I do like North Dakota. I kept expecting myself to hate it, 'cause it's North Dakota. It's just got that rep. But it's pretty great. First of all, there's the state mascots. New Salem Sue was the first I saw. I didn't even know what she was going to be, as all I wrote down was her name. Then I got there, and I started wondering, am I really the kind of person who will drive an hour out of her path for a 2-ton cow? Yes, yes, I am.
Then came the turtles. There was Rusty, kind of small and unexciting, but cute. And Wee'l Turtle, made entirely of car wheels. But the best was Tommy. He was about the height of a 3-story building, and riding a snowmobile. The funniest thing was, when I stopped for groceries in Riverdale, whose claim to fame is a modest sized statue of a mermaid, I asked the cashier how to find said mermaid. She gave me directions, and mentioned that she didn't think it was really anything to boast of, but it was something to see. People make big things of the strangest stuff, she said. Like her home town had a giant turtle on a snowmobile. And people actually got excited about that. I was hitting myself for not asking her what her hometown was, and then I found it on my own! Hooray!
Speaking of Riverdale... I have a tendency to lock my keys in my car. Ask anyone, I'm kinda known for it. And I always do it in the most remote locales (usually around Half Moon Bay). So when I saw how dinky the mermaid was, I knew this was going to be a quick in and out, so I threw my keys on the seat and decided to leave the car unlocked. Then I got out and locked the door. For the next 15 minutes or so I wandered the town, trying to find a phone ('cause of course mine was in the car), or even just a person to call AAA for me. Finally got through, and headed back to my truck. After sitting on the curb for a few minutes, a fellow walked by, and commented on the weather. Daniel and I talked for a while, during which time he revealed that he used to do some private investigating for the FBI before he retired, and that weather question was a test. Since I answered positively, instead of remarking on the coldness and recent rain, he knew I was a winner, a gal with a real good attitude. He walked on, promising to return in half an hour to see if the AAA guys had come.
Quite a bit less than half an hour went by before he returned with the cavalry. He had gone over to the deputy sherrif's house, but he wasn't home, so he rounded up Ansel (or Hansel, I wasn't sure which) and his two kids. Between the five of us, we managed to pop in, largely thanks to the kids small arms. Thanks, kids! And I was on my way, kind of glad that something had gone wrong so that I had a chance to actually talk to someone. Daniel was very nice, and made me promise to return soon. He is planning on building a restaurant in town, with a motel attached. He also likes to talk to anyone with a positive attitude, so if yu're ever in town, be sure to look him up. Especially if you are female.
Riverdale was on Lake Sakakawea (not Sakagawea, but I think it's named for the same lady. Just pronounced quite differently), near the dam that made the largest man-made lake in the US. Once again, I resort to the generic "it was real purty." The area only got more lush and gorgeous as I headed north. Little lakes appeared everywhere, and a few good sized ones. I reached the International Peace Gardens on the Canada border this morning, which were pretty unexciting at this time of the year, but the surroundings were amazing. All the trees are turning, and I went for a run under them. Startled a moose, too. That was the one thing I really wanted to see, and he was right under my nose! Saw lots of beaver dams, but no beavers.
I almost forgot about the river! I have been in awe of the rivers I've seen. The Missouri around Bismarck is like nothing in California. It made me think about Mark Twain and steamboats. I planned my route to go along the river for a while, and I made my first stop that day at a historic Mandan Indian village. There was a car there, which was kind of odd, seeing as how I hadn't seen anyone that whole morning. A man was walking toward me as I left my car, and he asked if I was there for the River Ceremony. I thought, why not? and took a seat. Turns out there had been a 2 day river symposium in Bismarck that weekend, and this was the closing ceremony. It was quasi-religous, with various speakers, poems, pipe and fiddle music. And right at the beginning, a bald eagle flew overhead and perched in a tree at the waterfront. Talk about good omens.
So I am definitely loving North Dakota. Tomorrow, a walk-in bull and basilica. Those are two different things in the same town, not a bull basilica, but how cool would that be? I think I may have found my calling.