Montana Road Trip: Zipping across North Dakota on US Highway 2




US Route 2 in North Dakota
US Route 2 in North Dakota

I continue my series on my Montana road trip and my drive along US Route two across the northern border from Michigan to Montana.

Welcome to North Dakota
Welcome to North Dakota

As one progresses further west after leaving Minnesota, you soon discover that the land is flatter, full of prairies and grasslands and not as many lakes and streams as one would see in Minnesota.

US Route 2 in North Daota
US Route 2 in North Dakota

I spent the night in Grand Forks, North Dakota and then proceeded to head west early in the morning. The first thing I did was look for the famed Smiley Water Tower in Grand Forks. Unlike others with a similar smiley on them, this one has a smiley face on the one side and a winking smiley face on the other. It is always wonderful to start the day off with a smile!

Grand Forks Smiley Water Tower
Grand Forks Smiley Water Tower
Winking Smiley on backside of Water Tower in Grand Forks
Winking Smiley on backside of Water Tower in Grand Forks

After driving around Grand Forks for just a little bit, I proceeded forward on my drive and, for the first time since starting on US Highway 2, I deviated from the route to head north to an unusual destination.

US Route 2 heading west towards Niagara, ND
US Route 2 heading west towards Niagara, ND

Before heading north I passed through Niagara, ND and a stop at the historic monument for the Old Fort Totten Trail which was used by the Sioux to assist in delivering mail.  From here I proceeded to Petersburg, ND, another old small town.  I came across their old Curling Club building.  Who said that Curling was only a Canadian sport?

Petersburg Curling Club, Petersburg, ND
Petersburg Curling Club, Petersburg, ND

A few more miles down Highway 2 I went through the town of Michigan, ND (population 425)…returned to Michigan after a couple of days (hehehe).

Michigan, ND
Michigan, ND

Michigan, ND has a Barn Quilt Trail, which is common in Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee, but I have not really seen these in other states in my travels.

Barn Quilt Trail in Michigan, ND
Barn Quilt Trail in Michigan, ND
Quilt Block on a Barn in Michigan, ND
Quilt Block on a Barn in Michigan, ND

Finally, before heading north off of US Highway 2, I passed through the town of Lakota, ND.  This town is about 60 miles west of Grand Forks.  From here I would head north on ND Hwy 1.

Welcome to Lakota, ND
Welcome to Lakota, ND
Crossing the tracks in Lakota, ND...looking west
Crossing the tracks in Lakota, ND…looking west

Contrary to what many may believe about North Dakota, I was quite surprised by what I saw on ND Highway 1.  All along the way there were many small ponds surrounded by grasses and filled with ducks and many other birds and wildlife.

Duck in a pond on ND Highway 1
Duck in a pond on ND Highway 1
An old truck rests by one of the many ponds along ND Highway 1
An old truck rests by one of the many ponds along ND Highway 1
A Red-Winged Blackbird rests on straw by a pond along ND Hwy 1
A Red-Winged Blackbird rests on straw by a pond along ND Hwy 1
Male and female duck enjoy a swim in a pond along ND Hwy 1
Male and female duck enjoy a swim in a pond along ND Hwy 1

One of my “goal destinations” in North Dakota was to see the unique pyramid near Nekoma.  Actually, the pyramid is part of a larger installation called the Stanley R. Mickelson Safeguard Complex (SRMSC).  This complex was the United States’ first operational ABM (anti-ballistic missile) defense system.

The SRMSC as seen from ND Hwy 1 about 5 miles south of Nekoma, ND
The SRMSC as seen from ND Hwy 1 about 5 miles south of Nekoma, ND

The Mickelsen Safeguard complex was deployed during the 1970s to defend the offensive Minuteman missiles based at Grand Forks Air Force Base in the event of a nuclear ICBM attack by the Soviet Union or China. Depending on the threat, the system could also provide a limited defense of a wider geographical area, including other offensive Minuteman missile fields as well as civilian population centers. It was operational for approximately eight months.

