Traveling Along with Steve & Jan – Summer 2005

"NORTH DAKOTA HERE WE COME"

 

After getting our affairs in order at our home in Ohio, we started the coach, drove out of the pole barn and followed the highways north to Michigan. Our first stop was Midland where we had the opportunity to visit with Paul and Emmy Bork  We had met the Borks at a Family Motor Coach International Convention in Columbus, Ohio back in the summer of 1997.  We worked together as co-chairs of a motorhome rally sponsored by the Michigan Knights of the Highway Chapter of F.M.C.A., Great Lakes Spring Spree, for a couple of years.  But, we had lost track of them for the past three years. Paul and Emmy gave us the extra special Bork - Midland tour, which included a stroll across the Tridge, a three-legged bridge, in downtown Midland. At the conclusion of our tour, Emmy presented us with Tridge hatpins as a remembrance of our walk. Thanks, Paul and Emmy for taking your time to show us your interesting city!

 

By the time we reached the bridge to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the fog was so thick you could hardly see the waters.  No photos were taken here. We changed our traveling direction heading west to follow the shoreline of Lake Michigan.  By mid-afternoon, the fog lifted and we had an opportunity to walk along the shoreline of Lake Michigan.  Precious and Angel, our sweet puppy daughters, enjoyed playing in the waters that flowed to the shore. We stopped for the night in a town called Escanaba, Michigan.  Escanaba has a strong Swedish heritage.  It is also the location of the Sand Point Lighthouse which houses a 4th order Fresnel lens.  The National Lighthouse Service, at a cost of $11,000, built it in 1867.  The light warned ships off Sand Point and the sand reef, which reached out into the bay.  It served Mariners continuously from 1868 until 1939.  It has operated under the care of nine keepers, one of whom was the first woman light keeper, on the Great Lakes. We drove almost 425 miles today stopping at a couple of casinos for lunch and supper.  Bad River Casino was great as they have a campground at the casino with three-point hoops & 50-amp electrical service. Our resting stop came at Bemidji, Minnesota, a very nice SuperWalmart.

 

We have entered North Dakota.  The route we have been traveling, Route 2, is straight with very little traffic or stop signs.  We decided to stay the night in Devil’s Lake in the parking lot of the Chamber of Commerce, right next to a Wal-Mart.  We visited Spirit Lake Casino enjoyed a nice buffet dinner.

 

We arrived at Fort Stevenson State Park and finally settled in our sight.  We are parked next to the security hosts down in a little ravine and near the boat ramp.   From our host site, we can see Lake  Sakakawea – named after the now famous Indian woman who traveled as an interpreter with Lewis and Clark.  In fact, Fort Stevenson was built on the Lewis and Clark Trail.  Lewis and Clark ventured through this territory heading west in 1804 and made their return trip on the same route in 1806.  Pictured is Marlene, the wife of our Security Host, and her Pom Logan.

           

Fort Stevenson was named after Brigadier General Thomas G Stevenson.   It was built out of cottonwood lumber and adobe bricks in 1867. The purpose of the fort was: to protect the three Indian Tribes (Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara) from the Sioux; protect mail routes from Fort Rice to Fort Buford; protect emigrant trains to Montana; and, to serve as a river supply base for Fort Totten.  By 1883, the Fort's value as a military post was nearing an end and the buildings were used to house the Fort Berthold Indian School for the three tribes until 1894.  In 1897, the buildings were sold to local homesteaders for use on their farms.   Present day Fort Stevenson is located about three miles north of its original location.  The 549 acres of the state park are leased from the Corp of Engineers. Our host duties at Fort Stevenson Guardhouse Interpretive Center include: greeting visitors, answering questions about the Park and the surrounding area, keeping track of the number of visitors on a daily basis, promoting the sales of gift store items and assisting with maintaining a reference library of historical resources at the Center. 

 

The capitol of North Dakota is the city of Bismarck.  Bismarck is about 70 miles south of Fort Stevenson State Park. We stopped at the Capitol building, which is 18 stories high, and is known as the “skyscraper of the plains”.  Also we visited the Cultural Heritage Museum while we were in the area.  Famous Dave’s, a local restaurant, is known for their blued ribbon barbeque beef ribs and their variety of sauces to enhance the flavor. Although neither one of us ordered ribs, Famous Dave’s beef brisket sandwiches were delicious.

