Saturday, September 4,2010 Sunny, breezy, 74 degrees
Continuing westward from Jamestown, we passed acres of rolled hay and straw bales, sunflowers bowing their heads low, and combines dwarfing the tractor-trailers they were loading. As we neared Bismarck, the land which had been flat, began to roll, and almost magically the city blossomed over the prairie. Once we headed north on US 83, before us, as far as the eye could see, were towering wind generators stretching from west to east. My opinion: they are ugly scars on the landscape.
LOUIS AND CLARK INTERPRETIVE CENTER, our first stop, is a condensed version of the exhibits at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Yet the pictures, maps, displays, and artifacts more than adequately depicted long, arduous, odyssey to the West Coast.
President Thomas Jefferson charged Captain Lewis with a monumental task when he sent him out to explore the new Louisiana Purchase. Lewis was to 1.) find the Northwest Passage, 2.) draw maps of the new territory, 3.) establish latitude and longitude for major landmarks, 4.) identify indigenous flora and fauna, 5.) make peaceful contact with the various Indian tribes, and additionally, 6.) record the names of the tribes---as many as 52---describe their physical appearance, clothing, customs, and their social and political structures. All of the above was to be detailed in logs and presented to the president upon his return. Amazingly, Lewis successfully fulfilled his mission.
A mile further down the road is reconstructed FORT MANDAN which Lewis and his Corps of Discovery built and stayed in during the winter of 1804-05. It was here that Captain Clark formed 44 undisciplined, rowdy men into a cohesive team. Also, Sakakawea gave birth to her son here just six weeks before the westward expedition began in March. Through long, cold winters, fording rivers, riding rapids, crossing mountains, and defending against Indian attacks, only one man died, and he apparently from a ruptured appendix. Yet, even today the data gathered by Lewis is considered remarkably accurate and definitive.
KNIFE RIVER INDIAN VILLAGE is across the Missouri River from Fort Mandan. This was the birthplace of Sakakawea, and home of the tribe that supplied the food and buffalo robes that made it possible for the Corps of Discovery to survive their first winter at the fort. Today all that remains are mounds of dirt where the Indians lived with their clan members in earthen lodges. The men hunted and fished, and the women grew corn, beans, squash, (CBS), and sunflowers as well as making clothing from buffalo hides, cooking, etc. The village was decimated in 1837 by small pox, introduced by white traders.
This morning a native North Dakotan explained that North and South Dakota should really have been East and West Dakota. His reasoning is that both states are flat in the east and the western portions are more rugged, especially the Badlands. Sounds reasonable to me.
Three new motels are under construction in Watford City to accommodate the influx of oil workers, many of whom are currently sleeping in their cars. When the motels are completed, they are fully booked for three years.
TODAY'S ROUTE: I94W from Jamestown to Bismarck; US83N to Washburn; west on ND200A to Stanton; then retrace to Bismarck
WEEK ONE: 2,197 miles traveled
We DID get motel rooms for tonight and the next two nights as well. Whew! No sleeping in the car! Hopefully, from now on getting rooms won't be such a challenge.