SRMSC from 2 miles south of Nekoma, ND as seen from ND Hwy 1
SRMSC from 2 miles south of Nekoma, ND as seen from ND Hwy 1
Sumoflam and Pyramid
Sumoflam and Pyramid

This unique facility is fascinating to look at.  The pyramid was actually called the Missile Site Radar (MSR) installation.  It used the target trajectory and classification data from the Perimeter Acquisition Radar (PAR) along with additional data supplied by its multiface phased array radar. This site provided additional surveillance and target tracking and also performed the function of track and guidance for the Sprint and Spartan missiles.  Following is a video that explains some of what happened in the 1970s.

The pyramid shaped MSR is by far the most unique building on the site. The 80 foot high truncated pyramid “turret” of the MSR gave the radar its ability to see in all directions and is the only visible part of the MSCB. The MSCB underground areas held additional radar equipment and the data processing and command/control systems. The adjacent underground power plant provided the generating capacity to operate the MSR’s battle management systems.

The Pyramid Shaped MSR of the Mickelson facility
The Pyramid Shaped MSR of the Mickelsen Safeguard Complex
MSR and power buildings
MSR and power buildings

The pyramid was not the only thing of interest in the area.  Nekoma, ND was the support town for the facility, though most of the staff came from the nearby Grand Forks Air Force Base.

Welcome to Nekoma, ND
Welcome to Nekoma, ND
Old buildings in Nekoma, ND
Old buildings in Nekoma, ND
Pain Reliever Bar, Nekoma, ND
Pain Reliever Bar, Nekoma, ND
International Pain Reliever Bar in Nekoma, ND
International Pain Reliever Bar in Nekoma, ND (notice they used a New Mexico flag and not the Mexican flag….)

Nekoma is also the home of the Langdon Wind Farm which has 106 Wind Turbines, some of them right up on the Mickelsen Safeguard complex. In the middle of prairie lands, it offers unique views.

Silo and Wind Turbine near Nekoma, ND
Silo and Wind Turbine near Nekoma, ND
Langdon Wind Farm Info Center near Nekoma, ND
Langdon Wind Farm Info Center near Nekoma, ND
Three Structures: Metal silo, old silo, wind turbine
Three Structures: Metal silo, old silo, wind turbine

I continued north on Hwy 1 into Langdon, ND to see if there was anything interesting there.  Langdon is about 15 miles south of the Canadian border and has about 1800 people residing in the town.

Downtown Langdon, ND
Downtown Langdon, ND
ROXY Theatre in Langdon, ND
ROXY Theatre in Langdon, ND
Old truck in Langdon, ND
Old truck in Langdon, ND

As I drove around I found the town park which actually had one of the Spartan missiles used at the complex in Nekoma.  I thought that was unique.

Spartan Missile in the city park in Langdon, ND
Spartan Missile in the city park in Langdon, ND

From Langdon I proceeded to head west on ND Hwy 5 and then south on ND Hwy 20 to pass though Munich, ND.

Welcome to Munich, ND
Welcome to Munich, ND
Unique town sign in Munich, ND
Unique town sign in Munich, ND

From Munich I continued south into Cando, ND to get some Can Do Spirit!!

South on ND Hwy 20 south of Munich, ND
South on ND Hwy 20 south of Munich, ND
Cando, ND
Cando, ND

Cando, ND is one of my token unique named towns.  It got its name as follows:

“…and in virtue of our authority we select this location and name the town ‘Cando’ to show you that we can do it.”

Capt. Prosper Parker
February 14, 1884

Cando Police, Cando, ND
Cando Police, Cando, ND

Cando is also the “Duck Capital of North Dakota.”

Sumoflam Cando!
Sumoflam Cando!
Cando Bar, Cando, ND
Cando Bar, Cando, ND
Audi Theatre in Cando, ND
Audi Theatre in Cando, ND

And there were a couple of interesting things in town….

