October 26/18 (Part 4) – Watford City, North Dakota, U.S.A. to Weyburn, Saskatchewan, Canada – Weyburn Saskatchewan

In 1892, the CPR railroad from Brandon, Manitoba reached the future site of Weyburn and in 1893, the Soo Line from North Portal on the US Border arrived. Weyburn is still an important railroad town in Saskatchewan. Weyburn is reputedly a corruption of the Scottish “wee burn” or small creek.

A post office opened in 1895 and a land office opened in 1899, in expectation of a land rush, which soon developed. Weyburn, located on the banks of the Souris (“mouse” in French) River became a village in 1900, a town in 1903 and a city in 1913. From a population of only 113 in 1901, the City has grown steadily to a population of 10,870 as of the 2016 census. It is the 10th largest city in Saskatchewan.

Weyburn was previously home to the Souris Valley Mental Health Hospital. When opened in 1921, it was the largest building in the British Commonwealth, the most expensive building erected in Saskatchewan at the time and was considered to be on the cutting edge of treatments for people with mental disabilities. At its peak, 2,500 patients were housed here. The facility was closed in 2006 and the building demolished in 2009. All that is left is a nicely treed lane and the grounds.

Weyburn is the largest inland grain gathering facility in Canada. Well over half a million tons of grain pass through its terminals each year. Oil and gas exploration make up the other major component of its economy.

(Source:Wikipedia)

Neither of us had ever been to Weyburn before and were quite surprised by how tidy and prosperous the whole place looked. Our reason to stop here was to visit cousin D and her husband R. When we first planned our visit with them, D said jokingly that she would pray for a prairie blizzard, so we could stay longer. On arrival, we were welcomed with open arms (and no blizzard, thank heavens). After a bit of break, they set out to show us their City. We were mightily impressed and think we may have to go back for another visit.

Weyburn is home to some grand old homes…

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…and buildings…

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…not to mention Prairie sculptures…

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…and Tommy Douglas, father of modern Medicare and Premier of Saskatchewan from 1944-61. Actor Kiefer Sutherland is his grandson.

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October 26/18 (Part 4) – Watford City, North Dakota, U.S.A. to Weyburn, Saskatchewan, Canada – Rhymes with Saskatchewan

To paraphrase Simon and Garfunkel lyrics….”Gee, but its great to be back home, Home is where I want to be, I’ve been on the road so long my friend, And if you came along I know you couldn’t disagree”.

Certainly, our feelings as we drove back into Saskatchewan and Canada. Not that we did not like being on the road in other parts of Canada and the U.S. It is just that the Canadian West felt like home.

Rhymes With Saskatchewan

Golden wheat crops stretching out like a lawn,

Yellow sun rising up to silky dawn,

Mother deer grazing by with new young fawn,

Meadowlarks flit about and then are gone,

Long, straight highways as if by ruler drawn,

Prairie landscape stretching to horizon,

Farm equipment so big, you can’t move on,

Small pothole lakes covered with geese and swan,

Strangers act like friends you’ve just come upon,

All put together, that’s Saskatchewan.

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October 26/18 (Part 3) – Watford City, North Dakota, U.S.A. to Weyburn, Saskatchewan, Canada – Oungre, Saskatchewan – Borderline

After a week in America, we were driving back  into Canada today. Given our easy entry to the U.S., we wondered what awaited us getting back into our own country. We worried about the 2 bottles of liquor we had bought in Canada and taken across into the US and thought they might be confiscated. We parlayed the quietness of the remote rural border crossing into a guard having nothing but time on his hands to rip our car apart and question us for hours.

We drove tentatively up to the border, past the last turn around point on the American side, past the large shiny U.S. border station to the well worn smaller Canadian border station. Our host for this exercise came strolling out and asked us the few key questions we were not asked on entry to the U.S. Q#1 How long were you in America? A: a week Q#2 What was the purpose of your visit. A: Pleasure Q#3 Did you buy any alcohol in the U.S – Not in the U.S.   Red Flag Q#3A Where did you buy it? A: Nova Scotia and Ontario Q#4 Retail or Duty Free A: Retail.  HAVE A GREAT DAY.

Have a great day? Wait, what? No, show me the receipts. No. Car search. Wow. Well, the whole process took twice as long as entering the U.S. A whole 2 minutes.

Again, I guess how much trouble could two old farts in a Prius get into. Smile.

Borderline

Just 6 miles away

lies Oungre, Saskatchewan.

Canada Portal.

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October 26/18 (Part 2) – Watford City, North Dakota, U.S.A. to Weyburn, Saskatchewan, Canada – Fortuna, North Dakota (Coffee is my Kryptonite)

In retrospect, I was playing with Kryptonite when I had that large Latté in Williston. I was counting on Fortuna to provide a well placed rest stop, before our border crossing back into Canada. The drive was just over an hour, but felt like an eternity and I was beginning to lose hope when we hit Fortuna and saw……………….nothing. Let me set the stage.

North Dakota’s population is only 739,482 estimated as at 2014. Fortuna’s population is only 22 (Source:Wikipedia) ( if everyone is home) and on this day, I doubt anyone was home.

