Love ‘big sky’ drive

I have been travelling the last six days—firstly across North Dakota and Montana along Highway 2 to Shelby, and then back east on the Trans-Canada.
On both routes, you travel at 118 km/h so you do make good time.
The travel distance to Calgary is very similar. The highways are very straight and the driving is easy.
Highway 2 runs about 60 km south of the U.S./Canada border.
Both routes take you through great grain growing and cattle country. On the U.S. side of the border, one sees lots of Black Angus in the fields and that breed also is popular through much of Alberta.
Travelling across Saskatchewan and Manitoba, the popular breed of cattle is the Hereford.
Highway 2 in the U.S. parallels the Burlington Northern Railway, and the tracks were filled with speeding trains going both east and west. There were grain trains, crude oil trains, and container trains.
We stopped in Havre, which is the halfway railway point between Seattle and Chicago. The town of 9,000 is dependent on the engine depot operated by Burlington Northern.
While the Trans-Canada is the busier of the highways, oil is playing a burgeoning role on both sides of the border. Through North Dakota, from Devil’s Lake to the Montana border, there are huge man-camps spread out along the highway.
The drilling and production in the Bakken oil field is being tapped into in North Dakota, Montana, southern Manitoba, and southern Saskatchewan.
Busloads of workers depart from camps, hotels, and motels before day-break, then returning after sundown. There is little unemployment in these areas and signs on hotels and restaurants all are looking for employees.
Weyburn, Sask., Estevan, Sask., Moosomin, Sask., and Virden, Man. all are experiencing the oil boom, as are Minot, Devil’s Lake, and Williston, N.D.
One can see rigs in fields drilling, trenching, and laying pipe. Oil tank trucks are moving onto Highway 2, delivering oil from storage tankers in fields to a central dump.
Meanwhile, the harvesting of crops on both sides of the border is almost complete. We saw more combines on fields adjoining the Trans-Canada than we did on Highway 2.
The huge hay and straw bales sit in the fields waiting to be transported to cattle yards for winter bedding and feed.
Calgary has more cranes in the air than I have ever seen. Since my last visit four years ago, just about every available piece of downtown real estate has moved upwards.
The city is sprawling, but so is Lethbridge and almost every community in both Alberta and Saskatchewan.
I found the travel across North Dakota and Montana far more interesting as we passed through communities about every 25 km apart.
Both highways have huge “big sky” views, where you can see the land drop off the Earth as the sky seems to reach down below it.
It is a great ride.

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