fargo to jamestown, north dakota

The first thing this morning, I left Fargo and crossed the Minnesota-North Dakota border to Moorhead to visit the Heritage Hjemkomst Interpretive Center.


stained glass at the Heritage Hjemkomst Interpretive Center

I wanted to see the Hjemkomst Viking Ship, whose name means “homecoming.” It was built by Robert Asp, a Moorhead high school guidance counselor whose dream was to build a replica Viking ship and sail it to Norway. Construction began in 1972 and continued slowly.

Asp oversaw the maiden voyage on Lake Superior in August, 1980, but he succumbed to leukemia a few months later.

His family worked tirelessly to complete the harrowing Atlantic crossing and realize Robert Asp’s vision. In the summer of 1982, thirteen crew members began the voyage to sail the Hjemkomst 6,100 miles from Duluth, Minnesota to Bergen.  Crew members said the roughest part of the journey was on Lake Superior. They arrived to a hero’s welcome in Bergen, Norway on July 19, 1982.

I was in tears after watching the half-hour film on this story.


Hjemkomst Viking Ship


Hjemkomst Viking Ship


route of the Hjemkomst Viking Ship

I also toured the Hopperstad Stave Church Replica.  Stave churches, built using vertical wood posts known as staves, date from the end of the Viking Age in Scandinavia.  They combined Norse building traditions and medieval Christian styles.  This church is a full-scale replica of the Hopperstad Church, built circa 1140 in the town of Vik, Norway.

Guy Paulson, a retired research scientist from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, began carving the church in January 1997.  Although dedicated in 1998, the project took five more years to complete.  The pine structure includes 24,000 cedar shingles, replicating a dragon to scare pagan gods away. Pagan elements are intertwined with Christian elements because people worshiped pagan gods but the King of Norway declared Norway would be Christian.  He had to ease people into Christianity.  The carvings of redwood, basswood and pine include both Viking Age and Christian symbols.

Paulson was inspired by the Hjemkomst Viking Ship to build the church.

At the museum was a photography exhibit, “Truth in Focus: A Retrospective from Colburn Hvidston III,” which showed work from Hvidston’s 68 years behind the camera. Photos covered three distinct periods in Hvidston III’s life, with his long career at the Forum serving as the middle “anchor” period.  He claimed to have never worked a day in his life at the Forum. Instead he claimed to have conned his publisher out of a paycheck for having a good time. He considered his main aim as a photojournalist was to mirror or illustrate reality.

There was another exhibit about World War I.  As European countries sunk deeper into war, Clay County, Minnesota residents reacted to newspaper reports of the appalling destruction in Europe with a mix of horror and indifference. On the East coast, many supported an intervention on the Allied side, but in Clay County, few supported the war.  All seven county newspapers either opposed intervention or were neutral.  That changed once war was declared.

According to the exhibit, “U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, an idealist, saw Americans fighting against despotism, militarism and barbarism.  Wilson was also an authoritarian who expected Americans to volunteer their money, their time, and themselves to the war effort even if they had to be forced to do so.  Anyone who did not was seen as ‘Pro-German’ or even a traitor.”  America was unprepared for war, having to quickly raise, train and equip a 4 million man army.  It took a year before large numbers of Americans entered combat, and 8 months later, it was over and 116,000 young Americans were dead.

America was completely unprepared for war in April of 1917.  Soldiers marched in their civilian clothes because there were not enough uniforms. In training camps, soldiers learned to follow orders, stand in line, march, sleep outside, and kill. After about 3 months, the boys were sent to France.

Donating to the Red Cross, buying Liberty Bonds, and eating less meat and wheat was supposed to be voluntary, but the hyper-patriotism of the time left little room for real choice. Pressure to conform and do one’s duty was intense. Anyone not contributing was liable to be called a slacker, pro-German, or even a traitor.

Liberty Loan Drives were forced on customers whose accounts were deemed to have enough money. Banks could deny farmers operating loans. Newspapers published the name of purchasers and amounts purchased. Vigilantes might visit one’s home.

Due to a worldwide food crisis during the war, the US Food Commission organized the efficient conservation and production of food.  It carried out an intensive education campaign to convince Americans to plant gardens and voluntarily reduce consumption of meat, fat, sugar and especially wheat.  It worked. The U.S. never had to ration food during the war.