Randy's Revival Antique Store in Cando, ND
Randy’s Revival Antique Store in Cando, ND
Cando Water Tower
Cando Water Tower

From Cando I headed west on ND Hwy 16 and then south on ND Hwy 3 into Rugby, ND which lays claim to being the geographical center of North America.

ND Hwy 17
ND Hwy 17
Wind Farm near Rugby, ND
Wind Farm near Rugby, ND
Welcome to Rugby, ND
Welcome to Rugby, ND

According to the 1931 U.S. Geological Survey, the geographic center of the North American continent is located approximately 6 miles west of Balta, Pierce County, North Dakota. The approximate coordinates are given as latitude 48* 10′ North, 100* 10′ West. The field stone pillar was erected in 1932 on US Hwy 2 and ND Hwy 3.

Monument for the Geographic Center of North America in Rugby, ND
Monument for the Geographic Center of North America in Rugby, ND (Notice the HUB Motel sign in the background)
Sumoflam in Rugby, ND
Sumoflam in Rugby, ND
Old Neon for the HUB Motel in Rugby, ND
Old Neon for the HUB Motel in Rugby, ND

A few more scenes from Rugby…

Unique Water Tower in Rugby, ND
Unique Water Tower in Rugby, ND
Old Neon for the Bar/Bowling Alley in Rugby
Old Neon for the Bar/Bowling Alley in Rugby
Centre Cinema in Rugby, ND
Centre Cinema in Rugby, ND

I had finally returned to US Hwy 2 and proceeded westward toward my next planned stop which would be Minot, ND. This city is home to the North Dakota State Fair, but, of more interest to me is their celebration of Scandinavian heritage. The annual Norsk Hostfest is the largest festival of its kind in North America and is a tribute the area’s Scandinavian heritage. The Scandinavian Heritage Park is home to a replica of the beautiful Gol Stave Church which currently sits at the Norsk Folkemuseum in Oslo, Norway.

Sumoflam at the replica of the Gol Stave Church in Minot, ND
Sumoflam at the replica of the Gol Stave Church in Minot, ND

The Gol Stave Church Museum, in Scandinavian Heritage Park is a full-size replica of the original church built in about 1250, now in Bygdoy Park in Oslo.  It is all wooden inside and I would call it “immaculately simple” in its architecture.

Dragons atop the Stave Church
Dragons atop the Stave Church
The Gol Stave Church replica and museum at the Scandinavian Heritage Center in Minot, ND
The Gol Stave Church replica and museum at the Scandinavian Heritage Center in Minot, ND
Top of the Stave Church
Detail of the top of the Stave Church
Wooden Gargoyles of the Stave Church in Minot
Wooden Gargoyles of the Stave Church in Minot
Intricate Wood Carving on the Stave Church doors
Detail of the Intricate Wood Carving on the Stave Church doors

The wood carving is intricate and beautiful in this church. This work was apparently done by professional wood carvers Philip Odden and Elsa Bigton of Norsk Wood Works in Barronet, WI.

The 30 foot tall Dala Horse at the Scandinavian Heritage Center in Minot
The 30 foot tall Dala Horse at the Scandinavian Heritage Center in Minot

A stone’s throw from the Stave Church is the 30 foot Dala Horse which is apparently the most recognized Swedish symbol in the world. In central Sweden, wood scraps from the local furniture-making trade, paint-pigment from nearby copper mines, and long winter evenings bred the development of the Dala Horse. Traditions vary in giving credit to woodsmen and to soldiers for originating the craft. Dala Horses from the Nusnäs-Mora area first appeared with their familiar bright decoration in the 1800’s when the kurbit, or flower patterned saddle, was regularly added to them. There is actually a website dedicated to the Dala Horse.

