Great American Road Trip: North Dakota. Dodging pheasants in the midst of huge sculptures

Thursday afternoon we turned off of I-94 at exit 72 for Regent, North Dakota for a detour. Three years ago, we became so enamored with this stretch of two-lane road called “The Enchanted Highway” that we decided it was worth the forty or so miles out of our way for a return visit. Our goal was Billings, Montana by 10:30 p.m.

Every five miles or so along the 32 miles to Regent, there is a large scrap metal sculpture grouping. A tin family, schools of fish, grasshoppers, Teddy Roosevelt on a horse, and a pheasant family. They are the largest scrap metal sculptures in the world. They are superb.

Back in 1989, Gary Greff, a former teacher and high school principal, came up with the idea of this series of sculptures as a way to draw people to Regent. It’s worked with us twice now. The first time I heard an interview with him on National Public Radio three years ago. As I listened to the interview, I thought heading through North Dakota to see the sculptures was a fine idea.

Greff’s plan to draw tourists is slowly working. As I was snapping photos this time, two other couples were chasing images as well. One couple boasted Florida plates. The other hailed from Minnesota.

We stopped in one of the town’s gift shops to buy post cards and coffee. The sculptures were as wonderful as I remembered and Greff has plans for another.

One of the sculpture groups that intrigues me the most is the pheasant family. They are constructed out of thin wire mesh so that each can be viewed through the others. This time as we were driving to and from Regent, I understood why the pheasant family is so fitting.

There are pheasants everywhere on the Enchanted Highway. Sad to say, despite my husband’s swerving and dodging, we took out two–one of them while I was writing the text for this post. You’ve never seen so many pheasans. They darted, meandered, waltzed, and played peek-a-boo in the thigh high grass. Each time we had a near miss, I yelled out, “Argh!!”

Such are the details that make one road trip memorable from another. Years from now we’ll recount tales of how we tried to dodge pheasants and stopped the car so our 15 year-old could run through the field to try to catch one. Why she wanted to try to catch one, I have no idea. But it was wonderful to hear her laugh with abandon.