“Wow, Mom, this is an animal vacation!” my older daughter exclaimed. She was about 9 at the time.
“It’s more like ‘Animal House’ in this vehicle!” I replied, glancing over my shoulder at my three energetic children.
We were driving west on Interstate 94 in North Dakota on a road trip from Fargo to Dickinson for a wedding reception. Yes, we saw numerous creatures, including statues of animals and domestic and wild animals.
We also did a fair amount of eating in the van. At times, unfortunately, our vehicle appeared as though wild animals were living in it, according to my husband.
Then we got out the small trash bags to keep things tidier.
After 100 miles of driving, our kids were ready for a snack and a physical activity break in Jamestown. Stopping every 100 miles or so is a good plan when you’re on the road. It breaks up a long trip and allows a chance for physical activity.
In Jamestown, also known as the Buffalo City, we stopped to see the huge buffalo statue on the hill. It was getting a fresh paint job, which I have on film. Our kids ran around the Pioneer Village in Jamestown and got a sample of early North Dakota life.
I pulled out the trail mix, which included peanuts, cashews, raisins and a few chocolate candy pieces. Bringing our own snacks allowed me to choose some healthier options than many of the treats that tempt children and adults at convenience stores.
Prepackaging snacks in lock-type sandwich bags helps manage portion sizes. We brought a cooler filled with ice, too. We kept perishable items, such as milk, string cheese and cut-up fruit, on ice.
I was pleasantly surprised to see a bowl of oranges, apples and bananas for sale at a couple of gas stations along the way to western North Dakota. You can find healthier options if you compare Nutrition Facts labels, too.
We visited a friend on her ranch, so my kids got a taste of ranch life. They led a horse around her yard, saw cattle and sheep up close and viewed a family of badgers, fortunately, from a distance. A king-sized jackrabbit hopped by us.
We stopped in Bismarck and stayed the night. That was a good opportunity for more physical activity in the warm pool.
The next morning, we drove past New Salem and stopped to see Salem Sue, the world’s largest cow statue. My kids had the opportunity to burn off some energy climbing to the top of the hill and seeing a grand view. Yes, the camera came out for a few photos.
We had some pretzels with nonfat milk and 100 percent juice. Baby carrots and grapes are other types of healthy “road food.” Don’t forget some wet wipes to clean your hands, too.
We took a side trip off Interstate 94 down the Enchanted Highway, a 32-mile stretch between Gladstone and Regent. We saw huge “junk metal” sculptures, including deer, grasshoppers, fish and pheasants. We also saw numerous live pheasants darting in and out of the ditches along the way.
We spent part of a day in Medora, a major tourist destination, with several playgrounds for children and a famous musical. We saw a family of antelope perched on a butte and, later, one bouncing across a nearby field, kind of like a cartoon character.
Next time we’ll visit the really old animals at the Dickinson dinosaur museum.
Head into the great backyard of North Dakota this summer. View the wildlife, the lush green pastures and colorful Badlands, and enjoy some physical activity and healthy snacks along the way. For more information about North Dakota attractions, visit http://www.ndtourism.com/.
Here’s a snack mix that will keep outdoor adventurers energetic on the trails!
1 c. whole-grain cereal with fruit
1 c. Chex-type bran cereal
1 c. O-type cereal
1/4 c. raisins or dried cranberries
1/4 c. peanuts
1/4 c. shredded coconut
Mix together and place half-cup portions in lock-type sandwich bags for quick snacks. Makes four servings.
Each serving has 210 calories, 9 grams (g) of fat, 32 g of carbohydrate and 3 g of fiber.