Moenave Dinosaur Tracks near Tuba City, AZ
Moenave Dinosaur Tracks near Tuba City, AZ
Moenave Dinosaur Tracks near Tuba City, AZ
Moenave Dinosaur Tracks near Tuba City, AZ
Another view of the many tracks at Moenave.
Another view of the many tracks at Moenave.

In the early 1980s I was a tour guide for Nava-Hopi Tours in Flagstaff, Arizona.  Many of my tours took visitors to the Navajo and Hopi Indian Reservations in Northern Arizona.  One of first stops on these specific trips was at a little place known as Moenave, which is just off of US Highway 160 a few miles east of US Highway 89 north of Flagstaff.  Not too far up Hwy 160 on the left there is a turn off to the Dinosaur Tracks.  This spot on the Navajo Nation may be one of the most well preserved dinosaur track fossils around and, with probably close to 200 tracks, it may also be one of the biggest sites.  The site has become so popular, that the Navajo Nation may soon be creating a small visitor center and a fence to protect the site from vandals.  Currently you can still visit these for free, but it is advisable to leave a tip to the kind Navajo folk that “guide” you among the tracks.  Bear in mind that you’ll need to take what they claim about the tracks with a grain of salt.  Though paleontologists have verified these as authentic, there are no T-Rex tracks and no dinosaur poop on the site.  Just a number of three toed tracks.

Mystic, Connecticut

Welcome to Mystic, CT
Welcome to Mystic, CT
Mystic, CT signpost
Mystic, CT signpost
4 Roosevelt Bistro Thai Restaurant in Mystic, CT
4 Roosevelt Bistro Thai Restaurant in Mystic, CT
Mystic Pizza in Mystic, CT with my sweet wife
Mystic Pizza in Mystic, CT with my sweet wife

Connecticut offer many unique treasures, and one of them is most certainly Mystic, which sits on US Highway 1, just south of I-95.  The town is on the Block Island Sound and is not too far from the northeastern stretches of Long Island in New York.  We visited Mystic in 2015 as part of our New England visit/adventure.  I was more interested in seeing the site of the 1980s movie Mystic Pizza, but also found that the small town has an awesome seaport with some tall sail ships, a fairly well known (though expensive) aquarium, a submarine museum, and even a nearby dinosaur park in Montville.  It certainly deserves more than the couple of hours we devoted to the town. By the way, we have heard that you don’t want to try the pizza.  But, I would advise you try the Thai at the 4 Roosevelt Bistro, which we discovered on our drive into Mystic and turned around after our drive thru town to go grab lunch there.  It was a pleasant surprise to know that they also had a good number of vegan and vegetarian items on the menu, which made most of us happy.  See more details of our visit to Mystic an other areas in New England HERE.

Montrose, South Dakota

Porter's Sculpture Park, Montrose, SD
Porter’s Sculpture Park, Montrose, SD
A skeleton keeping guard at Porter's Sculpture Park in Montrose, SD
A skeleton keeping guard at Porter’s Sculpture Park in Montrose, SD
Sixty foot tall bull head can be seen for miles.
Sixty foot tall bull head can be seen for miles.
Oddball upside down giant hammer at the Porter Sculpture Park
Oddball upside down giant hammer at the Porter Sculpture Park
Porter Sculpture Park as seen from a Google Satellite image
Porter Sculpture Park as seen from a Google Satellite image

Back in 2013 I was on a return trip home from Idaho with my wife.  We had left Mitchell, South Dakota (see below) were driving east on I-90 toward Sioux Falls.  Unbeknownst to me, in the small town of Montrose, South Dakota, right off the freeway (near Exit 374), there was an unusual site.  I actually pulled onto the shoulder to get out and get shots of what is known as the Porter Sculpture Park, which includes an amazing 60-foot tall bull’s head, which is what got me.  For some reason I had overlooked this one!!   You can see more about my trip HERE.

