Last time I came home for some time off, I got a strong sense of the differences in climate between North Dakota and Georgia. In North Dakota, they have four seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter and road construction. On the 31st of January, the wind chill was minus 51. That’s colder than an ex-wife. ... I’ve been in Siberia and never seen it that cold. I decided I needed a break from that. When I got home, I discovered that I didn’t need three layers of arctic underwear and I could actually shower without changing my voice. The trees were green, people were planting their gardens and short sleeves were in order. A big plus was, Lottie and her home cooking were here.
Eventually, I figured it was about time to go back to the “Siege of Stalingrad,” but not before we made a short business trip to Tennessee. As with most Americans, when traveling by car, I slipped my .45 and two spare magazines in my briefcase. The trip went well and we returned home. As I was getting ready to go back north, I carefully unpacked my gun and one magazine and put it in the gun safe. All went well at the airport security check until my briefcase went through the X-ray machine. One of the TSA guys, with all of his smile muscles surgically removed, motioned me over and asked if I had anything to declare. I said no, and then he asked if I had a magazine in my briefcase. That’s when I realized I had packed two and unloaded one. Some serious questions and paperwork ensued. One thing is sure: I don’t have to join Ancestry.com. They know ALL about me, my background, my ancestors and everything. We finally got it all straightened out, and I made my plane. Gotta be more careful ...
I had delayed my return until I was pretty sure spring was in full bloom on the high plains. Two days after I got back, it snowed 24 inches in 24 hours. The thing about snow on the high plains is the wind blows. This means that there is no snow in some places and 10-foot drifts in others. My door was drifted shut and I had to call my neighbor to dig me out enough to dig my truck out. So much for spring.
After a few weeks, between various conditions like slow work, not making any money, deteriorating camp conditions and full blown mud season approaching, I decided I needed a serious break from the Bakken. I called Lottie and asked her if she would like me to come home. The answer was yes, yes, yes. She took a flight a couple days later and got in Williston for the first of the spring rains, which half the time are freezing. We sold my shack, packed my truck and started on an epic 2,500-mile road trip to Georgia.
I’d driven that trip before and learned a few things. One is: If I never have to go to Chicago again, it’ll be too soon, so the southern route was in order. This worked out well, because Lottie had never seen Deadwood, S.D., and wanted to, so off we went. We spent a very nice evening in Deadwood, and then started across the breadbasket of America.
Besides agriculture, the Great Plains seems to be a huge real estate storage area. The towns are few, small and far between. One thing they all seemed to have in common was great community spirit. In each town, there was a museum or attraction meant to pull travelers off the freeway to spend money. We saw an antique tractor museum, an antique steam tractor museum, Wall Drugs, a keel-boat museum and the world’s largest ball of mud. Something for everybody.
We weren’t in any particular hurry, so it was no problem to pull off and take in the sights or get a good meal at one of those small town diners where the menu is on a chalkboard and the waitress calls you “honey.” Nevermind the big cities and the chain restaurants.
A note about traveling the interstate highway system: West of the Mississippi, the roads were great, smooth, construction free and in good shape. East of the Mississippi, not so much. Apparently, somebody’s brother-in-law was in the barrel renting business, ‘cause they’d put up miles of them on pretty good roads with no construction in sight, and then when the smooth part of the freeway went away, and they desperately needed repair, they’d end the barrels and turn everybody loose. Eventually, if you travel the freeway, you have to pass through a big city. This generally happened to us in the late afternoon just in time for rush hour. It being spring, there was usually a late afternoon thundershower just to make life more interesting. All that traffic scared Lottie pretty badly and it turned out that when I was driving and Lottie was riding, she mostly thought of her bladder. When she was driving, and I was riding, I mostly thought of the afterlife.
The afternoon of the fourth day we pulled into our own yard, and I started the process of rejoining the 21st century. After two years of the Bakken, I was ready for a shower with actual HOT water (nevermind the baby wipes and Old Spice ...), a flush toilet (I flushed it four times, just to make sure), a decent stove that didn’t explode cans against the wall, and a lot of other things we take for granted. I don’t know where the next wild place I go will be, but I’m gonna recharge my batteries a while first.