No matter what our plans, every day I try to find something a little bit weird or unique for us to see or do. It doesn’t work out every single day, but more often than not I can spice things up just a little bit for fun. That’s how we ended up in Rugby, ND.
Rick turned us on to a whimsical marker in Rugby. Lore has it that once upon a time someone decided to cut the shape of North America out of a piece of cardboard. For a reasons that are completely unknown, that person then decided to balance it on a pin. In theory, that balance point is kinda sorta maybe the geographical center of the continent.
That unscientific data point was allegedly backed up by a geologic survey in 1931.
Of course I thought we ought to stop and see it.
In addition to such a novel attraction, the city also boasts a free campground. No kidding – for real. Free sites with electric and potable water in the fairgrounds. Level grass spots. Fenced in safe area. There’s even a little playground for the kids. North Dakota is kind of epic in some ways.
It was raining off and on and by all accounts a grey day. We made the call to park early, set up camp and spend the afternoon hunting for the marker.
Rugby is a lovely little spot with some charming character in the old part of the town and hints at it’s wild west days. The trains are active. Since that’s still new to us, it’s fun to hear the horns.
The monument was on the edge of town and easy to find.
What surprised us was actually BESIDE the monument. We would have missed it entirely if it weren’t for a rather unremarkable sign in the parking lot. It read, “Another interesting stop before you leave the monument is the Native American writing rock located at the northwest corner of the building adjacent to the monument. The rock may be small but its history offers a tall tale. The rock, said to have been made by early Native Americans, is carved with imprints of the human hand, an owl, bear paws and more.”
My first thought, “Am I on Candid Camera?” I’m looking at a rock cairn of dubious authenticity and there’s a real ancient Native American art stone somewhere? This isn’t right.
Turns out, it’s true. The stone, if it’s the real deal, is incredible. It is literally beside a small strip mall. You’d never find it if you weren’t looking for it.
How did they carve the stones like that?! Without the tools we have today?! It’s a question that stays with me after Cairo and Machu Picchu and Tikal. How in the hell….?!?! And drawing into a stone is new for me.
In summary, Rugby, ND is generous and worth an overnight. The monument is cool and probably, maybe, close to the geographical center of North America. The Native American art stone is awesome and worth a stop entirely on it’s own if it’s real. Great overnight.