Enchanted Highway – Day 107

The Enchanted Highway

Day 107 – July 16, 2003 – Wednesday

It’s funny how things happen. We were pretty much in the middle of nowhere this morning as we drove down the amazing Enchanted Highway and saw the World’s Largest Metal Sculptures produced by artist Gary Greff. The car started making a funny humming noise. Within a mile, we were coasting. Transmission problem.

Fortunately, cell phones seem to work better here — probably because the terrain is so flat and there isn’t much to block the signals. Chrysler Roadside Assistance dispatched Rick and his tow truck. He hauled us into the town of Dickinson where we met Rob and the delightful group of guys working at Charbonneau Chrysler. The transmission had to be replaced, so they tried to arrange to get a new one overnighted from the nearest spot — Minneapolis (700 miles away). They were kind enough to loan us a car, so after talking with all the guys and meeting some nice folks who also had car trouble (Aaron, Shane, and their dog, Eight Ball), we headed back to the Enchanted Highway where we saw the six fabulous sculptures that stretch over a 32-mile stretch of county blacktop road. These are not just any sculptures, they are huge sculptures — some over 100 feet high.

As we pulled into the last of the sites, we saw two men painting fence posts. I hollered out to one of the men asking if he was the artist. Much to my surprise, he said yes. Bozzie Jane and I spent the rest of the day with Gary. We visited his shop and then he was kind enough to take us to his home where he showed us his latest projects. It was a fascinating day. Even more fascinating because Gary wouldn’t have been out there painting fence posts earlier in the day, so the transmission was a problem in some ways, but it enabled us to meet a number of really nice people and have a special afternoon with a very interesting and talented artist who is producing something that is truly unique.

Gary is a native of Regent, North Dakota. He was a teacher and a school principal and had never done any art work or welding prior to 1989. He then began dreaming of ways to bring people and businesses to the small community of Regent — fearing the town would someday die if it relied solely on farming. A hay bale strongman built by a farmer inspired him. He watched people pull off the road to snap photos of the oddity. He wondered how many people would stop for huge metal sculptures. He began designing, welding, and painting. The Tin Family was erected in 1991; Teddy Rides Again in 1993; Pheasants on the Prairie in 1996; Grasshoppers in the Field in 1999; Geese in Flight in 2002; and Deer Crossing in 2002. He was working on Fisherman’s Dream. In 2002, Geese in Flight was named the World’s Largest Scrap Metal Sculpture by the Guinness Book of Records.

Geese in Flight was begun in 1998 and completed in 2002. Gary chose to sculpt geese because the birds are significant to North Dakota. They fly through the state every spring and fall, migrating north or south. The geese are enjoyed by bird watchers and hunters alike. The sculpture is 110-feet high and 154-feet wide. It weighs 157,661 pounds! While this is the largest of the sculptures, they are all huge.

Gary leases the land from the farmers for $1 for 20 years with the right to renew at that point. So, the farmers in the community are behind his project. The idea of the project, obviously, was to bring tourism and people to Regent to revitalize their farming town. Gary used to be a teacher, and then he was a principal, and then he became an inventor. He worked for several years on inventing prepared, diced onions like you would buy garlic in the grocery store. The product was even chosen as one of the most inspirational products at a New York food show. But, he spent all of his life savings on the product development and didn’t have money left over for marketing and so the product has been shelved. He’s been doing the Enchanted Highway since then. Gary said he didn’t have enough money to have a website. He was hoping at some point to have a website just for the Enchanted Highway. We set up a website for him that night as a gift — www.enchantedhighway.net, and we maintain the website for him.

The Enchanted Highway is off Interstate 94 (Exit 72) approximately 20 miles east of Dickinson, North Dakota. It then extends for 32 miles south to the town of Regent. The six sculptures are spread out along the 32 miles of The Enchanted Highway.

There is no charge to see The Enchanted Highway. Gary depends solely on donations to finance his work. Please send your tax-deductible donations to Enchanted Highway, PO Box 184, Regent, ND 58650. When in Regent, be sure to visit the Enchanted Highway Gift Shop. We met Claire at the Enchanted Highway Gift Shop. The pralines and cream ice cream was very good. We also met Belinda at Gary’s home.

One of the things that’s unique about North Dakota is the grass just seems to grow everywhere; it’s like the whole place is carpeted with grass. Texas has a lot of grass, but a lot of ugly grass. North Dakota has prettier grass.

We were reminded again today of the impact of Forks in the Road. We probably would have never met Gary Greff if the transmission had not failed on our car. We were also reminded that people can do amazing things when they are committed, focused, and persevere. It was truly incredible to us that Gary has built the Enchanted Highway with little or no money.

The Daily Journal of Round America:

Each day, we collect our thoughts on a web page just like this. We drop in some of the photos from the day. Our goal with the Daily Journal is to write about the towns we visit, the sights we see, the people we meet, and the pie we eat. We write about where we are, where we’ve been, and where we are going, but we also make observations about what we’ve seen and done as well as about life in general.

You can follow our travels from the Daily Journal section of this website. Other pages of interest include the running report of “vital statistics” on the Trip Scorecard, our nominations for the Best & Worst of the trip, as well as a rating of the pie we eat. If you’d like to see information for a specific state or town, click here, and then click on the state of interest, and the full itinerary is shown.


More Information on the Sights Visited Today:
Dickinson North Dakota — The Enchanted Highway — Regent North Dakota