Monday, August 25, 2014

The Challenge of North Dakota

“If you like empty space, North Dakota has real advantages.” – Writer Richard Critchfield

I found this quote after spending HOURS perusing websites, books, magazines, tourism guides, and maps - literally anything I could get my hands on about North Dakota, trying desperately to find fun and interesting things to share about the state.  Multiple times Grant told me to ‘give it up’ after I grumbled about my difficulties.  I mean, there were plenty of oddities – from the World’s Largest Hamburger in Rutland to the Largest Stack of Empty Oil Cans in Casselton but I really struggled to find anything relevant and interesting to make North Dakota special and unique to the Dynamic Duo this week.  I mean, over 90% of the state is devoted to agriculture (the largest percentage in the nation), which while very important isn’t exactly super cool to a four year old.  But if I made it through Montana I can make it through North Dakota week!

Had any pasta lately?  If so, there’s a fairly good chance the durum wheat used to make it came from a farm in North Dakota, as the state is responsible for 2/3 of the nation’s production.  Hard Spring Wheat, used primarily to make yeast bread, hard rolls and bagels, is another leading crop, with North Dakota accounting for 50% of the nation’s production.  North Dakota also is the leading U.S. producer of sunflower, barley, dry edible beans, navy and pinto beans, canola, flax, oats, honey, lentils and dry peas. The state also is a major producer of sugarbeets, potatoes, hay and specialty crops such as mustard seed, buckwheat and crambe. (  Over 25% of North Dakota’s economy is attributed to agriculture, contributing $11.7 Billion to the state in 2012 and employing one out of every four workers in the state. Maybe not up there on the ‘most interesting’ list, but I’d say this tops our “famous for” list this week!

A little higher up on the interesting scale are some of the must see sites in North Dakota.  Opened in 1932, the International Peace Garden straddles the Canada and the United States, with the American side lying in Rolette County, North DakotaThe Garden encloses a 3.65 square mile area between the countries and was established to acknowledge the peaceful relationship between the two countries.  Some must see sights within the Garden are the Carin, the Floral Clock, the Interpretative Center and the 9/11 Memorial which contains 10 steel girders pulled from the Twin Tower wreckage.  If a Sunday drive is more your style, consider cruising down the 32 mile Enchanted Highway.  I can’t tell you *exactly* where it is because believe it or not, the road that it located on has no Highway Number.  (Are you getting yet that there is VERY little in North Dakota??) But it is in the southwestern part of the state, near the town of Regent.  What makes the highway enchanted?  It contains the world’s largest collection of scrap metal structures!  Local artist Gary Greff conceived of the project, built it beginning in 1989, maintains it and plans more sculptures.  You can check out pictures of some of the structures here if you don’t want to actually make the trip to North Dakota…

And if you’re really determined to make that trip, while there you may want to make the trek to Rugby which bills itself as the Geographical Center of North America.  There is a huge obelisk that marks the spot that the town claims to be the middle of contintent, flanked by flags from the Canada and US (I want to know why Mexico and all of the countries from Central America don’t get to fly their flags as well…).  The spot was determined by geographical surveys in 1931.   Unfortunately, it’s up for debate if Rugby is actually the true center point as it is widely believed that the true center may actually be closer to Orrin.  But considering according to the 2010 census the population of Orrin was 22, I don’t see that they have the ability to make too big of a fuss.

Perhaps early explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark could has settled the debate as their famed expedition spent more time in North Dakota (or what would become North Dakota) that any other place.   The Lewis and Clark Trail which stretches the length of the duo’s journey to discover the newly purchased Louisiana territory runs through the state.  The Lewis and Clark State Park is located near Williston, on the shores of Lake SakakaweaLake Sakakawea is the largest manmade lake in North Dakota and is named in honor of the Native American woman who assisted Lewis and Clark on their journey.  (You probably know her by the more common spelling of Sacajawea, and if you remember even further back, we discussed that she actually was born in Idaho and was kidnapped by a band of enemies and taken to North Dakota where she eventually met Lewis and Clark).  The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Washburn along the trail provides an overview of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, with special emphasis on the time spent at Fort Mandan during the winter of 1804- 1805.

Speaking of people who spent a good deal of time in North Dakota, and to their great benefit, future President Theodore Roosevelt (5 bonus points if you remember he actually hails from “The Empire State” of New York) went by the ‘Teddy’ nickname bestowed on him from his time in Mississippi but he was also known as “The Cowboy of the Dakotas”.  Roosevelt made his first trek to North Dakota in 1883 in attempt to hunt bison.  Not only was the hunting a big part of Roosevelt’s time in North Dakota, he also owned two ranches – the Maltese Cross Ranch and Elkhorn.  He established his cowboy reputation in North Dakota on a number of occasions, including confronting well known ‘bad guys’, chasing thieves 150 miles downriver and riding 100 miles a day after a full night in the saddle and spending 40 hours on horseback while wearing out five horses.   Theodore Roosevelt National Park was established to preserve the territory and its importance in shaping the future president and is the only National Park named after a person.

I’ve saved my favorite piece of ‘famous for’ about North Dakota for last!   The product that "Makes Getting Clean Almost as Much Fun as Getting Dirty!" was created in 1961 by North Dakota business man Harold Schafer.  That’s right – Mr. Bubble is from North Dakota!  It was Schafer’s intention to make bubble bath an affordable luxury and move it from department stores to drug stores.  The first form of the prodct was sold as a powdered mixture, and over time was converted to a liquid.  During its history Mr. Bubble products have included not only bubble bath, but additional tub fun products such as foam soap and fizzy bubbles  I can guarantee you (given what I have to work with) you will definitely be seeing Mr Bubble (and perhaps a creation all our own) around here this week.

I’m posting this early today since tonight we’re headed off to the Mud Hens game!  I’m planning on going over most of this with them on our way to the game, which means by the time we hit Canton (about 20 minutes down the road) they should be North Dakota aficionados.  Sorry, I kid!  This also means no North Dakota culinary kick-off today.  But I promise we’ll pick it up and give North Dakota its due starting tomorrow.  So until then…

North Dakota Fun Fact of the Day: The North Dakota State University research experiment station in Hettinger is the largest state owned sheep research center in the United States.  (Seriously, this is what I’m up against this week…)

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