 

In June, we drove west on Rt. 37.  We saw miles after miles of canola fields.  The plant begins with a deep green stem and as at matures a yellowish green flower becomes apparent.  What a sight to see acre after acre in bloom.  While driving, we came upon some very unusual structures that sparked our curiosity.  Each fenced in structure had a sign stating that the premise was directly connected with the United States Protection Act of 1955.  We learned that these structures are referred to as underground missiles silos.  Some contain active missiles others are empty.  Of the active silos, a crew of two people live underground in the silo.  The locals have no idea which silos are active and which ones are not active.   There is a joke among the locals that goes like this:  There are three superpowers in the world, The United States, Russia and North Dakota.

 

Continuing westward from Fort Stevenson, we followed the Lewis and Clark Trail stopping along the way to read the interpretive signage.  One of the most beautiful stopping points was at Indian Hills Resort where you could see Lake Sakakawea in an eastward and westward direction.  In April 1804, Lewis and Clark camped for two nights here along the banks of the Missouri River as they traveled west.  On their return trip, they gather again in this area.  It was on their return trip the Clark discovered that Lewis had been accidentally shot in the hip.  The wound was not serious.

 

In the town of Parshall, we stumbled upon quite a treasure – the Paul Broste Museum.  Located on the Lewis and Clark Trail, this museum is a one of a kind.   The building was designed by Broste and constructed with the help of community volunteers in the mid- 1960’s.  Built with hand – picked, uncut native stones – some weighing more than a ton, the building houses rock specimens from over 18 countries.  As you enter the main lobby, you notice the floor is tiled with Mexican onyx stones.  Highlighting the display are 280 of Broste’s polished spheres and agate nodules.  The museum’s fluorite crystal is priceless because of its size, its shape, and just because you cannot find these kinds of specimens anymore.  Paul Broste left no heirs and the city of Parshall owns the museum.

 

 

Also in June, the annual two-day Fort Stevenson military reenactment was held on the guardhouse lawn.  This event is sponsored by the Fort Stevenson State Park Friends group.  The interpreters were dressed in costume of the 1860’s.  There were children’s toys, a hospital, cooking demonstrations and a firing of three different types of cannons.  An interpreter explained how each of the cannons operated and gave a demonstration of the firing of each cannon.  The firing included one live shell in each cannon that exploded in the air.  We sampled homemade rhubarb pie and biscuits cooked over the open flame with wild grape jelly and butter spread all over the biscuits.  Yummy! One thing for sure, everyone in North Dakota is friendly.

 

By the end of June, our interpretive programs were up and running.  Steve had a scavenger hunt using the Fort Stevenson Mural painted by Harold Yellowbird.  The object was to find twelve objects in the painting.  Steve gave red, white and blue pencils to each participant.  The children ranged in ages from four to 15.  One young boy came to the Guardhouse everyday to participant in our programs.  This boy helped Jan create an Indian shirt made out of a paper bag.  The next day, he returned to participate in a class on animal habitats.  Jan wrote the program using the environment as a classroom to help the children identify the four basic needs to all creatures.  The children looked for food sources, water supply, types of shelter and amount of space available to insects, birds and animals.  Youngsters recorded their observations and completed a crossword puzzle. Each child received a certificate of appreciation, with the state park logo, for their participation in her program. 

 

Driving south of Fort Stevenson SP, we toured the Audubon National Wildlife Refuge.  We saw a variety of birds and many deer.  On the south side of Lake Sakakawea, we visited the Garrison Dam and a National Fish Hatchery, in Riverdale, ND.  We took many photos of Garrison and the hydroelectric plant adjacent to the dam.  Then, on to tour this huge power plant.  Around the dam, there are numerous Corps of Engineer campgrounds and our sister State Park, Lake Sakakawea.   At this State Park, the marina is open and boat docks are available.  This is due to the determination of the concessionaire to stay in business on a Lake that has been drain of over 40 feet of water.  The locals are upset by the Corps of Engineer decision to open the dam and allow water to drain southward.  Of coarse, the reason the Corp of Engineers has opened the dam is to keep the waters of the Mississippi River open for barge traffic.  This action is sound as one of the primary reasons for the construction of any dam is to control the flow of water.

 

We expanded and refined our program on Native American costume and presented our first amphitheater program.  The program began with Jan reading the story, The Seven Brothers.  Young and old arrived to make Native American vests out of paper sacks and decorate these vests with ribbons and fringe.  Everyone got into making a vest and each participant got a certificate of appreciation signed by a ranger.  Steve designed a PowerPoint program describing the similarities and differences between Fort Stevenson, ND and Fort Stevens, Oregon.  Then we showed the video “Fort Stevens – Defenders of the River”. 

