Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

What a Difference A Day Makes

Sunday July 20, 2014
Cottonwood Campground
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Medora, North Dakota


If you’d like a lot less traffic


then North Dakota is your place.  This is I 94 running east to west through North Dakota this morning.

We drove straight through, all 231 miles, no more overnight stops, to Theodore Roosevelt National Park on the western side of North Dakota.

Along the way we saw hay bales in the fields and lining the road. It looked like it had just been cut.  Lots and lots of hay bales.  Miles and miles of hay bales.  What do they do with all that hay?  We sure didn’t see any cattle along the road.    Well until New Salem that is.






And then we come to Bismarck which luckily we can zoom on by.

We see beautiful wildflowers on every side as we drive on an empty I-94 through the lovely rolling hills.  And then we get to Bismarck.

What a shock coming over that rise. 




But we don’t have to go through Bismarck happily.  Our next view is evidence of our oil addiction.  Not nearly as lovely a roadside view as hay bales or wildflowers.




Who knew there was so much to see driving across the North Dakota on the interstate.


I don’t usually show our route or much about our drive on my posts.  But New Salem is advertising itself broadly and has a seriously BIG cow.




However, the best roadside attraction came into view as we approached Exit 72.  We could see it a long way off but couldn’t tell until we got much closer that this was an amazing sculpture. 

It is located at exit 72 to Gladstone.  I thought it was just gorgeous so I got on line to see if I could find out what it was and sure enough, the great google knew.

It seems that Gary Geff a metal sculptor and retired teacher wanted to do something to keep his town of Regent from dying.  Regent was 30 miles from the nearest highway so in 1990 he started making huge metal sculptures and placing them along the stretch of highway between Regent and I-94.  His plan was to place 10 statues on the road between Gladstone and Regent, one every few miles paired with playgrounds and picnic tables. 

Would Roadside America come?  You betcha!


All the sculptures face north toward on coming traffic from I 94. 

Boy do I wish we weren’t on an already too long trip.  I just can’t add another 60 miles to it. 

But the Geese in Flight Sculpture sure does just what he wanted it to when it was erected in 2001.  It got my attention and if I’d been in a car, I would for sure have gone on down that highway to see Teddy Roosevelt riding a bucking horse , the Tin Man’s family which includes a propeller headed boy holding a sucker, a covey of pheasants where the rooster is 60’ long and then hen 50’ with 3 12’ high chicks.

There is also the world’s largest grasshopper (boy these North Dakotans and the world’s largest theme), a giant deer leaping and Fisherman’s dream, a metal fish leaping 70’ through a metal pond surface.  

Don’t these sound like something to be seen??    Judy are you reading this?  Take Nurse Ratchet and go west on I 64 past Bismarck and before Dickinson.  You can’t miss Geese in Flight on your right.




We are on a mission to get a campsite at the Cottonwood Campground in TR National Park.


All the sites are first come first serve.  No reservations. Check out time is 12:00 and when we called yesterday the person told us there would most likely be sites but come early. 

Thankfully we got a time boost from moving into Mountain time so we arrived about 12:30 and went directly to the campground.

Also thankfully the road crew working on 3 miles of the 5 mile road from the entrance station to the campground wasn’t working on Sunday.  Apparently traffic backs up and there are long delays on week-days.  They have taken all the pavement out and done whatever repairs, they have graded it but they are still working on curbs and there is no gravel so it is a washboard dustbowl and Winnona couldn’t go over 10 mph without shaking her teeth loose.




Cottonwood Campground has two loops.  One all back in and one mostly pull through.  The pull through sites are very long as you can see from the picture of the site we chose.  The sites are quite separated.  Most are in the sun which we would not normally want but with 400 watts of solar panels on our roof that works just fine for us. 

There is a water fill station as you come into the campground.  There are no services at all here other than drinking water spigots around and clean bathrooms with sinks and toilets.  No electric, no water hook ups, no sewer, no RV dump and no showers. 


But the view from our door and under the awning is gorgeous and shaded.  From the picnic table we have a view of the buttes.  The birds are singing in the trees and a gentle wind is rustling the cottonwoods.   All is really really well.








New problem, hopefully temporary, how to deal with the heat.


After leveling up, putting out the slides, the awning and getting some lunch we decide the only thing to do in this heat is to head to the air conditioned visitor center.    The outside temperature is at the top and the indoor at the bottom.  Pretty different from our past 6 weeks around the Great Lakes.  We set up some fans and off we go.  No AC with Solar.  But generator hours are from 8am to 8pm if we need to cool things off.






At the Visitor Center we watch the film and afterwards find that on the information boards they have excellent information including maps on all their hikes and guided ranger activities.







We pick up the park newspaper and a “family pack” which has binoculars and all kinds of guide books that you can “borrow” for a day.  One of the guide books is for the 36 mile park drive and is not for sale but only available in this pack which is the main reason we get it.   

Inside the cute backpack are three pamphlets, one on Prairie Dogs, one on Bison, and the one on the drive.  There are also 3 books, one on plains animals scat and tracks, one on the Birds of  the Dakotas and one on Common Plants of Theodore Roosevelt National park.  There are also some games for kids and the pair of binoculars.   It’s a really nice service.  You can borrow it for the day by leaving a copy of your driver’s license and a credit card. 





With our backpack in tow we go into the small museum dedicated to Teddy Roosevelt. 


