Ten Hours to Tioga

We left Victoria around noon on Sunday, July 17th.  It was overcast for a while but almost immediately became a beautiful blue-sky day with enough puffy cumulus clouds to make the dome interesting.  As we headed west across Minnesota, Interstate 94 was wide and sparsely vehicled. 

We crossed the state border into the Red River Valley which was broad and flat and obviously fertile.  As we progressed in our westerly direction, green remained the dominant color on the other side of our windshield.

We drove through Valley City, then Jamestown, both on Interstate 94, and then veered north on #52.  In stead of large lakes on the landscape, there were now smaller bodies of water positioned here and there across the plains, which Allan called potholes.

The shores of Devils Lake, our halfway destination for the evening, were soon upon us.

We had seen Devils Lake a few times from the sleeper cars of a fast-moving Amtrak train, but now we were seeing it up close and personal.  It is an amazing lake, one that reminded me of Lake Minnetonka with its many fingers and legs and belly bays, but the similarities stopped there.

Devils Lake is 60 feet at its deepest while Lake Minnetonka has a maximum depth of 133 feet.  Devils Lake is 140,000 acres in size while Lake Minnetonka is 14,k500 acres in size.  In other words, our Minnetonka is twice as deep, but Devils Lake stretches out ten times bigger.

Allan said that Devils Lake has been rising and flooding since the 1990’s.  In fact, this rising, sprawling body of water has destroyed hundreds of home and businesses and deluged thousands of acres of productive farmland.  In the last few years, the State of North Dakota and the U.S. Government have spent millions of dollars to raise roads, railroad lines, and power lines.

As we explored the area, we drove on roads that were no more than a few inches above the lake level.  Some of the shorelines had been piled with rocks to keep the water from going over the roads.  We could see many trees that had drowned and died in the rising waters.  They stood like dead soldiers, waist high with naked and shiny white branches, their bark having washed away from soaking too long without reprieve

It was an amazing lake to drive around — and drive through — and also mysterious like its name, roughly translated from an Indian word about bad spirits. 

Those bad spirits also hang out at the nearby slot machines along with a haze of blue cigarette smoke that you could cut with a knife.  Thankfully, the lack of fresh air kept our stay on the casino floor, and our losses, to a minimum.

We went back to our poolside room, played in the water a while, and ordered a pizza.

We left the casino hotel at 8 o’clock the next morning and it was raining cats and dogs. 

Maybe I should say it was raining ducks and geese.  They were everywhere — on the lake.

We crossed the lake on a road that was practically level with the lake.  It was clear sky in the north and, since that’s where we were headed, we anticipated a good day for driving.

In one hour (9:05 a.m., to be exact) we were in Rugby, which is the geographical center of North America.  The landscape was still flat and green and every once in a while there was a lake around the bend.

Railroad tracks were now following close alongside us, and we knew that “our” train — the Empire Builder that runs between the East Coast and the West Coast and through Minneapolis in the middle -— was ahead of us by over an hour.  It would rumble through the town of Tioga, ND, before we would.

Outside my passenger window was the longest crop sprinkler I’d ever seen.  A field so flat and rectangular is, of course, ideal for such elongated contraptions.

And then a brand new color arrived on the scene.

The color curled for miles around ponds and over hills.  Did I say hills?  Yes, the terrain was beginning to change.  We arrived in Minot, “the big city” in this part of North Dakota at 10 a.m.

Fields of mustard were wearing a yellow that was brighter than a canary and more vivid than the yellow in the wings of a Monarch butterfly.

The first oil rig appeared one-half hour west of Minot, and then they were everywhere.  The sighting of oil wells has become commonplace to us in the last couple of years of venturing to this neck of the woods.

I am no longer compelled to take a picture of every one I see.

One of the first things we did after arriving at Jenny’s is go to the Tioga swimming pool.  Hi, Gunnar.

Hi, Addie.

Hi, Christopher.

The men forgot how to dress for the pool area.

Hi, Jenny.

After helping Jenny get the rest of her pots planted, we headed the next day for adventures on nearby Lake Sakakawea.

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Lake Sakakawea