Total Elevation Gain (ft): 3244.6
Weather: Sunny, Warm
Hillbilly Insults: 1
Roadkill: 19 (6 Birds, 3 Snakes, 6 Chipmunks, 4 Unknown)
Bugs Swallowed: 1
Mean Dogs Chasing: 0
I dedicate this entry to my close friend and expatriate, Greg Frost. He was a humble park ranger in North Dakota before he became the James Bond of international journalism. Now he covers ballyhoo hot air conferences in Davos, runs shoulders in Cannes and monitors important decisions made by the IAEA, but there was a time when he was writing about red winter wheat for a remote Reuters outpost in Kansas City, where we met and became pals for life.
I never got to see Frosty G in a funny hat and khaki gear, but I was thinking about him when the route took me to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, just west of Dickinson, ND. We listened to a ranger tell us about how the young, skinny TDR came to build a cabin in the Badlands so that he might slaughter one of the last remaining bison in the area. I imagined my friend giving this lecture being compelled to use the term "harvest" in regard to the big hunt. Greg lives in Paris now, but he just sent me a message about his fond memories of the park and North Dakota.
Today, near Greg in Élancourt, west of Paris is France scaled down to its significant icons in a diminutive "amusement" park known as "France Miniature." Models of monuments, castles, and cathedrals are arrayed for the tourist with only a couple of hours to see the whole country. A Cliff's Notes holiday tour! Everything built hyper-realistically to 1/30 scale to remind passersby that this is no fantasy land. It's not exactly enchanting, but is entertaining like an enormous electric train set.
I found the time I spent in Theodore Roosevelt National Park to be a similar kitschy experience. This was, no doubt influenced greatly by our time spent being dwarfed by mountains in Glacier National Park. Instead of grizzlies and sheer cliffs, TDR Park has prairie dogs and hills. To be fair, if you squint at the furry vermin on the barren green ridges adorning the place and imagine they're ferocious predators, it looks the same.
I did run into the only dangerous animal on the trip so far--a prone bison sunning himself and chewing cud.
On this warm summer day, my son had precisely the same reaction he has at any park or adult museum. Curiosity quickly evaporated to boredom and while staring at the landscape, he said, "At first this place is cool, but then it's just lots of mountains and animals and stuff and they're all the same. How many days until Mom takes us to the water park?"