Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Has it only been 3 days since I last posted to the blog? Wow. We’ve been going non-stop, it seems - or, when we aren’t out sightseeing, what I want to do most is drop on the bed and take a nap. Whew - there is a lot to see in the Dakotas.

When the winds died down in North Dakota, we had one day left before we headed back to the south, and we spent it at Theodore Roosevelt National Park and its “gateway”, the tiny town of Medora. Our first visit here was five years ago, during our first year of travel. We remembered with great anticipation the “Pitchfork Fondue” dinner, one of the very few totally-tourist events that we have recommended. Our first stop: buy tickets for the Pitchfork Fondue.

With tickets in hand, knowing we would have a good meal at 6:30, we went off to hike the badlands of TRNP. We love this park! We drove the scenic loop, stopping several times to take short hikes. We saw bison herds grazing and napping, and a few of the wild horses in the park crossed the road ahead of us. A hot, but beautiful day.

After a late-afternoon stroll around little Medora, we headed up, up, up to the blufftop where the Pitchfork Fondue is “staged”. Long rows of picnic tables are lined up near the edge of the bluff, some under cover, some in the open. They could seat hundreds, and do… besides individuals and groups arriving by car, huge tour buses unload packs of tourists.

Soon, dinner is served and an amazingly long buffet line forms. In return for your ticket, you receive a plastic plate - color coded to show which size steak you purchased - and silverware. A quick trip along the buffet - coleslaw, garlic bread, beans, baked potatoes, cubed melon - and you find youself in front of the “fondue”, where pitchforks loaded with ribeyes and New York strip steaks are plunged into huge vats of boiling oil. Quite a sight!

Well, I am so sorry to say… even as hungry as we were, it was a big disappointment! The upward swing in the price of good beef seems to have resulted in a downward trend in the quality here. We had two tough, overcooked steaks, much of which we left on the plate. No more recommendations on this dinner!

The view, though, is dynamite, so we have a new plan (and recommendation) for our next visit: skip the dinner, but purchase a drink (we had individual-sized bottles of wine) from the outdoor bar. Take it to a bench at the edge of the bluff and drink in the view while you sip. You’ll save $20 each and have a great time.

The next day was a longish, very hot, travel day. We ended it in Deadwood, South Dakota, an ex-mining down on the northern edge of the Black Hills - and the place where Wild Bill Hickok was shot in the back while he played poker. We spent yesterday sightseeing in Deadwood, Lead, and Spearfish, then spent today driving two of the Black Hills more wonderful roads, the Needles Highway and Iron Mountain Road.

There is lots more to tell, but its time to get some dinner going, so I will leave you with one more photo: George Washington's Mt. Rushmore "profile", taken as we left the Rushmore area to head back home.

One of these years, we need to spend more time here in our "home state", but now we are on our way to Colorado to join up with the Boomers again for another Boomerang. The next two days will be devoted to traveling south, then a couple of days to catch up on chores... then off to the high meadows of the Rockies.

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