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My Opinion of North Dakota

(Reprint from News: September 30, 2001)

September 21, 2001


Although I grew up in Michigan and went to college in Wisconsin, I've been away from the Midwest for a long time and I'd forgotten what makes this place special.  I'll make some comments here about North Dakota, where I've been for the past month, but these comments also apply to the entire upper Midwest, including South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa.


Because of its rural setting, North Dakota has a reputation of being flat and boring.  In my opinion, most people who say this are flat and boring, or they've only driven through North Dakota on the Interstate.  Personally, I think the rolling hills, wheat fields, and prairies of North Dakota are quite beautiful.  Some people also think that North Dakotans are "hicks" or behind-the-times and I've sensed that people here are aware of that reputation and occasionally get defensive about it.  Admittedly, there aren't any professional sports teams in North Dakota or Magic Mountains or glitzy attractions to satisfy those weaned on Nintendo, but people here learn how to entertain themselves.  The recent walleye tournament on the Missouri River was front-page news in Bismarck and the biggest event in a nearby town last Saturday was a lawnmower race.  


Despite the lack of big attractions here, I think North Dakota is a pretty special place.  Unlike in many parts of the Northeast, people here aren't pushy or abrasive.  People don't intentionally scratch your car door as in Austin (see News: June 29, 2001) and unlike the folks in Hartford, Connecticut, they drive courteously and actually stop at red lights (see News: July 22, 2001).  In the month I've been here, no trucker has tried to run me off the highway, as happened in Roanoke, Virginia (twice, in fact).  I know there are a lot of terrific people in Austin, Hartford, and Roanoke and I'm not making blanket statements about them, but I haven't had a single bad experience in the month that I've been here in North Dakota.


Some would say that North Dakotans don't lead terribly exciting lives, but for the most part, I think they are honest, stable, friendly, practical, and down-to-earth folks.  There's little crime here and, from what I've seen, most folks are hardy, resourceful, and hard-working.  Walking around Bismarck, I don't see many of the "beautiful people" that I saw in Southern California when I lived there, and I certainly don't see many fancy cars or personalized license plates that say "Hotshot" or other such drivel.  Most people here aren't pretentious, materialistic, or obsessed with their looks; they don't really care what you think of them, and they don't base their self-worth on how much money they have, or want to appear to have.  For the most part, they're well-educated, open-minded, unhurried, and well-grounded.


Yep, I really like North Dakota and North Dakotans.  I just wish the winters here weren't so cold, eh?



Above left:  More shots of Bismarck:  Playing volleyball is one of the things I miss most on this trip.  This is Bismarck's University of Mary's team (in blue) taking on Minot State.

Above center:  I also watched a couple of University of Mary football games.  Go Marauders!

Above right:  A pumpkin mound in Mandan.



Above left:  Looking up the Missouri River from my campsite at Fort Lincoln State Park.  That's Bismarck in the distance.

Above center:  Looking south and a goose-eye view of the Missouri River valley.

Above right:  Bismarck and the Missouri River at night.



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