Minot, North Dakota

Sumoflam at the replica of the Gol Stave Church in Minot, ND
Sumoflam at the replica of the Gol Stave Church at the Scandinavian Heritage Park in Minot, ND
The 30 foot tall Dala Horse at the Scandinavian Heritage Center in Minot
The 30 foot tall Dala Horse at the Scandinavian Heritage Center in Minot

Once again, in the Dakotas, there is so much to see.  On a 2014 trip west to Montana, I made a stop in Minot, ND, which is on US Highway 2 in western North Dakota. This city is home to the North Dakota State Fair, but, of more interest to me is their celebration of Scandinavian heritage. The annual Norsk Hostfest is the largest festival of its kind in North America and is a tribute the area’s Scandinavian heritage. The Scandinavian Heritage Park is home to a replica of the beautiful Gol Stave Church which currently sits at the Norsk Folkemuseum in Oslo, Norway.  You can see more about this trip across North Dakota on US Highway 2 HERE.

Mitchell, South Dakota

World's Only Corn Palace
World’s Only Corn Palace
Sumoflam at the Corn Palace
Sumoflam at the Corn Palace
The Corn Palace - 2013
The Corn Palace – 2013

Back in South Dakota again, you can’t miss out on the Corn Palace of Mitchell, SD.  It is one of those iconic must see roadside attractions. Originally built in 1892 as the “Corn Belt Exposition,” it became an iconic landmark and attraction in Mitchell after 1921.  Every year the exterior decorations are stripped and a new theme is created. The work is done by local artists. The artists use 13 different colors or shades of corn to decorate with. Typically there are over 275,000 ears of corn used annually on the murals. There is a nice list of the history of the murals here.  Definitely worth a visit if you are on Interstate 90 in eastern South Dakota.

Mapleton, Ontario (Honorable Mention)

Taxidermy and Cheese Store
Taxidermy and Cheese Store
Taxidermy and Cheese
Taxidermy and Cheese all in one stop!

The small community of Mapleton, Ontario is one of those “blink you miss it places.  However, it is also one of those unique and offbeat places, featuring the Mapleton Taxidermy and Cheese Shop.  See my 2012 post for more details HERE.

Medina, New York (Honorable Mention)

Big Apple Medina, NY
Big Apple Medina, NY
Culvert Road tunnel UNDER the Erie Canal
Culvert Road tunnel UNDER the Erie Canal
Culvert Road Tunnel under Erie Canal
Culvert Road Tunnel under Erie Canal

Clear up in northern New York, not too far from Niagara Falls, is a small town called Medina which is home to TWO unique oddities. The most well known is the Culvert Road Tunnel, which is a Ripley’s Believe It or Not (one of my site sponsors) featured site. This is the only place one can “cross” the Erie Canal by going UNDER it!!  Also, if you thought the Big Apple was in New York City, think again, the real Big Apple sits beside a bridge.  The apple was sculpted by artist Richard D. Banninster in 1999.  See my whole 2008 story about both attractions HERE.

Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan (Honorable Mention)

Mac the Moose in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan
Mac the Moose in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

Back up in Canada, the town of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan is home of the world’s largest moose statue, named Mac the Moose.  I first visited there as a high school junior for a band tour in the 1970s BEFORE the moose.  I once again made my way to Moose Jaw in 2007.  Touted as the World’s Largest Moose, Mac stands 32 feet tall and weighs in at 10 tons.  He was made by Saskatoon artist Don Foulds in 1984. Mac is considered to be one of the most photographed roadside attractions in all of Canada.  See more about my 2007 visit HERE.

Mars, Pennsylvania (Honorable Mention)

Welcome to Mars
Welcome to Mars
Mars, PA
Mars, PA

Finally, for you outer space and alien lovers, you can visit Mars, Pennsylvania and see their out of this world spaceship in the city park downtown.  Residents of Mars are often called “Martians”, or “Planets” because of the high school team name, which is actually the “Fightin’ Planets.” See my post about Mars HERE.

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Ten Giant Reasons to Visit North Dakota

MapLoco States I Have Visited
MapLoco States I Have Visited

In the last few days there has been a viral survey on Facebook (seems like there is one every week!!).  Simply put, “How Many States Have You Visited” is fun for all because it is simple and adds color and is really a “go viral” piece.  MapLoco.com has apparently used it to draw attention to their site.  I did it and my results are above – yes, I only have three states to go.  Many of my friends have done it as well and one common theme I found among many of them….they had not yet been to North Dakota.  In fact, a couple of my friends even indicated that they may never find a reason to go to North Dakota.

North Dakota Map from 1958
North Dakota Map from 1958

North Dakota gets a bad rap from people because in the winter there are unbearable blizzards and snow.  The state is relatively flat and “may not” have interesting places to visit (or so people think).  But, despite the cold winter, there is plenty to see and do in North Dakota for fun, especially if you go in late Spring or during the Summer.  Here are my TOP TEN places to visit in North Dakota.

