We woke Friday morning in Bismarck, ND. Breakfast at La Quinta was actually quite good, with assemble-your-own egg/ham/croissant sandwiches in addition to the usual waffles etc. They also had yogurt and perfect (for me) bananas. Although the coffee was passable (better than usual for complimentary hotel coffee), there was a Starbucks next door and we stopped in for lattes before hitting the road. We also needed to go to the Post Office (yes, everyday life sometimes intervenes), which would be unremarkable except that it meant we got to see more of Bismarck, including some nice old houses. On the surface, neighborhoods in Bismarck seem much more socioeconomically mixed than much of what we have seen elsewhere, with “nicer” houses almost adjacent to (less nice) apartment buildings.
The Gas Buddy app had assured us that we could fuel up 75 miles out, so that was our next stop. Shortly thereafter, we crossed into the Mountain Time Zone (which we had not really thought about) meaning we’d reach our destination about an hour before we’d planned–ultimately a good thing. It was oddly comforting to be on Mountain time again. We reached Medora, ND–gateway to Theodore Roosevelt National Park–just before 11 am. We headed right to the campground after hearing it was already starting to fill up. Luckily, we were able to secure this lovely site.
After a simple lunch from the cooler, we decided to take a drive rather than sit at the hot and busy campground. We first went to the main park Visitor Center. As is our (necessary) custom when we travel with Rebbe, we took turns. Maureen watched the park video and reported that it was “OK,” so I spent my time looking at the Teddy Roosevelt exhibits and the store. They also had a (taxidermically) stuffed snowy owl, which was quite cool. Next we stopped in the small gateway town of Medora, built by the Marquis de Morès, who came here in Roosevelt’s time to ranch and build a meat processing plant, and named for his wife. I had glimpsed an ice cream store on the way in, so that was our goal. We had first to find a parking spot. On a Friday, in tourist season, this took a few minutes. Maureen had noticed that the local bike shop, Dakota Cyclery, had some sort of event going on, so we stopped there to investigate and get an ice cream recommendation. The event turned out to be packet pickup for the Maah De Heey trail races (100/75/50/25 mile options). The ice cream verdict was “they’re all about the same.” This turned out to be quite true, as I dropped in to both shops and found the same flavors, written using the same font. And the flavor selections were clearly designed for those about four decades younger than us (cotton candy ice cream, anyone?) We kept moving. Fortunately, we came across a coffee shop (Hidden Springs Java) with smoothies and blended coffee drinks. It was packed. Maureen astutely pointed out that this was where all the grown ups were. She stood in line for our adult treats while Rebbe and I waited outside (for quite some time). At least Medora had AT&T wireless signal, which was not detectable at our campsite. Suitably “treated,” we took our coffees and headed back into TRNP.
We made a lap of the park’s 36-mile scenic loop drive. It was still pretty hot, so we didn’t see too many animals, but we did spot some feral horses and plenty of prairie dogs.
The badlands scenery was quite spectacular too.
We returned to our campsite for dinner. Maureen had asked one of the Rangers where we should go to view the full moon, since we couldn’t join the ranger-led full moon hike (no dogs allowed). The Badlands Overlook was recommended. We headed that way around dusk. Here are some of our blue moon and bison photos: