By Patti Burkett
Sometimes, I have to admit, it can be exhausting traveling with Tom. He's relentless in his pursuit of things to see and do. Every time we go on a trip he spends weeks preparing an itinerary. He looks at dozens of websites and books, and the google map he comes up with looks like a pincushion. Then he goes into his notes. He has newspaper clippings going back I don't know how long–about things we might do some day. Emails from other travelers, blog posts, and a shelf full of maps and brochures from parks and tourist bureaus across the country.
And it doesn't stop when we get in the RV. We're constantly looking at roadside signs and searching things on the internet. For example, on a recent trip west along I-94 we passed an exit sign for Home On The Range. Off we went, to discover a remote prairie ranch for the rehabilitation of troubled youth.
We were headed for Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and as we approached Medora,ND the little town at the entrance to the park, I heard the inevitable words, “Hey, what about this. . .” This, as it turns out, was the Medora Beer and Bacon fundraiser. Though it was a bit pricey for us, at $20 a ticket, we bought a couple.
It was a perfect day. As we drove down the hill to the campground, we saw a bison grazing next to someone's tent. The air was warm, the breeze was steady, and the Little Missouri river chattered past the campsites. We chose the best one, stopped at the visitor center, and headed on over to the chamber of commerce, where we picked up a map. Strolling this picturesque western town on a perfect night was magical. At each business on the map there was a beer to sample, many of them local. There were sixteen different beers. And there was bacon. Lots of bacon.
Stop one offered a local porter paired with ice cream. Ice cream topped with homemade chocolate cream sauce and crumbled bacon. There was bacon taffy, bacon dip, bacon meatballs, and bacon maple donuts. Our path matched that of some other folks, so we struck up conversation and heard about living in the oil boom towns of the Bakken shale.
Myron Schweitzer, owner of the Farmhouse Café, said his first year had been pretty good, and he was glad he'd chosen to move here. Medora is wall to wall people during the summer, but the proprietor of Hidden Springs Java told us about living in this tourist town during the off season, when locals stop by for soup and a sandwich and there's plenty of time to catch up on the books.
Almost every town has a website, and they're often treasure troves of information.
Take the time to look, and you may find the firefighters fish fry, the jalapeño festival, or the school's annual local history scavenger hunt. There's a good chance we'll be there too, Patti and Tom Burkett, scouting out something happening today, off the beaten path.