“Once a year, go somewhere you have never been before.” –Dalai Lama

When K2 and I first embarked on our wandering adventures, there were a few states that were at the top of our bucket list to visit.  With both of our previous wandering ways going only so far as South Dakota, we decided to take it a step further and visit one of the states in the lower 48 that each of us had yet to experience, as well as appearing on said bucket list from above…. And the neighboring state just to the north of South Dakota did not disappoint.

Heading out of Minnesota on I-94 and traveling west, we drove our Toyota 4Runner across the Red River of the North into Fargo, North Dakota.  The river itself is unique in that it is one of the few rivers in the world to flow directly north.  The roughly 550-mile river that serves as a natural boundary between Minnesota and North Dakota meanders its way north and empties into Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba, Canada. 

Fargo, the largest city in the 39th state, was a hidden gem for the two of us.  Situated a stones-throw from Minnesota in the flat Red River Valley, Fargo had an old western charm about it, and yet, still felt very modern.  There of course were the coffee shops that K2 and I always scope out, but more than that, Fargo felt young and vibrant.  There were many folks wandering about either walking, running, or biking.  Our hotel was the Jasper, and it could not have been more perfect. It was charming and modern with a great bar/restaurant, the Rosewild, on the first floor and an impressive view of Fargo from our room near the top.  There is a railroad track running through the downtown area with trains coming and going throughout the day and night.  While I am sure this would be annoying to some, K2 and I find it soothing to hear the train’s whistle.  For K2, because it brings back memories of her childhood in West Virginia and the tracks near her home.  It is background noise for her, a reminder of innocence, of a world of opportunities.  As for me, it reminds me of simpler times.  Perhaps just my romantic view of the old west with trains running through half-empty lands with the lonely sound of the whistle and the humming of the wheels on the track to break the silence of the night. 

It is strange how we assume a place will look a certain way, feel a certain way, its people will act a certain way…only to find that we are completely off base.  This was Fargo for us.  For some reason we expected it to look differently than it did.  It was a mere blip on the travel itinerary and more out of necessity from the driving distance of the day before than a desire to visit the actual city.  But it did represent a visit to North Dakota and so it became a stopping point before our journey westward across the state.  There are always good surprises when you wander about this earth.  Fargo was one of them for us.

One thing K2 and I were surprised to learn about Fargo, as well as most of this region of the Dakotas and Minnesota, is the influence of Scandinavia on this area. Several Norwegians had made the trip to America when farm land became scarce in Norway in the mid to late 19th century. The fertile ground in the region and climate to some extent, brought them here to settle. Indeed, you can hear much of the Scandinavian languages spoken around town, in restaurants, and in the coffee shops if one will listen. There is an exceptional shop there that was near our hotel called Stabo, which specializes in imports from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland. Several visitors from these countries will visit this state, (which is the least visited state in the U.S. overall), each year to attend the largest Scandinavian festival in North America, the Norsk Hostfest. The event, held in Minot, ND in the Fall attracts some 60,000 people annually.

Perhaps the greatest compliment we can give a place we visit, is that we wish we could have stayed longer.  K2 and I had this feeling as we checked out of the hotel.  But we grabbed a coffee at a nearby shop and headed out, nonetheless. Our eyes now turning to the West.  Onward to the western edge of North Dakota, leaving behind the low-lying Red River Valley to cross the Great Plains as we traverse to the upper edge of the Dakota Badlands that accentuate Theodore Roosevelt National Park in the southwest corner of the state.

Until next time…

Happy Wandering!


Fargo, ND from just outside the Jasper Hotel
Room with a View
Delectable, seasonal local whitefish dip https://jasperfargo.com/rosewild/
Jasper Hotel in Background
Clean and clear sidewalks ahead in Fargo, ND
As someone who loves a good pun…couldn’t pass this up
More of downtown Fargo
Tracks, like us, heading west
Brunch at Bernbaum’s, a Nordic-Jewish deli, is a must. https://www.bernbaums.com/
Even the weather wanted us to stay longer…after checkout the sky opened up.

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