I drove the four hour drive back from Dickinson to Fargo, where I would spend my last night before flying back home. Fargo is North Dakota’s largest city and along with Moorhead, Minnesota separated by the Red River makes up the metropolitan area. When I first landed at Hector International Airport, I immediately grabbed my rental car and headed west. So my last night in North Dakota, I wanted to explore Fargo before heading home.
After checking in at the hotel, I went to the Fargo Air Museum located near Hector International Airport. It sits right across from the Fargodome, which is where the North Dakota State University Bison football team plays their home games. The museum is easily recognizable by the large US missile standing erect outside. As I pulled into the parking lot, I was stopped at the entrance where a man wearing a traffic vest wanted me to pay $10 to park. I was flabbergasted when he asked me to pay. That was until I found out that my visit to the air museum just happened to be on the same day that NDSU was playing their first home football game of the year. They use the parking lot since it is directly across from the Fargodome. When he realized that I was just there to visit the museum, I was allowed to park without paying.
Although it is free to park, there is an $8 admission fee. The museum has a nice collection of flying and static aircraft. Some of their flying aircraft consists of the P-51D Mustang, known as the best fighter plane of WWII. There is a F4U Corsair, which was also used in WWII as well as Korea. The plane is known for its gull wings which can be folded in. There is a Grumman TBM Avenger which was a torpedo bomber in WWII. There are only about thirty Avengers that are still airworthy. There is a Douglas DC-3 that has its own website. "Duggy…The Smile in the Sky" could be considered the mascot of the Air Museum. It travels often to air shows and educational programs. It gets its name from the big grin on the nose of the aircraft. There is also a nice selection of static aircraft such as a Huey Army Helicopter, B-25 Bomber, and a full scale replica of the Wright Flyer.
As I walked out to my vehicle, I noticed that the parking lot was filling up very fast with tailgaters. I decided to drive through the campus before it got too crowded. I made it halfway through the campus before traffic was stopped due to the Bison Marching Band playing the fight song as they marched toward the stadium. NDSU fans take their football very seriously as I quickly realized. It makes sense considering how successful the program has been, where they have won eight national titles in Division II.
I then paid a visit to Fargo’s most famous son, Roger Maris, who has a museum dedicated to him in the West Acres Shopping Mall. (There is a separate article on the museum itself.) Visiting museums make me hungry and thirsty so I set out to find a place to eat. I found JL Beers in downtown Fargo which serves hamburgers and has a large selection of draft beers. There are four JL Beers in the area, downtown Fargo, West Fargo, Moorhead, Minnesota, and Grand Forks, about an hour north. There is one in Sioux Falls, South Dakota that just opened and one is coming soon in Bismarck.
JL Beers offers the classic hamburger along with the Humpty Dumpty served with an egg, JL Burger served with grilled onions, cheese, and special sauce, BLT BLU served with bacon, lettuce, tomato and blue cheese, and many others or you can customize your own. For sides, you can choose fresh cut fries or chips. The beer selection is phenomenal especially if you prefer local and microbrews. They have 32 different beers on tap from light pale ales to dark stouts. They also have a selection of 40 different imported bottles and 14 domestic can beers. The food is excellent and the beer is ice cold, but the only problem is perhaps getting a seat. Their website touts that they have seating for 1,000 people but only 24 at a time. That must be their stab at humor. I got there just in time to get a seat. By the time I left, there was a line outside the door.
It was a fun filled trip that was very educational and it allowed me to mark one more state off on my list of states still to visit. I don’t know when I will ever get back to North Dakota, but perhaps I will check out some of the other less known areas and hopefully be surprised as I was on this trip.