Over the years we have noticed that when an RVer’s state map is almost full, North Dakota is likely among the missing. Is it a hard state to get to? Or is it a hard state to get motivated to get to? North Dakota is between Washington and Vermont so we were committed!
After we spent out first night in Medora, we added North Dakota to our map, the first state we’ve added in nearly a year. We decided to add South Dakota as well since we spent a wonderful 2006 week in the Black Hills in our old trailer – one of our best vacations ever. When we discussed whether we would start our map again if we got a new RV and decided we would not, it made sense to us to include that past trailer trip.
Medora is North Dakota’s tourist capital and rightly so! It was delightful for a variety of reasons.
We enjoyed a scenic drive in the park’s southern unit and saw the Badlands and expected critters.
We saw wild horses several times. They are decedents of Indian ponies and escaped ranch stock and roam freely in the park.
Theodore Roosevelt came to North Dakota to shoot bison in 1883, loved the Badlands, and bought into the Maltese Cross cattle ranch. He lived in this cabin which has since been relocated to the visitor center grounds.
Back in New York, Roosevelt was devastated by the death of his wife and mother in the same house, on the same day (February 14, 1884), from childbirth and typhoid respectively. Leaving his infant daughter, he returned to North Dakota to grieve and find peace.
Roosevelt said he would have never been president had he not spent time in North Dakota. His energy, passion and lessons learned in North Dakota made him “The Conservation President.” Theodore Roosevelt set aside more lands as national forests, parks, monuments and wildlife refuges than any other president in US history.
A Medora contemporary of Theodore Roosevelt was Frenchmen Marquis de Mores. He and his wife Medora (for whom the town was named) loved hunting and built a 25 room “hunting cabin.” Dignitaries from the east and around the world came to visit and hunt.
Marquis de Mores was determined to expand his wealth by changing the way beef was supplied to eastern cities. The norm was to ship cows live and suffer loss of profit due to weight loss and injury. He built a slaughterhouse in Medora and shipped the meat by refrigerator car.
The business model was valid but overgrazing and the winter of 1886 – 1887 drastically reduced the number of available cattle. The venture failed. The de Mores family returned to New York but retained ownership of the cabin, called the chateau by townspeople. Their son deeded the chateau to the state historical society in 1936.
East of Medora, we traveled the 30 mile Enchanted Highway where the largest metal sculptures in the world are spaced along the route. Here are a few of them.
As much as we enjoyed seeing all these places, we were just as pleased and surprised to be able to see Boise friends, Dennis and Jan. Facebook showed us they were in North Dakota and we were able to work out an impromptu visit!
We had a planned visit with Boise friends, Darrell and Cindy, who were in North Dakota visiting family. We enjoyed two of Medora’s premiere events with them.
We went to the Pitchfork Fondue Dinner where steaks are skewered onto pitchforks and cooked in hot oil. Dinner was delicious.
Then we went to the Medora Musical which has run continuously during the summer months for 51 years. It was delightful!
If we come to Medora again, we’d do both the dinner and musical again.
The next day we traveled to Abraham Lincoln State Park near Bismarck.
We found a beautiful park with the most convoluted power and water hookups we’ve ever seen, obviously not designed by anyone who uses them!
We also had the most severe thunderstorm we’ve ever experienced while in an RV. The ranger came by to make sure we were aware of the Severe Thunderstorm Warning and invited us to take refuge in the restrooms if we felt the need. We stayed in the trailer but had thunder that shook the trailer, lighting that lit up the sky and rain that cleaned this part of North Dakota!
Fort Abraham Lincoln was the home of the Seventh Calvary and General Custer before the Battle of Little Bighorn. The fort began as Fort McKeen in 1872, expanded and renamed Fort Abraham Lincoln the following year, and was abandoned in 1891. Locals dismantled and utilized fort property for their own purposes. The land was given to the state of North Dakota during Theodore Roosevelt’s tenure.
In the 1930s the Civilian Conservation Corps built the visitor center museum, marked fort foundations and built other structures. The young men of the CCC earned one dollar per day and kept $5 per month. Twenty five dollars per month were sent home to families.
In the 1980s the state of North Dakota built replicas of the local Mandan village and fort facilities. These include the commissary, stables, barracks and George Custer’s house. Rangers lead tours in the Mandan lodge and Custer’s home. Others are self guided.
We had such a good time in North Dakota! When I told Darrell, a North Dakota native, that we might have to consider ourselves Dakotans after loving time spent in both states, he suggested we come back in January before we decide.
Today? Onward to Minnesota!