"It's going to be LEGEN...Wait for it...DARY!
Barney Stinson - How I Met Your Mother
State 12: North Dakota
August 21 & 22, 2017
Lori - August 21st
We woke up Bemidji, MN, and decided to spend the day in the library to catch up on computer work. Today was the solar eclipse, and we could not find a pair of eclipse glasses anywhere. Everyone we called had been sold out for weeks! What a bummer! However, upon arriving at the library, we were very happy to learn they had reserved a couple pairs to lend out to guests. Hooray! Today was shaping up to be a great day! I ran outside with my borrowed pair of glasses to see the solar eclipse, and what I saw was pictured below.
I could not see a darn thing because the sky was extremely overcast! Major disappointment! I guess I would just have to wait for the next solar eclipse in 7 years! After finishing up a couple of blog posts, we decided to depart for a 3-hour drive from Bemidji, MN to the city of Grand Forks on the North Dakota border. It was a long and lonely drive across drive across northwestern Minnesota, but mother nature decided to offer us amends for hiding her splendor from us earlier in the day. About 30 minutes prior to crossing the North Dakota border, we saw the most spectacular sunset in our entire lives. Looking in Rosie’s rear view mirrors, the Minnesota sky was dark, gray, chaotic, and tumultuous. However, looking out the windshield toward North Dakota, the setting sun shot brilliant rays of light piercing through the overcast sky painting the heavens with the most spectacular shades of pinks, blues, and reds. We interpreted mother nature’s display as the universe’s way of welcoming us to North Dakota, and a confirmation we should leave Minnesota behind. We willfully obliged.
We crossed the Sorlie Bridge over the Red River, and entered the 12th state on our cross country journey to discover America, and find a new state to call home: North Dakota. Unfortunately, it was pitch black outside, and we could not see the state welcome sign or state motto. Since we were both exhausted, we decided to drive back to the bridge in the morning, so we could photograph the sign. We found a Walmart in Grand Forks, ND to spend the night
August 22, 2017
We woke up at a Walmart in Grand Folks, ND, well rested, and ready to discover a brand new state. However, first we needed to double back to the Sorlie Bridge we crossed late last night to find the states welcome sign, and motto. The bridge was located in Greenway Park, but the park had no address. We drove in circles for an hour unable to find the bridge, and we were beginning to get frustrated with our situation. Grand Forks is not a major metropolis! How hard could it be to find a local park? Then out the blue, Nate jammed on the brakes, abruptly pulled Rosie over to the side of the road, and screamed “Lori, look at that!”. I looked out the driver side window and could not believe what I saw, which is pictured below.
I was shocked! I had to get out and take a picture! After all, it’s not every day you come across a polka dotted house. The polka dotted house on 523 University Ave. Grand Forks, ND is owned by Jimmy Deitz. The 122 year old house was overdue for a fresh coat of paint in 2012, and Deitz, a retired house painter, decided to do something a little creative. The Grand Forks City planner hates the house's colors, but the town does not have a code forbidding home owners from painting there home specific colors or patterns. The house has since become an internet sensation, and now an unexpected Cross Country Couple “Roadside Attraction” for the state of North Dakota. This is an excellent example of how our cross county trip unfolds. In moments when we are the most stressed or frustrated, by chance we come across the unexpected and unbelievable, and instantly our mood is uplifted. As I can attest from personal experience, nothing brings a smile to your face more than standing in front of a 122-year-old 2 story multi colored polka dot house.
We then got back into Rosie with a more cheerful and optimistic disposition, and decided to try a different approach to find the location of the elusive park. Although Greenway Park does not have a physical address, we discovered the flood memorial located within the park surprisingly does. We programmed the coordinates into Michelle, our GPS, and arrived a 3 minutes later at the Grand Forks Greenway Park.
The monument within the park commemorates the Red River Flood of 1997. It was a major flood that left the twin border cities of Grand Forks, North Dakota and East Grand Forks, Minnesota inundated with water for weeks. On April 21st, the river crested at a record 54.35 feet, caused flooding 3 miles inland, resulted in the mandatory evacuation of 50,000 people, caused 3.5 billion dollars in damage, and entirely submerged the twin border cities beneath feet of water. To prevent future floods, a series of dykes were built along the shoreline of the Red River. The Greater Grand Forks Greenway was developed in the flood plains, which included walking and biking trails, parks, picnic and camping areas. A stone monument was subsequently erected commemorating all the floods of the Grand Forks communities over time. The monument depicts the water levels of each of the floods with an engraving of the date the flood occurred. Please see the pictures below.
