The Enchanted Highway & the Value of Roadside Attractions
The Enchanted Highway & the Value of Roadside Attractions
How one full-time RVer is seeking out creative ways to social distance while traveling.
By: Sue Ann Jaffarian
So, what’s a full-time RVer supposed to do when much of the country is still locked down because of a pandemic and the other half is slowly opening up? This full-timer focused on sights that were outdoors, which afforded me a chance to see some amazing things while still social distancing.
During the first few months of the stay-at-home order regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, I sheltered in place in Texas in my 2016 Winnebago Travato 59K named Novella. As a full-time RVer, the van is my home, so I stayed in it and practiced social distancing, only leaving the van for supplies and laundry.
When it was finally time to leave Texas, I couldn’t wait to get back on the road, but I had to keep an eye on which states were open to interstate travelers. I also wanted to continue social distancing as much as possible.
While museums and attractions were still mostly closed, I discovered an abundance of sights to see that were outside. I know a lot of full-timers went kayaking and hiking in places that were open, but I’m not very outdoorsy. However, I still found plenty to keep me occupied outside, including the world’s largest ball of twine and the Badlands of South Dakota. You can find most of the quirkier attractions, and some not so quirky, on the Roadside America app.
Enchanted Highway: The Roadside Attraction Stand-Out
One of my favorite outdoor attractions was The Enchanted Highway in North Dakota. The Enchanted Highway is a 32-mile drive down a two-lane paved road that winds through lovely hills and pastures. The road connects the towns of Regent and Gladstone. Along the way are seven huge metal sculptures created from scrap metal. The sculptures are amazing and depict different aspects of life in North Dakota.
The Enchanted Highway was the brainchild of Gary Greff, artist, retired school teacher, and a resident of Regent.
If you drive north to south, from Gladstone to Regent, you will be facing each of the sculptures, and you can’t miss them out in the prairie right off the highway. If you drive south to north from Regent to Gladstone, you come up behind them, but you still cannot miss them. I did the south to north route, which enabled me to pick up a free brochure at the gift shop in Regent which talked about each piece, as well as listed the various businesses in Regent.
Where to Stay When Visiting
No matter which direction you take, there is a nice RV park in Regent where you can overnight before or after your trip. It’s the Enchanted Highway RV Park, a block from the main part of this tiny town with about 160 residents. The RV park features full hook-ups for $20 a night. There is room for ten RVs of any size on a very well-maintained, level grassy field. You pay for your stay at the gift shop, which also sells wonderful ice cream and subs. I stayed there the night before my journey up The Enchanted Highway, but would return to this nice RV park in a heartbeat.
About the Enchanted Highway
One of the things I noticed immediately about The Enchanted Highway was how nice each area with a sculpture is set up and maintained. Each has a large gravel/dirt parking lot, a grassy area, a picnic table, and trash can. If there is a particular sculpture you like, fix lunch and enjoy it right there. The Enchanted Highway is operated and maintained by a non-profit corporation and I noticed some of the sites had donation boxes.
The first sculpture I came across was right out of Regent. Called Tin Family, it depicts a farmer and his wife and son, and is built of used farm equipment. The farmer is 45 feet high, the farmer’s wife 44 feet tall, with the son 23 feet tall. It was erected in 1919 and was the first sculpture.
Next going north is Teddy Rides Again. Built in 1993, it is a tribute to Theodore Roosevelt and his part in North Dakota history. This contains two sculptures, one of a stagecoach and the other of Roosevelt on his horse.
Pheasants on the Prairie was erected in 1996. Pheasants are abundant on the North Dakota prairie and this rooster, hen, and chicks was one of my favorite sculptures. The colors on the rooster are particularly vibrant. Made of wire mesh, the rooster is 40 feet tall, the hen 35 feet tall, and the chicks are 20 feet tall each.
The next sculpture wowed me with its size and complexity. Fisherman’s Dream was built in 2006 and depicts a three-dimensional scene of various fish swimming underwater, while a 70-foot rainbow trout leaps out of the water to snag an insect. Nearby above the water is a fisherman in a boat, no doubt dreaming of catching that monster trout. However, while I was there, maintenance was being done on this sculpture.
Grasshoppers in the Field was next. Built in 1999, this sculpture of a huge grasshopper and several smaller ones reminds the viewer of some of the hardships farmers face. Made of fuel and oil well tanks, the large grasshopper is 40 feet tall and 50 feet long. The tall stalks of grain that stand over the smaller grasshoppers even sway in the wind. This site also had a jungle gym and small grasshoppers that children could ride.
After that came The Deer Family, which was erected in 2002 from old well tanks. The buck stands 75 feet tall and the doe is 50 feet tall. There is a metal maze next to it for visitors to enjoy. I will vouch for the large amount of deer in the area. I saw many, including one white-tailed buck that ran in front of my van on the way into Regent the day before. I also saw several along The Enchanted Highway, so keep your eyes peeled while you drive.
The final sculpture (or first if you are going north to south) is simply stunning. Set up on a hill above Gladstone, is Geese in Flight. Built in 2001, this beautiful and graceful structure made of oil well pipes and oil tanks is in the Guinness World Records as the largest scrap metal sculpture in the world. On the drive up to the sculpture, various small sculptures of geese in flight are mounted on posts on either side of the road, leading the way to the main attraction.
The next time you visit North Dakota, do not miss this wonderful outside attraction. It is well worth a detour. And don’t forget to seek out roadside attractions as you get back out on the road. (Here are five more recommendations!) You may be surprised by how much you enjoy them!