Why Not Minot – Day 113

Why Not Minot?

Day 113 – July 22, 2003 – Tuesday

The North Dakota State Fair in Minot, North Dakota today, and an underground missile silo! Our day took us from Minot to East Grand Forks, Minnesota — state #32.

Barbara spoke with a woman at the Comfort Inn desk this morning. In the 40’s and 50’s, her father helped build quite a few of the underground missile silos in the area. None of them are actually in Minot; they’re in outlying areas along the highways. She said people drive past them all day long and have no idea they’re there. Most of them have fence areas around them. They almost all have slight mounds. They all have markers that are green with letters and numbers, like A52. She said you just kind of have to know what you’re looking for. Some of them have ventilation things that come up out of the ground, and those are easier to spot. She mentioned that we passed two coming in from Stanley along the highway, but we didn?t know at the time. So, we’re going to continue to look today and find some.

We started the day by visiting the Scandinavian Heritage Park in Minot. Most of the folks in this part of the country are of Scandinavian descent. The center includes a 230-year-old house from Sigdal, Norway; Stabbur, one of Norway’s finest storehouses; international flag display; Danish windmill; the Sondre Norheim Eternal Flame; Leif Ericksson statue; Sondre Norheim Statue (Norheim is the father of modern skiing); Casper Oimoen statue (Oimoen is an Olympic ski jumper); replica of the Gol Stave Church; a visitors information center; waterfall; and an authentic Finnish sauna. The Scandinavian Heritage Park is very nicely done, and we enjoyed seeing the various sights there. As an extra-added attraction, the nice lady who helped us at the Information Center had that strong accent that many of the actors used in the movie “Fargo.”

62 pounds of accumulated brochures, hotel shampoo bottles, bedside table ballpoint pens, and the like were shipped back to Atlanta by Barb at Pac ‘N Ship of Minot.

Brook and Rod helped us with parking near the North Dakota State Fairgrounds. We met Scott, Monte, Blaise, Tina, and Alex at the main entrance; Kendra and her cow, Daisy, at the 4H barn; Joan at the Racing Pigs arena; Breanna, Julie, Jessie, and Roman at the First Lutheran Church Pie Booth; Becky and Jimmy at the Pie in the Sky Cafe; and Debbie and Linda at the exit.

The North Dakota State Fair was fun to see. We met quite a few people. We walked around and saw the usual state fair stuff — animal pavilions, midway, children’s area, exhibit buildings, and the food area. We basically grazed our way up and down the food concessions. Hot dogs, tacos, cokes, lemonade, and pie! We had an excellent Peach Pie at the First Lutheran Church Pie Booth. We had our first ever Creme Brulee Pie at the Pie in the Sky Cafe Booth. Jimmy and his wife, Becky, own Pie in the Sky Cafe, and they travel to fairs and big events operating their mobile pie kitchen. They are from Arkansas.

Alan Jackson, Alice Cooper, and Ted Nugent were performing at the fair this year, and we had beads ready for them, but we didn’t happen to run into them. For more information on the North Dakota State Fair, see www.ndstatefair.com.

Back in the car chewing on Rolaids as a North Dakota State Fair precaution.

Minot is known for its Missile Air Force Base, which is just northwest of town. In the Cold War years, Minot led the nation as the big ICBM Base. The missile silos are scattered all across this area — not just at the base. We asked just about everyone we met in Minot to tell us how we could find some of the underground missile silos. We received a uniform description of what the sites looked like, and we THINK we found one. We snapped a photo from a distance. We were told we would not be able to get a tour down in a silo, so in an uncharacteristic move, we didn’t even try.

We obtained the following information from the Commander of the 91st Space Wing at Minot Air Force Base:

“Minot AFB is headquarters for the 91st Space Wing, one of the Air Force’s three operational missile units. The mission of the 91st SW, whose members are known as the Rough Riders, is to defend the United States with safe, secure intercontinental ballistic missiles, ready to immediately put bombs on target, while deactivating remote sites at Grand Forks AFB, N.D. The 91 SW is an element of 20th Air Force, headquartered at F.E. Warren AFB Wyo., which is a component of Air Force Space Command, located at Peterson AFB, Colo. The on-alert missiles assigned to the 91st SW are under the operational control of the nation’s strategic war-fighting command, U.S. Strategic Command, headquartered at Offutt AFB Neb.

“Minuteman missiles provide a quick-reacting, highly survivable element to America’s strategic triad. The Minuteman weapon system is the safest, most reliable and maintainable ballistic missile system in the United States. In 1963, Minot AFB became the nation’s third operational Minuteman base, with deployment of the Minuteman I missile. Today’s Minuteman III weapon system is the product of almost 30 years of continuous enhancement. The Minuteman III replaced the Minuteman I in 1971 — the 91st SW was the first wing in the Air Force to receive the Minuteman III. The Minuteman III is a three-stage, solid-fuel ICBM. It has the capability to carry three independently targetable reentry vehicles armed with strategic weapons. Four sets of three targets can be stored in the missile’s guidance system. A hallmark of the weapon system is that assigned crews can remotely retarget each missile. A tested system of authentication codes and hardware safeguards ensures Minuteman missiles cannot be launched without valid direction of the National Command Authority.

“The wing controls 150 Minuteman III missiles, located over an 8,500 square mile area in north central North Dakota, approximately the same size as the state of Massachusetts. Each missile is located in an unmanned remote site called a launch facility. All LFs are located at least three nautical miles apart and situated in unpopulated areas. The missiles are housed in hardened underground silos. Each launch facility has all the equipment needed to maintain the missile in a ready-to-launch condition. All activities at the LFs are monitored and controlled from remote, manned launch control centers.