1. Theodore Roosevelt National Park – Medora, ND

Some of the scenic and colorful hills of Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Some of the scenic and colorful hills of Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Yes indeed, there IS a National Park in North Dakota.  Theodore Roosevelt National Park, named after the President that pushed forth conservation by establishing the National Forest Service, and establishing 51 Federal Bird Reservations, 4 National Game Preserves, 150 National Forests, 5 National Parks, and enabling the 1906 American Antiquities Act which he used to proclaim 18 National Monuments. During his presidency, Theodore Roosevelt protected approximately 230,000,000 acres of public land.

2. The Enchanted Highway – Dickinson, ND to Regent, ND

Enchanted Highway in North Dakota
Enchanted Highway in North Dakota

The Enchanted Highway is a collection of the world’s largest scrap metal sculptures constructed at intervals along a 32 mile stretch of two-lane highway from east of Dickinson, ND to Regent, ND.  In my opinion, this is one of America’s TOP Roadside Attractions. (See my complete blog post about it here).

Fisherman's Dream, one of the many Ginormous scrap metal sculptures on the Enchanted Highway
Fisherman’s Dream, one of the many Ginormous scrap metal sculptures on the Enchanted Highway
Sumoflam visiting the Tin Family, another large set of metal sculptures on the Enchanted Highway
Sumoflam visiting the Tin Family, another large set of metal sculptures on the Enchanted Highway

3.  Interstate 94 – The Highway of Giants

World's Largest Buffalo, Jamestown, ND
World’s Largest Buffalo, Jamestown, ND

Interstate 94 from Fargo to Dickinson boasts FOUR of the World’s Largest things (see my post about this part of North Dakota)…the World’s Largest Buffalo in Jamestown, ND; the World’s Largest Sand Crane in Steele, ND; Salem Sue, the World’s Largest Holstein Cow in New Salem, ND (see #6 below); and “Geese in Flight”, the first piece of the Enchanted Highway and the Guinness World Record Holder for the largest scrap metal sculpture in the world.

World's Largest Sand Crane, Steele, ND
World’s Largest Sand Crane, Steele, ND
Sumoflam at the "Geese in Flight" Scrap Metal Sculpture, the world's largest
Sumoflam at the “Geese in Flight” Scrap Metal Sculpture, the world’s largest

4. Rugby, ND – The Geographical Center of North America

Rugby, ND - The Geographic Center of North America
Rugby, ND – The Geographic Center of North America

I got to visit Rugby in 2014.  The novelty of visiting the Geographical Center of North America was too much to resist (see my post here).

The Rugby Monument to the Geographical Center of North America
The Rugby Monument to the Geographical Center of North America

5. Space Aliens Bar and Grill in Fargo, ND

Space Aliens Bar & Grill, Fargo, ND
Space Aliens Bar & Grill, Fargo, ND

I have visited three of these locations over the years.  For an out of this world tasty experience (they have BBQ Ribs!!) you must stop by Space Aliens.  They actually have TWO locations in North Dakota (Bismarck as well).  As you can see below, back in 2005 we finished off a massive all-you-can-eat dinner. And the quirky theme restaurant has all of the outer-space kitsch you want too!

Finishing off a pile of ribs at Space Aliens back in 2005
Finishing off a pile of ribs at Space Aliens back in 2005

6. Salem Sue, the World’s Largest Holstein Cow, New Salem, ND

Salem Sue in New Salem, ND - the World's Largest Holstein Cow
Salem Sue in New Salem, ND – the World’s Largest Holstein Cow

For an udderly moooving experience, Salem Sue is a must see attraction.  At 38 feet tall, 50 feet long and weighing over 12,000 pounds, this cow is amazing fun.  On a hill near New Salem, ND (I-94, exit 127), this bodacious bovine can be seen from as far as seven miles away on a clear day.

