Saturday, September 04, 2010

Labor Day Weekend, Day 2: Riverdale High Lodge

(See also Days 1-2: Jerrett's Birthday | Day 2: Audubon Nat'l Wildlife Refuge | Day 2: Garrison Dam and Power Plant | Day 2: Downstream Campground Rec. Area | Day 2: Garrison Dam Nat'l Fish Hatchery | Day 2: Spillway Pond Day-Use Area)

After a day full of hiking and sightseeing and exploring, the troupe was still smiling from the non-stop surprises but looking a little weary, so I figured it was time for the big surprise: driving them to the Riverdale High Lodge to check in for the night.  Food Network Magazine had told me how cleverly the owners had transformed the old high school building into a hotel--and its cafeteria into Knights Bar and Grill (Riverdale High School's mascot used to be the knight)--but I had never been there to confirm, and I was hoping it would turn out to be a fun overnight adventure.  We drove on the road up the south side of the dam into the town of Riverdale and went up and down a few streets until the distinctive building came into view.

I imagine that, when it was a school, the building was covered in a more institutional-looking brick, but the modern siding and black-and-white brickwork look great with the pops of red in the flowers and the lettering.  Black, white, and red must have been the school colors (or maybe just red and white?) because that color scheme runs throughout the building.  It's very tasteful and looks "sharp."

There's the several-story high school building on one end and the one-story elementary wing on the other end.  The building entrance between them takes one directly into the bar and grill.  It seems that the elementary building has been transformed into townhouses, so the entire facility has been given a new life.

When I had phoned to make a reservation, the gentleman to whom I spoke offered to put the five of us into one of the "premiere" rooms, and I accepted, thinking, "What the heck."  I checked in and picked up the keys while the girls squealed with delight behind me at the thought of spending the night in a school, and then we went to the top floor to find our room, none of us knowing quite what to expect--and although I, at least, had an inkling that the room would be out-of-the-ordinary, even I couldn't believe it when we opened the door:

They created our lodge room either out of one large classroom, such as a science room, or two classrooms with a wall removed.  In the middle they created a bathroom with high-end finishes (it juts out and creates the wall against which the futon sits), and on the far end are two double bed.  Around the corner is a dresser, and above it hangs a gigantic flat-screen TV.  The mural above those two beds is a series of satellite images of Lake Sakakawea and all the towns and attractions on its shores and within the vicinity, each one clearly labeled.  The futon faces another huge flat-screen TV on the wall across from it with large windows on either side.  But wait . . . there's more!

Standing with one's back against the mural, one sees that there are two more double beds on the other side of the room!  Yes, Susan and I shared a bed, and each of the girls had her own double bed to herself!  The room could comfortably accommodate 10 adults in the beds and futon, or more with cots or sleeping bags.  It has high ceilings, too, so it feels just enormous.  There was much squealing and hopping about and hugging and running around to "stake claims" and put clothes into the dressers and set out books, etc.  And the girls were excited, too (ha!).

After we had simmered down from our excitement at seeing the room, we wandered around the building to explore.  There are no banks of lockers, so the wide hallways look like a high-end hotel with beautiful finishes; but every so often, there is a built-in trophy case containing trophies, plaques, framed awards, and other mementos from the years that the building served as a school.  Some of the cases feature items related to a particular sport or school activity, too.  The gymnasium is still a gymnasium and is used for community events and dances sponsored by the bar and grill (e.g., live music for a dance).  There's a permanent set built on the stage: it looks like the front of a castle (reminder: the school mascot was the knight).  Here are the girls performing on stage!

The cafeteria has numerous photos on the wall: mostly framed collections of each year's graduates.  They were clever in how they transformed the space from a school cafeteria into a bar and grill.  It looks very nice.

We decided to explore Riverdale a bit before supper.  It is set up in a semi-circle facing the lake, and there are a few roads that run along the water and one that leads down to the lake for putting boats into the water.  The campground nearby was packed with campers and motorhomes and tents, and the boat ramp parking lots (yes, plural) were full, too . . . and there were a large number of boats out in the bay.  I had been feeling as though I had "discovered" the gem of Riverdale, but evidently many others knew about it before I did.

In the middle of town is a statue of a mermaid in a park whose walkway is lined with stones from each of the counties of North Dakota.  In the distance, behind "Misty the Mermaid," is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers headquarters, which overlooks Lake Sakakawea on its opposite side.  If one were to turn and look in the same direction that Misty is facing, one would see the Riverdale High Lodge across an expanse of grass on the block that separates it from Misty's park.

Here are Hillary, Abigail, Daddy, and Suzanna on a low wall that faces Misty.  Behind us, note the row of rocks of various shapes, sizes, and colors.  Those are rocks representing each of the state's counties, each rock native to that particular area.  The lodge is visible behind Hillary.

I planned this vacation so that, after a day of adventures, we'd have an entire evening of nothing in particular to do: just to relax.  So we went back to our room and sat for a bit before heading down to the Knights Bar and Grill for supper.  Um, three words: De! Li! Cious!  It was absolutely packed when we arrived, which is a good sign; not only lodge guests but also residents of the town and people camping nearby knew enough about it to come in for a meal on a Saturday night.  The girls ordered pasta, and Susan and I shared our orders of burgundy-and-peppercorn steak and spicy breaded walleye.  Faithful Reader, if you're ever in the Riverdale area, you should plan your travels to allow for a meal here . . . it was so good!

We headed back up to our room, got into our pajamas, and gathered on the futon and side chair to play board games and card games that we had brought.  Then we read for a little bit before heading off to our individual beds for a peaceful slumber.  It was a fantastic day for a fantastic price:
  • breakfast at McDonald's in Bismarck, dinner at the Harbor Bar in Coleharbor, and supper at the Knights Bar and Grill in Riverdale: well priced for what we ordered and very satisfying
  • one night's stay at the lodge: half the price that I expected, which itself would have been a bargain
  • Audubon National Wildlife Refuge: free
  • Garrison Dam and Power Plant: free
  • Downstream Campground Recreation Area: free
  • Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery: free
  • Spillway Pond Day-Use Area: free
  • Riverdale area sights: free
And tomorrow, our adventures continue!


  1. What a wonderful way to end our day -- I'd definitely stay there again!

  2. Wow....I see the signs for Riverdale and Pick City each time I drive that way. Who knew such a gold mine existed? The re-done school building is very nice! I'm glad you had such nice accommodations!