Saturday, July 2, 2011

Made it to Moutain Time, July 1

Chasing windmills

Made it to Mountain Time. I am on the west side of North Dakota, made it across the state yesterday, and boy is the Missouri River full of itself. But I’ll get to that. . .   Here’s a map for you to ponder:
First, I left Fargo late morning. I was frustrated with the fact that my hotel’s Internet was down, so I drove to their “sister” hotel and sat outside in my car for twenty minutes trying to get on. But no. So, never mind. Yoko and I gassed up, and the town smelled like oil, so yes, gas was a little less expensive. . $3.39 a gallon.  My mileage: 1810.  About a thousand miles to go to get to Bigfork, MT. And lots of challenges ahead. This whole trip has been one opportunity to solve problems after another.   Today. . . floods ahead. I called Minot and talked to a few hotel receptionists. The scene still sounds really bad up there regarding their flooding Souris River, so I altered my route and abandoned my Trip Tick.
Set out on I-94, and immediately was hooked on the possibility of seeing a white buffalo at the Pioneer Village in Jamestown. Something to head for.  Now I am really starting to feel like Don Quixote, because I am seeing more windmill (wind turbine, to be correct) blades being pulled by semi’s. I am sorry if you are sick of this topic. But this whole thing fascinates me. And more so later in the day. . . you’ll see why. Anyway, the sky was huge, because now I am truly in the West. And not blue, really, but all sorts of blue grays, with a big thunder storm to my south. I watch it for hours over there, with lightening zapping down out of the sky. But, it is miles away from me. In Castleton I see a schizophrenic plane, or maybe a suicidal plane, and he is buzzing power lines, just making it over them, and then going down and almost touching the ground and them popping up over more power lines on the other side of the huge fields. Oh. It’s a crop duster. You have to be mad to be a crop duster pilot. The things sprays when it’s about thirty feet from the ground, and he (or it could be a she) just flies along spraying and then takes off just in time to keep from frying on the power lines . . . OMG. I had to stop watching. There is no corn here, so I don’t know what the heck he/she is spraying.  Random canola fields. . . they are beginning to display the bright yellow that canola can achieve. . . the railroad is running parallel to I-94, and many coal cars heading east. Many. We are such consumers of coal, you have no idea. It’s so flat here it’s like looking across a table. I see a grove of cottonwood trees about a mile off, and I can see the sky on the other side of the tree trunks. My camera would never get the shot, so I didn’t try. You have to use your mind’s eye. The sky is full of water, I know it’s going to fall soon. The speed limit is 75, so naturally, everyone is going 85. I haven’t seen a Prius for several states. Hardly a green car in sight, except for a Ford Escape here and there. Toyotas are beginning to be scarce. . . this is true America.
About 40 miles from Fargo, I begin to see the rounding hills which mean there are large wetlands between them. Huge puddles, now, after their rainy spring. I see a bird in the water that I swear is a pelican. It could be, right?  Probably not. It was not a crane, his bill was far too thick. Pelican in North Dakota. I swear.  Go ahead, look up some bird and educate me.
All right , now here I am in corporate farm America.  Miles and miles of fields and groups of huge silos here and there, but nary a farm house to behold. Huge combine dealership at one obscure rural exit that has no services. Except for a combine dealership.
I come to a sign Just before the white buffalo exit (her name is White Cloud), and it says Continental Divide, elevation 1490 feet. I believe the elevation. But not the Continental Divide part. I think that is way west out near where I’m heading in Montana. I’ve been to the Continental Divide in Glacier National Park, so how could it be here, unless it runs sideways for awhile. Maybe it does. Another question to ponder for awhile.
OK, I stopped at Pioneer Village. The sun was not beating down on the car, the sky was trying to rain, and I felt like Yoko would not cook in the car if I got out and looked for the white buffalo. It turns out that this little town of Jamestown, ND, is where many books were written. Look at my pictures, you will see who I mean as an author.

