|It’s a bit exciting to travel through North Dakota with tornado watches in our pathway!||Best part of the day was a great visit with Laurie and Odel, full time RV’rs who have been on the road since 2003|
Photos for this day of travels are here>
The storm last night was a bit gentler than the night before and I slept well. When we woke, it was gray and foggy in Dickinson, but not raining. I had been writing the night before, so took some time at the dingy laundry room to upload photos and post to the blog while Mo packed up the MoHo. By 9 we were hooked up and on the road. We hoped to be in Minot by 1, but the time change to central was a bit disconcerting. I-94 was gray and dingy most of the way to Bismarck but somewhere before the town of Mandan, the fog began to rise and we had a great view of the Missouri River Valley from the Mandan Overlook.
There is a very attractive and thoughtfully made marker at the rest stop, with bronze engraved plaques describing the natural and human history of this area of North Dakota. It stood in great contrast to the Alien Bar and Grill that we passed in Bismarck. One incredibly tasteful, and the other unbelievably tasteless.
About 30 miles north of Bismarck is the very well done Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. The center is beautifully situated overlooking the Missouri River Valley with dramatic steel sculptures of bison silhouetted against the horizon and a nice bookstore and gift shop. There is a 7.50 fee to view the exhibits, which includes a trip through Fort Mandan about two miles down the road and would take at least 90 minutes to complete. We skipped that part, but I bought a great book by a native North Dakotan, Clay Straus Jenkinson. “Message on the Wind, A Spiritual Odyssey on the Northern Plains” is a collection of his essays. His style is somewhat like Terry Tempest Williams who writes in much the same way about about Utah and the Colorado Plateau, and is one of my favorite writers.
Late last night under the dark North Dakota sky, I read this passage: “Then came a few drops of hot rain, dust-spattering rain, and thunder and lightning as no member of our crew, perhaps including me, had ever witnessed: threshing, scouring, clashing, streaking, urgent, crashing, orgiastic, pounding, anarchic, punishing, apocalyptic, zigzagging, cross-hatched, grotesque, pandemonic lightning. And then, briefly, heavy rain, or rather sheets of water pretending to be rain.” I felt that thunderstorm, and knew we hadn’t seen anything like it so far on this trip through the Dakotas. But I am coming to love North Dakota in a way I never imagined, crossing it’s wide open lonely roads, seeing the coulees and valleys, the badlands and the glacial moraines stretching out to forever. Whoever said North Dakota was flat wasn’t really looking. It is anything but flat, and so far anything but boring. I have to come back to North Dakota and explore it more slowly, take in the Lakota culture expressed here so deeply, and the story of Lewis and Clark that bisects this land the same way it bisects my own land in the northwest. But back to today.
As we continued north we passed extensive fields of wheat and sunflowers, interspersed with wetlands and small lakes of the kettle and kame landscape until we reached the more level valley near Minot and Highway 2.
I was so excited about meeting Laurie Brown and her husband Odel in person. I have followed Laurie’s blog for a couple of years, we have connected now and then through comments to each other and through email, so this was a real treat. They were camped in a very nice park west of Minot and the pull through space next to them was empty and waiting for our visit for just an hour, but what a delightful hour. We shared conversation, and were treated to some of Laurie’s famous tea, and their hospitality was unsurpassable. Lucky us! Odel gave Mo some tips about the RV, while Laurie checked out our inverter, helped Mo figure out some of that complexity, and then gave me some tips about adding photos to my blog!
After leaving Minot and continuing east, the storms got heavier and darker, and when I had sporadic reception with my iPhone I managed to connect long enough to see the red bands moving northeast on the local radar and the tornado warnings on the weather site. Laurie and I had just discussed what to do in a case like this, so I asked Mo, “What county are we in”? Where is there a shelter around here?”
We both looked around the landscape that consisted of very black clouds, an empty highway, and absolutely nothing else. Hmmm. Now and then I got an updated radar image, and new warnings, but no watches. Mo held tight to the wheel and kept the MoHo on the road until things lightened up a bit when we neared our destination at Devils Lake.
Finally arriving at Graham Island State Park by 6, the skies had cleared even more and the rain stopped altogether. This state park is wide, open, and expansive, on an island surrounded by water. Devils Lake is the largest natural lake in North Dakota, and famous for its northern pike and walleye fishing. The campground was almost completely empty, and even though it is only Monday, it still is the week before Labor Day! We settled in to a pull-through site, and decided that any kind of outdoor activity would have to wait until morning when the winds and clouds would hopefully subside a bit.