Williston was a chance choice. I needed to stop somewhere and drive down to South Dakota which had all the destinations I wanted to go to.In fact, my preferred stop was Minot, where I would drive south then west, and come back up to North Dakota and get on the train at Williston. Unfortunately, Minot was affected by the flooding and the station was in a state of disrepair with the platform damaged.
What I didn’t realize was how much significance Williston holds in America. It was oil town and the town was going through a huge boom. It’s like a 21st century version of the expansion out West for gold. Only there really was oil to be had. Even driving through, I got that sense. It’s small, with one main route cutting from the train station through “downtown”, to the airport, onward to roads leading out to the fields. The housing is quite new, many of them built up hastily as if out of a instruction box.
The train station itself was bare.. with only two Amtrak stops a day, the town would come down to meet the passengers and the place emptied out quickly after all the pick-ups. No platforms, just step stools the conductors places by the train as it came to a stop. Construction material and freight cars sat nearby, collecting dust until the oil companies had a shipment to make.
I got a taxi to take me to the car rental shop, the only one being located at the small airport. The taxi was a personal car, charges calculated based on mileage. I haven’t seen that since my hometown! Clearly, Williston has grown faster than the infrastructure and services industry could keep up. That might explain the trucker I met on the train who was debating whether to purchase a satellite phone plan.
The floods extended to Williston, the far western side of the state. Perhaps the flooding was more manageable.. or likely the need to keep business going trumped the inconveniences of a lot of extra water, the roads were open and usable. And well used. On my drive out, I found myself following a caravan of trucks, oil tankers, construction vehicles. In my small car rental, I really worried that I’d be smushed over like a bug on a windshield.
Williston was a short drive away from Theodore Roosevelt National Park, also affected by flooding. But the park featured a beautiful getaway, lush with all kinds of native plants and animals. A side benefit to the recent natural disaster was free access to the park, since a large portion of it was inaccessible. The few trails that were open made me wonder if the locals in their frenetic pace of oil business growth had ever allowed themselves a day to relax, and pay a visit to a natural haven right in their own backyards, a gift given to them by the same Mother Nature that gave them the oil.
Other articles from this series:
– All Aboard: Introduction
– All Aboard: New York
– All Aboard: Dakota floods