After I left Billings, Montana it was time to head up to Minot and meet up with my family for our big family reunion. My dad turned 80 this year and grew up on a farm in Kenmare, North Dakota, a small town about 45 minutes north of Minot. He wanted to show us the farm he grew up on and show us the land where his dad was born in a sod house in 1903, son of German immigrants. My brother Paul was driving there from Colorado Springs with his family and my brother David was flying there from Seattle with his family. We all were looking forward to lots of fun time together over the 4th of July.
The shortest route from Billings to Minot is not an easy one, over 400 miles on 2-lane country highways, where you are likely to trawl behind tractors going to their next field and slow down to 30 mph as you drive through tiny town after tiny town. I had read about the oil boom in North Dakota and heard enough about it to figure I would see some of it along the way, but what I didn’t realize was that I would be driving through 200 miles of it, and more so, witness some of the craziest driving I have ever seen.
This is the land of the pick up truck…and when it isn’t a pick up truck it’s an oil truck of one kind or another. And those boys mean business. They own the road and they know it. Several times I saw stunts that you usually only see in action movies. Trucks taking curves and almost tipping over, trucks turning in front of another vehicle at the last second, trucks driving onto the highway when cars are 200 feet out and cruising towards them at 70 mph…..it was unbelievable. They had places to go and people to see and they just didn’t care. They knew you would slam on your brakes to avoid them because you didn’t want to die in a ball of flame. And when I say slam on your brakes, I am talking punching as hard as you could with your leg on that brake, with stuff flying all over the car.
You should know that this was especially unnerving to me because I have always had this irrational fear of big trucks ever since I saw the movie DUEL as a kid…you know the one….from Steven Spielberg. In it, an anonymous truck driver decides to chase after Dennis Weaver and run him down. A simple premise and it scared the living daylights out of me. I can still vividly recall nightmares I had from that movie…trucks chasing ME. But I am not usually bothered by the trucks…don’t think about it 99% of the time….really truly I have moved on. However, all these macho oil rig drivers driving like mad men….well, let’s just say that beer I shared with my family that night by the hotel pool in Minot…..one of the best beers ever. Whew.