I had two very long drives to take me from Louisville, KY to Medora, ND. I spent a night in Eau Claire, WI, but with a ten hour drive on either side, I didn’t do much but grab a bite to eat, pour a glass of wine and curl into one of the more comfortable of the ‘cheaper’ hotels.
The drive through North Dakota was fairly uneventful – for once the skies were friendly enough. It was pretty much flat grass/farm land the whole way through, though as I approached the National Park area, you could see where the prairie gave way to the bad lands. I arrived around dinner time, checked in and headed to one of the three restaurants in town for a quick dinner. I’ve had my handy-dandy radar app within reach at all times and could see a storm front was headed in. I decided to get to bed early and save the park for the following day. I was in the middle of the interwebs (facebook, twitter, email, etc) when the thunder and lightning rolled in.
The following morning I grabbed a quick breakfast and headed for the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. I hit the visitor center/gift shop first. I little lacking in the gift shop department, but lots of information, and a wonderful video to give a little insight to what the park was when Roosevelt himself spent time in the area and eventually set the land aside. His first cabin was out behind the center and I got to tour it. My reading about his life has paid off though, there was an elderly couple that had some questions but the guide wanted them to wait until the end – sadly they could stay. I asked what questions they had, and they were curious about his life after his first wife, Alice, died. I was able to tell them about his second wife (and childhood sweetheart) and the rest of his children. I’m pretty sure I earned my Jr. Ranger Badge for that one. Right?
I have a few more books about Roosevelt on my shelf to read. I haven’t gotten far into his politics (though on New Years Day he opened the white house to shake hands with every single visitor that wanted to greet him in the new year), but I do know that he set aside roughly 150MILLION acres of land that are now listed as national parks, reserves, etc. That’s pretty awesome.
It was when he came to North Dakota to hunt Bison. Took him three weeks to find one because numbers went from 60million to just over 500. He didn’t want future generations to be without. Ironically, he was one of the last people to kill a bison before he started to work to save them.
I overheard another couple talk about seeing the wild horses not far from the road, so I was eager to head out and possibly get some photos. Apparently it wasn’t meant to be. The first time I circled the park (around 11am by the time I’d seen the cabin, visitors center and gift shop), I didn’t see any sign of the wild ponies. Lots of Bison (a little too close for comfort), about a billion prairie dogs and several kinds of birds, but no horses. The loop is about 40 miles and I took about 2.5 hours to drive it.
Back in Medora I grabbed a quick lunch to go and spent some time in my hotel room uploading photos before exploring Medora (and by exploring I meant checking out all three gift shops) and then headed back to the park in the early evening to circle again in hopes of finding the horses. And I found them! Waaaaay in the distance. I could just barely make them out in the distance with my camera zoom – not even worth taking a photo. I was disappointed, but at the same time – I found them!
The weather was quickly changing again, so I headed back to my hotel for the night. I wanted to get a good nights sleep, and with a last minute decision to drive the park one last time before heading out, I couldn’t sleep in.
Before leaving Medora completely behind, I circled the park one last time in search of the wild horses, and found them! They were still much further that I would’ve preferred. Unlike the Bison, they don’t just stand in the middle of the road and make you wait. But it was great to see them.
It was a leisurely 415 miles along highway 200 from Medora, ND to Great Falls, MT. There were a few small towns along the way, but there were also several long stretches with absolutely nothing. Halfway there I could see a storm approaching, both via my radar app and the large, dark cloud in the distance. I got a bit of rain and saw a few flashes to the south, but managed to skirt around it before it became anything worth writing home about. Thinking I was done with the mess of weather, I put my phone app away and settled into the last half. Everything was going well until the clouds started changing again. I would later learn there was another Tornado warning, but my most immediate concern was the lightning strikes that I could see on either side of my car. The rain was coming down sideways and I had to slow to about 35mph. It lasted for about an hour before I popped out the other side of the storm to blue skies and fairly sunny weather. I made it to my hotel, grabbed dinner nearby and collapsed into a bed that I don’t remember – I was that tired. Well, I mean, it was my own hotel bed… not just any random bed. That’d be awkward.