The rain finally stopped by the time we left Idaho Falls and headed north toward West Yellowstone, Montana, but it was still cold and partly overcast. We have been so spoiled from nice, warm weather all winter, this was a reality check. As we got closer to Yellowstone, we could see snow on the tops of the mountains and as we got closer, the snow got closer to the road and finally we had snow along the roadside. We didn’t stop at Yellowstone this year as it was suppose to stay cold and below freezing overnight and rain predicted again for the next day. But we drove through the town of West Yellowstone which looked like it was gearing up for tourists and then followed the Yellowstone and Madison Rivers all the way up to Bozeman, Montana. We passed signage that said “Caution, Bison on Roadway” and thought, no way, we never see wildlife along the road, but sure enough, just ahead was a herd of buffalo that had just crossed the road and were grazing on the side of the road. We also had to stop for a group of big horn sheep that crossed in front of us including a cute little baby sheep.
We made it to I-90 and headed east in Montana. Beautiful green hills and rolling mountain sides made it a very pleasurable drive. Not a lot of truck traffic which made it nice. We spent the night at an RV park because it was suppose to get below freezing. There must have been a lot of other overnighters too because when we got going in the morning, there was a lot more empty sites than there had been the night before. We decided to head up to Rte US-2 and it took all day to get to the Williston, North Dakota, but then we don’t travel very fast.
Williston is the hub of the Bakken oil field activity and it reminded us of what the gold mining towns must have been like during the gold boom. Lots of trucks, disproportionately white (which makes no sense since they all get so muddy and dirty in the fields and dusty roads), all kinds of equipment being moved around, huge equipment yards, bars, casinos, restaurants, housing of every sort, constructions everywhere and lots and lots of oil pumpers and tanks. They estimate there is currently 50 billion barrels of oil being taken from the field and could be as much as 500 billion barrels available. It is estimated 10,000 workers have moved to the area and they live in everything from motels, to Rvs, to sheds and barracks, not to mention rented houses and apartments. We passed train yards with hundreds and hundreds of tanker cars ready to transport the oil. We spent the night in a noisy Walmart parking lot, but slept surprisingly well. I did a little shopping in Walmart and it was funny to see mostly men, working men in dirty clothes and shoes, shopping there. Interesting to see the stuff they were buying. Not exactly stuff for well balanced meals.
We really enjoy taking the back roads, although US-2 is not exactly a back road. It is a divided highway all the way through North Dakota and very scenic. After we got past Williston and Minot, we saw massive hay fields dotted with ponds and lakes. The further east we got, we started seeing snow along the roadside. Wow. We thought coming back this late in May we wouldn’t have to see all that white stuff.
After another night at a Wally World campground (Ed calls it our $100 a night parking spot) and we were back on the road, heading east. More later.