A New Adventure…

So, one of the reasons I haven’t been writing very much on the blog in the last few months was I have been busy getting ready for a move. Two and half years ago, I started an adventure. I moved to North Dakota in the middle of winter to start my first digital library job out of grad school. I had no idea what I was getting myself into – I learned more about myself and my skills in one month here than I ever had before. I have certainly grown up a lot since moving out here and I am thankful for the time I’ve had. But, it’s time to start the next adventure.

Later this week, I say goodbye to North Dakota and make another big cross country move to Florida. I am excited to be moving back to the east coast, closer to family and friends who live in that part of the country and to be starting a new and challenging job at Florida State University. I will be taking everything I’ve learned over the past few years and using it in a new setting, hopefully to great success. I’ll also be learning again, which is always a good thing, and sharing my adventures in my new city with family, friends and anyone else who cares to join in!



Medora in the Summer

Living in western North Dakota, the first thing anyone told me anything about when I arrived was Medora, the little town where Theodore Roosevelt National Park is, the town that is all that is left of where Roosevelt lived while ranching here. It had essentially become a ghost town until a wealthy entrepreneur moved in and saved it (I think in the 1960s?). Most of the town is now owned by the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation and, I mean this is the best possible sense, has become a quality tourist trap. Because of when I relocated out here, the first time I visited Medora was in the dead of winter when one restaurant and one shop are still open. The rest of the people, quite wisely, have flown south for the winter.

I missed last summer’s season as I didn’t have any visitors come and Medora in the summer just seemed like I needed to have someone with me to brave. So, the next time I went was during my parents’ visit in October of last year. Because of the oil boom in the area, more businesses stayed open longer and I got to hit the stores as they had their end of season sales. Other than that, I have driven in Medora simply to get to the national park, nothing more.

So, when my sister decided to come out in July this year, I was excited. I’d at least have someone to finally go to this Medora Musical I’d heard so much about. So, the day after I’d survived my first trail ride and hit the lunch rush at the Cowboy Cafe, my sister and I headed back to Medora for the Pitchfork Fondue and Medora Musical.

Pitchfork Fondue. Photo: Ally Thomas

The Pitchfork Fondue is not actually a fondue…so I’m not sure where the fondue part of the title comes from. There was, sadly, no cheese involved. That said, this is far and above the best meal I’d had in a very long time. The Fondue occurs next to the amphitheater where the musical is, high up above the Chateau De Mores. You have a killer view overlooking the Little Missouri River from where you sit. When dinner is ready, they ring the bell and everyone herds into line. As the dinner starts so early (two and a half hours) before the musical, there is no need to rush. We were eating on an absolutely perfect night (if a little breezy) so my sister and I waited around for the line to get down a bit. Once in line, you hand in your tickets, grab a tray and fill her up. I skipped the beans (not my thing) but loaded a tray with coleslaw, garlic bread, fresh fruit and vegetables and a baked potato before getting back into a line to pick up my steak. Now, they cook the steaks on actual pitchforks (hence the name), and whatever they season them with, they should sell. This was the tastiest 12 oz rib-eye I’ve ever had. Nice and juicy, if a bit unevenly cooked, it is the reason to go to the Pitchfork Fondue. The meal also includes lemonade and dessert (super yummy mini cinnamon doughnuts and really chocolatey brownies).

So, my sister and I took our time eating, had multiple desserts and enjoyed the view and still had an hour to kill before the show. We walked over to the Medora Musical Welcome Center and perused the gift shop of a while, which also has displays on the history of the musical (which started out as Old Four Eyes in the 1950s if I recall correctly), dealt with a minor issue with our tickets and then headed down to the theater. The theater is impressive as is the stage which consists mostly of movable buildings re-creating the Medora of Theodore Roosevelt’s time. For an amphitheater, on a perfect night, with the added bonus of some wild elk just hanging out behind the stage, it gets you excited for the show. Then the musical started. Now, I wasn’t expecting greatness and I figured it would be more revue than musical but to me, they need to work on the flow a bit more – it doesn’t quite work at times and also, the corniness level is alarming in sections. What did surprise me was the level of commercialness involved. The Medora Musical is one giant commercial for North Dakota which I found interesting since you’re already in North Dakota when watching it, I would assume you’re sort of preaching to the choir.  I will forgive the actual commercial done twice regarding buying concessions before the show started and right before intermission, mainly because I’m still in shock they do that (but my sister took a picture so it must be so).

The Burning Hills Singers of Medora Musical. Photo: Ally Thomas

Now, for the most part, the show is half revue and half a history lesson about Theodore Roosevelt. The singing portions of the show are enjoyable and fun; the crop of guy singers this year is much better than the girls and the dancing was well coordinated and fit the style of the show. The clogging (which is actually tapping because they were not wearing clogs) was the best part of the dance sequences though I am still puzzled as to why there is clogging in a western show. I must look up the history there some time. The history lessons were actually a lot of fun especially the “re-creation” of the Battle of San Juan Hill. The use of horses in that scene was particularly effective I thought. I was actually quite impressed with the use of horses throughout the show – they added something to the brief stories rather than just being novelties to bring out on stage every once in a while.

All in all, I am glad the tickets were given to me by a friend at work. I do not think the musical is worth the price you pay to see it if I’m being honest. The Pitchfork Fondue though absolutely is – I’m quite sad I have no more visitors coming this season to give me another excuse to go!

Greetings from Denver

The last half of April was a whirlwind of traveling for vacation and traveling for work. It has left me exhausted and sick as a dog. To top off my tour, my flight out of Denver back to North Dakota was cancelled last night as North Dakota was experiencing some lovely spring weather (aka a blizzard dumping a ton of snow and accompanied with strong winds). It was actually a relief when they cancelled my flight as I did not want to fly a 30-seat turbo prop plane into that weather.

So luckily I have friends in Denver, the ones I’d just stayed with the weekend before during my mini vacation over Easter, who agreed to come get poor stranded me at the airport. They had been spending the day up in the mountains though so I had some time to kill. As my cold got progressively worse, I entertained myself by watching the arrivals area at the Denver International Airport. It reminded me of my many viewings of Love Actually. All I needed was a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and a comfy blanket to make the comparison complete. It’s funny but there really IS nothing more fabulous than watching an arrivals gate at an airport. People are inevitably happy, laughing, and smiling. No matter what bad things might happen in the next few minutes, what arguments might arise as these people make their way to the cars, buses and taxis awaiting them, for those first few moments, life is good.

It was enough to make me feel less rotten for a second. And then I realized I couldn’t breathe through my nose again and went to hunt up another tissue from my dwindling supply that I had with me.

I did finish a book on my travels that I need to write up and review for you. I also have been meaning to write my impressions of the new Jane Eyre movie up for you as I saw it last weekend when I was in Denver. I’ll add it to my growing to-do list.