Salem Sue is a giant of all giants. Udderly amazing
Salem Sue is a giant of all giants. Udderly amazing

7. A Pyramid in the Middle of Nowhere – Nekoma, ND

The Pyramid Shaped MSR of the Mickelsen Safeguard Complex
The Pyramid Shaped MSR of the Mickelsen Safeguard Complex

This pyramid is actually called the Missile Site Radar (MSR) installation. It is part of a larger installation called the Stanley R. Mickelson Safeguard Complex (SRMSC).  Built in the 1970s. this complex was the United States’ first operational ABM (anti-ballistic missile) defense system. This lonely 80 foot tall pyramid can be seen for miles. (See my complete post about this part of North Dakota)

The Pyramid in Nekoma, ND
The Pyramid in Nekoma, ND

8. Thunderbird Sculpture in Bismarck, ND

Thunderbird Sculpture in Bismarck, ND
Thunderbird Sculpture in Bismarck, ND

This large four headed thunderbird statue at the Keelboat Park is uber impressive. The sculpture represents a powerful American Indian spirit that depicts thunderstorms. (See more here)

Sumoflam and Thunderbirds in Bismarck, ND
Sumoflam and Thunderbirds in Bismarck, ND

9. Scandinavian Heritage Park in Minot, ND

The Gol Stave Church replica and museum at the Scandinavian Heritage Center in Minot, ND
The Gol Stave Church replica and museum at the Scandinavian Heritage Park in Minot, ND

A tribute to North Dakota’s Scandinavian roots, the Scandinavian Heritage Park is a unique destination and most certainly worth a visit!! I loved it here.  (See my complete post).

Sumoflam with Dala Horse
Sumoflam with 30 foot tall Dala Horse at Scandinavian Heritage Park

10. Ducks and Ponds and Grasslands

A colorful duck in the rush as seen along ND Hwy 1
A colorful duck in the rush as seen along ND Hwy 1

Contrary to what many may believe about North Dakota, I was quite surprised by what I saw on ND Highway 1.  All along the way there were many small ponds surrounded by grasses and filled with ducks and many other birds and wildlife.

Hundreds of ponds line the roads in ND, like this one on ND Hwy 1
Hundreds of ponds line the roads in ND, like this one on ND Hwy 1

Personally, I am not sure why North Dakota deserves the negative attention.  It is really a great place to visit (most times of the year).  Make sure to plan on adding North Dakota to your map of states visited!!  You will certainly have a Smile! (Smiley Water Tower in Grand Forks, ND)

Smiley Water Tower in Grand Forks, ND
Smiley Water Tower in Grand Forks, ND

 

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Montana Road Trip: Zipping across North Dakota on US Highway 2




US Route 2 in North Dakota
US Route 2 in North Dakota

I continue my series on my Montana road trip and my drive along US Route two across the northern border from Michigan to Montana.

Welcome to North Dakota
Welcome to North Dakota

As one progresses further west after leaving Minnesota, you soon discover that the land is flatter, full of prairies and grasslands and not as many lakes and streams as one would see in Minnesota.

US Route 2 in North Daota
US Route 2 in North Dakota

I spent the night in Grand Forks, North Dakota and then proceeded to head west early in the morning. The first thing I did was look for the famed Smiley Water Tower in Grand Forks. Unlike others with a similar smiley on them, this one has a smiley face on the one side and a winking smiley face on the other. It is always wonderful to start the day off with a smile!

Grand Forks Smiley Water Tower
Grand Forks Smiley Water Tower
Winking Smiley on backside of Water Tower in Grand Forks
Winking Smiley on backside of Water Tower in Grand Forks

After driving around Grand Forks for just a little bit, I proceeded forward on my drive and, for the first time since starting on US Highway 2, I deviated from the route to head north to an unusual destination.

US Route 2 heading west towards Niagara, ND
US Route 2 heading west towards Niagara, ND

Before heading north I passed through Niagara, ND and a stop at the historic monument for the Old Fort Totten Trail which was used by the Sioux to assist in delivering mail.  From here I proceeded to Petersburg, ND, another old small town.  I came across their old Curling Club building.  Who said that Curling was only a Canadian sport?

Petersburg Curling Club, Petersburg, ND
Petersburg Curling Club, Petersburg, ND

A few more miles down Highway 2 I went through the town of Michigan, ND (population 425)…returned to Michigan after a couple of days (hehehe).

Michigan, ND
Michigan, ND

Michigan, ND has a Barn Quilt Trail, which is common in Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee, but I have not really seen these in other states in my travels.

