Notes from the Road: Rough Riding Through the Roughrider State

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I left the Twin Cities on the 17th of September and made it to the western edge of North Dakota the following Sunday. Here’s what I saw and did on the way.

Rogers, Minnesota

St. Michael, Minnesota

Because I’m a lazy fuck, I didn’t get out of the Twin Cities until around 7pm, when the sun was setting. I made it as far as Rogers before collapsing in a heap. Hitching out was complicated by the presence of a police cruiser guarding the I-94 on-ramp, so I had to walk even more until I managed to make it to the next exit up. I realize that I could have cheated by taking the Northstar to St. Cloud (which would have gotten me midway through the state), but I was feeling stubborn that day.

Clearwater, Minnesota

St. Cloud, Minnesota

Rural Minnesota looks an awful lot like Iowa, only with wheat instead of corn. At least there are some trees to vary things up.

Alexandria, Minnesota

Alexandria, Minnesota

Alexandria, which consists of a Pilot Travel Center. It was here that I was picked up by a bunch of hippies in a magic schoolbus. Pot-smoking, dreadlock-sporting, free love hippies. I am not joking.

Fargo, North Dakota

Fargo, North Dakota

Fargo, North Dakota

Suburban Fargo, the most I got to see before I had to leave. I spent my first night in North Dakota hanging out with the aforementioned hippies, and in the process learned far more about the hitchhiker lifestyle then I ever cared to know. I’ll leave it at that for now.

West Fargo, North Dakota

West Fargo, North Dakota

West Fargo, North Dakota

Most of the time when you’re hitchhiking, the problem is finding someone willing to give you a ride. In North Dakota, the problem is finding someone able to give you a ride. I’m not exaggerating when I say that hitching out of Fargo was near impossible not because nobody wanted to pick me up, but because they couldn’t pick me up because they were on vacation, with their families, or there was no room on the on-ramp. The evidence is the absurd number of people who waved or honked at me when I gave ‘em the signal, including one cop.

End result: more walking, this time through 30-40 mph winds.

After cutting through near a landfill, crossing a creek, and experiencing an incredible amount of good luck, I made it to Casselton, the home of five North Dakota governors (a statistical near-impossibility), before turning in.

Valley City, North Dakota

Valley City, North Dakota

Valley City, North Dakota

Valley City, North Dakota

Midwesterners have a funny definition of the word “city.” Half the towns here have “city” somewhere in the name (Mason City, Story City, Tower City etc.) despite being smaller than the average village back home. But the people are damn friendly and willing to give you the shirts off their backs; the guy who dropped me off in Valley City offered to give me a butcher knife he found at a furniture store for protection. I turned him down.

Bismarck, North Dakota

Bismarck, the state capital, another spot where the friendliness of the average North Dakotan clashed with their inability to actually give me a ride. I eventually got one with a guy who had just relocated from North Carolina for work. The land the recession forgot, indeed.

Mandan, North Dakota

Mandan, North Dakota

If it looks like there’s nothing around me for miles aside from that truck stop, that’s because there isn’t. I also lost cell phone coverage back in Bismarck. Every podunk little town between Minneapolis and Jamestown has cell coverage, but the capital of the state? Clearly not a priority.

Williston, North Dakota

Yes, Williston, the epicenter of the new oil boom. Things here are completely insane and money practically grows on trees. More updates coming soonish.

Read Next: Notes from the Road: From Chicago to Milwaukee with Fatigue

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