Always a fan of quilts, I found one displayed at the museum.


quilt at the museum


I returned to North Dakota at 10:53, and walked around downtown Fargo.  At first, it was very dark and gloomy, but as I strolled, the sun started to peek out.  I loved the classy Hotel Donaldson at one end.  Someone had told me it had a great rooftop bar, but with the rain I hadn’t been able to enjoy it the night before. The art-deco Fargo Theatre was at the other end. The Fargo Theatre had been renovated and showed artsy, quirky films. The theater opened in 1926 as a vaudeville and silent-film hall. I also found some other cool vintage art deco signs.


Fargo, North Dakota

I went by the Visitor’s Center at 2001 44th Street South.  There I posed, wearing a hat with ear flaps, with the original iconic wood chipper from the movie Fargo. I bought a couple of postcards and a lot of information about various places I planned to visit. The clerk there said about Medicine Wheel Park in Valley City: “It’s worth a minute.”


Fargo Visitor’s Center


me with the iconic wood chipper from the movie Fargo


Back on I-94 W, I passed Kindred at 12:35 and it was 64°F. It was flat, flat, flat through Casselton and Lynchburg.  Corn abounded as I drove through Wheatland and Chaffee. Hay bales and cows marked the territory from Absaraka to Embden.  I passed Ayr, Buffalo, Alice, and the Maple River as I drank a Naked Mighty Mango.  Anytime I drank mango juice I was reminded of Oman and other Asian countries where I lived and worked. I also ate a box of artisan salami and cheese with crackers and a Reese’s Cup, my happy bar, for dessert.

The flat landscape was shadowed by dramatic skies and clouds, with tatters of blue and sunlight peeping through. I passed Oriska and Fingle. I was still seeing corn, silos, and a single wind turbine.  I thought it interesting how some silos were pointed and some round.

In Valley City, I went to the 30-acre Medicine Wheel Park on the Valley City State University Campus.  It featured two solar calendar replicas, Indian burial mounds, and a solar system model, which stretched from the Sun to Pluto.  Boulders representing the planets were spaced apart in exact proportion to their distances from the sun on a scale with one foot equaling @3 million miles. The Earth’s orbit corresponded to the outer circle of the Medicine Wheel.

The project was done in 1992 by university students. Inspired by the Big Horn Medicine Wheel in Wyoming, it reflected the beauty of the earth’s journey around the sun and the grand cycle of the seasons.


I visited Chataqua Park to see the High Line Bridge, a 3-span, 255-foot bridge. At 3,860 feet long, it is one of the longest and highest single-track railroad bridges in the country.


High Line Bridge


High Line Bridge


Back on I-94W, I crossed the Continental Divide at 1,490 feet. Corn still abounded near Spiritwood. The sky looked like a Harvey Dunn painting, dappled with yellow bands of crops lit by the sun, glowing golden. Cattle and hay bales dotted the rolling landscape. I arrived in Jamestown close to 3:00.

As I drove into Frontier Village, I saw hay bales and thought they were bison!  I couldn’t help but laugh at myself.

In Jamestown, I went to Frontier Village, a collection of historic buildings that the community thought should be saved. A post office, trading post, 1881 church, fire department, jail, barbershop, and dentist were some of the structures that recreated small-town life in the 1800s.  The village also had a caboose, medical display, frontier cabin, General Store, a “Writer’s Shack” with a tribute to local writer Louis L’Amour, and a saloon, as well as a print shop and an art gallery.  There was also a frontier bank and blacksmith’s shop.

These buildings all had special meaning to the history of Jamestown.


Frontier Village

Louis L’Amour was born in Jamestown, ND on March 22, 1908, the youngest of eight children. His mother was trained as a teacher and embedded the importance of books in all her children. Louis often listened to stories of his great-grandfather Ambrose, who was scalped by Sioux Native Americans. In 1923, when Louis was 15, the LaMoore family left Jamestown due to the poor farm economy.

Louis went on to become a successful and professional writer.  He wrote and published 117 novels, 400 short stories, and poems. Forty-five films and television series were produced based on his writing, movies such as Conagher featuring Sam Elliott, and Shalako featuring Sean Connery and Bridget Bardot.

