Yesterday afternoon, Carjo had the bright idea for a Sunday drive. Drive to the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park (see photo on my banner) and do a quick turn through it. In 2009, this would have been a reasonable request. But now Highway 85 is the North Dakota Road of Death and Failure to Yield. There was no way I was going to negotiate that stretch of road in the dark, struggling with the Mercury Land Yacht. I could see the headline now. “Middle-aged ND couple t-boned by semi…” So I had to come up with a plausible alternative. Let’s see, the safest driving routes are either east or…NORTH?
We don’t have passports. The application forms are sitting in my file cabinet but I haven’t gotten going on it. Which is the case for…well, a lot of things. Welcome to my life. But nonetheless, it was off to Canada.
The destination was Estevan, a city of about 12000 just above the ND/SK border. My parents used to make this trip all the time because my mom loved shopping at the Coop, which was this giant mess of a department store/grocery store. Back then the exchange rate was pretty good for Americans and my mother loved nothing better than a good deal. So my brother and I spent a fair amount of time just wandering the aisles, bored out of our little skulls. I was curious to see how the Coop had fared. Carjo was anxious to get candy she can’t get in the US. I figured that our drivers licences would be enough to get us across the border on a day trip. But I wasn’t sure about the dog.
At the border, we weren’t even asked for ID by the woman sitting in the booth on the Canadian side. She asked where we were going, how long we were staying, and offered Pippin a dog biscuit. Ah, the legendary Canadian politeness. And then we were bouncing down a two-lane highway to Estevan.
I hadn’t been there in at least 30 years; my memory of the exact time is pretty vague. But I recognized some landmarks and we did find the Coop. It’s just a big grocery store now but we were due for a restocking anyway. I just made sure we didn’t get any fruit or vegetables. Carjo found some fantastic bread, lots of candy, and plenty of other things we couldn’t find on our side of the border. All in all she was satisfied.
We did some driving around town, looking for a gas station for Carjo to buy a fountain Coke at. I found a new section of town that apparently was driven by the energy boom. Estevan has always had big coal mines but now they’re finding the same oil formation that is under us in northwest ND. So there was a new Walmart, chain restaurants, a mall with a newer grocery store, and more than a couple new hotels, apartment buildings, etc. In a way, it appeared they were managing the boom better than some towns in ND but it was probably because it hadn’t reached the intensity we have experienced. And so we drove back.
The border patrol on the US side turned out to be a couple of uptight, “I’m a cowboy cuz I got a badge n’ gun” assholes. Well, at least the senior one was. I mean come on. We’re a couple of fat baby boomers with a little dog, driving a Mercury land yacht. What is the likelihood that we are terrorists with rockets strapped under the chassis? It is true that passports might have lessened this jackbooted piss ant’s intensity but I think he likely was a pencil dick no matter what the time of day was. But we got through. No dog biscuit either.
So now we’re world travelers, seeking out life and new adventure. Or just a new kind of candy bar.