Fun fact: Fortuna is a city. Say what? Fortuna was founded in 1913 along a Soo Railroad branch line, running between Flaxton, North Dakota and Whitetail, Montana. The name comes form the Roman goddess of fortune (maybe in the day) chosen to note the settlers expectations of prosperity with the coming of the railroad. The population was only 198 at its peak in 1920 and it has been all down hill from there. (Source:Wikipedia)

Due to its position at the West side of a skewed Central time zone, it has the latest sunset at summer solstice of any of the contiguous 48 states. It is situated just 6 miles from the U.S. Canada border crossing port of Oungre, Saskatchewan. (Source:Wikipedia).

Now, back to my dilemma. As we entered Fortuna, I noticed what seemed to be an old school building (Feature photo) that appeared to be closed. On further inspection, it seems that some entrepreneur had converted it into the Teachers’ Lounge Bar and Motel. We hastily entered and were directed to what must have once been the old Boys and Girls washrooms in their day. Phewwwww.

Now on to explore Fortuna. Well, that didn’t take long. Seriously, the town (city) had that abandoned wild beauty to it as the attached pix will show. I can imagine nights are peaceful out here…..as long as you are close to a washroom.

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October 26/18 (Part 1) – Watford City, North Dakota, U.S.A. to Weyburn, Saskatchewan, Canada – Williston, North Dakota – Oil Town

Williston was founded in 1887 and named for Daniel Willis James, a merchant and capitalist, by railroad magnate James J. Hill. The economy was historically based on agriculture, but fortunes changed when it was determined in 2008 that up to 4 billion barrels of oil were technically recoverable from the Bakken formation. This climbed to 24 billion barrels by 2012 and then 500 billion. But, current technology only allows for recovery of about 6%. The population as per 2010 census figures was 14,716. Estimates as of 2017 place it at 25,586 making it the 6th largest city in North Dakota. (Source:Wikipedia)

But, due to a downturn in prices and a glut of oil, there has been talk lately of the boom going bust. Only time will tell.

Oil Town

Full of hope and covered in big dreams,

this place had many get rich quick schemes.

Thanks to all the oil in the Bakken,

the engineers, said let’s get frackin’.

Before too long, many things were new,

the population just grew and grew.

Traffic jams were now all too common,

with noisy diesels down streets bombin’.

Around town, were many new faces,

people came from far away places.

Looking for work, please come and sign up,

but first go there to pee in a cup.

Ev’ryone came seeking their fortune,

but the bloom dropped off away too soon.

Like many places of boom and bust,

you soon didn’t know who you could trust.

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October 25 & 26/18 – Watford City, North Dakota – Watford City Blues

In 1913, a few prospective businessmen located on this site, in anticipation of the arrival of the first Great Northern Railroad train. The town was surveyed and lots sold in 1914 and building began immediately. Many businesses and homes moved from nearby Schafer, which soon became a ghost town. Watford City was incorporated in 1915 and the population as of the 2010 census was 1744. Because Watford City is part of the Bakken oil field, population has increased to a 2017 estimate of 6,523, making it the 12th largest city in North Dakota. (Source:Wikipedia)

Frankly, Watford City was underwhelming. We had expected more than a town full of oil workers, drilling company offices, work camps and a steady flow of the same oil exploration company trucks we used to see in Alberta. I wish for them a better economic fate than us, but, while we were there, we learned that the bloom is already off the Oil Boom and Fracking roses and some hardships are beginning.

We had first class accommodation at Teddys’s (named after Theodore Roosevelt) Residential Suites, even though it was located in the middle of an industrial park.

 

 

Based on Google reviews, we were thinking of deferring our Rapid City Mexican meal for one in Watford City. Good thing we didn’t, as the place in Watford City was pretty much a fast food joint. We ended up eating in the restaurant attached to Teddy’s and it was OK.

 

There was no breakfast option in our hotel, but we found the Smiling Moose nearby. The walk proved difficult in this truck-centric city. The food choices were quite innovative here, but we are sure they are catering to company workers who have no kitchen access, but need to take a lunch out into the field.

 

The morning sunrise over the industrial park was still pretty, in a prairie way.

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We had a very frustrating experience in nearby Teddy Roosevelt Park on departure day. We had hoped to drive in and see the scenic overlooks in the hour we had to spare. This would have cost us $30 for a 7 day pass. We had no need of a 7 day pass. Why don’t U.S. and State parks offer a day or at least a 3 day pass. $15 would have been more palatable, but when we talked to the rangers, all they said was “Write Your Congressman”. Hmmm, that could be difficult, as I am from Canada, but OK. Maybe we should have come during a Government shutdown, like we did in January to Zion…………………..

In summary, even our GPS thought we were in the middle of nowhere.

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October 25/18 (Part 6) – Rapid City, South Dakota – to Watford City, North Dakota – North Dakota Badlands

Just South of Watford City, we came across an unexpected sight, the North Dakota Badlands. Pulling off at Badlands Panorama, we could see rock and canyon formations, much more similar to those we have near Drumheller, Alberta.

The area is dry today, but years ago, rivers carved out these stunning rock formations. In September 1883, Teddy Roosevelt came to North Dakota to hunt bison and find himself after the deaths of his mother and wife in the same day, that year. He got his bison and fell in love with the rugged lifestyle and freedom of the area. He became a rancher in the area, later stating that if not for his time in North Dakota, he would never have become President of the U.S. from 1901-1909. (Source:Wikitravel & Wikipedia).

The area was indeed quite beautiful, but very desolate and windy this day, so we drove on to seek excitement in Watford City. More on this later.

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