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TRAVELING JACK

Posted 2/21/17 (Tue)

By Jack Dura
Farmer Staff Writer

My buddy Pace isn’t one for road trips to obscure places.
He likes civilization. And hey, I do too.
But you won’t find me listening to the Bison game on a smartphone while hiking Theodore Roosevelt National Park’s petrified forest.
Renting a cabin without running water or mattresses at Lake Metigoshe State Park? It’s not Pace’s cup of tea.
I like to share the road when exploring North Dakota, but everyone has their own tastes.
Traveling in winter entreats Sabrina, another pal o’ mine, to wear her skunk hat.
That piece of headgear gets attention in the Medina Cafe.
With a cup of gas station coffee, Sabrina can cover hundreds of miles in any conditions. She’s a real road warrior.
Not many folks would continue straight on after missing a highway turn for the interstate, but Sabrina and I soldiered forth on gravel over the Heart River and through the prairie to pop out at Almont onto I-94.
Pace and I had less luck trying to mount White Butte with his Chevy Impala over two deep ruts in grass.
We turned around, but still somehow ended up in the wrong place, though a hike through a cocklebur field pointed our noses in the right direction.
As for vehicles, I’m happy to report zero troubles while on the road in a “wreck,” as my dad described my old Mercury Mountaineer.
The Mountaineer was a faithful vessel.
More so than Dad can say; his Dodge threw its drive shaft near Glen Ullin on a trip to the badlands one summer, but through Herculean efforts, we found salvation in Hebron (thank you, Zuroff Repair).
I suppose the only trouble my truck ever encountered was mud north of Golden Valley on a trip to find a turtle effigy.
Rather than mire in the muck, Dad, his bird dog and I hiked the six miles to and from the ancient effigy on a hilltop.
And that was how I spent spring break two years ago.
Dad wasn’t impressed.
And that’s a common sentiment sometimes.
When hiking to North Dakota’s only waterfall and you find a 4-foot trickle dropping off a grassy ledge, you might be a bit disenchanted.
No Horseshoe Falls here.
Pace liked the petrified forest. Living in Fargo, I think anyone can appreciate the petrified forest compared to the flat, frozen tundra.
Last summer, our buddy Nolan took me around Emmons County, where Lawrence Welk and wrought iron crosses dot the map.
I think the best part was a tiny cemetery of crosses in a soybean field north of Strasburg. Call me morbid, but I like necroarchitecture.
Nolan liked the Hague Cafe. And so did I. I’m glad they take cards now.
Someone anonymous and wise once said North Dakota is an acquired taste.
Like coffee. Or scotch.
“Anyone can love the mountains but it takes a soul to love the prairie,” Willa Sibert Cather once wrote.
How true.
It takes a soul to love the prairie, but it takes an indoor shower to make Pace go camping.