Pizza Ranch, the Badlands, and BISON!

Miles driven: 301
Fish caught: 4
Pizza slices eaten: 18

Noah got a little fishing in this morning before we said goodbye to quiet little Moon Lake. We didn’t have enough wood left for a fire so I had a granola bar and Noah had a cold brat from last night. Let me just take a minute to brag that not only did I not wrap a water bottle up in my tent this time, but when I got done wrapping it actually fit in the bag! Major camping victory.

After we got to the next town we had a few options for 11 a.m. brunch, including several fast food places and a local Mexican restaurant. We made the best possible decision when we chose the Pizza Ranch. It was a buffet but you could request a certain kind of pizza and they would bring it to your table – the best of both worlds! As Noah said, “Buffets are not just a meal; they’re a challenge.” One which we happily accepted. Twenty minutes later I had eaten six slices and Noah had eaten 12.

I talked in a previous entry about how I had affected Noah’s interstate driving mannerisms, but he has clearly also had an effect on me. Today I was texting someone and started to type the word discussion. I got as far as dis and my phone popped up with a suggestion for what it thought I was going for: fish. My phone sure adapts quickly to new vernacular.

Our next stop was “The World’s Largest Buffalo!” also known as a giant bison statue and accompanying gift shop.

The statue definitely looks more impressive with me standing under it than Noah.

In other exciting news, Noah got to see his first tumbleweed. Like me before my first trip out west, he did not think tumbleweed was actually a thing until he saw it with his very own eyes just tumbling along.

After that we were just driving along when I saw a sign for the Painted Canyon and we decided to check it out. Another great decision because it was stunning. I don’t think I’ll even post a pic because this was one of those places where photos don’t even capture 10% of the beauty.

We finally made to our destination for the night: Theodore Roosevelt National Park in the North Dakota Badlands. We were antsy to use what daylight we had left but unfortunately they are doing construction on the road going into the park so we had to wait for a pilot car to take us through. We had no idea what that meant when the guy told us, but about 25 minutes we were in the front of a long line and it pulled up ahead of us:

As soon as we got a campsite we threw some of our stuff down and took off for a 36-mile scenic drive. I’ve always wondered what the Badlands looked like but no one has ever described it well to me and now I know why. Its beauty is impossible to capture fully in words or images, but here’s a peek.

Noah has been greatly anticipating seeing a lot of wildlife in person for the first time and even I have been excited to see a bison. The past few days we have been seeing sign after sign that warns of not getting within 20 feet of one so I had mentally prepared for our first viewing of the giant animal to be from a distance. I say this all so you will understand my frame of mind when I drove around a curve and came face to face with a bison laying RIGHT BESIDE THE ROAD.

Several thoughts raced through my head in a fraction of a second (the fact that I am about to use three exclamation points in rapid succession tells you just how chaotic it was in my mind in that moment):

1. He broke the 20 feet rule!

2. We have to get a picture before he moves!

3. We have to get out of here before he moves!

Noah really wishes he had captured my reaction on camera because while he calmly sat there and looked at the bison, I practically threw my phone at him and starting shouting “take a picture! Take a picture!” When I was sure he had taken at least one, I got the heck out of dodge.

He looks a bit sickly in the photo, but Noah assured me that he was just shedding his fur for the summer:

After that excitement, it was like Mother Nature decided to help Noah fill out his wildlife sightings bingo card. We saw a rabbit, pronghorn, a mule deer, and a whole lotta prairie dogs. I’m sure the little critters are annoying but we found them hilarious.

After we got back to our campsite, it was time for an adventure much scarier than being within 20 feet of a bison: campfire cooking. Anyone who knows me at all knows of my ineptitude bordering on absurdity in the kitchen and Noah is, well, a 16-year-old boy. Thus far we had had campfire meals that only required sticking meat on a stick and holding it over an open flame, but tonight we were cooking for real: tortellini. Okay, so it was a baby step. I was still skeptical that the product would be edible.

But with a few hiccups along the way, we managed brilliantly. Bonus: I felt very Little House on the Prarie while walking to fill my pot up with water.

We didn’t get to see everything we wanted at the park today so we are going to bed early and starting the day early tomorrow. Good night from the Mountain time zone!

About The 1st Draft

I am a 30-something English teacher living in the Midwest who loves books, television, soccer, a good conversation, Cardinals baseball, and playing with my adorable nieces and nephews.
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3 Responses to Pizza Ranch, the Badlands, and BISON!

  1. Kelly Richart says:

    I am ROLLING with laughter! The bison, the exclamation points, the bingo card, this is the highlight of my day! Thanks for the laughs Tates 😂😂😂😂

  2. Makes my sorta sad to see what we missed in our hurry to cross the country and come back. So grateful you’re doing it for us.

  3. Nevan says:

    I am dying of laughter over here. I didn’t know I was so afraid of bison until we when to a preserve in northern Oklahoma. I took the 20ft seriously…. my husband did not. I thought for certain I would see him get trampled. Luckily, no one was harmed.

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