Four and a half hours and a tank of gas

I just made the absolutely dreadful drive across North Dakota from my hometown of Williston to my current residence in Grand Forks. It’s supposed to take 5 or 6 hours, but I made it in four and a half on 3/4 of a tank of gas. I know that’s not something anyone particularly cares about, but it gives you some idea of the sheer boredom this drive causes. That achievement is the biggest excitement I can get out of that many hours in a car on the same highway with only the company of my boyfriend’s dog and nothing to look at but flat prairie as far as the horizon. It’s a beast of a drive — Not for the faint of heart.

*Dun dun dun (ominous music)* I didn't take this, but I have pictures that are exactly the same.

The drive is generally one of those times in life that you wish you could fast forward through. I faintly remembered reading an article once about a writer from a big city (I think he may have been from the New York Times) who had to drive across North Dakota and considered the solitude to be almost a religious experience from the chance for pure introspection.

…Yeah. My drive usually consists of pumping myself full of as much caffeine as possible and singing terribly to my iPod to keep myself awake. (In all honesty, it was a really great article — I can’t seem to find it right now, otherwise I’d link to it.)

I usually spend the entire time thinking about what I could be doing if I wasn’t struggling to stay awake and keep the death machine between the painted lines. So, instinctively, for the first 30 miles, I started making a schedule in my head of everything I needed to do as soon as I got out of the car. But soon, I started to notice the countless fields and ditches that were flooded. I don’t delight in natural disasters, but I did find it relieving to have something new to look at on the uber familiar ride. (I can tell where I am by “landmarks” like old, abandoned tractors and the occasional hill.) Like my dad, those farmers won’t be able to put in a crop this season. (Yeah, I’m a farmer’s daughter, too. Can I fulfill anymore stereotypes?) Although it was shocking and saddening,  I realized that there are some things we can’t control — like a long, boring drive you’ve taken far too many times.


That's suppoesed to be prairie as far as the horizon. This area four miles west of Towner, ND, was one of the most severely flooded areas visible from the road.

As I surveyed the flooded land, spanning most of the Highway 2 area in northern North Dakota, I took the time to relax for once. I thought about things I like to think about instead of worrying about things I can’t control. I listened to my iPod for more than just background music while studying. I belted out everything from Bon Iver to Backstreet Boys.

I usually hate the inherent isolation of North Dakota — As if the state isn’t isolated enough from the outside world, you have to drive hours to get to the next major city. But I think I finally learned how to use that time wisely. I’ve spent most of my time being a miserable ball of stress lately (more so than usual even), so it seems like the drive I usually dread was just what I needed.


One thought on “Four and a half hours and a tank of gas

  1. Ah, I so relate to the long driving! I went to a college in the northern part of South Dakota, and made the 2 1/2 hour drive many weekend to hang out with friends. Even now, living in the country, the nearest decent sized town is over an hour way, and over two hours to the nearest mall. 🙂

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