Barn Quilt Trail in Michigan, ND
Barn Quilt Trail in Michigan, ND
Quilt Block on a Barn in Michigan, ND
Quilt Block on a Barn in Michigan, ND

Finally, before heading north off of US Highway 2, I passed through the town of Lakota, ND.  This town is about 60 miles west of Grand Forks.  From here I would head north on ND Hwy 1.

Welcome to Lakota, ND
Welcome to Lakota, ND
Crossing the tracks in Lakota, ND...looking west
Crossing the tracks in Lakota, ND…looking west

Contrary to what many may believe about North Dakota, I was quite surprised by what I saw on ND Highway 1.  All along the way there were many small ponds surrounded by grasses and filled with ducks and many other birds and wildlife.

Duck in a pond on ND Highway 1
Duck in a pond on ND Highway 1
An old truck rests by one of the many ponds along ND Highway 1
An old truck rests by one of the many ponds along ND Highway 1
A Red-Winged Blackbird rests on straw by a pond along ND Hwy 1
A Red-Winged Blackbird rests on straw by a pond along ND Hwy 1
Male and female duck enjoy a swim in a pond along ND Hwy 1
Male and female duck enjoy a swim in a pond along ND Hwy 1

One of my “goal destinations” in North Dakota was to see the unique pyramid near Nekoma.  Actually, the pyramid is part of a larger installation called the Stanley R. Mickelson Safeguard Complex (SRMSC).  This complex was the United States’ first operational ABM (anti-ballistic missile) defense system.

The SRMSC as seen from ND Hwy 1 about 5 miles south of Nekoma, ND
The SRMSC as seen from ND Hwy 1 about 5 miles south of Nekoma, ND

The Mickelsen Safeguard complex was deployed during the 1970s to defend the offensive Minuteman missiles based at Grand Forks Air Force Base in the event of a nuclear ICBM attack by the Soviet Union or China. Depending on the threat, the system could also provide a limited defense of a wider geographical area, including other offensive Minuteman missile fields as well as civilian population centers. It was operational for approximately eight months.

SRMSC from 2 miles south of Nekoma, ND as seen from ND Hwy 1
SRMSC from 2 miles south of Nekoma, ND as seen from ND Hwy 1
Sumoflam and Pyramid
Sumoflam and Pyramid

This unique facility is fascinating to look at.  The pyramid was actually called the Missile Site Radar (MSR) installation.  It used the target trajectory and classification data from the Perimeter Acquisition Radar (PAR) along with additional data supplied by its multiface phased array radar. This site provided additional surveillance and target tracking and also performed the function of track and guidance for the Sprint and Spartan missiles.  Following is a video that explains some of what happened in the 1970s.

The pyramid shaped MSR is by far the most unique building on the site. The 80 foot high truncated pyramid “turret” of the MSR gave the radar its ability to see in all directions and is the only visible part of the MSCB. The MSCB underground areas held additional radar equipment and the data processing and command/control systems. The adjacent underground power plant provided the generating capacity to operate the MSR’s battle management systems.

The Pyramid Shaped MSR of the Mickelson facility
The Pyramid Shaped MSR of the Mickelsen Safeguard Complex
MSR and power buildings
MSR and power buildings

The pyramid was not the only thing of interest in the area.  Nekoma, ND was the support town for the facility, though most of the staff came from the nearby Grand Forks Air Force Base.

Welcome to Nekoma, ND
Welcome to Nekoma, ND
Old buildings in Nekoma, ND
Old buildings in Nekoma, ND
Pain Reliever Bar, Nekoma, ND
Pain Reliever Bar, Nekoma, ND
International Pain Reliever Bar in Nekoma, ND
International Pain Reliever Bar in Nekoma, ND (notice they used a New Mexico flag and not the Mexican flag….)

Nekoma is also the home of the Langdon Wind Farm which has 106 Wind Turbines, some of them right up on the Mickelsen Safeguard complex. In the middle of prairie lands, it offers unique views.

Silo and Wind Turbine near Nekoma, ND
Silo and Wind Turbine near Nekoma, ND
Langdon Wind Farm Info Center near Nekoma, ND
Langdon Wind Farm Info Center near Nekoma, ND
Three Structures: Metal silo, old silo, wind turbine
Three Structures: Metal silo, old silo, wind turbine

I continued north on Hwy 1 into Langdon, ND to see if there was anything interesting there.  Langdon is about 15 miles south of the Canadian border and has about 1800 people residing in the town.

