Rolling West on the High Plains

11 Apr

This post was written during the day, Tuesday, starting in Devil’s Lake, North Dakota. I never got a t-mobile connection on the prairie which is why this post was written through the day.

I understand why building a transcontinental railroad up here in the 1880’s was feasible. This land is nearly flat for hundreds of miles.

Sunrise was just before seven, west of Devil’s Lake, N.D.

The ground is frozen. Ice crystals sparkle on the clumps of prairie grass.

I had two different seat mates in the night, but got better sleep than the previous night. The passenger load is thinning out the further we go from Minneapolis and most of us have a seat to ourselves.

A lot of college kids on board, heading back to their colleges after Easter break.

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Rugby, ND. The geographic center of North America. If that’s not reason enough to live here, than by God, there can be no better.

I’m sure Netflix does good business.

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A little side note, I’m on the second to last car of the train. Tomorrow morning in Spokane the rear five cars will be cut off and hauled to Portland. The front five or six cars will go to Seattle. Everyone is seated according to our destinations.

We’re coming into Minot (rhymes with why not?). Cloudless, clear pale blue sky. A few patches of green grass in town. The prairie and wheat fields are still sitting farrow. Sharp, dry cold weather. I can’t feel my ears after ten minutes outside.

Thirty minute layover here. No data connection.

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The train station is under construction.

Not much to report on Minot. West of town the train climbs into the high plains, which are a bit more scenic. Austere. Dramatically stark. Homesteading this was not for the timid.

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The oil boom in North Dakota is the reason for pockets of mobile home and RV housing communities. A new refinery or storage facility is being built in Tiago.

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The oil rigs and mobile home shanty towns pop up across the plains till west of Williston, ND.

In the seat in front of me was a guy, probably just out of high school, coming to Williston to start the harvest season. He drives a combine. With no visible crop growing, he wondered why his boss is starting him out here.  Through the season that runs into November he’ll combine crops across the country- the Canadian border to the valley in Texas. This barely educated kid will feed millions of people this year.

And look, we’re in Montana now.

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Time for a nap.

Wolf Point, Glasgow, Malta, Havre are quick stops with fewer than a dozen passengers each.  The prairie stretches into the evening.

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1) Crossing this in a wagon would have required absolute determination and desperation to leave home with blind faith it will be better if you survive to reach the coast.

2) Amtrak, for all it’s incompetence, still manages to run daily trains on this route in spite of the vast distances between stations and the low passenger demand out here.

3) I’m the only passenger who started from New York, but I’m hanging out with a Norwegian fisherman who got on my train in D. C.

I’ll post again when we enter the Rockies this evening.

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Mountains in the far distance at 4:30pm.

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