Medora, North Dakota
October 3, 2014
Dear Family & Friends:
I know what you are thinking: he’s not even out of North Dakota??
What is it about me that attracts bad weather? Every year on Everest, I have had bad weather. For example, this year, as I was about to step on the summit, a super-storm moving away from the mountain spotted me and made a hard left turn for the mountain. The storm lasted 4 days and dumped more snow on the North side than they have seen in 15 years.
Today started with great promise and hope. I departed Williston in bluebird weather–the sun was shining and the sky was deep blue and cloudless. As soon as I got out of Williston, all hell broke loose. First, the wind showed up on cue and grew steadily worse. Then, clouds filled the sky and wet stuff started falling. Every time I rode through the weather into the sun, more clouds and rain appeared, replacing the clouds and rain that I thought I had escaped. The wind was the worst I have experienced on the trip. The ride from Belfield was pure torture, with heavy winds and torrential rain. When it rains, riding without a windshield at 65 mph is especially painful because the rain drops strike the face like pellets. I had no choice but to detour into Medora.
Actually, my wife gave me the idea to lay-over in Medora. Her Aunt Beverly lives in Medora, so last night I took Aunt Beverly to dinner. I probably would have stopped here regardless of the weather. Medora is located in Billings County, North Dakota and is home to 5 National Historic Register Sites. It has spectacular scenery, wildlife, adventure, entertainment and dining.
The discovery of oil has set North Dakota’s economy on fire. Construction is booming throughout the state–roads, homes, hotels, hospitals, office buildings, commercial centers and schools. The roads are crawling with construction vehicles. The rails are lined with new, black oil cars being hauled by locomotives to satisfy the nation’s insatiable demand for fuel. North Dakota’s unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the country. “Help wanted” signs are everywhere. There was even a help wanted sign in a local newspaper for a television broadcast journalist. A cab driver in Minot told me that even low-skill jobs pay extremely well, sometimes in the 6 figures. The Wallmart in Devils Lake has over 100 job openings. K Mart has 25 unfilled jobs. Some of the major retail stores do not even shelve their goods because of the lack of employees. They just leave them in boxes in the aisles. Many of the fast food restaurants offer only drive-through service because of the dearth of employes. All of this economic activity is related to oil.
If you are looking for a job that pays well, come to North Dakota. But, bring warm clothes. If you are a mountaineer, well, not so good.
I love North Dakota, and not just because Sharon was born here. I love the wide-open countryside and the plains that extend as far as the eye can see. When the crops are in full bloom, the fields display a kaleidoscope of beautiful colors. In harvest season, the harvesters, tractors and trucks remind me that North Dakota is the heartland that feeds the country. The people are warm, trusting and friendly. Every restaurant in the towns and villages offers delicious, home-cooked farmer meals.
My goal is to spend an entire year in Egeland. I’m told, in the winter, white stuff falls from the sky. They call it snow. We don’t see this in California. This is something I want to experience in my lifetime.
I’m hanging here until the weather improves. Don’t feel sorry for me. These are the conditions that make me feel totally alive. I love these challenges.