Day 1: Getting to Bismarck, ND

And so the trip began.  We managed to make it out of the house at 5:14 AM to start our epic road trip of over 6,000 miles, and the first stop turned out to be a mile and a half from our house.  Remarkably, it wasn’t because we’d forgotten anything, it was because it was so dark outside and the stars were very bright and we wanted a closer look.  Jim had read that allegedly there was to be a meteor shower near Orion’s Belt but we weren’t able to ascertain any cosmic activity.  After a few moments of ooh-ing and aah-ing, we jumped back into the car and were on our way…  again.

The next hundred miles or so I fretted about what we possibly could have forgotten, despite the fact the trunk was stuffed to the gills and we could live out of the car for a month, easily.  We could probably even hold a garage sale from just trunk items and still be good to go for weeks.  At any rate, the drive was pretty quiet because it was still very dark outside, the Dunkin Donuts coffee hadn’t kicked in yet, and, after all, it was a much earlier part of the day than I was used to seeing.

Eventually the sun started coming up and the drive became more interesting when we could actually see things.  At the four hour mark we needed to stretch our legs and Jim suggested the (formerly) dreaded ubiquitous Rest Area, this one being in Menomonie, WI.  Initially I was reluctant, as I had visions of Port-O-Pottys, kidnapping serial killers (them kidnapping me, not the other way around), and other unsavory sorts lurking about, but at his urging we stopped.  Not only did I not get kidnapped by a serial killer or advanced upon by an unsavory sort, but the facilities were very clean and modern.  Who knew?

We hopped back into the car and the drive continued to go on and on, as today was going to be the longest distance covered in a single day at 739 miles.  Along the way we had scintillating conversational topics, including why the Humbird Store called themselves that (was it because no one was sure of how many M’s hummingbird had?), how fast we would need to drive west to beat the sun coming up, and the fact the word “jungle” is one of those funny types when you say it several times.  We were also getting used to the rental car, particularly the temperature controls.  There were a couple times that I was fine and dandy comfortable but then I’d glance over to Jim only to find him in a flop sweat.  We needed to find a happy medium, so we left the heat on until at one point I thought Jim was about to ignite.  Ok, fine, we’ll turn it down.

We made it to the edge of Wisconsin without any troubles, and then went shooting across Minnesota.  There were a couple of itinerary notes I had made for potential stops along the western edge of Minnesota and into North Dakota, but as today was such a long distance driving day we decided we needed to be selective with stops.  The first to go was stopping to see the Continental Divide marker, as not only were we not entirely sure what the Continental Divide was, but I remember reading that the marker was just a very large tripod.  Yawn.  After much discussion, the second itinerary item we eliminated was seeing Otto the Big Otter in Fergus Falls, MN.  While a big otter would normally be appealing, today Otto was competing with three other stops that billed themselves as the World’s Largest, so we couldn’t stop for just a “big” item.  It would have been in Otto’s favor had he been the World’s First, Second, Third, or even Fourth Largest Otter, but just “big” doesn’t cut it.  Not today.

World’s Largest Booming Prairie Chicken

This leads us to the first itinerary stop we both agreed was a must-see:  the World’s Largest Booming Prairie Chicken in Rothsay, MN.  Oh, yes, you read that correctly, the World’s. Largest. Booming. Prairie. Chicken.  When Jim first saw it he expressed a little dismay, suggesting he felt it was far more diminutive than a World’s Largest statue should be, and I think I even saw some doubt in his eye about whether or not it was indeed the World’s Largest.  But upon closer inspection, and after coming to the conclusion that there just may not be many other Booming Prairie Chicken statues out there, he later told me it was his favorite stop of the day.

Shortly after leaving the chicken we reached Fargo, ND, where we made a brief pit stop and switched up drivers.  Jim had handled all the driving ‘til this point, so it was time for me to take the wheel.  We got back onto I-94 and by the time we reached West Fargo Jim was fast asleep.  That about sums up the entirety of how thrilling the scenery is in North Dakota.  Well, in a little bit of North Dakota’s defense, he could have also been spent after the exhilaration of seeing the World’s Largest Booming Prairie Chicken.

World’s Largest Buffalo Statue

Our next itinerary stop was a mere 135 miles down I-94 in Jamestown, ND, and Jim was wide awake in anticipation for this one, as it was a doozy:  The World’s Largest Buffalo Statue.  At 26 feet tall, 46 feet long, and weighing in at 60 tons, this was not only one fine-looking buffalo statue but the largest of the World’s Largest that we’d seen thus far.  This is getting to be too much, such world famous sights in near succession.

World’s Largest Sandhill Crane

The thing was, we weren’t yet done for the day.  Sixty miles farther west down I-94 and we found ourselves in Steele, ND, pulling off the freeway to view…  the World’s Largest Sandhill Crane.  At 40 feet tall, this sandhill crane was taller than the buffalo but not nearly as heavy.  But dammit if it weren’t the World’s Largest, and we took a moment to let the magnitude of what we’d seen today sink in.  The world is a very big place and to have viewed the largest Booming Prairie Chicken, Buffalo, and Sandhill Crane was quite a lot of excitement for one day.

Brimming with satisfaction, we got into the car to leg out the last part of our drive to Bismarck, ND.  We arrived to our first overnight stop, the Fairfield Inn & Suites, by about 5:00 PM and were pleased to find we still had feeling in our nether regions after the long haul.  After checking in, Jim sussed out Bismarck’s finest dining options and we soon found ourselves heading out to dinner.  But first we took a quick spin around “downtown” Bismarck to see the Capitol building and Governor’s mansion.  The latter wasn’t so much a mansion, per se, as it was a brown ranch home and it seemed like awfully modest digs for a governor.  But with the population of North Dakota being so small, there is a good chance everyone will get a turn living there.

We were pretty hungry by this point so we soldiered on to the Walrus Restaurant, which had earned fairly esteemed reviews online.  Dinner was great and, tired and full, we made our way back to the hotel and relaxed with the intent to get a good night’s sleep and an early start in the morning.  There may or may not be another World’s Largest opportunity tomorrow so we need to be in tip-top shape for all the excitement.  Plus, we’ll need all the energy we can muster to make it the rest of the way through North Dakota.

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  1. Dan

     /  October 23, 2012

    I vote the buffalo as best “worlds largest”. If you stand it up on its hind end, it would be taller than the Sandhill Crane. Plus buffalo are awesome.

    • howieroll

       /  October 24, 2012

      It’s a tough call, and Salem Sue, the World’s Largest Holstein, trumps them all!


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