Dala Horse and one of many buildings at the Scandinavian Cultural Heritage Park
Dala Horse and one of many buildings at the Scandinavian Cultural Heritage Park
Sumoflam with Dala Horse
Sumoflam with Dala Horse

From Minot I continued on to Williston, ND.  This is the heart of the North Dakota oil industry and “fracking.”  There are about 200 drilling rigs in the area. (Read an interesting article about this from National Geographic).

Heading west to Williston, ND on US Hwy 2
Heading west to Williston, ND on US Hwy 2
An old house as seen on the road to Williston
An old house as seen on the road to Williston

Along the way I got a photo of this old homesteader’s house in the prairies.  In the background you can see an oil well pump.

Welcome to Williston, Boom Town USA
Welcome to Williston, Boom Town USA

Williston is a modern Boomtown as “roughnecks” make their way to the town for oil jobs. North Dakota has the second highest level of GDP per capita, generating about $69,000 in economic activity per resident. Only Alaska ranks higher as a result of this oil boom of the 21st century.

Long term housing projects abound in Williston.
Long term housing projects abound in Williston.
Prefab Buildings for Oil Riggers
Prefab Buildings for Oil Riggers

As I drove into town and through town, I was amazed at the number of “extended stay” hotels, prefab apartments, huge trailer complexes and more that had gone up to house all of the oil workers.

Billboards advertise Oil Supplies
Billboards advertise Oil Supplies
Traffic and road construction menace this once quiet town
Traffic and road construction menace this once quiet town

The other thing I noticed was the terrible traffic and all of the road construction and infrastructure building in a town whose population is now bursting at the seams. The photo above represents the nearly 45 minutes that it took me to drive through the town in almost constant stop/go traffic on the congested roads.

Typical scene in Williston - trucks cruising down dusty dirt roads from the drilling fields
Typical scene in Williston – trucks cruising down dusty dirt roads from the drilling fields
An oil rig in Williston, ND
An oil rig (or derrick) in Williston, ND

For Fracture Drilling, the oil rig (or derrick) is used to drill both vertical and horizontal portions of the well.  These are actually temporary in nature, and, depending on the well depth and number of wells developed, these will remain on site for a week to as long as eight weeks. There is a great definition of how the complete process works on Halliburton’s website. I saw a number of Halliburton facilities in Williston.  I know this is a controversial process, and I am not condoning or complaining about it here.  I believe that many of us have no idea how it is done.

Heading west to Montana on US Hwy 2 from Williston
Heading west to Montana on US Hwy 2 from Williston

From Williston I headed west into Montana for an overnight stay in Glasgow, Montana.

Welcome to Montana on US Route 2 heading west
Welcome to Montana on US Route 2 heading west
A lonely tree decorates US Hwy 2 east of Culbertson, MT
A lonely tree decorates US Hwy 2 east of Culbertson, MT
An old church building on the horizon east of Culbertson, Montana on US Hwy 2
An old church building on the horizon east of Culbertson, Montana on US Hwy 2
Sun and sky in eastern Montana
Sun and sky in eastern Montana

I finally arrived in Glasgow, Montana late after driving all the way from Grand Forks, ND, about 490 miles. They only had one motel left in town with any availability due to a state softball tournament.  For the first time in ages I stayed in a 60s style motel with neon and a real key for the door on one of those plastic diamonds with the room number.

Staying at the Star Lodge Motel in Glasgow, Montana
Staying at the Star Lodge Motel in Glasgow, Montana

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11 Replies to “Montana Road Trip: Zipping across North Dakota on US Highway 2”

  1. Enjoyed reading this blog. I’m from Holland and visited the USA for several times. Now planning new roadtrip and would like to travel the US 2 from Minnesota to the West and drive back throught higway 20 East.

    Just love the less traveld lonely highways!

    So if you have any suggestions…:-)

    regards
    Jan

    1. We are getting close to the international peace garden in ND. I just found your blog about U 2. Is it a good highway with traveling a 25 foot trailer? And did you go the he peace garden. We are headed to Alaska but love the thought of route 2!

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