Saturday, August 5, 2006

North Dakota's Enchanted Highway

I've droned across North Dakota along I-94 a number of times over the years. There's not much out there save for a few dairy cows, vast fields of wheat that seem to stretch to the horizon, the periodic oasis with a few birds of various flavors swimming about and two interesting little nuggets that, had I not been in a big damn hurry, I would have checked out a long time ago.

The first little nugget along I-94 is located in New Salem - one of North Dakota's pre-eminent dairy centers. Actually, this little nugget isn't so little. At 38 feet high, 50 feet long and 12,000 pounds it's the world's largest Holstein Cow. Yep. Sweet Sue is New Salem's claim to fame and sits atop a hill on the south side of the interstate facing north. Has been since 1974. You'd have to be blind to miss it regardless of the warp factor you're traveling.

Sweet Sue's home is maintained by the local Lion's Club. While I was up there I met a local Lion's member and dairy farmer, Roger K, who was up there maintaining the grounds. He had a few interesting stories about what some of the local kids do up there from time to time. One evening Roger received a phone call from one of locals who happened up there. She noticed that someone had felt it necessary to relieve himself in one of Sue's hooves. Said it took a pressure washer and plenty of disinfectant to clean it up. Then there's been a broken picnic table, smashed out lights, various grafiti written on Sue and even a picture of someone who climbed onto Sue. Kids, eh? Roger also mentioned that repainting Sue every now and then costs upwards of $5,000. Although, this last paint job made Sue's arteries a little too pink. Needless to say, donations are welcome.

While Sue's had her moments over the years, she does have an excellent view of the neigborhood from up there. Even a view of Roger's dairy farm.

The next little nugget is actually a collection of nuggets and, well, these aren't little either. They're a series of the world's largest metal sculptures that, combined, make up the Enchanted Highway which stretches from Gladstone south to Regent. The purpose of the sculptures is to make this stretch of highway a tourist attraction and, as a result, bring people and dollars to the economies of Gladstone, Lefor and Regent. It's the brainchild of a Regent local, Gary Greff. Started in 1992 this is an ongoing project. As of 2006, six exhibits exist. At some point in the future there will be ten. All exhibits depict some aspect of western North Dakota rural art.

Starting from the north in Gladstone, the first sculpture is visible from the interstate. It's called Geese in Flight. In the last picture you'll notice the road to the sculpture is lined with geese on poles. Each one has a different wing position.

The next sculpture is called Deer Crossing. Damn glad they aren't that big!!

The next sculpture is called Grasshopper. One big grashopper dominates the sculpture, but there are smaller ones surrounding it as well as stalks of wheat and leaves laying on the ground.

The next sculpture is called Fish Out of Water. This is the current work in progress along the Enchanted Highway, but will be another amazing work of art when it's finished.

A family of Pheasants comes next. What struck me about this one as opposed to the others was the paint job on each of the pheasants making up the exhibit. There's even more wheat!

The next exhibit is Theodore Roosevelt Rides Again. I couldn't get the bike next to the sculpture, but it's as big as the rest.

The last exhibit was the first to be erected along the highway, Tin Family. I liked the mom's hair...

Taking my time riding across North Dakota was a treat. The scenery is amazing and the little nuggets along the way make it a worthwhile endeavor. Next time you're running across, stop in and say hello to Sweet Sue and the Tin Family. While you're at it, drop a few dollars in the local economies.

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