Road Trip!
Wednesday - June 11


Sorry about the late update last night.  We had such a nice day in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park (TRNP) that we were a little late getting into Bismark last night.  Pizza in Dickinson didn't help. We also didn't notice on the map that we crossed another time zone. Then, all the hotels were booked and over an hour later we ended up in a Motel 6 - nearly our last choice.  But, you know, the place was clean and you can't beat $36 + tax.  We had a bunch of picture editing to finish up and finally made our upload at nearly 2am.  By the way, I corrected the misinformation in the Road Kill Diary from yesterday.  I had noted a number of items in MT when they should have read ND.  I'm sure you'll find that important.

In conversations with the locals, we're discovering this is has been an unusually damp spring.  Everything is still vibrantly green when it would normally have turned to brown by now.  TRNP was spectacular.  The green grass contrasted against the blue-grey sage, darker green pines and the beautiful colors in the badland formations.  It was not at all what I expected.  Having visited the South Dakota Badlands, I was more or less expecting a repeat performance, maybe in different colors or something.  WRONG.  This is a completely different type of experience.  The basic premise is the same - alternating layers of clay and soft sandstone create fantastic displays of erosion as the layers wear away.  A couple of important differences, though.  (168 miles to Fargo)  TRNP has much more vegetation on the formations, probably slowing the erosion process.  Juniper and pine trees dot the landscape and the gaps are filled by sage and grass.  One other important factor is the addition of coal seams between layers clay and sandstone.  Occasionally, a bolt of lightning or grass fire will ignite a coal seam, causing it to burn underground for years.  The last one burned from 1951 until 1977 and covered several acres.  These fires are very slow burning and produce extreme heat. The heat bakes the clay, forming a natural brick type material called Scoria.  This material has a rather intense red color caused by the oxidation of iron in the clay.  

Another highlight of TRNP is the Little Missouri River. It provides an adequate liquid base to support a great deal of wildlife, including deer, bison, elk (we saw all of these) as well as a host of other smaller creatures.  We caught a glimpse of some medium sized predator slinking off with a prairie dog.  Anyway, enough of the natural history lesson.  Suffice it to say we had a very nice time.  I'm not sure what the experience would be like on a hot summer day with all the grass turned brown, though.  

After the late night it was difficult to get up and going this morning.  I took a shower and made all sorts of noise but Michael didn't budge.  So I resorted to humiliation .  Unfortunately, that didn't work either (at least for getting him up and going).  As we were packing the car I noticed this sign on the restraunt next door.  It's advertizing some sort of ethnic North Dakota food, I think.  I'm not sure what it is, but it seems cheap enough. (142 miles to Fargo) Apparently, the normal protocol for eating in North Dakota is different, as well,?  Here's the view out the window currently .  I say currently, even though I took the picture over an hour ago.  The view hasn't changed much since then except the clouds are gone.  The view out the front window is not good at all .   It's still covered with bugs from last night, and now it's even worse.  (Fargo, 91 miles)  Here's a couple of more what I would call stereotypical views of North Dakota... 

It looks like my dad already covered Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Can't say that anything exciting has happened since then, except that by the end of today I will have visited 3 states that I previously have never been to. We entered North Dakota on Tuesday, crossed into Minnesota (no welcome to Minnesota sign, so this one will have to do) a couple hours ago (where we stopped for lunch ), and will be in Wisconsin in a few hours. North Dakota was especially significan to me because I have now been to every state in the western half of the US (excluding Alaska). Minnesota lisence plates say "10,000 Lakes." They must be toward the center of the state because I think I've only seen one so far. Oh, and people are NOT kidding about the misquitos in this part of the country. And don't be fooled by the flat landscape, behind these trees and less than two miles away, is the Detroit Mountain Ski Area. I don't know about you, but I think I would at least like to ski down a mountain that you can see over the trees....

It's now a little after 5pm and we're about an hour out of Duluth, MN.  We'll probably push on across Wisconsin before dark.  Our goal is Ironwood, Michigan.  I hope we have an easier time finding a room than we did last night.  What a beautiful drive across Minnesota.  It's no wonder the Swedes chose to settle here.  The scenery reminds me so much of Sweden it's uncanny.  The temperature today is probably no more than 68.  It's marvelous.  
Here's a cute little barn and silo we passed.  Photo composition suffers at 70mph.  oh, well...  Chantel called this afternoon and let me know that the big picture of Michael looking out of the hole in the rock didn't work.  I've fixed it now.  Here's a shot down the freeway as we descended into Duluth, MN on Lake Superior .  There's no turning back as you approach Wisconsin.  The red roads were nostalgic for me and quite novel for Michael.  I remember lots of red roads in the Northwest as a kid, but Michael had never seen them.   The tiny little bit of Wisconsin we visited  was quite beautiful.  OK, we're 12 miles out of Ironwood, so I gotta wrap this one up..    

Good night!