 

We received an invitation from the US Army Corps of Engineers to present the evening program at the Downstream Campground’s amphitheater for approximately 100 people.  We have been busy putting the final additions on our Name That Bird program.  This program is designed to identify the markings of North Dakota birds.  Jan made 37 paper rollers binoculars and 100 bird journals for the attendees.  Steve slicked – up the PowerPoint presentation “Two Forts, Two Rivers, Two States, and One Country” and it looked great!  After the program, many of the campers and visitors asked us lots of questions about volunteering and how we got involved in volunteering across the USA.  We received lots of THANKS!

 

Northern Plains Indian Culture Fest was held at Knife River Indian Village Historic Site near Stanton N.D.  There were presentations of beadwork warrior lifestyle, pipestone, rock art, blacksmithing burden basket making, flint knapping, and trivial history.  A flute playing presentation by Keith Bear, a Native American Mandan Indian,  was soothing and beautiful  His music was so peaceful that a woman sitting next to us said it took her headache away.

 

The Visitor Center shows a 15-minute orientation explaining the Hidatsas Indian culture.  On the grounds is a reconstructed earth lodge furnished with replica artifacts of an Awatixa Village home.  Awatixa Indians were a sub-tribe of the Hidatsas tribe.  In 1837, a steamboat, the St Peter, carrying goods to the Mandan Tribes brought the first smallpox virus to the area.  This virus greatly reduced the Mandan and Hidatsas tribes from a number over 7,000 to a few hundred.

 

Also, Stanton is home to the Bird Woman, Sakakawea.  Lewis and Clark had hired Toussaint Charbonneau as an interpreter for their journey to the northwest.  Along with Charbonneau came his Shoshone wife, Sakakawea.  During the winter of 1805, Sakakawea give birth, (she was 15 years of age), to her first child, Jean Baptiste, who was nickname “Pomp” by Clark.  By the winter of 1805, the Corps of Discovery had reached the Pacific Ocean but to their disappointment the Corps of Discovery had not found a waterway from St. Louis to the Pacific.  By August 1806, the Corps had returned to the confluence of the Knife and Missouri River where Lewis & Clark bid farewell to Charbonneau, Sakakawea, and Pomp as they returned to live with their Hidatsa relatives.

 

In Bismarck we boarded the Lewis and Clark Riverboat on the Missouri River.  All totaled, we have ridden the Mississippi, the Colorado, the Willamette, the Hudson and now the Missouri RiversThe mighty Missouri was the superhighway of the 1800’s.  It was the route of Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery to the Pacific Ocean.  It was the route Custer and the seventh cavalry followed the Battle of Little Bighorn.  Steamboats took gold miners, fur traders, soldiers, settlers and supplies up the river.  They brought gold and furs down the river.  This Riverboat cruised 1 1/2 hours from Bismarck to Mandan and then returned to Bismarck.  The steamboat is a 150-seat passenger vessel which had narration along the route.

 

Touring three major producers of energy in a day was exciting.  We traveled to Antelope Valley Station, which is the newest coal-based power plant in N. Dakota.  We began our tour at Freedom Mine run by Coteau Properties.   Here coal is mined and taken to the power plant next door. AVS annually consumes about 15.2 million tons of lignite coal.   The power plant has two units rated at 450 megawatts.  Coal that is less than 1 ½ inch in diameter is taken to the synfuel gasification plant next door to the power plant.  Both the power plant and the synfuel gasification plant take their water from Lake Sakakawea.  Most of the electricity produced is sent 300 miles via 345,000-volt transmission line to a large substation near Huron, S.D. and into a grid for members to purchase and distribute to 1.8 million consumers.  In other words, AVS produces enough electricity to power the city of Denver 14 hours a day seven days a week.

 

The power plant tour took us by elevator to the 17th floor to observe the boiling process, which turns water into steam to turn the turbans to produce electricity. We peered into the huge boiler noting that the temperature of the boiler was approximate, 8,000 degrees.   You could feel the heat just radiating from the units.  We returned to the elevators also noting that the temperature in the walkway was 124 degrees.  We boarded the elevator to descend to the first floor when much to our amazement the elevator doors would not close.  After many attempts to push the buttons to close the doors and phone conversations with power plant maintenance workers, it was decided that we would have to walk down the 17 flights of steps to get to the main floor.  Well, it was not as bad as it seems.  You see, we got a view of the power plant that most people will never have the opportunity to experience.  We got some great pictures and some everlasting memories like the coal dust on Jan’s hands and forehead from the hand railing.