At the far end of the Frontier Village was the World’s Largest Buffalo Monument: Dakota Thunder.  It had been watching over Jamestown since 1959. In the late 1950s, the new Interstate Highway was making its way across North Dakota.  The Chamber of Commerce decided Jamestown needed a man-made attraction to draw tourists.  It commemorated the vast herds of buffalo that once roamed the prairies. The total cost was $8,500.  On the 50th birthday celebration, a Name-That-Buffalo contest was launched.  On July 24, 2010, Dakota Thunder received his name.  It is 26 feet tall, 14 feet wide, and 46 feet long, and it weighs 60 tons.


World’s Largest Buffalo Monument: Dakota Thunder

I also visited the National Buffalo Museum, where I watched a film about how the buffalo, actually called bison, were nearly eradicated as settlers sought to destroy Native Americans’ source of food. Bison were down to 1,000-2,000 and now have been revived to nearly 400,000.


National Buffalo Museum

Buffalo trails were the first roads used by colonial settlers moving westward, and influenced settlement in the Ohio River Valley. By 1790, Lexington, Frankfurt, Louisville and Cincinnati had developed along old buffalo trails. The westward development pushed the animal west of the Mississippi River. The trails eventually guided the Union Pacific route along the Platte River.

The buffalo was the mainstay of the Indian. All parts of the animal were utilized. Buffalo hides were used to make bags, robes and tipis. A tipi is a conical tent made of animal hides and used by the Plains Indians. The durable tipi provided for a warm, waterproof, and easily transportable home.  Most Plains Indians were highly mobile hunter-gatherers, and the tipi could be broken down and quickly packed when a tribe needed to move.

The buffalo robe was one of the most common articles of clothing on the Plains.  It was worn year-round, as a wrapper, hair side in for warmth, hair side out in milder weather. Plains robes were for everyday use.  Others were decorated with quillwork and beading, and were painted with native dyes or pigments obtained through trade.

Buffalo meat was eaten, and what couldn’t be eaten was dried for later use. Bones and organs were used for food or made into tools. Buffalo horns were used to carry gunpowder.

The American buffalo completely influenced the lives of the Plains Indians.  The animal became a powerful symbol in dances, societies, visions, cures, rituals, and religion. Ceremonies were held in its honor – the buffalo was revered like no other animal.

Small ranchers sell bison meat to specialized markets.  It is illegal to administer grown hormones to bison.  Ted Turner, a big bison rancher, is one of many in the Hall of Fame, which includes those ranchers who have tried to increase numbers of bison.  I learned that the buffalo is America’s national mammal.

The bison is the largest land animal in North America.  There are two living subspecies of wild bison – the plains bison (bison bison) and the wood bison (bison athabasce). The bison in the National Buffalo Museum, as well as most bison raised for meat in the U.S., are plains bison.

White Cloud was born on July 10, 1996, on the Shirek Buffalo Farm in Michigan, North Dakota. She joined the live bison herd at the site of the National Buffalo Museum in Jamestown in May of 1997. What made White Cloud so unique was the fact that she was a true albino bison and a pure bison, having been DNA tested for both albino genes as well as cattle genes.  The odds of a true albino bison could not be calculated, making White Cloud both a phenomenon and a rare legendary animal. A white bison is considered to be a sacred creature by many Native American people, giving this animal a stature symbolizing peace, unity and hope. To others, the white bison symbolizes great changes in the world.


White Cloud (1996-2016)

White Cloud had 13 calves, including a white male named Dakota Miracle (2007-2019), who also lived with the Museum’s herd.

A captive bison lives an average of 20-25 years.  White Cloud’s life expectancy was unknown because of her albinism.  Genetic mutations can cause health problems, and the summer months were very hard on her.  She could not regulate her body temperature well, causing her to drink a lot of water.  She also suffered from sunburns.

White Cloud returned to her birthplace, Shirek Buffalo in the spring of 2016, where she died of old age on November 14th.


Last, I went to see the St. James Basilica, North Dakota’s Mother Church.  It was elevated as a Minor Basilica on July 23, 1989.  St. James was the 24th church in the U.S. to receive the designation.

Jamestown was a quiet and neat little town, but I almost got broadsided on a residential road that didn’t have a stop sign.


home in Jamestown

I checked in to EconoLodge Jamestown.  For dinner, I bought a beer at a local grocery store and ate my leftover dinner from last night in my room.

Below is my journal spread from this day.

*Drove 118.3 miles; Steps: 10,198, or 4.32 miles*

*Tuesday, September 10, 2019*