The highest marker on the monument depicts the flood of 1997. While standing on the bridge which connects the two Grand Forks communities, we noticed an eerie realization the 1997 marker on the monument denoting the water level was actually higher than the bridge we were currently standing on! The Grand Forks Greenway was a beautiful park, served as a testament of a tragic event, and a somber reminder of the unpredictability and power of mother nature. Please see the pictures below.
Next, we drove 2 hours South to Fargo to visit the museum of the Cross Country Couple chosen “Famous Person” for the state of North Dakota, Roger Maris. Maris was a professional Major League Baseball player from 1957- 1968, and his many achievements include: 7-time All-Star, 2-time American League MVP, Golden Globe Award. 2-time American League RBI Leader, and a 3-time World Series Champion. However, Roger Maris's crowning accomplishment came in 1961 when he hit 61 home runs in a single season beating the record set in 1927 by Babe Ruth. On January 4, 1964, North Dakota Governor, William L. Guy awarded Maris the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award, which is an award to honor the accomplishments of prominent citizens of North Dakota. Maris, was inducted into the North Dakota American Legion Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977. The New York Yankees retired Roger Maris number 9 on July 22, 1984. Tragically, Maris was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, and died 2 years later on December 14, 1985 at the young age of 51 years old. Despite all of Maris’s accomplishments, the highest of all honors has regretfully slipped from within his grasps. Roger Maris has not been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
We were extremely surprised to learn the Roger Maris Museum was inside of the West Acres Shopping Center. Again, our cross country journey was leading us back into a Mall! Arrrrrgh! We were curious as to why the Roger Maris Museum was located inside of a mall. Apparently, when Maris was approached about a museum in his hometown and in his honor, he responded “Put it in a place where people from all walks of life will see it, and where they won’t have to pay for it”. I guess a shopping mall meets Maris’s requirements, and the museum was dedicated in June 23, 1984. It was quite challenging to find the museum, as shopping malls are extremely large places. We stopped at the information desk to ask for directions. We were told to go straight passed the food court, and continue past Zales. Then, when you come to the end of the hall, take a right at Payless Shoes. Next, keep going until you once again reach the very end of the hall, and you can’t miss it! Albeit a very long walk, the directions were spot on, and the path to the museum was very well signed. Please see the pictures below.
The museum consisted of large glass showcases, which ran across the entire length of a long hallway at the far end the mall. Display’s within the cases included: game used bats, balls, and jerseys, trophies, awards, 2 home run king crowns, and even a mayoral declaration declaring June 28, 1998 Roger Maris Day in Fargo, ND. Please see the pictures below.
The most interesting part of the museum was a small viewing room showing a movie on Maris’s life complete with actual seats from Yankee stadium. Many know Maris as the Home Run King, but few were fortunate to know him personally as a humble, soft-spoken, loving husband and devoted father to 5 children. One of the reasons for his short career was because he wanted to retire from baseball to be closer to his family. Maris never sought the spotlight, or to be the man who broke Babe Ruth’s record. Every day, his only goal was to be the best ball player and person he could be.
We had a great time visiting the Roger Maris museum, but one nagging unanswered question still remained. What ended up happening to the baseball from Maris’s 61st home run? As it turns out, the answer to that question proved to be quite the romantic story. In 1961, a young woman named Rosemarie Calabrese decided to surprise her boyfriend, a 19 year old school bus driver from Brooklyn, NY, named Sal Durante with tickets for a New York Yankees home game. However, their seats were in different rows, and in the third inning they swapped seats. An inning later, Durante caught Maris’s 61’st home run ball. He tried to give the ball back to Maris after the game, but Maris told him to keep it and make what you can from it. Durante sold the ball to a businessman named Sam Gordon for $5000, and used the proceeds to fund a wedding to his girlfriend 3 weeks after the Yankee game. Sam Gordon eventually gave the ball back to Maris, who then donated it to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, where is sits to this very day.
I bet you thought I forgot to throw in my customary “two cents” regarding the states motto, which is North Dakota: Legendary. Albeit thought provoking, “Legendary” fails to say anything specific about the state. However, during our first day in North Dakota we visited baseball's Home Run King, the site of the great flood of 1997, and a polka-dotted house, which sounds like a “Legendary” day if I do say so myself. Lori and I have heard great things about the Dakotas for quite a while, and we are immensely looking forward to the next two weeks in North and South Dakota. Usually, it is very challenging to find a Walmart that allows overnight guests in large cities. However, the Walmart in Grand Forks was very welcoming, and we slept so very soundly!