Downtown Langdon, ND
Downtown Langdon, ND
ROXY Theatre in Langdon, ND
ROXY Theatre in Langdon, ND
Old truck in Langdon, ND
Old truck in Langdon, ND

As I drove around I found the town park which actually had one of the Spartan missiles used at the complex in Nekoma.  I thought that was unique.

Spartan Missile in the city park in Langdon, ND
Spartan Missile in the city park in Langdon, ND

From Langdon I proceeded to head west on ND Hwy 5 and then south on ND Hwy 20 to pass though Munich, ND.

Welcome to Munich, ND
Welcome to Munich, ND
Unique town sign in Munich, ND
Unique town sign in Munich, ND

From Munich I continued south into Cando, ND to get some Can Do Spirit!!

South on ND Hwy 20 south of Munich, ND
South on ND Hwy 20 south of Munich, ND
Cando, ND
Cando, ND

Cando, ND is one of my token unique named towns.  It got its name as follows:

“…and in virtue of our authority we select this location and name the town ‘Cando’ to show you that we can do it.”

Capt. Prosper Parker
February 14, 1884

Cando Police, Cando, ND
Cando Police, Cando, ND

Cando is also the “Duck Capital of North Dakota.”

Sumoflam Cando!
Sumoflam Cando!
Cando Bar, Cando, ND
Cando Bar, Cando, ND
Audi Theatre in Cando, ND
Audi Theatre in Cando, ND

And there were a couple of interesting things in town….

Randy's Revival Antique Store in Cando, ND
Randy’s Revival Antique Store in Cando, ND
Cando Water Tower
Cando Water Tower

From Cando I headed west on ND Hwy 16 and then south on ND Hwy 3 into Rugby, ND which lays claim to being the geographical center of North America.

ND Hwy 17
ND Hwy 17
Wind Farm near Rugby, ND
Wind Farm near Rugby, ND
Welcome to Rugby, ND
Welcome to Rugby, ND

According to the 1931 U.S. Geological Survey, the geographic center of the North American continent is located approximately 6 miles west of Balta, Pierce County, North Dakota. The approximate coordinates are given as latitude 48* 10′ North, 100* 10′ West. The field stone pillar was erected in 1932 on US Hwy 2 and ND Hwy 3.

Monument for the Geographic Center of North America in Rugby, ND
Monument for the Geographic Center of North America in Rugby, ND (Notice the HUB Motel sign in the background)
Sumoflam in Rugby, ND
Sumoflam in Rugby, ND
Old Neon for the HUB Motel in Rugby, ND
Old Neon for the HUB Motel in Rugby, ND

A few more scenes from Rugby…

Unique Water Tower in Rugby, ND
Unique Water Tower in Rugby, ND
Old Neon for the Bar/Bowling Alley in Rugby
Old Neon for the Bar/Bowling Alley in Rugby
Centre Cinema in Rugby, ND
Centre Cinema in Rugby, ND

I had finally returned to US Hwy 2 and proceeded westward toward my next planned stop which would be Minot, ND. This city is home to the North Dakota State Fair, but, of more interest to me is their celebration of Scandinavian heritage. The annual Norsk Hostfest is the largest festival of its kind in North America and is a tribute the area’s Scandinavian heritage. The Scandinavian Heritage Park is home to a replica of the beautiful Gol Stave Church which currently sits at the Norsk Folkemuseum in Oslo, Norway.

Sumoflam at the replica of the Gol Stave Church in Minot, ND
Sumoflam at the replica of the Gol Stave Church in Minot, ND

The Gol Stave Church Museum, in Scandinavian Heritage Park is a full-size replica of the original church built in about 1250, now in Bygdoy Park in Oslo.  It is all wooden inside and I would call it “immaculately simple” in its architecture.

Dragons atop the Stave Church
Dragons atop the Stave Church
The Gol Stave Church replica and museum at the Scandinavian Heritage Center in Minot, ND
The Gol Stave Church replica and museum at the Scandinavian Heritage Center in Minot, ND
Top of the Stave Church
Detail of the top of the Stave Church
Wooden Gargoyles of the Stave Church in Minot
Wooden Gargoyles of the Stave Church in Minot
Intricate Wood Carving on the Stave Church doors
Detail of the Intricate Wood Carving on the Stave Church doors

The wood carving is intricate and beautiful in this church. This work was apparently done by professional wood carvers Philip Odden and Elsa Bigton of Norsk Wood Works in Barronet, WI.

