This account of my travels west in 2021 is made with the understanding that any comments I make regarding the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting restrictions are with an acknowledgment that many people have suffered with consequences to their health and may have even lost loved ones. My wishes are that all of us stay healthy during this very challenging time.
My art buddies Lynn Ovenden and Kelley Clarke have heard me say that I did not want to add another medium to my art bucket and therefore would never, never, never take up encaustic (more on what this is later) as an art practice. However, after taking an encaustic class at Shake Rag Alley in Mineral Point, WI, Lynn discover an encaustic class with artist Clare O'Neill to be held at Eaton's Dude Ranch in Wolf, Wyoming. It took about the time to read the email as it did for me to make up my mind that this would fulfill one of my photography dreams: taking pictures of horses in the wild, wild West.
So I said yes and made plans to hit the road.
Wednesday, September 8
My plan for the early days of this trip was to drive from Milwaukee west on non-federal highways. I took off at 10:00 a.m. (CST) on this day but did drive the federal highway to just north of Madison, WI, before starting to exploring.
Outside of Baraboo, WI, in the Town of Greenfield I went to Man Mound Park, the only remaining ancient effigy in the shape of the human form in North America. Here is your Critical Race Theory lesson for the day: The form was discovered in 1909 but that did not prevent White People from building a road across this sacred site, cutting the legs off the Man Mound.
I made a stop at Baraboo Vintage where I picked up a wood travel ironing board and a drawer for future assemblage/collage work.
I took a short walk at Wildcat Ridge, a Kickapoo River Overlook, to get the long view.
That night was spent in a Holiday Inn Express in Rochester, Minnesota, and I treated myself to great food at the Hunan Chinese Restaurant.
Total mileage for the day (and the trip so far)=340 miles.
Thursday, September 9
My first stop was in St. Peter, MN, at the Linneaus Arboretum on the campus of Gustavus Adolphus College.
I stopped at the St. Peter Consignment Store and picked up a child mannequin and a clock body for future assemblage work. In Hutchinson, MN, I proved the store name, Antiques To Go, was true as I walked out with a small cupboard door.
By nightfall I stopped in Fargo, North Dakota, at a Holiday Inn Express. Because it was late at night and I was tired of being creative, I settled for a nearby Red Lobster for dinner.
Total mileage for the day, 390 and for the trip so far, 730.
Friday, September 10
Today I tried to find a recommended restaurant for breakfast that may not be in business anymore but its location was right by the highway so I took off west until I came to Valley City, North Dakota. I drove downtown and selected Vicky’s Viking Room for breakfast. I had a nice talk with my waiter about the dude ranch experience. For breakfast I ordered The Vikingnator which consisted of two pancakes, two eggs, bacon, ham and sausage all covered with gravy. While I tried to tackle it, when he asked me if I needed anything else I suggested someone else to help finish it. When it came time to pay the bill he said “someone” had paid for my breakfast and suspecting it was him, I left a generous tip somewhere between not insulting him for letting me eat free yet substantial in helping him pay for his college tuition.
Valley City had a thrift store near the restaurant but I was unable to find anything that made me feel thrifty.
Sometimes on the road I just come to a complete stop in order to capture something that looks like a image to me.
Down the road I stopped a Jamestown because the billboards on the highway promised the world’s largest buffalo. It is indeed large. Unfortunately, the replica town around the statute seems pretty much done for the season, the buffalo museum did not interest me and the herd they supposed have was no where to be seen.
The Enchanted Highway begins at Exit 72 on I-94 near Gladstone, North Dakota, and terminates 32 miles down the road in the small town of Regent. Beginning with "Geese in Flight" at Exit 72, large metal sculptures are placed along the county highway, each with parking a area. When I say large, I mean multiple story-high works of art.
For a few minutes I went north instead of south to see what I could see in that direction.
Above is pictured a structure not "officially" on the Enchanted Highway but it look like a Harvester Stonehenge to me. Walking in the field proved lucky too as I found three of the four jaw bones of some dead animal that I bagged up and took along for future assemblage work.
Back on the Enchanted Highway I finished the tour:
While these huge sculptures are captivating, sometimes the details alongside the road prove just as artful.
From Regent I drove north to Hwy 84 and the city of Dickinson. By the time I was at the third hotel trying to get a room, I was smart enough to ask the reason and was told there was both a volleyball tournament at the college and the local stock car track was having a special two night event. Trust me, either was a reason to stay and attend if I was still not 5 hours away from the dude ranch.
Back on Hwy 94, I went west until the Teddy Roosevelt National Park where I found a room in Medora at the Elkhorn Quarters motel. This park is gorgeous and begs for a return visit with Denice.
85320 (430; 1,160)
Total mileage for the day, 430 and for the trip so far, 1,160.
Saturday, September 11
This morning I decided to get up at 7:00 a.m. which would have worked great IF my phone automatically updated when I entered the Mountain Time Zone. Instead, it was up at 6:00 a.m. when I was bounced out of bed. As long as I had the head start I decide to head on down the road instead of eating breakfast in Medora.
I pulled of at Glendive, Montana, and ate my breakfast at C.C.’s Family Diner. This is my third straight day of eating in a small town diner for breakfast and one thing is a constant no matter what state I am in: old people eating and gossiping at breakfast.
Today's priority was getting to the dude ranch but despite driving down the highway at 85 miles an hour and slammed on the brakes when I saw some really cool wall art on the side of some buildings in Garryowen, Montana.
The advantage here was that the works were on the property of the Wellknown Buffalo Native Art Store so that meant I could drive right in and start shooting.
No matter where you take this type of photograph you can attract attention and one of the store workers came out to greet me and to invite me in. I am glad she did as the art inside the gallery was very interesting. The worker, her husband and one of the co-owners chatted me up for quite awhile (many jokes were shared about me on a horse--trust me). For me, one of the most interesting aspects of this was to have all the artist introduced to me this day, including the wall artist, are identified by their name and their tribe.
Now it was time to drive the last few miles of this day. My GPS managed to stay active even though I was on dirt roads that last 10ish miles of the trip. The goal, Eatons' Ranch, was reached and the rest of the story will be told in the next blog.
Total mileage for the day, 380 and for the trip so far, 1,540.