Monday, October 18, 2010

10/12/10 Day 9

     This morning we tried to break out habit of not getting going ‘til 10 or 11am by setting an alarm for 7am.  It didn’t work.  It is surprisingly difficult to make yourself get up and start packing while it is still dark outside.  We laid around the tent until the sun came up then began packing up.  Eric made fried cinnamon apples and toast for breakfast.  Despite our efforts to get going by at least 9am, we didn’t actually get on the road ‘til 10am.  I got behind the wheel for the first time since leaving Hamilton so that Eric could catch up ono the journal we have been keeping. 
     We drove for an hour or so to Devils Lake ND.  We had read a little about this area and decided to stop and check it out.  A nice woman from the visitor’s center gave us a ton of info then sent us out towards Fort Totten.  The road out to the fort was under heavy construction and there were many stops, which was ok with us because the road went right through a couple of the lakes that make up Devils Lake (which used to be several lakes, until they flooded together).  The road was very close to being overtaken by the fierce whitecaps that rolled all over the water's dark surface.  There were many dead and crooked looking trees jutting out of the water giving the lake a very spooky feel.  We both agreed that the lake seemed appropriately named. 
     The name is derived from the Indian name “Spirit Lake,” but apparently the settlers thought this was an evil spirit and named it “Devil’s Lake.”  There is also and interesting Indian story about a sea monster that lives in the lake. 
     Devils Lake is a terminal lake, that is it does not drain out into a river, and this has been very problematic.  The area has flooded many times and washed away the roads.  The lakes themselves have grown to a massive size compared to a few decades ago.  All three of the main lakes that make up Devils Lake look equally angry. 
     We were told about Sully’s Hill National Game Preserve by the woman at the visitor’s center and decided to stop and see some buffalo and stuff, since it was on the way.  We took the auto tour through the preserve, stopping at several pull-offs to observe the wildlife.  We climbed Sully’s Hill to the overlook and were rewarded for our strenuous climb by seeing some buffalo from about 30 feet away and also by the amazing view.

We spent some time up there taking pictures and looking through the binoculars to see what we could see.  We then hopped back in the car and continued on to the prairie dog town.  As we turned onto the road towards the town we observed dozens of the little rodents peeking from their burrows as we passed through.  I thought it would make for a better picture if I got a little closer by walking down the road towards where their little town, but this just caused most of them to chirp at us and run into their tunnels.  We retreated to the viewing area hoping they would come back out, but not many of them did, so we moved on towards the Devils Lake overlook.
     This too was an amazing view much like Sully’s Hilll, but we could see much more of the lake.  We decided this was a good place to eat lunch.  We wanted to cear out some of our left-overs, so we had turkey and egg salad sandwiches.  They were ok.
Thats Devils Lake behind us 

     We had seen all that the auto tour had to offer at this time of year and decided it was time to move on to Fort Totten.  There was a lot of history in this complex and I knew Eric could spend hours there so I didn’t really expect to get much further today. 
     We were pretty excited to get some “INPUT!”  in the words of Johnny 5 from the movie Short Circuit, but we were disappointed to find that the fort was pretty much closed for the season.  The gate was open so we strolled around the old fort anyway, but the museum buildings were all closed.  There were a few informational signs in the windows of the buildings and we got a little bit of the history of Fort Totten from these signs.  It was originally an army outpost during frontier days that later was turned into a school for Native Americans(where they tried to turn the red man into whitey!).
    Our hunger for history was hardly satiated, but we got back on the road to continue around Devils Lake to Rugby, ND, The geographic center of North America!  There was also a Prairie Museum in Rugby we were going to go to in a desperate attempt to get our history fix, but it was CLOSED! 
     We seem to be running into this problem a lot.  Some museums apparently close for the season soon after Labor Day (lame).  We have picked up a number of pamphlets for museums that looked effing RAD, only to find them closed for the season.  We have been VERY frustrated by this! 
     We arrived in Rugby and stopped at the visitor center to fill up on pamphlets and found that since this was the geographical center of the continent, the visitor center had information about Canada, Mexico, and all 50 states.  We were soon approached by a young woman with a notepad in her hand and a camera hanging from her neck.  She began making the usual small talk with questions about where we were from, where we were going, etc.  Then she explained that she was an editor for the Washington Post on a road trip across country imitating “Travels With Charlie,” a book by John Steinbeck.  She asked if she could interview us about our travels and we were of course eager to share.  She seemed very interested and envious of our ability to go all they way to California(she said she was heading back soon without making it to the west coast).  She took our names and Eric’s e-mail so that she could let us know when the article was being published.  We gave her the web address to our blog and she seemed excited to check it out. 
     We bought a bunch of postcards and spoke to the man behind the counter at the visitor’s center.  He was very helpful and full of information.  He loaded us up with pamphlets and gave us many ideas as to what to do with the rest of our time in North Dakota.  We left with some difficult decisions to make about what to do for the next two days. 
            We hurried across the street to the monument marking the center of the continent for pictures.  The woman who interviewed us was still over there taking photos and we got her to snap a few of us with the monument. 
We in the middle of the continent mutha lickas!

     In our free and discounted campground book, I had found that there was a municipal park in Rugby where we could camp for free.  The man at the visitor’s center confirmed this and pointed us in the right direction.  This little park turned out to be one of the nicest placed we have camped so far.  There were flush toilets and hot showers!  AND IT WAS FREE!!!! I mean, some campgrounds make you pay to get in, pay to camp, and even pay to shower.  There were two picnic tables under little pavilions.  We made a dinner of spaghetti and squash under one. 
A nice little place to camp

     While we were eating, another couple pulled up in a little SUV.  They got out with a cat on a leash (which delighted Eric).  The woman approached us and we talked of traveling.  They were from Canada (I think they said Saskatchewan) and had made a trip down along Lake Superior to see the fall colors.  They were now on the fast track home and had been sleeping in the back of their car the entire trip.  She told us about a frightening experience they had had while sleeping in a wal mart parking lot.  We told them about various places we have camped.
     We cleaned up and packed everything we could as to make the morning pack-up faster.  We wanted to get up and get to the small internet café in town by 6am for breakfast and internetting
-  Virginia

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