Apr 17 2011
My husband and I took an unexpected trip this weekend. He was shopping for a piece of farm equipment, and after exploratory trips with his dad to the east and south, he found another prospect on the Internet. The problem? It was located in Mandan, North Dakota, 425 miles from home.
This time he enlisted me to go with him. Our first thought was to take the kids, but 14 hours in the car over a day and a half, with no stops for fun along the way, would have been unpleasant for both them and us. My husband’s parents came to the rescue and agreed to keep the kids overnight, leaving it as a roadtrip for just the two of us.
The next difficulty was that there was a snowstorm on its way through North Dakota. As we left home, I pulled up road reports and we made an en route decision to stay off the Interstate, normally the fastest and most direct route, and instead go through northern South Dakota. It ended up being a good decision, as we avoided driving in rain, and although we saw lots of snow over the countryside, the roads were mostly clear by the time we passed through. The other benefit of this route was that it was more interesting than traveling I-94 twice in two days.
As we drove, we talked. With four kids, it’s sometimes hard to carry on an uninterrupted conversation, and my husband kindly remarked that he finds me more interesting to travel with than others he could have taken on the journey. I’m glad he thinks that!
Though I’d driven this route many years ago, I’d forgotten what the terrain was like, and while scenery is probably at its worst during this just-before-spring stage when everything is still brown and gray from winter, when the sun peeked through the clouds and the snow covered the buttes, it was actually a very pretty drive. While no one was excited about 10″ of snow in mid-April, it certainly brightened up our drive.
Along the way, I made note of places I’d like to return to: Minnesota’s Big Stone County, where the Minnesota River begins its journey south and the Red River begins its journey north, has an auto tour through a wildlife refuge near Ortonville. Aberdeen, SD, is someplace our family could definitely spend some time. And don’t laugh, but I’d like to see Lawrence Welk’s birthplace near Strasburg, ND. Lawrence Welk’s show was synonimous with Saturday night bathtime at our house.
Although my kids and I had traveled through North Dakota extensively a few years ago, my husband had never been to Bismarck. As we got closer, he said, “Are we almost there? I don’t see a city anywhere.” I explained that I always thought the same thing as a kid traveling to Bismarck. Then we’d come over a hill, and there was the city, nestled along the Missouri River. I drove him past the state capitol on the way to our hotel, asking if it reminded him of Louisiana’s capitol, which he had seen before. “It looks like an office building,” he said. He was right. It is an office building.
Sadly, we had no time for further sight-seeing, and our errand was accomplished the next morning. My husband drove home in his newly-purchased semi tractor, and I in our family vehicle, each with an audiobook for company. Mission accomplished. It wasn’t glamorous or exciting, but it gave us some time together, ended his current equipment search, and got us safely back home again.