Yes, you can saddle up on an enormous green thing.
You can feel very very small at the enchanting stops along a highway in Western North Dakota. Gargantuan sculptures give travelers and tourists a reason to pull off I-94 at Exit 72 and head south on a gentle rolling blacktop highway called the Enchanted Highway.
I have. More than once. Over several years.
For me, the first enticement came from that eye-catching structure on the north, Geese in Fight.
It’s considered Sculpture #1. Structurally as well artistically, artist Gary Greff’s design is impressive and deceptive. It’s larger than you think, over 100 feet tall. Geese that are 5 or 6 feet big pass in front of sun rays, hillsides and a great “eye.”
Like most people, I buzz by it more than I stop. It’s a good place to stop on my way to or from Dickinson. There’s a parking lot and room to get out and stretch your legs, so I do — sometimes when the dog is with me to let him get out of the pickup for a while. Or on a summer motorcycle cruise we’ll stop with fellow riders.
And those grasshoppers…the scourge of the prairie. Bikers from the old days will tell you how they rode across North Dakota in August and at the end of the day, their shins were bruised from the biggest devils…but they weren’t this big.
Still, the rascals look to me like they need a little wrangling and riding. So, on occasion, that’s what I will do, just to keep them in line, you understand. I don’t win any buckles or anything. I make sure they don’t get away and I use my best bronco riding techniques to stay on.
They look fearsome, but a calm head and a steady hand is all it takes to bring one under control and ride it to the sunset.
Down the road a ways, things get a little fishy. I couldn’t begin to design something so realistic, but I can sure admire it. I’d hate to be the fisherman in the boat above all these monsters, but he’s up there. I’m glad it’s him and not me.
The 32 mile stretch has a stop near the north end at the quaint, protected, sheltered little village of Gladstone, or you can keep going all the way to Regent, at the end of the line. It’s where Gary Greff makes his sculptures and is working on his next one, a knight in not-so-shiny armor.
The last time I visited the Enchanted Highway, fall of 2016, I got to the south end in time for one of North Dakota’s legendary sunsets. In my mind, I removed the highways, the ranches, the signs of civilization and could imagine how rough it must have been to cross this region in a real stagecoach, not a plywood replica. In fact, the Mandan to Deadwood stage did pass near here. What a ride!
At the end of my late-day drive down the highway, Teddy was there to welcome me, the moon at his hand, his gregarious outgoing nature larger-than-life. And wouldn’t ya know it — as a president, you could say he was “transparent!”
The North Dakota Tourism Department does a great job of promoting this loop off of the beaten path. Read about the Enchanted Highway here . Do you have photos of your enchanted visit? I bet you have photos of Paul Bunyan, or New Salem Sue, or some other monster replica, right?