 

The Great Plains Synfuel Plant, a coal gasification facility, is located adjacent to Antelope Valley Station.  It produces synthetic natural gas that leaves the plant through a 2-foot diameter pipeline, traveling 34 miles south.  There, it joins the Northern Border Pipeline, which transports the gas to four companies that supply gas to thousands of homes and business in eastern United States.  The $2.1 billion plant began operating in 1984 (the same year as the power plant) and produces more than 54 billion standard cubit feet of natural gas annually.  Coal consumption exceeds 6 million tons each year.  In addition to natural gas, the synfuel plant produces fertilizer, solvents, phenol, carbon dioxide and other chemicals.  This is one of only two plants in the world.  The other synthetic gasification plant is located in Africa.

 

 

The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center provides information about the Expedition and the Native American Tribes of the 1800’s.  It contains a gallery of giant metal sculptures, rare artifacts, exhibits and interactive displays.  A hospitality room with internet assess was available to F.M.C.A members.  Connected to the Lewis and Clark Center is Fort Mandan where the Corps of Discovery spent the winter of 1804-05.  Built entirely out of cottonwood trees from the shores of the Missouri River, seven rooms housed the men, two stored supplies and food, and one served as the blacksmith shop.  Eight fireplaces were built back to back between the rooms, as the temperatures would drop to 42 degrees below zero. Above each room, a loft provided a sleeping area for many of the soldiers.  It was at Fort Mandan that Sakakawea became a member of the Expedition.  Afterwards, we strolled along side the Missouri River to learn more about the area through interpretive signage.

 

The Visitor's Center at Fort Mandan, called Headwaters, was designed in natural surroundings and utilizes energy efficient materials and technologies.  In particular, the facility is a showcase of the many uses of coal fly ash – a by-product of coal. Every component of the building from concrete, exterior and interior walls, the fireplace, ceiling tiles, carpet, flooring, walking trails, sidewalks and the parking lot uses fly ash.  Using coal fly ash eliminates disposal of this material, conserves natural resources and saves energy to provide electricity. 

 

Driving to Fort Abraham State Park,  we had packed a sack lunch and ate on the banks of the Missouri River.  This park has an infantry post, which was established on June 14, 1872.  The cavalry post followed in March 1873.  The Forts first commander, Lt. Col. George Custer and the 7th Calvary arrived in the fall 1873.  For two and half years, Custer and his wife Libbie lived on this site.  Their house still stands for tourists.   On May 17, 1876, Custer and the 76th Calvary rode out on their ill-fated campaign against the Plain Indians.  The expedition ended in Montana with the death of Custer and his men at the Battle of Little Bighorn. 

 

In addition to Custer’s home, the On – A – Slant Indian Village is located on a slope by the Missouri River.  The Mandan Indians, from 1575 until 1781, occupied the Village.  The Mandan, or “Nu Eta”, were an agricultural tribe and hunted buffalo on the prairie.  The Lewis and Clark Expedition camped near the village ruins in 1804.

 

Leaving Fort Stevenson, we traveled north to Minot, ND where we set up the North Dakota State Park information booth inside the information center for the attendees of the FMCA’S Convention.  It was a busy five days with many folks stopping by the booth for directions, information and brochures.  Our booth was open every day with the help of a park staff or volunteer.  Pictured is Amy  Zachmeier, NDSP Interpreter from Lake Metigoshe SP.   Over 3,000 private, motor coaches attended this convention and I think everyone of the attendees stopped by our booth.  Steve volunteers on the F.M.C.A Governing Board representing the Parliament Travel Club Chapter of F.M.C.A.  This is Steve's 4th year on the Governing Board.  F.M.C.A is a great organization of motorhome owners and we truly enjoy attending the National Conventions.  Summer '05 will be held in Charlotte, NC at the Lowe's Motor Speedway.  Sounds exciting! 

 

We left Minot for Lake Metigoshe State Park.  This Park is very close to Canadian border and located within the Turtle Mountains.  It was constructed by the Work Progress Administration (WPA) in the 1930’s. The Chippewa called the lake “Metigoshe Washegum”, or “clear water lake surrounded by oaks.”  Today, the lake is known for its northern pike, walleye and perch.   We received a gift of 10-nites of developed camping in North Dakota State Parks Parks for our volunteer service at Fort Stevenson State Park.  We stayed four nights at Lake Metigoshe SP and five nights at Lewis and Clark State Park.  While visiting at Lake Metigoshe SP, we were asked if we would like to introduce the interpretive program speaker.  Of course, we wanted to do this.  NDSP Field Manager, Brad Pozarnsky, presented an interesting educational program of his participation in the Alaska Iditarod.  Pictured is Brad and his dogsled. 