The 30 foot tall Dala Horse at the Scandinavian Heritage Center in Minot
The 30 foot tall Dala Horse at the Scandinavian Heritage Center in Minot

A stone’s throw from the Stave Church is the 30 foot Dala Horse which is apparently the most recognized Swedish symbol in the world. In central Sweden, wood scraps from the local furniture-making trade, paint-pigment from nearby copper mines, and long winter evenings bred the development of the Dala Horse. Traditions vary in giving credit to woodsmen and to soldiers for originating the craft. Dala Horses from the Nusnäs-Mora area first appeared with their familiar bright decoration in the 1800’s when the kurbit, or flower patterned saddle, was regularly added to them. There is actually a website dedicated to the Dala Horse.

Dala Horse and one of many buildings at the Scandinavian Cultural Heritage Park
Dala Horse and one of many buildings at the Scandinavian Cultural Heritage Park
Sumoflam with Dala Horse
Sumoflam with Dala Horse

From Minot I continued on to Williston, ND.  This is the heart of the North Dakota oil industry and “fracking.”  There are about 200 drilling rigs in the area. (Read an interesting article about this from National Geographic).

Heading west to Williston, ND on US Hwy 2
Heading west to Williston, ND on US Hwy 2
An old house as seen on the road to Williston
An old house as seen on the road to Williston

Along the way I got a photo of this old homesteader’s house in the prairies.  In the background you can see an oil well pump.

Welcome to Williston, Boom Town USA
Welcome to Williston, Boom Town USA

Williston is a modern Boomtown as “roughnecks” make their way to the town for oil jobs. North Dakota has the second highest level of GDP per capita, generating about $69,000 in economic activity per resident. Only Alaska ranks higher as a result of this oil boom of the 21st century.

Long term housing projects abound in Williston.
Long term housing projects abound in Williston.
Prefab Buildings for Oil Riggers
Prefab Buildings for Oil Riggers

As I drove into town and through town, I was amazed at the number of “extended stay” hotels, prefab apartments, huge trailer complexes and more that had gone up to house all of the oil workers.

Billboards advertise Oil Supplies
Billboards advertise Oil Supplies
Traffic and road construction menace this once quiet town
Traffic and road construction menace this once quiet town

The other thing I noticed was the terrible traffic and all of the road construction and infrastructure building in a town whose population is now bursting at the seams. The photo above represents the nearly 45 minutes that it took me to drive through the town in almost constant stop/go traffic on the congested roads.

Typical scene in Williston - trucks cruising down dusty dirt roads from the drilling fields
Typical scene in Williston – trucks cruising down dusty dirt roads from the drilling fields
An oil rig in Williston, ND
An oil rig (or derrick) in Williston, ND

For Fracture Drilling, the oil rig (or derrick) is used to drill both vertical and horizontal portions of the well.  These are actually temporary in nature, and, depending on the well depth and number of wells developed, these will remain on site for a week to as long as eight weeks. There is a great definition of how the complete process works on Halliburton’s website. I saw a number of Halliburton facilities in Williston.  I know this is a controversial process, and I am not condoning or complaining about it here.  I believe that many of us have no idea how it is done.

Heading west to Montana on US Hwy 2 from Williston
Heading west to Montana on US Hwy 2 from Williston

From Williston I headed west into Montana for an overnight stay in Glasgow, Montana.

Welcome to Montana on US Route 2 heading west
Welcome to Montana on US Route 2 heading west
A lonely tree decorates US Hwy 2 east of Culbertson, MT
A lonely tree decorates US Hwy 2 east of Culbertson, MT
An old church building on the horizon east of Culbertson, Montana on US Hwy 2
An old church building on the horizon east of Culbertson, Montana on US Hwy 2
Sun and sky in eastern Montana
Sun and sky in eastern Montana

I finally arrived in Glasgow, Montana late after driving all the way from Grand Forks, ND, about 490 miles. They only had one motel left in town with any availability due to a state softball tournament.  For the first time in ages I stayed in a 60s style motel with neon and a real key for the door on one of those plastic diamonds with the room number.

Staying at the Star Lodge Motel in Glasgow, Montana
Staying at the Star Lodge Motel in Glasgow, Montana

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