I think I read one of his books, and now may read another. There are lots of old vintage buildings here hauled in from around the county. It all seems so small against the hugeness of the sky. And those wind turbine blades I keep following. We have become a society that needs everything to be huge. White Cloud must have been chewing her cud down in the draw, near the creek. She wouldn’t come out of the tree grove, so I got no pictures. I bought a post card. The best thing about Pioneer Village today was the stagecoach. . . actually, it was the matched team of draft horses that trotted everywhere they went in perfect step. All this I oberserved in twenty minutes. I am a quick tourist. Time to get crackin’ again. . .
We come to a huge wetland that would like to cover the road. The highway department has put some kind of blow up barrier there, must have some sand in it. Everyone is trusting it and driving down to three feet below the water’s elevation. I do, too.  That’s nothing. Just a puddle. The signs say Kidder County and Crystal Springs Lake. 

driving below water level at a wetland

Yes, I am obsessed with windmill blade transportation

And I hit Bismarck, capitol of the state. Lots of exits to take, everything huge again.  The Missouri River is waaaay over its banks. But luckily the highway is built up over it. I just wiz through. I stop for gas, get 9 gallons. I am obsessing, I do not want my gas tank to get below half full in these wide open spaces. I am at 2007 miles. So, almost 200 miles, almost 9 gallons of gas. I’m getting about 20 miles to the gallon in my little old (ten years old) Highlander, and that’s not bad, since I am pushing it to the max.
Post Bismark. . . hills beautiful hills. Big huge swirly clouds, grayish blue sky. Off in the distance, I see it!  My first western windfarm.  It must be fifteen miles off. It cannot bother anyone, there are no houses between here and God. It is over there capturing this wind that has been blowing me around forever. But what city will benefit? I hope Bismarck. Jim says the power melts away if it has to be transmitted hundreds and thousands of miles. I can see that.
So, to my left, New Salem, with a huge cow statue standing up on a butte. On the right (north) windfarm.
I stop at the last small city in ND before the state line and call around for hotels. Nothing. It’s the fourth of July weekend, and lots of rodeos, etc. The country people are all in town. I call my son-in-law who is up in the oil town of Williston, putting together a pizza emporium. He says give me f 15 minutes. He calls me back. . . has a room for me in Williston. I head north. I am OFF THE INTERSTATE.
So you have all heard of the Bakken Oil Fields. You use oil that comes from here. Sure you do.
I am driving up the east side of the Teddy Roosevelt National Grasslands state park, ( and the rough-riders are driving trucks all around me like maniacs. Full of oil, gravel, huge tanks, whatever. They all go about 70. They push the poor tourists along like a tidal wave. There is only one land on each side of the highway. There are no guard rails when we go up over a section of the badlands. 
Yoko breathing fresh air in the Badlands. . . trucks wizzing by.

It is as thrilling as a roller coaster ride. My windshield keeps getting hit with rocks falling off the trucks coming towards me. Now this used to be a wonderful grasslands area, with farms along the highway. It still is. Except now there is all this oil sucking going on, always was, in fact, but they have stepped it up with fracking. I pass campgrounds that are set up for housing. There are actual trailer encampments everywhere. The green fields full of steer are sharing acreage with huge tanks and busy little oil wells. 

The gravel roads that cut squarely off the highway are full of these heavy trucks, making huge dust storms as they roll along not slowing down. When they pull out onto the highway, they are covered with dust. You can see sheets of dust hanging straight over these straight line roads as they go out to the horizon and the oil wells beyond. I see no windmills. My hands are not clean, I am driving, ain’t I?
So this goes on for about a hundred miles. I stop at a scenic over look and let a train of trucks behind me go by. They fly down the mountain so fast I cannot believe they actually make the turns. A touring motorcyclist who took the time to come up the east side of the grasslands drives by, his eyes popping out. He is followed closely by a 16 wheeler. It does not mix, the summer camper tourists and these huge truckers with their Star Wars mentality. I see no park rangers anywhere. I think they are hiding.
Approaching Williston, I cross the Missouri River again. 

This time it it almost up over the road. I imagine it will wash the road out soon if more rain comes down. But the truckers just plow on, so no stopping. I shoot pictures out of the bug splattered windshield. In reverence to the river, and also the traffic signs, we have slowed down to 45 mph. I am here in Williston, Rough Rider capitol of the USA (sorry Texas). More men here than women, ten to one. And they work hard. All day. Applebee’s Restaurant is full of  muscle men. No fat people here, not that I can see. OMG- Americans do have muscles. If they work. And it’s all lush and pretty houses (no for sale signs at all).  And the city is nice, and you would never know the crazy route I just drove over to get here. Except, look there, at all those trucks parked outside every hotel. Good thing I knew someone who could get me a room, and now I am going to go look at his new pizza place. He’s going to make a fortune, I hope.


Claire said...

Irene, Thanks for sharing your journey. I'm enjoying your observations of the heartland.
Julian wanted to know how fast you were driving with Yoko on the hood! A happy 4th where ever you and Yoko may be. Cheers, Claire

Slow Boater said...

Time for a smudgin with all that sage...

Slow Boater said...

Congratulations honey on making it there! The pics look soooo beautiful