Previously I wrote about my visit to North Dakota and my stop at the Roger Maris museum in Fargo. I’d technically achieve my goal of visiting North Dakota, but I had to make the drive west to Montana and then South Dakota. So while driving on I-94 west, I saw the sights, enjoyed the landscape and looked for anything else worth stopping for in the RoughRider State. Continuing my westward drive, I realized far too late that I was running low on fuel. Okay that’s not entirely true, I knew I needed gas but thought I’d just get it at the next exit. Big mistake. Growing up on the east coast, especially the northeast, you often don’t realize just how compact everything is. There’s a grocery store and a gas station every five or 10 miles. Not so much with the rest of the country, especially the less populated areas. So after wishing I’d stopped at that station 50 miles prior and wondering when I’d have to get out and push, I saw an exit for a town called, “Medora.”
Medora is located within the Teddy Roosevelt National Park, just over 30 miles west of Dickinson, ND and about 30 miles from the Montana border. When you hear people talk about small towns that barely register on the map, they just might be taking about Medora, North Dakota. Even as I write this, a few searches through various map programs didn’t come up. As of the 2010 census, Medora had a total population of 112 people. But I think Medora might just have been my favorite town on this trip. While it may not have many people living there, Medora (at least in the Summer time) has become a fairly popular tourist spot, while not having an overly “tourist” feel to it. It’s laid out like a quaint, small, cattle/mining town you’d see from a western movie. I filled up at a gas station that still had the old analog pumps with the rolling numbers. I actually got to fill up before I paid, (when was the last time you were able to do that?) The payment/record keeping consisted of cashiers writing down in a notebook the pump number and the amount owed… And then making a mark in the notebook when the customer had paid. Pretty wild stuff.
I had some time so I parked the car and got some homemade ice cream at the Medora Fudge & Ice Cream Depot.
I also got a chance to watch a re-enactment of an old west saloon shootout, which was definitely something geared for kids. The production value was something you’d sort of expect from a very small town, with the actors spending what seemed like half of the 10 minute show thanking sponsors and promoting businesses in the town. If you’re going to be in Medora when the show is taking place, walk on over and take a look, (it’s free, less any donations you want to make,) but I wouldn’t say to make a special trip or wait around for the show. There was a spot for the kids in the audience to “round up a posse” where all the children ran up, grabbed their sheriff’s badge and helped find the bad guy. One thing I did enjoy was that all of the guns used were, supposedly authentic weapons, such as Colt .45’s, from the time period. With special snap caps and dummy ammo, the guns were supposedly real. I did like getting a chance to see those in “action” so to speak.
Overall I really liked Medora, a great small town feel, some great homemade ice cream and just a genuine good vibe. I left Medora, and continued west for my arrival that night into Montana.