Thursday, July 30, 2015

North Dakota's "Big Things" lure tourists from the highway

Some states are not so lucky when it comes to tourist attractions.

Take North Dakota, where I happen to be now. There aren't any famous National Parks. There aren't any cities that anyone more than a state away would ever need to visit unless there was a relative present. Yes, there is a lot of farmland and rolling prairie. But those don't bring in tourists and their dollars. Nobody visits a wheat field on purpose except a farmer or tractor salesman.

So what do you do to provide something interesting for tourists? Simple, you create things. One excellent way is to come up with something that's bigger than anything else like it in the world. For example, in Washington where I live, we have the world's largest egg and the world's largest frying pan. Last week in East Glacier, Mont., I visited the World's Largest Purple Spoon."

In North Dakota, in a span of about two to three hours driving time along I-94, you can visit three such attractions, which based on "big things per mile" is quite remarkable.

West of Bismarck in New Salem, you have the World's Largest Holstein Cow, then farther east in Steele you have the World's Largest Sandhill Crane, and finally in Jamestown — about 100 miles west of Fargo, you have the World's Largest Buffalo.

There's usually a reason for a big thing. For example, there's a lot of milk cows around New Salem, so Salem Sue, the giant cow up on the  hill overlooking I-94, is a local thing to use to attract attention. A few of the tourists who pull off the highway to snap a photo may even come into town for a sandwich or to fill up on gas, good for tax dollars.

In Steele, which has a mere 800 residents and a far from vibrant economy, the huge Sandhill Crane right along I-94 serves as a reminder of the great birdwatching in the area. A colorful brochure "Let's Go Birdwatching along the Steele Birding Drive" is dispensed at the site.

The giant buffalo in Jamestown, also visible from the Interstate, advertises the town as home of the National Buffalo Museum, and to the town's nickname, "Buffalo City." Jamestown is the hometown of legendary western author, Louis L'Amour.

All these attractions are free. The Buffalo Museum charges to get in, but you can browse the gift shop for free. Its selection of buffalo tee-shirts, refrigerator magnets, post cards and stuffed animals is impressive. And you don't want to miss White Cloud, the only certified albino bison in the world. It's right outside in the pasture.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Anglers dream or nightmare?

So you think catching a big trout or bass or walleye is a big deal? How about a whopper salmon or Northern Pike?

Well, that would be child's play compared to landing this fish — that is if it were still around, which it is not. It's extinct just like the dinosaurs.

Xiphactinus was the largest and bony fish of its era, some growing to a whopping 17 feet! Now, that’s a big fish! With its savage three-inch teeth, this big fellow was a smaller fish's worst nightmare.

With its giant jaws wide open, Xiphactinus could swallow a six-foot-long fish in one giant gulp! You wouldn’t want to be swimming in the same waters as this fellow, that’s for sure.

The ancient creature once swam in the sea in what is now Montana. I found the skeleton at the The Fort Peck Dam Interpretive Center and Museum near Glasgow.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Favorite photos from week of July 19, 2015

Here are a few things I found interesting as I drove on U.S. 2 from East Glacier to Glasgow, Montana.

Espresso stand in Browning on Blackfeet Nation.
Sears Motel, East Glacier. Very cute. One double bed $69 a night.
Looking west on U.S. 2 from just east of East Glacier.
Entrance to Blackfeet Nation. Made of destroyed material from flood disaster.
Open Range, East Glacier
Welcome to town penguin, Cut Bank
Welcome to town sign, Rudyard
Along U.S. 2 near Rudyard
Lake Shel-oole Campground, a Shelby city park. $25 a night with electric.
Dinosaur guards entrance to Malta museum
One of many abandoned houses on U.S. 2, this one 12 miles east of Havre.
Meth warning signs are everywhere, this one in Harlem.
Statues on hillside on U.S. 2 west of Glasgow.
Nobody home anymore. Along U.S. 2