Traveller, writer and hiker. It's all about the journey.
Published August 21st 2017
North Dakota's holy grail of big roadside things
The road south to Regent from Interstate 94 is so pretty I could be driving through the pages of a glossy picture book. Farmhouses, weathered wooden barns and shiny new grain silos across a patchwork of green and brown. The endless blue sky.
Like much of North Dakota, this is crop and cow country. But with a difference. If you're a fan of big roadside things, and it just happens I am, the Enchanted Highway is as good as it gets.
It's impossible to miss the turn-off. Geese in Flight, the first of seven huge metal sculptures to wow over, sits high above exit 72. A sculptural tease for the 32 miles to come.
Each of the sculptures is a short drive from the next. One features a little fisherman high in his boat above the fish and seaweed of his dreamscape. Another has dinosaur sized grasshoppers that would surely give a corn cropper nightmares.
There are prancing deer, a family of farmers that remind me of the Tin Man, and even a president. Teddy Roosevelt is said to have loved the Dakotan landscape and his mark is everywhere here.
By far my favourite is Pheasants on the Prairie. I had misread this as Peasants on the Prairie and arrived expecting sunken-cheeked people in rags. Instead I was delighted by five metal and mesh birds, some pecking the ground, some looking across the fields.
Each sculpture has its own parking lot, information board, a place to picnic. This part of the country is scrupulously clean and on this Saturday afternoon is empty of people. I struggle to open the car door against the wind at each stop.
Is it always this windy in North Dakota? I ask a local this later and they tell me yes, usually it is.
I like this place. I like its back story. A school teacher worried for the future of his town decides to do something about it. He dreams and welds, his sculptures taking shape, rising from the fields. Gary Greff wants people to come to Regent and his Enchanted Highway is what will draw them here.
Sculptures wowed over, I drive into town. Regent's main street is wide, the stars and stripes flap along it, and a camouflaged tank sits outside the American Legion building. The museum is closed when I arrive but the woman at the grocery store is friendly and I buy an ice cream.
It is too early to stop for the day so I drive by Greff's castle style motel at the end of the street. The Enchanted Highway has whet my appetite for giant things. I head east knowing that only 90 miles away Salem Sue, the world's biggest Holstein cow, awaits.