7/2/2014 – 335 mi – MN to ND
We stayed in the hotel a bit in the morning to use the wi-fi to take care of a bit of business, and were on the road 9:30 in sunny weather. Here we go across the plains; flat, straight, fast, and windy. I might, just might, see the appeal of a cruiser out here. Found a nice spot for a picnic lunch just off the highway at the park below.
My mosquito murdering program is going to plan.
Crossed into North Dakota on route 2, which we’ve more or less been on since entering the UP in Michigan. At a rest stop just east of Rugby, ND, we met a guy named Andrew having a break at one of the picnic tables. Andrew was on final stretch of a walking around the world journey. He’d been walking for over two years, and was about three weeks from home. The poor boy just wanted to eat his lunch, and we bombarded him with questions and listened to his stories for over an hour. He had a push kart to hold his stuff fabricated out of rebar in Kazakhstan, with those plastic covered foam roller wheels, that were worn down to just the foam, and losing diameter daily. Even though Kazakhstan was flatter, straighter, and bigger, windier, and more boring than walking across north Dakota (A German tourist who learned of his plan to walk it said it would be “a meditation”), he still liked it best for its people. He didn’t have to spend any money, because people would just take him in every night and feed him. He doesn’t blog, but his friends maintain a facebook page for him. This guy is definitely a wanderer and traveler; he has also bicycled through South America to Ushuaia, and canoed down the Mississippi. I think he’s about our age, maybe younger. He’s planning to write a book. I’ll buy it, he’s definitely made interesting life choices. We really enjoyed talking with him, and it was a very cool chance encounter.
Met up with my cousin Ryan at a Mexican restaurant in Minot ND for dinner. Ryan joined the air force to see the world, and has been stuck in Minot for 4 years. Minot is a bit out of the way to get visitors, so I was fun to stop in. It sounds like he may get to re-locate somewhere else soon. After dinner, we headed to the first campsite just out of town. It was a commercial campsite mostly for RVers, but there was an area for tents, and $15 got a site with a picnic table, and access to the nice bathrooms, and wif-fi, so not too bad. An older gentleman came over to ask about our trip, said it was something he’d really like to do, and that he has a classic BMW motorcycle. He’s touring around in his truck hauling a giant box trailer that’s carrying his ultralight airplane. The wings fold back, and it barely fits in the trailer. He’s traveling with his wife and brother, and their two poodles. They look like they are having a good time. Another guy stopped by our campsite who used to work on the Alaska pipeline. He told us we would love Alaska, a few places we needed to go, and how when he decided to visit Alaska, he didn’t leave for a few decades. His son lives there now, and is visiting ND to see the “oil patch”. He warned of the population and crime explosion in Williston, where we were considering going tomorrow. Even in Minot, signs of the oil boom are everywhere. Some of the campers at this park are clearly not here for recreation, with commercial vehicles labeled with all manner of oil related services. It’s still a bit light out even at 10:30 at night.
7/3/2014 – 352 mi – ND to Saskatchewan, Canada
North Dakota = Flooding, nukes, missile silos, and the oil boom on the prairie. We spent morning trying to ship the handgun to AK, since we aren’t allowed to carry it through Canada. No luck. Turns out the franchise UPS stores won’t ship handguns, only the actual UPS shipping centers will, which are open 1 hour per day, from 5-6pm. Since we didn’t want to hang out in Minot all day, we decided to go ahead and visit Teddy Roosevelt National Park after-all. Headed west so we could at least get a few miles on today, and decided to try and ship out of Williston instead. Route 23 is like a microcosm of all of ND. There were many small shallow lakes visible from the road, which apparently hadn’t been there before the major flood event four years ago. The farmland is dotted with them, and you can see power poles, fences, and where there used to be roads in what is now a lake. The power lines are still active, I just have no idea how the utility maintains them anymore. There were also several missile silos visible from the road, and we saw at least one military Humvee on patrol from the air force base. We knew about the oil boom in ND that has grown over the last two years, but we didn’t know exactly where it was. As it happens, it’s located everywhere within about a 100 mile radius of Williston. Had we known what we were getting into, we would have avoided it at all costs. It’s insane. The heavy trucks and equipment are everywhere, and the population growth really is incredible. We passed site after site of fracking and oil drilling. It’s dusty, noisy, and busy, and supposedly getting a bit dangerous, especially if you are female. It was a relief to finally reach the National Park, and enjoy a picnic lunch in peace with views of the incredible landscape. The dramatic badlands topography just seems to appear out of nowhere, and is quite a contrast to the flat, droning miles leading up to it.
After riding through the northern part of the park, we made it to Williston by 4:30 after endless miles of construction. After some effort, we managed to get the handgun shipped to Alaska. Maybe we’ll see it again when we get there. By that point in the day, we just wanted to get as far away from North Dakota as possible, and headed straight for the border. Despite dealing with congestion, riding through oil boom country was memorable enough to make us glad we saw it.
Below is US85 in ND. Naturally, it was under construction, and was entirely unpaved for about 20 miles.
Crossing into Canada was no problem. We landed at a campground in town in Weyburn, Saskatchewan. Our route today looks like an etch-a-sketch drawing, full of straight lines. About 2200 mi so far this trip.
7/4/2014 – 442 mi – Saskatchewan to Alberta
Unsurprisingly, southern SK is pretty much like ND, but maybe more sparse. We crossed into Alberta on the Trans-Canada highway, route 1. Even with nearly 200 mi range on the fuel tanks, we still have to pay some attention to fuel stops here, and get it when it’s available.
Rest stop below in town. We’re in Canada now, so of course we have to go to Tim Horton’s, or “Timmy’s.”
The land just barely starts to be occasionally hilly when crossing into AB, but the road is still boring. At least the weather is nice.