Surprises in North Dakota

After leaving Green Bay (you can read about our trip here) we headed towards our next stop, Fargo ND. Our itinerary was originally going to take us through South Dakota, but once we realized that our night in Deadwood SD would coincide with the first night of the Sturgis Rally, we quickly pivoted and took an alternate route.

Our drive took us through St. Paul Minnesota, the state capital where we were delighted to find a terrific Cuban restaurant, aptly named El Cubano. We thoroughly enjoyed our lunch or Black Beans & Rice, Tostones (me) and a perfectly griddled El Cubano (my husband). This was an unexpected find, as there is little I love more than Cuban Black Beans! There was ample outside seating, which was a plus. Definitely worth a detour!

Our next unexpected surprise was a real bit of Americana, The Enchanted Highway located along I-94 from Gladstone, ending up in Regent ND. The Enchanted Highway consists of 7 massive sculptures made from scrap metal by an artist named Gary Greff who grew up in Regent, and didn’t want his hometown to disappear off the map. He was inspired back in 1989 by the movie Field of Dreams’ message “If you build it they will come”, and he set about building a set of attractions to lead people to Regent. Along this length of highway travelers are dazzled by these massive structures, set in beautiful rural settings. This self taught artist has really created something spectacular. I loved this detour!

The landscape, including many fields of sunflowers was stunning.

The Enchanted Highway ended up with an even better treat. The tiny town of Regent is home to The Hettinger County Museum and Historical Society . We entered the sprawling connected complex of buildings to explore on our own, but then we were greeted by Don Wagendorf, the “keeper” of all the museum’s secrets and a most engaging and entertaining fellow. He asked if we wanted a tour, and we happily agreed. 90 minutes later we started to worry about our dog in the car, and decided to cut the visit short, but in all honesty we could have continued with Don for several more hours. He was a literal encyclopedia of local history, and even occasionally broke into songs and impressions. This day was shaping up to being the best of the trip so far!

We arrived in Fargo at around 6pm due to our detour. It was really a visually charming downtown, with many of the buildings dating to the 20’s and 30’s, including the iconic Fargo theater from 1926. We walked around noting that the streets were strangely deserted. Not sure whether this was because it was end of day, but there were very few people out and about, aside from pockets of people that looked a little like zombies of the apocalypse. I am not exaggerating. I wish we had arrived earlier as there appeared to be many cute shops and cafes to explore, but we were left with a negative impression.

There is a boutique hotel in downtown Fargo that has a good reputation, The Jasper , which ultimately may have been a better choice than the horribly rundown and depressing Hilton Garden Inn we had booked ourselves into. It was so grim that I covered the furniture with trash bags before I sat down. Of course, having our own pillows was a big plus. We were tired, so we picked up a pizza at Blaze which was close to the hotel. Yuck! Luckily, the first half of the day was so quirky and fun that it balanced out the disappointing second half. Needless to say, we got ourselves checked out of our hotel as early as possible.

Continuing West we got ourselves to Bismack in time for breakfast. We were excited to find ourselves at Anima Cucina which is truly a gem. Anima Cucina seemed much more Brooklyn than Bismarck, which was a treat after our awful dinner in Fargo. Aside from delicious Minneapolis based Dogwood Coffee, and fabulous baked goods (including gluten free jam bars), my husband was thrilled with his house made Porchetta Hash topped with scrambled eggs. We loved this special downtown spot, and would most certainly recommend it.

We were well nourished and on our way to Montana. It was a long drive, but we were in the home stretch. We even managed to make a stop at Stella’s in Billings to grab one of their massive Cinnamon Buns to bring us over the finish line.

All in all it was a fabulous cross country adventure. It is always such a treat to get to experience America in all its unique cultural and culinary glory. We look forward to making this trip again, taking a completely different route.

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