As I’ve written several times on Easin’ Along, retirement offers us several opportunities that we didn’t have while working full time. We have a greater opportunity for learning; we have the opportunity for extended travel, and, if we choose, we have the opportunity to do absolutely nothing. We took advantage of all three while making our way toward the Dakotas…I’ll explain.
While taking advantage of the opportunity for extended travel, we have learned that we need to set aside a few days along the way and choose to do nothing (or very little). By doing so, we can slow the pace a little; catch up on laundry, read and return email; organize the photos; blog; even pay a few bills. We chose Grand Forks, North Dakota as a place for some relaxing “down time”.
Neither Helen (adorable wife) nor I had ever been to the Dakotas and, in planning this trip through the Heartland, we decided we needed to change that fact. Following our visit with friends in the lovely village of Grey Eagle, MN, our next destination was the Warrior Inn at Grand Forks, ND Air Force Base. We had plenty of time before our check in, and could have taken a direct route to Grand Forks along I-94 and I-29, but what fun is that? Instead, we decided once again to take the road less traveled, and follow highway 28 into South Dakota, then go north through Fargo, ND, and on to Grand Forks. Doing so allowed us to check South Dakota off our list of states visited and to see some beautiful countryside.
Our route took us through some small and very quaint villages on the prairie and through some very large farms. Even though the towns were small, there were some beautiful homes and churches along the highway and it would have been fun to visit them. My guess is that most of the larger homes were built around the turn of the 20th century, but that is just a guess.
When we crossed the border into South Dakota, I had to stop and record the event on my camera. Helen stood under a South Dakota welcome sign in some tall grass and posed bearing a huge grin. The picture was posted on Facebook and someone pointed out that there were bullet holes in the welcome sign…somehow we missed that, but we felt welcome anyway. At Sisseton, SD we turned north and worked our way to Grand Forks.
We learned one more thing at the Warrior Inn which is that these Air Force people know how to live. We had HUGE suite with a large living room, kitchenette, and large bath. We settled in nicely and took advantage of our “down time” to catch up on our laundry, email, and a few other tasks, before we went into Grand Forks to get a small sampling of the city and probably a larger taste of its food.
Grand Forks, ND sits on the border with Minnesota alongside the Red River. The drive from the Air Force Base was about 20 miles and we made our way into town in the late afternoon. It was a beautiful day and we were eager to stretch our legs after a day of driving, but before anything like that took place we decided to visit the Toasted Frog for drinks and dinner. This place came highly recommended on Trip Advisor. We figured that with a name like that it had better be good. It was!
The Toasted Frog was busy and we were seated at the bar, which really is my preference when there is just the two of us. I always feel like the service is a little better there. The restaurant advertised itself as eclectic, fun, and inviting with a diverse, made from scratch menu. We were not disappointed.
Helen had fish tacos that consisted of grilled mahi-mahi with sour cream slaw, avocado, mango and tomato salsa, and wrapped in a flour tortilla. She left me with no doubt that she enjoyed it. I had to take her word…there was nothing left on her plate.
I chose the walleye picatta. We were still in walleye country and I love fresh fish. This dish was a large portion of walleye lightly dusted in flour and pan-fried with capers, shallots, garlic, lemon juice and butter. It was splendid…Helen had to take my word for it. We both had beer from their list of over forty on tap. Regretfully, I can’t remember the name. The service was excellent and we had a delightful conversation with a very friendly schoolteacher who was seated next to us. It was the last night of her summer vacation before school started the next day.
After dinner we definitely had to walk off a few calories so we went in the direction of the Red River Bridge. The weather was incredible and temperatures were in the low 70’s as it has been for most of this trip. We did not miss the scorching heat back home.
Grand Forks is not a large town (population 66,000), and there was not a lot of activities on the streets since most of the shops were closed. That was fine with us as we were there to stroll and to relax instead of doing our usual frenetic sightseeing. We arrived at the bridge as the sun was going down and a couple of fishermen were heading in – probably after a day in pursuit of a few fresh walleye for the Toasted Frog. I took a few pictures before we walked across the bridge into Minnesota for a quick return to that state. We called it a day after that, but a great (and much needed) day it was.
The next morning we packed it up and pointed Heidi (adorable wife’s car) in the direction of International Falls, MN. We were given a quick goodbye wave from a local prairie dog. I thought it was a nice gesture from a true local to wrap up a great visit. He was a cute little fellow and I had never seen one before. This grainy picture is the best I could do to capture him for everyone, but prairie dogs move quickly.
So long, little guy…we’ll be Easin’ Along.
Down time is a great lesson learned.