2014 Great Circle Tour travel blog

Playing catchup in Boomtown lots of temporary housing and new housing units...

Oil & gas infrastructure is mostly in place

The oil will benefit property owners by possibly eliminating state property taxes

Agriculture is benefitting from the oil and gas development with a mini-boom

New farm "train" - Low impact tractor, seed drill, seed tank and...

ND is where the other half of the pickups sold in the...

The Hi-Line is busy with freight and oil

Winnie gets a much needed shower

Winnie at our lunch stop along US 2

Yellow headed blackbirds are common in the many freshwater marshes along US...

Here we are at the Geographical Center of North America in Rugby,...

Niewoehner Bell Tower at a funeral home in Rugby - 15 bells...

Road into Spirit Lake Casino

Winnie bedded down for the night at the Casino


The Fit started without a jump this morning for some reason and the sun came out again as we drove out of Boomtown USA so we were off to a good start. Williston is the epicenter of all of the oil and gas activities in the Bakken shale region. Since we passed through this area in 2009 on “Vince and Sue’s Excellent Adventure”, it has grown considerably and it appears that there is a lot of the oil and gas production infrastructure is in place with much more in progress. Exploration wells are still seen along US 2 so the end of development does not seem in sight. Truck traffic is crazy with tank trucks hauling water to the fields and wastewater back, others carrying oil to accumulation depots where it can be sent to refinery by pipeline or one of Warren Buffet’s oil unit trains. Other trucks carry sand for use in fracking. When we passed through the west Texas and New Mexico oil patch earlier on this trip I remarked that half the pickup trucks sold in the US were sold there. Now I know where the other half have been sold, right here in the Bakken.

While the oil and gas infrastructure seems to be maturing, there’s still a lot of catching up to do regarding housing and community infrastructure. There are lots of “company housing” settlements that are either mobile office type housing, modified cargo containers, or some fairly sizable RV parks. Apartments, residence hotels, and housing developments are in various stages of completion. The area from about the Montana Border to Minot is directly benefiting form the oil and gas development. People are working and new businesses to support the industry and people are sprouting up all along US 2. I spoke with a guy working at the Flying J as I was fueling Winnie. He was from St. Louis and had been working at the station since it opened. He said he hated living there, but the money was good and they gave him free housing. He indicated that housing was expensive and could cost around $2,500/month. We saw some residence hotels advertised at $699/week so that figure was not far off. The pay is good, but it’s balanced off by a higher cost of living. Even the agriculture industry seems to be enjoying a mini-boom with new equipment and support structures like grain elevators and storage bins.

We stopped for lunch at a rest stop east of Minot and as has been our practice I started the Fit to make sure the battery gets charged. It didn’t start. Again I had to jump start it. I think its time to replace the battery, now if only I can convince Honda to do it.

The big stop of the day was at the Geographic Center of North America in Rugby, ND. It’s another town founded as a result of the operation of the Great Northern Railroad and is currently a stop for Amtrak’s Empire Builder. In 1931, the town of Rugby erected a 15 feet tall rock obelisk marking the "Geographical Center of North America". Local Boy Scouts and other community volunteers assisted with the building and the local Lions Club donated the construction materials. It was moved to a slightly different location in 1971 when US 2 was widened. According to a listing by the U.S. Geological Survey, Rugby is actually approximately 15 miles from the geographic center of North America (6 miles west of Balta). Given the approximate nature of how this point is calculated, Rugby deserves to remain the geographic center.

We stopped for the night at the Spirit Lake Casino located on Devils Lake. We got sucked into the casino buffet because it was advertised as all you can eat steak and shrimp. The steak was okay, but the shrimp we fried so I didn’t even try them. The rest was standard buffet fair, blah. The cream puff and soft serve ice cream for dessert were okay. We stayed out of the casino tonight. I wasn’t feeling lucky.

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