I did manage to get some sleep in the parking lot at Love’s last night. Got started out early for the home stretch through Montana.
Apparently Williston is the hub for the Bakken activity, sure seems like a typical boomtown, lots of construction, motel room monthly rates of $3000, LOTS of modular housing up and going up, lots of “Lodges” for the workers, and everywhere one can be squeezed in, 5th wheels and travel trailers, some not in very good shape. A lot of the worker housing simply looks desperate and depressing, but I am sure the money is good. There seems to be a definite “Wild West “attitude on the roads ( that I am sure also applies to the many bars, clubs, and casinos that have sprung up everywhere ) so I don’t think I would want to be in law enforcement in these here parts.
About 20 miles west of Williston, the oil field craziness starts to peter out and you enter Montana, still oil pads here and there, but the traffic ceases and the road drops back to a two lane highway. Not too far into Montana there is a short 2 mile stretch of serious road construction, widening from two to four lanes a short stretch of Route 2. It is completely torn up, and after the rains, a quagmire of black soup and potholes, slick mud for a couple of miles. Great, I now have a coat of black glaze over my red clay base on my poor Prius.
Ain’t no deer and the antelope playing hereabouts
After that nasty bit of construction, Route 2 through Montana is a flat, some would say boring landscape of farmland, pastureland and small, somewhat depressing forgotten towns. I happen to enjoy the trip, constantly scanning for pronghorn antelope. This 900 mile trip on Route 2 through North Dakota and Montana did not yield even one sighting of deer or antelope. Guess I can figure how the oil rush would drive out any wildlife through North Dakota, but I am curious about the absence here in Montana, as this is the first time ever I have travelled these states without a sighting.
Hit a nasty stretch of pea soup thick fog that had me clutching the steering wheel for 10 miles
but finally the fog lifted, the sun came out and the Route 2 I remembered from years ago reappeared.
Word of warning, fellow RV’ers, you will encounter very few welcoming (meaning appealing) campgrounds or other places to overnight on this long stretch of Montana Route 2. I was growing desperate for a place to stay as I passed through Harve, having already spent a long day on the road. There is a “Rest Area” in Chester, about half way between Harve and Shelby, that is a paved parking lot dead in the center of town, not a terribly welcoming spot.
There happened to be a nice lady mowing the grass around the area on her John Deere, so I asked if people were allowed to overnight there, she said some do, but then nicely directed me to the city park, “city” being her term. Turns out it was a nice quiet gravel parking lot next to the school football field adjacent to the wheat fields at the edge of town, where I managed to spend a pleasant, quiet evening and get some much needed sleep.
Route 2, Turtle River State Park to Williston, North Dakota
Many years ago, on my very first trip west to Glacier National Park, I decided to avoid the Interstates and travel the back roads to better appreciate the local landscapes and small towns on the way. I always remembered Route 2 through North Dakota for its broad expanses of farmland and pastures punctuated by all the many pot hole ponds along the roadside. Grazing cattle, horses and pronghorn antelope, along with many species of ducks, geese, white pelicans, and coots dotting the ponds made the trip memorable, and I have always longed to retrace that route. Today, I did just that.
My advice to all of you out there, do NOT make the same mistake I did today. That Route 2 of distant memory is just that – a distant memory.
This image may look to you like a scene from the great HBO western time piece series Deadwood, but, if you look closer you would recognize it as a stretch of Route 2 today through the small town of Ray.
And this image also is not from Deadwood, but actually is an oil field trucker teaching a poor RV’er some road etiquette ( the Rv’er’s mistake was daring to travel at the speed limit on a 20 mile section of Route 2 limited to two lanes due to construction – I promise I won’t do it again!) .
Wow! I actually was quite aware of the oil boomtown area called the Bakken. In fact, I have a fair amount of my retirement funds invested in companies doing business here, thus I had a natural curiosity about just how big a deal this oil field area really was and wanted to actually see it firsthand. Big mistake! I would advise anyone traveling by RV to avoid Route 2 through this region at all costs. The oil field truckers and workers in their pickups do not seem too anxious to share their road with you, believe me. And you really shouldn’t be too anxious to share it with them either.
I had the misfortune to travel between Minot and Williston during some fairly nasty, rainy weather and my motorhome and Toad look just a little worse than they did many years ago when I drove the Haul Road in Alaska up to Prudoe Bay, about an inch of rich red clay caked entirely over both. When the oil tankers come out of the oil fields along the red clay (dirt) roads and enter Route 2 (without really worrying much about whether an RV may be coming along at 60 mph), they tend to bring quite a bit of the clay with them, especially so on a nice rainy day like today. So, for about a half mile after each intersection with an oil field road, there is about a 3 inch deep slop of red clay soup on the pavement that you have to slip and slide through as you try to brake to avoid rear ending the afore mentioned oil field tanker truck, who is slowly accelerating in front of you and throwing up a bright red spray of this red clay soup to coat your windshield. Really not a fun experience!
Now I realize that oil patch boomtowns are by their very nature chaotic and messy, all the new construction. road building and upgrading are not accomplished without some disruption to the status quo. While approaching Minot, I pulled into a truck stop for gas and figured I had better do a Google map search for where I might be able to spend the night. There are no rest areas or pulloffs along this entire stretch of road, and campgrounds that may have existed prior to the Bakken, now are overrun with oil field workers, so that doesn’t appear to be an option. I Googled for truckstops around Williston, hoping I could safely make it that far in the now heavy downpour.
