In the vast lane…

Do you ever look at a map of North Dakota? I mean, do you ever sit down, open it up and analyze it as if there was a college exam on it tomorrow? Silly question, right? We all look at a map when we are going someplace. But this isn’t checking what highway you’re going to be on. This is about exploring how big this state really is.

When we first moved to Minot in 2000, we were shocked to find that Williston was another 125 miles to the west and to think there is another 15 miles from there to the Montana state line? Devils Lake is 125 miles east of Minot and to think that Grand Forks is another 90 miles east of that? So doing my rough and fuzzy math, that’s 340 miles across the state on U.S. Highway 2.

The southern tier from west to east is even longer. Beach to Fargo is shown on the map as 350 miles. It’s not quite as long from north to south, but keep in mind, the distances are remarkable when you think about it. It’s more than 200 miles from the South Dakota state line south of Oakes to Maida, which is 17 miles north of Langdon on the Canadian border.

But here’s something to think about. If you stack up the distances from one corner of North Dakota to the other, the mileage goes up considerably. Think about driving from Crosby to Wahpeton. According to the map, it’s 436 miles from Crosby to Wahpeton, and that’s not even border to border. Westby, on the Montana state line, is 32 miles west of Crosby. So if you went from Westby to Wahpeton, you would be driving 468 miles. That’s the equivalent of Bismarck to Lusk, Wyoming or Minot to Saskatoon. And to think there is another 33 miles from Wahpeton to the state’s corner where Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota meet.

If you go northeast to southwest, the distance is even more vast. Cavalier to Bowman is listed as being 449 miles. OK, that’s a long way. But then, there’s another 24 miles from Cavalier to Pembina and 16 miles south of Bowman before you see the sign that says Great Faces Great Places. That’s a whopping 489 miles from one corner of the state to the other. That’s the equivalent of going from Fargo to Des Moines, Iowa or going from Grand Forks to Thunder Bay, Ontario.

Many of us watch state basketball tournaments on TV every year. In recent years they’ve added volleyball and football. Last year the Langdon Cardinal football team traveled all the way to Bowman for a high school playoff game on a cold afternoon. Think about driving that far on a November day for approximately three hours and then turning back for the long ride home. Even if you win the game, it’s a long ride home.

It begs the question, should high school sports teams even be traveling those kinds of distances? Maybe that’s a question for the sports world to figure out.

The good news is, there is a lot of North Dakota between these points. Even if you are traveling on the concrete highway, there are things to stop and see along the way. Most often, however, on a trip of several hundred miles, we don’t really schedule the time to make stops. Maybe we should. There is a lot to see, and you might be surprised at what you discover off the beaten path. And I’m not talking about the well-publicized tourist spots.

The threshing show at New Rockford, Old Settlers Day in Center, Community Day in Hazelton, Light Up the Night in Grand Forks, Frost Fire Summer Theater in Walhalla, Pioneer Day in Kenmare, Harvest Holiday in Edgeley and the annual turtle races in Turtle Lake are all fun places to visit with lots of things going on at the same time. We all love Medora; we enjoy the National Buffalo Museum in Jamestown, kids get a big thrill out of visiting the state capitol and climbing to the top floor, and there’s North Dakota’s best-kept secret in Lake Metigoshe. Those are all wonderful places to visit, but we don’t often realize that our state has a lot to offer for its people and for out of town visitors.

We can all take comfort in knowing that we have some special places here like the railroad trestle bridges at Valley City and Minot, the Garrison Dam and crossing on N.D. Highway 200, Devils Lake no matter what season and have you ever seen the McClusky Canal? The next time you are traveling across the state, build in some time to take one of these short and fascinating detours. If you do it one time, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.

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