It covers his life story with pictures, information, letters and one exhibit has the undershirt he was wearing when he was shot in Milwaulkee while campaigning for the Presidency.  He refused to go to the hospital because he was going to “make this speech or die”.  Hmmmm.  Not really sure what to think about this.  It seems intended to show him as one strong man, a tough cookie.  But it seems rather foolish to me. 

One of the neatest things in there was a wooden statue of Teddy on a horse.  The clothing and riding tack were all his.   It’s an amazing sculpture.  I cannot even imagine the time it took to create this.









It has cooled down nicely and the park is really showing off.


We leave the museum just before the center closes at 6:00.   The views in every direction even from the parking lot are just superb!






On the 5 mile drive back to the campground we stop to watch the Prairie Dogs in their town scamper about and whistle.





We end our day with the Ranger’s Campfire program where he talks about the many faces of Theodore Roosevelt.



We are REALLY happy to be here.


It’s been a long day.  But after a nice rest with the windows open in the quiet of the National Park, we hope tomorrow to do the drive and use the booklet.  There are many many of the things we love to do here and we can’t wait to get started.   What a wonderful life we live.




  1. Now that's our kind of campground! What does it cost...?


    1. Oops, I did forget an important piece of information. Thanks for reminding me. $10 if you are young and $5 if you are old. I consider it a donation to my wonderful wonderful National Parks.

    2. Great price. I think we would stay for a week. :-)

  2. Love the National Parks! Looks like y'all are having a great time! I hope it cools off for you. Have fun!

  3. Glad you are enjoying the park. We spent two days in the park but camped at a tourist town down the road apiece:) I really enjoy visiting those eccentric america attractions.

  4. We enjoyed our stay in Medora and visiting Teddy Roosevelt NP.

  5. Great campsite and that is a really good statue. I think I need to get that Roadside America book.

  6. TR was quite a man. I've been to his house in Oyster Bay, Long Island. It is loaded with mounted heads of all the animals he shot on his hunting expeditions around the world. Interesting that he was very instrumental in protecting wild lands, but hunted so many animals.

  7. Lovely park! And, it sounds like an easy & interesting drive there. So hot though! Glad the visitors' center gave a reprieve and it was nice at night. Impressive Teddy on that horse!

  8. What a wonderful life you live, indeed ... The Dakotas are two states I haven't been ~ just went on by. Glad to see them ~ that is really a beautiful campground and love the sculpture...

  9. Oh my, I know how hard it was for you to pass up that side trip to see those sculptures. I would've been exactly the same way. Can't wait to see this National Park through your eyes. And those pics of empty interstate highways brought tears of longing to my eyes. Just don't see that in the East. BTW, I love your pics and descriptions of travel days. Wish you would always do that. Guess it's the Road Trip Warrior part of me coming out - a trait I've learned you and I DON'T have in common! Hope something fun is planned for today.

  10. If you ever get to San Antonio, TX there is a free display on Roosevelt in the Menger Hotel.

  11. I do remember a lot of long and lonely roads in the Dakotas. But they got you to a beautiful place. Your new site is such an improvement even without power. Many NPs offer a 'loaner' pack. We have one with field guides and binocs.

  12. I am paying close attention and taking notes. :)

  13. Love the metal sculptures (remind me of all the Galeta Meadows sculptures in the middle of the desert at Borrego Springs, CA), and seeing the passion of one man successfully draw people off the highway :-). Glad it cools down at night. I have to remember to use public a/c on those days we find hot temps when dry camping - so smart!

  14. Whew....that's hot!!! Hope it is a fleeting thing. Still the park and your campsite look wonderful:o)) Can't wait to see what adventures await!! Just one question... Are Duckies still not happy with their view??? They sure are getting finicky;o)))

  15. Oh the prairie dogs are adorable! One of the women I met at Best Friends worked on a documentary about them. Looks like you are in a beautiful spot!

  16. Wow, what a great place to be! The 101 degree temps, not so much :( I love the 'family pack' idea, how smart of them to do that.

  17. Loved the drive across North Dakota, wide open spaces and elbow room and all. And I love the campsite youi chose with the long drive in and out and the fabulous yard where we cannot even see another camper but have giant cottonwood trees that have been used as scratching posts by the bison. They even left some hair (or is it fur) to prove it. Love this park already.

  18. You should consider returning to the UP. Temps in the 60's...for at least the next 10 days :)
    It was 105 when we were in ND 2 years ago. Extreme heat and extreme cold...not for me :)

  19. That's quite a temp for being up north ... here in the south of Texas it's only 91-92F ... but with a feels like temp of 106F.

  20. I remember Gail posting how hot it was when they were in ND. I thought that was just unusual since it was a hot summer everywhere, but that must be typical? Yikes!

    Looks like this campground is a huge improvement over your last one!

  21. I bet this is going to be fun !!! Looks like a terrific park....

  22. I love Teddy Roosevelt and I love prairie dogs. I do not however love the heat. We are planning an August trip out to that area 2 years from now as we make our way to Glacier. Can't wait to see what you discover. Those roadside sculptures would have been very hard to resist.

  23. Yep, if we EVER get out of Indy area, we are headed that way!

  24. I would love to see those sculptures -- the Geese in Flight sculpture is very cool! You made me laugh with your comment "What is it about these North Dakotans and the world’s largest theme?" You scored a gorgeous site, and the national park looks fabulous. Glad to hear you're back in a place that makes you really happy. :-)


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