Rugby: Center and Peace. Plus a turtle.
Jul 21, 2009
|We had planned our stop in Rugby mainly as a base from which to drive up to the International Peace Garden, but also because it was a convenient intermediate stop on our way to Minot, our planned subsequent stop. We knew the campground we found in Rugby wasn’t much, but it would work for a couple of nights.
As it turned out, “not much” was an understatement. The “campground” was, not to put too fine a point on it, a parking lot around the edges of which had been installed electric, water and (some) sewer connections. As nearly as we could tell all the back-in sites on one side were occupied by seasonal construction workers, all of whom drove large trucks and some of whom had motorcycles or off-road vehicles of some kind in addition to their trucks. When they were all "at home" it was a tight squeeze to get through the lot. We were given one of the two “pullthrough” spaces – in fact, it was more like parallel parking – along the side of the lot opposite the construction workers. Fortunately there was no one in the space behind ours (which we didn’t even know was there until we realized there was a second set of hook-ups) so we could pull in and maneuver ourselves so we could hook up to the electric and water connections (no sewer at this space) and get our slides out without running into trees. Shortly after we arrived a truck camper pulled in behind us and a truck pulling a travel trailer took the other “pullthrough”, which was a similar spot on the third side of the lot, in front of one of the back-in spaces. It was a mess, but it worked – barely! Campgrounds in this part of the world aren’t particularly numerous, so we were glad to find anything. I will say, though, that for such a rudimentary campground, they had wi-fi service that was among the best we have experienced anywhere. This was good, since the trees completely blocked our internet satellite.
On our way into town we had passed an old schoolhouse that definitely merited a visit with cameras in hand, so later in the afternoon we went back out there to get some pictures. It was boarded up so we couldn’t get inside at all but Ian could see in the window (it was too high for me) and said there was a blackboard and a piano still there, so maybe it’s still used occasionally. After we left there we stopped at Subway to pick up something for dinner and a man came up to us and said he had seen us at the schoolhouse earlier. We talked a bit about it and he told us about another abandoned schoolhouse he had found in driving around the countryside (he’s from Wisconsin but working on a pipeline in the area and does metal detecting as a hobby). He had marked it on his GPS, so was able to give us directions to it so we could check it out for ourselves. We thanked him and decided to wait until after our visit to the Peace Garden the next day. In the event, his directions turned out to be somewhat inaccurate (as GPS directions frequently are) in that it had us turning onto one “road” that is, in fact, someone’s driveway and another that simply wasn’t there, but we had enough to go on that we could find it on our own with the help of our own GPS map. This schoolhouse was completely open, with broken out windows and an unlocked door, and showed signs of having been visited numerous times for various reasons probably best left uncontemplated. But it was interesting and, as usual, we tried to imagine what it had been like when it was in use. There was a skeletal structure outside the building that I initially thought was some kind of jungle gym or other playground equipment; on further examination I decided it didn’t really look like it, but I couldn’t figure out what it might have been. You’ll see it in the pictures – maybe someone can enlighten me!
We also stopped at the cairn marking (although not exactly) the geographical center of North America to get a picture of it and some of the surrounding area.
As I said, we wanted to see the International Peace Garden, so on Tuesday morning we drove the 45 miles north, past the small town of Dunseith, to the Garden. The drive itself (once we got past a couple of difficult construction zones) was lovely – it’s haying season and most of the fields had been recently mowed, with some of them still having the unbaled grass in symmetrical rows and others with neat bales of hay dotting the field. There were also occasional fields of other crops (including one that we decided was sunflowers not yet in bloom – it will be spectacular in a few weeks) and several that were bright yellow carpets of canola blooms. We’ve seen these in other areas and never fail to be amazed and enchanted by them. We also witnessed the delivery of a part of what we think will be the support pole for a wind turbine under construction – we’ve seen a number in this area either completed or under construction and had seen several turbine blades on train cars on our drive into Rugby. It’s certainly good country for wind power – I don’t think we’ve had one day since we’ve been in North Dakota that hasn’t been windy for some or all of the day!
The International Peace Garden was established in 1932 and constructed over the next 10 years or so, largely by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Additional elements have been added over the years and are continuing to this day. The park straddles the border between North Dakota and Manitoba, with the border forming a central axis, on either side of which are formal gardens and walkways. There is a sunken garden with a large water feature in the middle of the park which, unfortunately, is undergoing reconstruction and replanting, so we could only imagine what the water feature would look like when it is complete and operational. In addition to the formal gardens there are two more natural sections, reachable by road, with picnic areas, a small campground, a Game Warden museum and old Lodge building, and the home of the International Music Camp and an Athletic Camp. At the entrance is a floral clock, with a design that changes every year and can contain up to 5,000 plants, depending on the type chosen.
At one spot along the walk through the formal gardens there is a pile (artfully arranged, but still just a pile) of steel and concrete girders from the wreckage of the World Trade Center. They have just begun work on a fairly elaborate memorial to the victims of the 9-11 terrorist attacks that will incorporate these girders along with a reflecting pool. Plans are for that to be completed in 2010 and we could see some work being done now, although it’s behind the trees and not visible from the formal garden area.
At the end of the formal garden are two concrete towers, one on each side of the border, which are fascinating to look at from various vantage points as different elements come into view. From the location of the 9-11 Memorial site, only one section of each tower is visible, looking eerily like the twin towers of the World Trade Center. As you approach more closely, the other two sections become visible. The design is meant to symbolize the four corners of the earth, with one of the two identical but separate towers on either side of the border. Nearby is the Peace Chapel, with various quotations on peace inscribed on the walls and exhibits containing newspaper accounts of the 9-11 terrorist attacks and a list of the victims.
There is also a carillon, with bells originally donated to a church in Manitoba, which donated them to the Peace Garden after remodeling made them impractical to keep. Although the brochure says the bells chime every 15 minutes, they weren’t working when we were there which, actually, is probably a good thing because, although I like the Westminster Chimes, the garden is much more “peace”ful without them.
We enjoyed our stroll around the garden and visiting the contemplative atmosphere of the Chapel, and were really glad we had come. We had to use our imaginations to visualize what it would look like with everything working and in full bloom but what was there was wonderful. We were also surprised at how few visitors there were, although it isn’t something you just happen onto – you have to be intending to go there, as it’s pretty out of the way. But we loved it and would highly recommend it to anyone who is in the area. It would be a lovely place to bring a picnic lunch and just relax for a few hours. Of course, we were back in our truck and heading back down the road after only a couple of hours of walking around the formal gardens (and dozens and dozens of flower photos)! Fortunately we had brought our passports because we got a moderately serious grilling by the border official when we crossed the border back into the US – clearly we had left behind the zone of peace and openness with free roaming from one country to another and back again! Actually, I think they just don’t get that much action at that border crossing and he was bored.
So, back to Rugby we went, with a detour to the second schoolhouse we had found out about the night before. And of course we had to stop in Dunseith to look at the giant turtle built of old tire rims.
We’ve had to make a change in our plans and forego our stop in Minot – the State Fair is opening this weekend and every campground within 50 miles is booked. So we will go south to the Bismarck area, where we will stay a week before moving on to Dickinson, once again meeting up with Fred and Jo Wishnie to spend some time in the Black Hills areas of North and South Dakota.