“Located in each LCC, missile combat crews comprised of two officers operate in 24-hour alert tours. During the tour, the crew controls the 10 missiles assigned to their flight, and has the capability to monitor and control an entire squadron of 50 missiles. Launch control centers are interconnected by hardened, buried, wire, cable communications links used by the combat crews for status reporting, coordination of missile programming and launch actions. Thus, each crew can launch any missile in its squadron, not just the missiles in its flight.

“Each LCC is part of a missile alert facility. The wing’s 15 MAFs are comprised of a topside facility, which is continually manned by a minimum of eight people, and an underground complex consisting of an LCC and an underground support building.

“The wing has approximately 1,500 operations, maintenance, security, and support personnel working together to keep missiles on alert. The wing is made up of two groups, the 91st Logistics Group and the 91st Maintenance Group. Five squadrons, a helicopter flight and a standardization/evaluation division are assigned to the 91st Operations Group. Three squadrons and a quality assurance section are assigned to the 91st Logistics Group. In addition, the special staff functions of manpower and quality, financial management, safety, and history are assigned under the director of staff. The plans and inspections office reports to the wing vice commander.”

For more information, see http://www.strategic-air-command.com/bases/Minot_AFB.htm.

Needless to say, Minot is a very patriotic area with a lot of flags. That’s always the way we’ve seen it to be in and around military installations.

It seems that the city of Minot once used a slogan to promote the city: “Why Not Minot?” Unfortunately, the slogan was about as successful as “Lucky Me, I Live in Lubbock,” where the Texas Tech students laughed and have referred to the local residents as “Lucky Me’s” ever since. In answer to “Why Not, Minot?” a U.S. Air Force officer told us the answer: “Freezin’s the reason.” We understand this is a very popular T-shirt at the Air Force Base. Temperatures below zero are common and temperatures reaching minus 60 degrees occur regularly in the winter months. He said he had seen it as high as 104 degrees in the summer and as low as wind chill minus 102 in the winter of the same year. We sure hope Louisiana Tiffany knows what she has gotten herself into.

From what we believe was a missile silo just outside Minot, we drove to Rugby, North Dakota.

We toured downtown McGillacuddy City USA (Granville, North Dakota) and took a photo of the bank and the Shady Eye Saloon.

There’s not much but highway and a few small towns from Rugby over to the state line.

Rugby has the Geographical Center of North America, and we took a photo of the cairn that marks the spot. In January 1931 this location was established by the United States Geographical Survey. There are three new flagpoles representing each of the countries making up North America — Canada, United States, and Mexico.

We visited the Pioneer Museum in Rugby. It cost $10 to get in. That was a little steep, but we figured it was a donation for a worthy cause. We met Marlene at the Prairie Village and Museum. She ran out as we were sneaking out to make sure we had a good time. We told her we did (but it certainly was not what you call a world class museum; it was a nice assortment of antiques gathered from local people to give a representation of pioneer things.)

Across Montana, North and South Dakota, Barbara has resisted every attempt on my part to get her to eat a buffalo burger. I was hoping that maybe at the last little bit of North Dakota we could get a buffalo burger for her, but my efforts failed.

There just wasn’t much to see on the road in eastern North Dakota.

We drove around the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. It’s a beautiful campus, and the Ralph Engelstad (hockey) arena is unbelievable! It looks like one of the finest professional sports stadiums in the country rather than a university stadium. The folks here are really proud of it, and rightly so. Home of the Fighting Sioux.

The Red River (which we long-time Texans think of us only being in Texas) divides Grand Forks, North Dakota from East Grand Forks, Minnesota.

We enjoyed dinner at Whitey’s Cafe in East Grand Forks. We met owner, Greg Stennes, and manager, Val. Whitey’s has quite a history — dates back to 1925. East Grand Forks was a saloon town in the early years. North Dakota was “dry” back then, so the liquor trade developed on the Minnesota side of the river. Edwin “Whitey” Larson was just 19 years old when he decided to get in on the action and opened a place that sold bootleg alcohol and an occasional hot dog. After several successful years, Whitey purchased a larger building, and in 1930, he built the first stainless steel horseshoe bar in the United States. The place was called “Whitey’s Wunderbar.” The art deco design of the bar was featured in both the Saturday Evening Post and Time Magazine. Whitey’s survived a 1942 fire and the terrible flood of 1997, when nearly six feet of water covered the main floor. The famed Wunderbar and art deco interior were saved along with many of the artifacts, and Whitey’s rebuilt three doors up the block from the destroyed building. See www.whiteyscafe.com.

I had walleye for the first time. It’s a specialty at Whitey’s, and I figured that was a must after we saw the World’s Largest Walleye in Garrison yesterday. Bozzie Jane had Honey Dijon Chicken with Pasta. We enjoyed our meals and seeing photos from before and during the flood, and we really enjoyed speaking with Greg and Val.

The 1997 flood was caused by unprecedented winter snowfall, and the flood has had a tremendous impact on the two “Grand” towns. After dinner, we drove around to see signs of the flood and fire — water marks on old buildings, vacant lots and parks where old buildings used to be, and plenty of current construction down by the river where lots have been vacant since shortly after the flood. We walked across the main bridge, and when we looked down at the water many, many feet below, it was hard to imagine that the water rose to a level even higher than the bridge roadway. We saw the restored Empire Theatre and a few other sights that folks told us to be sure to see.

Heather helped us at the Fairfield Inn. Minnesota is state #32.

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 web site. 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:
Minot North Dakota — Scandinavian Heritage Park — North Dakota State Fair — Underground Missile Silos — Grand Forks North Dakota — Whitey’s Cafe