Driving across North Dakota

I say I’m “straight-lining” North Dakota because that’s how these roads go. Occasionally there’s a need to slow down between at some cross roads there’s a farm implant store that also sells drinks and gas, and it’s the town. Maxine is uber-awed by the size of the crop fields. They go on. She particularly loves the sunflowers, grown here for their oil. The flowers are at their largest right now and yes the scene is classic and almost its own parody of a thousand smiling sunflower faces beaming up expectantly like the most recent visit from the Pope. We were a bit perplexed, though, when we realized that they were all facing AWAY from the sun. Aren’t they supposed to be following it as it courses east to west? I’m feeling like somebody forgot to tell all those pretty faces that hey! You guys! The sun is over this way! I need to ask someone about this.

The cliché’ about North Dakota is of course how flat it is. It’s definitely the best place I’ve ever been able to enjoy a good lightning storm. You can see it coming for a week, and going for just as long. I once read a book by the flashes of a good one.

But today I am reminded that the part of a flat terrain you don’t see on a postcard is the wind. Relentless, cold and not slowed down by the very few trees we can see. I’m writing as Maxine drives, and keep wondering if she’s drunk, or perhaps has a spastic twitch. I’m getting dizzy as the car swerves and jerks to keep its feet on US 2. We stopped to photograph a billboard. It said simply “BE POLITE” in unassuming black letters on a white field. I was an instant litterer as I opened the door as the car was douched with air and I successfully held the door on its hinges, barely.

Obvious advantage #1 for driving across on two-laners: you can stop anywhere and pee. There aren’t a lot of people in rural America. Corollary to this: there aren’t traffic jams, slow-ups, tense passing games and chain hotels. We stayed at places like “Northern Lights Motel” in Wawa, (extraordinary); The Select Inn, Grafton, MN, (good beds, not poofy pillows, Mr. Patel had been here from India for just one year, and he was very satisfied at the way things were going. He was having a small bonanza because a gas pipe was going through from Canada to Illinois. I tried to juxtapose images of him in Calcutta just 14 months ago, to this Great Prairie town of close to tiny. Couldn’t do it.) The Sandman in Libby, Montana was fine with owners who couldn’t stay at other hotels so they camped in KOA’s when they traveled, sleeping in their tent on the ground, with not so much as a Thermarest for comfort.. But we have to tell you to stay far away from The Middle Fork Motel in Corum. It stank with rot, neglect and just bad housekeeping. The miniature golf and go cart place up the road was fabulous, though.