07 June 2006

Bismarck, ND

So far Bismarck has been a pleasant surprise. We pulled in expecting to only stay a night or two as a stop to break up the drive into the Badlands. We arrived here and it was so nice, quiet, and surprisingly pretty that we decided to stay for 5 nights.

Mostly we’ve been running errands and trying to relax and unwind from our whirlwind drive. I have to say that the people here are very nice, the hospitality is certainly not lacking. One of the first things we did was find and pick up some essentials at Wal-Mart. Say what you want about the store, but when you live all over the country and move often, it’s nice to see something that you’re familiar with. You never know what stores will be in what part of the country or what to expect from them. So for us, Wal-Mart is a safe-haven that we know what to expect from.

When we went to the Wal-Mart I went in the ‘out’ door without even knowing it, I was changing my sunglasses for my normal glasses so I could see. The older gentlemen standing at the door as the greeter almost ran across the entrance at me, I thought he was going to tell me I came in the wrong door, but instead he stopped and said “Welcome to Wal-Mart.” That was it, I thought I was in trouble, but he just wanted to be sure we didn’t sneak past him without a greeting.

All through shopping employees kept welcoming us and asking if we were finding everything. Then at the checkout when the checker found out we weren’t from here but just visiting she told us all the good restaurants to eat at and the sites to see while we were here. It blew us away. When we left the store and were walking across the parking lot Bill said “it’s really nice here, but the hospitality is freakin me right out.” It was pretty funny, but it’s just the way it is here, quiet, rolling plains, wide open spaces, and incredibly friendly people.

The weather has been incredible. It’s been in the mid 80s with humidity around 25% with beautiful blue skies.

Yesterday (6 June) we drove out to Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park. Fort Abraham Lincoln is the fort that Custer and the 7th Cavalry launched the campaign that ended at Little Bighorn from. Read more about it’s history here: http://www.fortlincoln.com/Old%20Fort%20Abraham%20Lincoln%20History.htm
The guided tours of the Cavalry compound are really unique. The guides dress in period clothing and once you are on the tour you step back into 1875 and they address you as such, including telling me that I needed to buy a proper dress since only the Soiled Doves (prostitutes) dressed in only their undergarments. I was wearing an ankle length lightweight summer skirt, but still would have looked like a hooker in 1875. I of course told her I had a proper dress in my trunks. It was a lot of fun.

Also at the Fort is a representation of a Mandan (the native people of the area) village called On-a-Slant. Read about On-a-Slant here: http://www.fortlincoln.com/On-a-slant%20History.htm Some interesting points about the Mandan’s is they were a primarily Matriarchal society. Not to say that they saw any one sex better than the other, but when a couple married the man moved in with the woman’s family. The woman was the one who knew how to build the earth home and she owned the earth home. It was the man’s job to be the provider by hunting and the protector by being a warrior. The pics of the village are of their earth-mound homes and the community lodge. The community lodge is the one with the representations of buffalo on log poles.

All in all it was a really neat place to visit, the guides did an excellent job and Bismarck in general is a nice place that I wouldn’t mind coming back to some day.