The Backroads and Byways of North Dakota
Prior to our entry into North Dakota for the first time, I used to think of it as a faraway place up north, a state blanketed in snow, cold and desolate. Thanks to the movie Fargo, that’s what I’ve always pictured North Dakota to be. But with the recent oil boom and the advent of fracking, I also imagined the entire state with oil wells scattered all over the place – just like what I saw in Pecos, Texas.
But as we drove along I was pleasantly surprised by what we saw. The landscape was dominated by agriculture – wheat, alfalfa, oats, canola, flax, and corn – providing a scenery unique to this state (in my humble opinion). Of course, we saw similar landscape in Kansas, Iowa, Wisconsin and Nebraska, with miles and miles of corn fields. But North Dakota displayed unique, vibrant and diverse farmlands that were quite colorful. And as the old saying goes, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
Summer comes alive in North Dakota and I tried to capture it, doing some “drive-by shooting” as Betsy cruised along. These photos were taken as we traversed highways 2, 19, 14, 85 and I-94 at different times of the day. For those who have driven here, bear with my exuberance as it doesn’t take much to get me happy and excited!
For a little fun I included some North Dakota facts gathered from the Visitor Center:
- Did you know that the parking meter was invented in North Dakota?
- North Dakota has 63 wildlife refuges – more than any other state – and all are managed for waterfowl protection. Farms and ranches provide food and habitat for 75% of the state’s wildlife.
- North Dakota has the highest number of millionaires per capita of any state, and there’s not a yuppie to be found here.
- North Dakota has more golf courses per capita than any other state. Take note, my golfing friends!
- By 2000, 99.5% of North Dakota’s original grassland had been turned into farms and ranches. This state leads the nation in the production of many crops, including wheat, durum wheat, sunflowers, barley, dry edible beans, canola and flaxseed to name a few.
- In 2012, North Dakota was the fastest-growing state in the U.S. It’s growth was largely due to an oil boom in the Bakken fields in the western part of the state. After Texas, North Dakota has become the highest petroleum-producing state. In just five years it has gone from a quiet agricultural state to a rapidly industrialized energy powerhouse.
- Despite its oil boom, agriculture and farming are still North Dakota’s top industries. An average farm here is 1,300 acres, and approximately 30,000 families own farms in the state.
- North Dakota is the least-visited state in America, and we were very glad to be here.
- North Dakota farmland would cover over 12 million city blocks. Farmers here produce enough wheat each year to make 12.6 billion loaves of bread.
- North Dakota leads the nation in sunflower production, raising about half of the nation’s total.
And then there’s the Enchanted Highway –
One of the facts I mentioned above was that North Dakota is the least-visited state. Gary Greff, a retired school teacher and metal sculptor from the town of Regent, created and built several metal sculptures along the Regency-Gladstone Road. He did it in the hopes of putting his hometown prominently on the map, and to coax travelers from nearby I-94 onto the quiet highway. He began his work in 1990, and so far seven sculptures have been completed.
Greff is credited with naming this 32-mile stretch of road the Enchanted Highway. All of the sculptures face north, toward the oncoming traffic from the interstate.
I didn’t make it to the “Tin Family” sculpture at the 32-mile mark, for I was getting hungry and wanted to catch up with Steve, who went on with Betsy to our next RV park.
If you find yourself driving along I-94 in western North Dakota one day, steer your car onto exit 72 and get enchanted by these giant sculptures. And while you’re at it, be sure to drop some money in the donation boxes, as Gary is doing this fine work in his spare time and at no charge.
And there you have it, a little chunk of summer in North Dakota!