Saturday, July 12, 2008


Another day of dangerously high winds put an end to our plans to visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park for a hike - or to do ANY walking, for that matter. What to do, what to do?

As we drove west on Interstate 94 yesterday, this caught our eyes - Geese in Flight, a gigantic metal sculpture, on the side of the freeway. Looking at the map, I saw a narrow, light gray line, a north/south road captioned "The Enchanted Highway'. Hmmm... very curious.

With walking out of the question today, we decided to backtrack in Jules and explore the Enchanted Highway. We found a brochure in the RV park office, and off we went.

Traffic on I-94, the main east/west interstate through North Dakota, is amazingly sparse, similar to the volume of traffic on a back road in California. I mean, you don't even have to check your mirror to merge at the end of the on ramp! Given that, you can imagine how little traffic you might see on one of the many rural, two-lane roads throughout North Dakota.

I took this photo through our windshield as we traveled south on the narrow gray ribbon of the Enchanted Highway. No, I didn't pick a time when no other cars were on the road... For 32 miles, from the Interstate exit to the tiny (population 180) town of Regent, this was the extent of the usual traffic.

The Enchanted Highway is the creative dream of Gary Greff, an ex-school principal and now metal artist. Regent is his home town, and he wanted to find a way to save it from extinction. Eighteen years ago, he decided that giant, world-record-sized metal sculptures were the way to bring people from the Interstate to Regent, and that is what he set out to do.

Geese in Flight, on I-94, is the first "hook". A small kiosk in the parking lot describes Gary's vision and the sculptures along the road south - and displays a faded copy of a Smithsonian Magazine article about Gary, his sculptures, and the Highway.

The next installation, two giant deer leaping along the edge of the road (Deer Family), was followed by several miles without another sculpture. The scenery was beautiful, though, a repeat of what we have enjoyed throughout North Dakota - lush green prairie grass, farmer's fields, iconic red barns and wooden farmhouses.

Then: giant grasshoppers in a field of giant wheat.

I struggled out of the car to take a photo, with the wind whipping my clothes, and maneuvered for a good shot - and couldn't believe my eyes! There was a book stuck in the leg of one of the baby (my height) grasshoppers, and not just ANY book: a BookCrossing book!

A BookCrosser myself, I have never found a BookCrossing registered book "in the wild". Now, I was staring at one in this remote, "enchanted" spot. Who in the world left it there? A local bookcrosser? Could one exist? I was totally thrilled! What fun! I swapped the "found" book for a book of my own (always keep a registered book in the car, ready to go!) and we were on our way again.

At the outset of our excursion, we decided we would turn around before the end of the Enchanted Highway (32 miles) if we weren't captivated, but Gary Greff's plan to draw tourists all 32 miles to his tiny town worked on us.

We drove on to see Fisherman's Dream (photo at right), Pheasants on the Prairie, Teddy Rides Again, and The Family. Each sculpture (on land leased from farmers, as we learned later) has a large gravel parking area, a picnic table, and an explanatory kiosk. By the time we reached the last of the sculptures, we were only a mile or two from Regent.

A post office, the city clerk's office, several silos, a gas station, an ag co-op, a couple of B&B's, the American Legion building, a bar with half a dozen motorcycles lined up outside... nothing that would bring tourism to town, or even convince a lost traveler to slow down. That was almost the extent of Regent - except for Gary's Enchanted Highway Gift Shop. When we went in, we found Gary beind the ice cream counter, chatting with another tourist - one of approximately 20,000 per year that follow the Enchanted Highway to Regent.

Of course we had ice cream, and Gary told us his story while we ate it. He's a friendly, mellow guy, completely dedicated to his vision. As the sign welcoming us to Regent said, he has turned the road to Regent into the "Road of Anticipation" - each sculpture draws you a bit farther south, a bit closer to his home town. A man with a dream.

And the book? It had originally been "released into the wild" on July 4th in Roseville, Minnesota. I don't know how it made it's way to the Enchanted Highway, but it made my day.


  1. Laurie, what an absolutely enchanting post! I added it to my dream bucket list!

  2. Loved this post, Lori. Great job! We have to see it.
    Nancy and Jerry

  3. Thanks for sharing that wonderful story! And...the title of the BookCrossing book is?

  4. Way cool! We'll have to try to stop there on our way to Wisconsin. It's amazing, the wonderful little things you run across in this life,

  5. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing the Enchanted Highway. I can't wait to visit.


  6. Hey Laurie, I followed your link for the comment in Nick's post. What a treat! Learning about the Enchanted Highway (I remember seeing the geese from the Interstate, but we didn't follow) and Bookcrossing. Thanks!