This is the tenth and final post about our family's visit to the Dakotas. I suggest reading the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth trip posts before this one. Because I blog about educational travel, I received free admission tickets, media rates, discounts, and other benefits for some of the places we visited during the trip. Other places we went are free for everyone. We paid full price for the rest. This has no bearing on my reviews. If you see any gaps in my narrative, it is because I didn't love that particular attraction, restaurant, or hotel enough to recommend it, regardless of how much I paid or didn't pay.
Fargo, North Dakota and the Long Trip Home
On Thursday, August 3 we slept in and relaxed at the hotel for a bit. We only had three places visit before our 5:00 pm flight home. What a treat to have a leisurely morning! We packed, checked out, and then drove just under a mile across the North Dakota - Minnesota border to the town of Moorhead. Our destination was the Hjemkomst Center.
The Hjemkomst Center is home to the Hjemkomst Viking Ship.
The Hjemkompst (Norwegian for 'homecoming') is a full-scale replica of a Viking ship from approximately 800 CE. What is it doing in western Minnesota? In 1971, Robert Asp decided to build this ship and sail it to his ancestral homeland in Norway.
Asp lived long enough to complete the ship, but died before it sailed. His four children and 8 others successfully sailed to Norway in 1982. This video is absolutely fascinating.
Since this was our second stave church tour in five days, we recognized this little window right away.
There are two floors of exhibits about Moorhead and Clay County at the Hjemkomst Center as well.
We crossed back into Fargo for lunch at the Sons of Norway Kringen Lodge. I'd read that it was a great place to get Norwegian dishes and that they serve excellent pie on Thursday.
It's not a conventional restaurant experience, as it is a fraternal lodge first and a restaurant second. You pick up sides and desserts from a buffet, order your entrees, pay, and sit. They bring the entrees to you when they're ready.
The decor is very Norwegian. I am not very Norwegian (Ancestry.com says 2%).
The menu changes often, so we weren't able to try some of the Norwegian dishes we were most curious about, but we did have really good food. We shared two entrees (meatballs with lingonberries and an Uff-da burger, which is a burger with onions and lingonberry sauce), chicken and wild rice soup, and two slices of pie.
See that shirt Steve is wearing? I actually made two different sets of matching t-shirts for us to wear on the trip. The second set looks like this:
Our last destination was the Fargo Air Museum. It's located next to the airport, making it a great place to visit right before we turned in our rental car.
The museum includes two large hangars with aircraft, educational displays, and more.
They were running a summer camp while we were there. The campers were having a paper airplane contest that looked like a lot of fun.
My favorite exhibit was this one about Andrew DeLaPena.
They were playing the movie in a kids' corner.
After an enjoyable visit at the Fargo Air Museum, we drove the short distance to the airport, turned in our rental car, and went to check in our baggage. We were literally the only people there. It was so weird.
One person showed up as we were leaving the area. Now instead of being the only three people in the airport, there was a fourth!
We headed to security and found this:
No passengers. No TSA agents. A big gate across the security entrance. It was baffling. Security was closed? How? Why? Now what?
We stood there for a few minutes before a TSA agent came over and said they were on break and would open up in 45 minutes or so. He guessed (correctly, because there are so few flights out of Fargo) that we were on the 5:04 flight to Denver. He told us to sit. We sat. Alone. No sign of the woman that checked her baggage. She had to have been in the Food/Lounge, Gift Shop, or outdoors the whole time; we could see the restrooms from where we were sitting and there's literally nowhere else to go.
After about 40 minutes, there were a handful of other passengers (literally 5) waiting for the security checkpoint to open. It did and we got through quickly. We went to Gate 5 (of 5) to wait for our plane. Eventually the gate area filled and it was almost time to go.
When we should have been boarding, we learned that there were storms in Denver and that we were delayed. Our connection from Denver to Sacramento was still possible, but tight. Then, a ground stop in Denver that made it impossible to catch our connection. Steve booked a later connection; there are many flights each day from Denver to Sac. Our flight was further delayed. Eventually, after 3 hours of delays, we boarded. We could make our connection, maybe, but barely....
And then as we were on the runway, the captain announced another there was another ground stop in Denver. Aargh. They turned off the fasten seatbelt sign, encouraged us to get up, and brought around snacks. The plane stayed right there on the runway; no other flights were taking off or landing any time soon. Hedging our bets that our flight would eventually go but that we couldn't catch our connection, Steve booked a hotel in Denver. We rebooked our connection for the following morning and made sure our checked luggage would come off the plane with us in Denver. Our flight did go and we landed safely around 10:00 pm local. I had not planned for Colorado to be a part of this trip, but there we were.
Our luggage was supposed to be on the carousel, but it wasn't. Our air tags showed they were indeed with us in Denver, but nowhere near baggage claim. The person at the claims desk said there was as 4-6 hour backlog in getting luggage onto the carousel. We noped out of there and waited with thousands of other stranded passengers trying to get to hotels. We finally made it around 11:30 pm. I was the only one of the three of us who had toiletries in my carry-on and none of us had a change of clothes. The hotel gave Steve and Trevor toothpaste, toothbrushes, a comb, and 5 bars of soap. (??) We crashed into bed.
And so it was that we were waiting for a shuttle to the Denver airport on Friday, August 4, wearing the same clothes as the previous day.
The airport was crowded, but we'd allowed plenty of time to get through security. We checked our air tags when we got to the airport and learned that our luggage had taken the first flight to Sacramento, beating us by many hours.
Fortunately, our flight left on time, our baggage was waiting for us in Sacramento, and our amazing friend Suzzi was there to pick us up.
Traveling home was a pain, but the trip as a whole was fantastic. We have so many great memories of our time in the Dakotas!