HW-2 becomes disappointing quite quickly in North Dakota, as it has been widened to four lanes and bypasses almost all of the nearby communities — some historically, some not.
If you’re camping in North Dakota, be sure to pick a site well back from any dirt roads, regardless of the posted speed limit. North Dakotans don’t pay attention to pesky speed limits and are quite happy to have you eat their dust. That said, North Dakota is the kind of place you can find free camping in many of the small towns; even the ones with signs that post fees seem to be more suggestions than anything else. You may have to wander through the small town to find the camping, though, so if you’re towing a trailer, try your best to not wander out of town as you may find yourself on a dirt road with no room to turn around for miles. And miles.
Towner, population optimistically placed at 600, is a good place to stop, even offering free 30A electrical hookups in a lovely “city” park. I passed two very pleasant days there, and left with a lot of bounty, as people kept very kindly giving me food. It was appreciated, as grocery stores are somewhat sparse in that area.
It’s also the sort of place people will regularly leave their cars running on the street while they take care of errands. I’m told North Dakota is quite safe apart from the oil towns. The Bakken Formation was ignored until relatively recently, when technological advances meant that large quantities of oils could be recovered, and this has resulted in a huge population and crime boom. Human trafficking is apparently quite a problem in North Dakota today.
In Towner, I volunteered for a bit at an old church that used to house the town’s museum. Objects in the museum sat untouched for thirty years before some enterprising locals decided it was time everything was packed away properly.
The downtown was accurately described as “just down the street, but pay attention or you’ll bike right through it”, but offers a tiny park with a gazebo and murals in an empty lot,
as well as an excellent court house building.
Towner, it turns out, is the county seat as well as the “cattle capital of North Dakota”.
Which was not enough to save City Hall from becoming well, whatever it was after it was City Hall and before it was vacant. It sits next to a bar that specializes in Bud Light and appears to be trying to change its name from “The Longhorn Bar” to “The Bearded Moose”. The choice of names seemed to confuse the locals and firmly placed the new owners of the bar as out-of-towners. The bar currently has both names posted.
Someone in Towner likes farm-themed decorative windmills,
which is fitting for the area. Before I left, I got to see part of a Ranch Rodeo, which is a rodeo in which contestants take part in timed ranch-inspired activities, like milking cows. Unfortunately I missed this event, but did see a relay race.
First you load your horses into a trailer. Then, when time is called, the first runner unloads his horse and take a turn around the grounds while holding a baton (either in hand or mouth).
Meanwhile the next fellow in line unloads his horse and attempts to mount. Sometimes the horse gets excited and makes this difficult.
Hopefully you’re mounted in time to get the baton when it arrives.
After your round, you have to dismount, load your horse back into the trailer, and run and place your hands on the hood of your truck. When the last person is done, you have to lock the trailer, too.
And we’re done.
I also did get to see some children chase some bored looking cows around the stadium. All of the cows seemed hot and peeved that they were involved in a rodeo.