Sunday, September 06, 2009

End-of-Summer Jaunt to Medora

After church today, it was too early to go out for dinner, yet the girls were dropping unsubtle hints (e.g., "I wonder if [insert name of restaurant here] is open today") that showed they were just as in the mood to go out to eat as I was. So, without responding to their hints or revealing my plan, I took them on a drive that would pass some time, show us some sights, and put us at a restaurant right around dinnertime.

Highway 10 connects Dickinson to South Heart to Belfield with a hilly, winding, scenic route roughly parallel to Interstate 94. I pulled over a few times to snap some pics, listen to the wind's rustling of the crops and tree leaves, and smell the terrific scents of prairie flowers and wild grasses carried upon the hot, persistent wind.

West of Belfield, we turned south off Highway 10 to drive into Fryburg, a sleepy town of just a few streets--not all of them paved--and perhaps an equal number of houses. On the south edge of town sits an elementary school that closed nine years ago but whose gym is still used for sports events by Billings County Public Schools. (Interesting tidbit: The production crew for the movie Wooly Boys--starring Keith Carradine, Peter Fonda, and Kris Kristofferson--used the school as production headquarters and built a set in the gymnasium during filming of portions of the movie!) We turned around and went north again out of Fryburg to get onto Interstate 94 and drive west into Medora.

In the middle of a cluster of trees just north of Fryburg is this curving path, which just looks so inviting! But I think it's private property, so we looked but didn't touch.

Here's the view of Medora from the highway that leads into town from the north (after exiting south off the Interstate). Can you see the rooftops in the center of the photo? How awesome it must be to have the surrounding Badlands as one's view whenever one leaves the house!

Once in Medora, we ate dinner at Theodore's, the restaurant in the Rough Rider Hotel. It has undergone extensive renovations since the last time we ate there (for Father's Day last year) and looks just awesome with dark stain on the wood trim, a patterned tin ceiling, stained glass windows, a big brick fireplace, light fixtures designed to suggest the 1800s but clearly new, rich carpet, beautiful tile in the restrooms . . . oh, and the food is good, too (we had bison hamburger, turkey press sandwich, hot pastrami, and grilled chicken fettucine alfredo). The Rough Rider Hotel redid the dining room after last summer and is currently building an attached convention center. Take a moment to read a brief history of the hotel and enjoy a slideshow of photos of the hotel and its restaurant.

The Badlands form the backdrop for the hotel and convention center.

Suzanna, Abigail, Susan, and Hillary posed on the stairway in the north entrance to Theodore's. This room will serve as the foyer for guests checking in once the hotel completes construction of its convention center.

The girls and I posed on the veranda just outside the foyer with the grand staircase (from the photo above).

After dinner we walked around town a little bit, stopping in several shops to look around and see what they had to offer. All the shops were offering big discounts; Labor Day weekend marks the end of Medora's tourist season, so the stores are trying to reduce inventory before closing--or limiting their hours--for the fall. Each of the girls got an embroidered "Medora" baseball cap at one store, and Susan bought a "thank you" gift at another. Even the Fudge and Ice Cream Depot was trying to get rid of its product. We stopped there for a little ice cream, each of us ordering a single scoop in a bowl, which is what they charged us for; however, they piled the ice cream up so high that we easily could have shared one heaping bowl amongst the five of us!

Pretty flowers all around town.

We saw this little train chugging on by no matter where we happened to be around town!

It was 92° in Medora, which, frankly, is cooler than it has been during previous trips to the town. Still we were happy to get into the vehicle with its air conditioning as we drove on the Interstate to one final stop: the Painted Canyon Visitor Center a few miles east of Medora. The view is stunning, and the visitor center offers guide books and history books and biographies and park-related toys (e.g., hand puppets of local wildlife) and photographs and kid-friendly "you're welcome to touch these" artifacts that could easily have kept us occupied for hours had we not needed to get home and tend to other obligations. It was a fun little spur-of-the-moment trip that served as a welcome break on this Labor Day weekend. Now, it's back to work . . .

The view of the Badlands from the Painted Canyon Overlook just east of Medora. (Remember my writing about/sharing photos from this locale two years ago?)

P.S. Here are some gems from the mouths of our babes today:

  • Once Hillary's fettucine arrived, she dug right in, made the "yummm" sound, and said, "It warms up my soul."
  • Not too long afterward, she slowed down her pace of eating and said, "I'm really full." That's pretty typical of her, so I put my hand against my cheek and opened my mouth as though to register my faux astonishment. She responded, "It's not a shocking thing."
  • Toward the end of the meal, Hillary asked if we could go to the playground, and I said that we weren't there for fun; we were there for photographs. She replied, "No trip is made without having fun."
  • On the drive to Medora, we heard a radio show that had invited listeners to write and mail in their original haiku related to the program's topics. Since we had haiku on our minds, we tried our hand at creating one of the five-syllable, seven-syllable, five-syllable three-line poems while we were seated at the restaurant. Here's what we came up with: "We're in Medora / Land of trains and horse manure / Love this scenic town."
  • When we were shopping for baseball caps, Suzanna selected a pink one, and it was immediately clear from the expression on Hillary's face that she felt she ought to have the pink hat (since her bedroom is pink, much of her clothing is pink, etc.). In explaining that to Suzanna, Hillary said, "Pink's my go-to color."
  • As we walked with our ice cream bowls back toward our parking spot, Susan gave the girls directions, telling Suzanna, "Turn left at the corner." Abigail added, "Then straight on 'til morning." (Do you recognize that allusion to Peter Pan?)


  1. You have had very warm temps....much warmer than here in Omaha which is typically quite humid during all of July and August. It has been very cool and rainy this summer.
    I would rather have the heat myself!
    Nice pics!

  2. It really was a lovely day -- thank you for the mini-vacation!