Don Lively



Have I ever mentioned that I love road trips?

If I’ve somehow missed relaying that bit of information, rest assured, it’s a fact.

Traveling the highways and byways of America the Beautiful is joyous to me no matter what time of the year that I hit the road. Our country has something spectacular to offer every season of the year.

Have I ever mentioned that Autumn is my favorite time of the year?

Road-tripping in the Fall is “almost Heaven” to this ol’ country boy.

It’s been said that a bad start makes for a bad trip. I agree with that sentiment. So, consequently, a good start makes for a good trip.

My latest road trip started with extreme success.

First off, I’m not by nature an early riser. I don’t particularly like mornings. But, on my most recent road trip, I was actually on the road by 7:30ish. Which led to the second thing that made the start to the trip successful.

I got to Atlanta at such a time that traffic was light and I got through the hellish maze in record time. Thirdly, I found a route that took me to the real starting point of the trip, Fargo, North Dakota, that allowed me to completely avoid going through Chicago, my most despised city, in fact I only had to travel through a tiny part of Illinois, a state I refuse to spend a penny in.

A good start makes for a good trip.

Fargo did not disappoint.

I’d been there before but I had never stopped at the welcome center. When I stepped into the building the first thing that caught my eye was a wood chipper with a fake bloody leg sticking out of it. To understand the context of such a sight you have to have seen the 1996 movie, Fargo, which for reasons never explained, has almost nothing to do with the city of Fargo. Still, the powers-that-be there have taken full advantage of the lasting popularity of the bloody but funny flick. There are movie posters and programs, signed and framed pictures of the stars, displays of the cold weather police gear worn by the movie’s heroine, and of course, the actual woodchipper used in the movie. Naturally, I had to have my picture taken with the woodchipper.

Later that same day the journey’s route went through the rustic little town of Jamestown, North Dakota. Jamestown is the birthplace of Western author Louis L’Amour, and of singer Peggy Lee. I visited Louis’ “writing shack” which was pretty cool, but not the main attraction in Jamestown, North Dakota.

That honor goes to Dakota Thunder.

D.T. is a buffalo. Well, to me clear, it’s a statue of a buffalo. A gigantic statue. The sculpture can be seen from the nearby interstate and as soon as I caught a glimpse, I hit the exit. I had to see it up close. At its highest point it’s 26 feet tall. The buffalo’s head was about the size of a Volkswagen Beetle and its anatomically correct partsnot able-to-be-mentioned-here are the size of beach balls, no pun intended. It’s a magnificent work of art and, of course, I had to have my picture taken with it.

I’ll see you again, Dakota Thunder.

After the visit with the World’s Largest Buffalo, it was on to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, a place that I never knew existed until this trip. Of course, Ol’ Teddy was the one who began the National Park Service so it’s fitting that he would have one named after him. I saw several real buffalo there. Also, mule deer, elk and tons of prairie dogs. I’ve seen plenty of all those things before and as much as I enjoyed that, I also saw something I’d never seen before.

Wild horses.

During my thirty years living Out West and in the intervening years, whenever I have traveled out there, I’d never seen wild horses. Now I have. They were off in the distance but close enough to see the strength and the spirit of that remnant of the horse culture that ruled the Great Plains for many years. The horses tossed their manes and danced and kicked up dust as they have for centuries. I could have watched them of hours, and would have, but they disappeared over a ridge.

Every time I return to my adopted western home, I’m reminded of why I love it so much and that little herd of mustangs did it again.

In America the Beautiful.

Next week: On to Montana.

Don Lively is a freelance writer and author of several books of Southern Humor. He lives in Shell Bluff. Email Don at [email protected].

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