Lay of the Land

Linda Burton posting from Bismarck, North Dakota – I vaguely remember crossing the Missouri River coming into town on Friday; the GPS was on the blink so I was paying more attention to road signs than anything else. I also vaguely remember crossing a Time Zone advisory; it happened just a few miles before I got to town. For a reason I don’t know yet, half of North Dakota is on Mountain Time; the other half on Central. So, to orient myself, I’m on Central Time now, I’m east of the Missouri River; and I’m in the prairie. It is flat here. From the top of the freeway overpass I can see a hundred miles in every direction. Flat. Today I’m studying the map I got from the front desk. The weather report I hear on TV refers to Bismarck-Mandan; studying the map I can see why. Bismarck is in Burleigh County; Mandan is just across the river in Morton County to the west. But for purposes of weather, and entertainment, they seem to function as one and the same. The State Capitol (in Bismarck) is only blocks from I-94, take State Street south, turn right. It’s the first high-rise capitol on the Journey, 19 stories rising up above the plains. The Heritage Center, North Dakota’s state museum, is right beside. I see that the Bismarck Expressway circles south below the main part of town and over into Mandan; another bridge across the Missouri.

Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park is west of the Missouri, on the Mandan side; On-A-Slant Indian Village is there, and General Custer’s house. An infantry post, a cavalry post, a museum; I’d say a Top-of-the-List visit to schedule there. After the Capitol, of course, and the Heritage Center. The back of the map has ads; and a note from the Bismarck-Mandan Chamber of Commerce. Welcome to our community, located on the banks of the mighty Missouri River…chockfull of opportunities…four distinct seasons…hundreds of recreational opportunities…recognized throughout the nation. The bulleted items list a quote from ABC News as of October 19, 2011 – “this boomtown boasts the lowest unemployment rate in the US.” Bismarck-Mandan also boasts some of the best healthcare providers in the nation, a thriving job market, quality schools, and affordable housing. That’s the message from the Chamber.

There are also ads for Bismarck State College, and United Tribes Technical College; the United Tribes International Powwow coming up in September is billed as one of North Dakota’s premier cultural events. I’ve missed most of the August events listed by the Chamber – Sporting Clays Shootout, Capital A’Fair, Railroad Days, Old Settlers’ Days and Corn Feed, Spirit of the West Grillfest; but I should be able to catch Railroad Days at the Railroad Museum. I see an ad for the Dakota Zoo in Sertoma Park; celebrating 50 golden years, their ad has pictures of a golden-headed lion tamarin, a golden eagle, and a golden tabby tiger. If I want a movie The Grand 15 has two super-giant curved screens, the largest in the Midwest (Pharaoh’s Theatre has 1500 stars above); it’s all done up in Egyptian décor, with ponds and fountains. Kirkwood Mall is open Mon-Fri 10-9, Sat 10-7, Sun 12-6; “Delayed gratification is overrated” says their ad, showing a woman holding a high-heeled red shoe.

See what you can pick up from a map?

I already know about the easy-to-get-to restaurants. Across the street from my room I see Starbucks and Pizza Hut, Schlotzskys and Subway; next door is Hardees and Taco John’s. But the # 1 food attraction, as far as I’m concerned, is the Cracker Barrel Store. My southern roots took heart when I saw their sign through my bug-splatted windshield as I was coming into town. There was chicken and dumplings and fried okra for this gal last night, with a big tall glass of sweet tea; hey, I’m on Central Time.

Even with a busted GPS, I’m starting to get the lay of the land.

About North Dakota State Capitol

About Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park

About Dakota Zoo