 

Also while visiting Lake Metigoshe SP, we visited the nearby International Peace Gardens on the border betweenn USA and Canada.  The gardens straddle the border between the two countries.  Each side of the border has flowers, plants and structures representing the United States or Canada.  On the US side, there was a peace chapel filled with famous saying spoken or written by world  leaders and philosophers. Four towers, two on each side of the border, faced each other representing cooperation among nations. On the Canadian side, a bell tower played music every 15 minutes.  The International Peace Garden is an affiliate area of the National Park Service, U.S. Department of Interior.  As an affiliate area, the National Park Service acts as a conduit between the Peace Garden and the federal government and also provides information on the operation of park aspects of the International Peace Garden.

 

Ending our visit along the Canadian border, we leave Lake Metigoshe SP and head westward.  Arriving at Lewis and Clark State Park, we find ourselves in a very different terrain, flatter and desert in appearance.  The Park is located near the site where Lewis and Clark camped on April 17, 1805.  Risking their lives, they journeyed over 8,000 miles encountering Indians, grizzly bears, and finding minerals and new plants.  The park, of course, is named for the Corps of Discovery explorers, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. The expedition camped nearby and an interpretive trail marker has been placed within the park to commemorate their historic journey through North Dakota. On this stretch of the Missouri, the expedition encountered severe winds that hampered their progress for nearly a week.  With the wind preventing travel, members of the expedition used that time to survey the surrounding land.  The eroded buttes were described, along with a mention of petrified logs and a burned hill with “pumice stone around it.”

 

Theodore Roosevelt National Park North Unit is part of the colorful ND Badlands.  We saw bison, deer, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs and a variety of songbirds.  The wildflowers bloom in vibrant colors.  It was here in 1883 that 24-year-old Teddy Roosevelt began his cattle raising adventure on the Maltese Cross Ranch and where he lived his life as a cowboy.  He returned the next year and established the Elkhorn Ranch.  "I never would have been President if it had not been for my experiences in North Dakota," Theodore Roosevelt once remarked.  Whenever he managed to spend time in the badlands, he became more and more alarmed by the damage that was being done to the land and its wildlife. He witnessed the virtual destruction of some big game species, such as bison and bighorn sheep. Overgrazing destroyed the grasslands and with them the habitats for small mammals and songbirds. Conservation increasingly became one of Roosevelt's major concerns. During his Presidency, Roosevelt established the US Forest Service and signed the 1906 Antiquities Act under which he proclaimed 18 national monuments. He also established 5 national parks, 51 wildlife refuges and 150 national forests.

 

Heading south is the town of Medora.  Medora named after the wife of the Marquis de Mores.  The couple came here in 1883 to find fortune in the cattle industry.  The Marquis built a packing plant, bought cattle and land and employed cowboys and workers.  But, sadly his meatpacking scheme collapsed in 1886.  However, the  26-room chateau he built still stands and the romantic legacy lives on in western ND.  Today, Medora has been revitalized as a tourist town with boardwalks, buggies and gaslights.  Our evening began with a unique western meal on the Tjaden Terrace with a pitchfork steak fondue dinner accompanied by a buckboard of side dishes. While we ate, we were serenaded with western melodies performed by live cast members of the Medora Musical and watched the sun set over the ND Badlands.  Following dinner,  we walked to the  2,900 seat, Burning Hills Amphitheater, which is home to the Medora Musical.  The show, recognized as an “American Bus Association Top 100 Event”, has been presenting this musical extravaganza for 40 years.  It is a two-hour production performed outdoors with the splendor of the ND Badlands as a backdrop.  The musical includes traditional western historical themes all dedicated to our 26th President, Theodore Roosevelt.  The cast of the Burning Hills Singers entertained us with singing clogging, and yodeling along with the Chinese Golden Dragons Acrobats, “Performing Tricks, Multiple Skills." By the way, did I say that Steve got us center third row seats.  FABULOUS!

 

Well, we outdid ourselves this time!  The response we receive from our friends in reading about our travels and those who "virtually" travel along with Steve & Jan encourage us to continue our efforts in writing this newsletter.  We appreciate and cherish the comments we receive when we publish a new edition.  Please drop us a line - we look forward in hearing from you.

 

Thank you for taking the time to Travel Along with Steve & Jan. 

 

 

Steve & Jan with our "daughters" Angel Dancer & Precious Prancer

International Peace Gardens - North Dakota

Summer 2005