June 30: Minot to Ray, North Dakota - The Great North American Sticky Bun Hunt - CycleBlaze

June 30: Minot to Ray, North Dakota

US2: the road without end.
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NORTH DAKOTA has a commendable leaning towards tailwinds. At the best, crosswinds. It is also at the height of an oil boom. Nodding donkeys bob in fields and everywhere men in plastic hats sink more modern, doubtless more proficient drills that look like missiles.

The heart of the boom is Stanley, which must wonder what hit it. The surrounding streets are full of houses put up in a hurry and which don't look as though anyone needs them to last. They suggest

Oil wells large and small are everywhere.
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some at least of those who move here come as families. But a great many must be single men, or at any rate men without their wives and children. Between the two sets, a curious effect must be created. Suddenly, schools used to a declining number of children - for you hear all the way along the High Line of dwindling populations - find unimagined numbers of them. Shopkeepers who knew all their customers now sell twice the stock. And the consequence for bars and twilight zones of so many men at a loose end is worth pondering.

On top of all this, Stanley is having root canal treatment. The length of the main street has been dug to a depth of two metres, not to run an oil line but to sort out drains. Access is denied to anyone but work crews and the lines of plastic fencing create a barrier close to the length of the town. Finding the way to a cafe we knew to be there was an

Nod, donkey, nod...
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adventure which would have defeated us had a man not stopped in a van to offer local knowledge. We were to ride along an unmade road behind the shops, take an alleyway to the right and then enter the cafe through the back door. A further wander along alleyways was needed to find the supermarket.

Frankly, this was another day of no great note. We have stayed on US2 because the road to the south, which our maps suggest, is now so full of oil trucks reputed to have the state's most aggressive drivers. The shoulder on US2 has been generally good, often broad and smooth, although for the last half an hour we switched to the other carriageway when our own side dwindled to nothing.

Odd mounds like this are dotted along US2. What are they? The remains of houses? If they are, they were the only houses in the state built of stone. Any ideas?
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We have camped by a lake. The site belongs to the village and the village hasn't sorted out a plumbing problem which has left all the taps dry. Neighbours in an RV helped when we arrived and I boiled water from the lake for a wash. Buying a coffee at the gas station up the road gave us the self-appointed right to refill our water bag there.

Just how many workers there are here and the pressure they have put on facilities shows in our neighbours on the other side. They are in a caravan a lot less glamorous than the RV and they returned towards dusk and had a conversation about pipes and drills and holes in the ground before going to bed.

Today's entertaining point: as we sat in the bar at Ray before going on to the campsite, the shop on the other side of the road fell down. It was there when we arrived and it wasn't when we left. "Hey, the old shop's gone!" the woman behind the bar called, and we all trooped out to look. And sure enough, all that was left was a pile of rubble and woodwork and the contented look on the face of the bulldozer driver who had caused it. It was intended, of course, but it happened with so little fuss, and with no safety barriers or warnings, that you reflect on just how temporary life can be here in North Dakota.


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