It is 745 miles from the Custer Battlefield to the Leech Lake campground in upper Minnesota. We drove it in three days, passing through Theodore Roosevelt National Park, camping in Dickinson and Fargo, ND. Teddy’s park is just a greener Badlands, Dickinson is in the heart of the Dakota petroleum fracking renaissance, and Fargo was a pretty good movie if you can tolerate the accurate regional accents.
There’s not much to see in either Dakota or in eastern Montana. Not unless you count The World’s Largest Outdoor Sculpture, the World’s Biggest Holstein, loons on motorcycles, or exits with funny names.
Would you take a ride on Bad Route Road? Would you ride behind your squeeze on a Harley while reading a paperback, holding it with both hands so the wind can’t flap the pages? Would you build a 50 foot long cow and name it “Salem Sue”, then sell it to a local bank as advertising? If you built a 70 ton 100 foot tall flock of Canada geese in flight, would you dare to call it world’s largest when there’s bigger and artsier stuff everywhere, like the Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore, Stonehenge, and Easter Island?
I didn’t think so. That’s why we drove, drove, and drove.
Dickinson, ND has experienced a real estate boom from the demand for housing by itinerant oilfield workers. A new extended stay hotel advertised a weekly rate of $599. We paid $32 for a full hookup in a damned parking lot with no mature trees. It’s a boomtown for now; the bust will come later. Meanwhile, avoid Dickinson if you can.
T Roosevelt is bottom of the barrel as National Parks go. The roads belong on the blue highways of Louisiana — they’re bumpy, narrow, and holey. We saw some interesting wildflowers, and it is fairly scenic. But the river isn’t clean enough to tempt one to drink without first boiling, and the animals are limited to ground squirrels and prairie dogs. North Dakotans felt they needed a National Park. Now they have one, but you don’t need to go there.
Leech Lake was made by glaciers and improved by a Corps of Engineers dam. It has beautiful campsites with water and juice, a big clear lake, and trillions of mosquitoes and deerflies. Thankfully the black fly season is over. We’re going to rest here for a week, exhausting our supply of OFF before anything starves.
I sincerely hope the Bemidji Wal*Mart is not out of stock.