What I got is shown here below.
Now, I don’t know when Google actually took this satellite shot, obviously some time ago, Maybe a year ago, or two or three. The balloon shows a Love’s Truckstop. The image shows entirely something else, I believe it is an oil pump and storage pad.! I hoped that the truckstop actually was there and the satellite image was just a little outdated.
Arriving at the intersection shown on the map, I can say for certain that the image was a little outdated. After waiting over 4 minutes at the intersection’s traffic light to cycle through so I could make my left turn onto the road to the new Love’s, I drove the 100 yards or so to the auto entrance to Love’s, circled the large parking lot, and, unable to find a place to stop, left, went another 200 yards down the road to the “truck ONLY” parking area, circled this LARGE truck parking area, and exited that also, just too crowded and a little intimidating with absolutely no other RV’ers there and that forbidding “trucks only” sign. Down the hill a little I spied what at first looked like another desperate possibility, a very large truckers’ hotel and parking area where i spied a few motorhomes and travel trailers. Driving down, I could see the pavement end and a sea of soup begin where the aforementioned vehicles were parked in what turned out to be numbered spaces, obviously long term oil field hands spaces.
Just across the road from Love’s there is a large housing complex (for workers probably), maybe a hundred or so small separate metal units, kind of like a cross between a small mobile home and a Quonset hut, The entire complex is surrounded with a six foot security fence and gated. Above that complex is a huge temporary storage arena with rows of low slung metal storage buildings. And on the Google map, all that shows here is a small undeveloped equipment parking lot.
Instead of horses, cattle, and wildlife, the only thing you notice along the route today are the oil field pads, with their storage tanks, gas flareoffs, and pumps, and there are a lot of them. Hey, I guess i’m glad that we are getting that oil here rather than from the Mideast, and this new American oil boom may be about all that just might save our bacon from our greedy, short sighted, money printing selves ( I said “may be”, I can hope, can’t I?).
The final word, forget Route 2, take the Interstate, it actually, definitely, will be more scenic. And faster. And cleaner, too.
Weather turned very grey yesterday afternoon and continues so this morning. Had planned to venture on across N. Dakota today, but since I have good internet coverage here and I really prefer traveling across new country with nice weather, I decided to renew my site here at Turtle River S. P. and work on the blog and give the dogs a much needed bath today and will hit the road tomorrow with better weather in the forecast.
Sun came out around 2 but stuck with the plan and got the motorhome housekeeping done and processed all images taken to date, including a couple more Cedar Waxwings I snuck out to the entrance to get today.
Also got a couple of quick shots of a visitor to the campsite across from me. In addition to the birds in the park, I also saw several does with fawns along the river early each morning. Really a very pleasant place to stay.
Since I don’t have any decent Cedar Waxwing shots in my image gallery, I headed out first thing in the morning to the park entrance road where I had previously noticed them hunting insects over the pond by the side of the road. I naively was hoping to get close enough for some flight shots, but that idea went out the window rather quickly and I soon was trying to figure how to get them to land in resting perches close enough, as well as out of dense foliage, that I could at least get some closeup still shots. Took a little patience but I was rewarded with a few decent shots after spending about two hours plus in the effort.
After finding my back road birding venture yesterday rather interesting, I figured I would try another of the routes this morning. Well, this one was a complete washout. As I said before, early August is not the time to be doing this, most of the action is in the spring and fall. On the way back to the campground, I figured I may as well go back to the Kelley Slough area I visited yesterday and check on the White Pelicans. Well, now I see how they survive out here, as clearly they don’t depend on this one body of water to survive. Of the several hundred that were here yesterday afternoon, only 3 or 4 individuals were puttering around the pond today. What were here today in large numbers were ducks, not sure, but probably Pintails, I am not very good at identifying female and immature ducks.
While glassing the pond from the observation platform, I found myself in the midst of several barn swallows swooping above and around me, harvesting some of the plague of mosquitos around this body of water. Since I had nothing better to do, I figured I would try another exercise in futility and get some Barn swallow flight shots, since they sometimes were coming within six or eight feet of where I was standing. Trying to focus a large hand held lens on small birds moving as fast and erratically as these swallows do turns out to be nearly impossible, at least for me. They are so close that there just is no way to follow and focus in time to get a shot. Got a few almost acceptable images of them overhead, but just couldn’t get any of the close shots I really was hoping I might get. Still, a fun time trying.
Back to the RV and spent several hours processing images and working on blog entries. I am starting to realize that my Verizon Jet Pac monthly 5 GB package is just not going to work with my blogging and website work. I signed up for a 2 year deal of 5 GB at $50 per month last fall when I embarked for my 5 month pre retirement winter trip. While very pleased with the way the Jet pac works, and the coverage of the Verizon system, 5 GB is really only adequate for normal web surfing and email use, no video watching or blog and website uploading, or that 5 GB disappears in the rear view mirror all but instantly.
Early on in my preparations for fulltiming, I discovered the blog of Technomadia, a young couple that fulltime in a bus conversion and work from their mobile office on wheels. It is a very informative source for all your on the road connectivity solutions, as well as other basic info concerning fulltiming. They use an outfit by the name of Millenicom that offers a package of 20 GB per month for $70 and the coverage is still through the Verizon system. Although I will of course have to pay a penalty to Verizon for dropping their package prematurely, I guess the time has come to make the switch.