I took my semi-annual trip back to the Bakken. For those who don't know, I grew up in Williston, the heart of the Bakken, left home after high school, and seldom returned until I retired from the US Air Force a few years ago and now return twice a year. (It is interesting that the year I retired from the USAF is the first year of the North Dakota Bakken boom. Purely coincidental.)
I left Dallas-Ft Worth metroplex on Sunday afternoon, about 4:00 p.m. I drove straight through, stopping two times for short naps, arriving in Rapid City area early Monday afternoon. I did not want to stop in Rapid City, so I drove the 50 miles up to my grandfather/grandmother's homestead a mile south of Newell, South Dakota. There are not motels in Newell, so I drove over to Belle Fourche -- I did not want to drive all the way back to Sturgis -- and found the motel where Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz ("I Love Lucy") probably spent their honeymoon back in the 1950s. The motel had no wi-fi, but every room apparently had a wonderful micro-television mounted on the wall above the refrigerator.
The next morning, I learned the "world's biggest biker bar," the Full Throttle in Sturgis burned to the ground overnight. I had driven by it the night before. It's hard to believe, one moment it's there, one moment it's gone. CNN says:
It held as many as 15,000 people on a rally night, owner Michael Ballard said on the bar's website. One employee said on a really busy night as many as 20,000 people would come in.Fortunately, the fire occurred after this year's Sturgis rally.
Tuesday, I drove to Bowman where I spent the night with
He did tell us about a recent child neglect or abuse case in the county. Apparently, over at XXXXX XXXX (I can't name the town), a little baby was left in the back seat while the mom or the dad or whoever was babysitting the baby went into the store to buy a case of beer. When he/she came back out, he/she threw the case of beer in the back seat, forgetting there was a baby on the seat.
Some miles down the road, the car was stopped, and law enforcement took control of the situation.
When the story was first told, the first question was what happened to the beer, but the real issue was how badly the baby had been injured.
It turns out the baby was fine. The cowboy said the case of beer was Lite beer.
And folks wonder why I drive back to the Bakken every so often.
Speaking of cowboy jokes, this is a great article on intermittent energy for Californians.
During the boom, lines stretched out the doors of the few restaurants in Williston. It sometimes took an hour or longer to get served. But now, that is not an issue. There are now many, many new restaurants -- including Famous Dave's, Buffalo Wings, and everything in between. The question, now, is whether they will all make it. The boom is over and the question is, are there to many restaurants to support the "new" Williston?
I don't know.
Tonight I'm at Fuddruckers. I came here because they have great food and, more importantly, they have wi-fi. When I came in at 6:00 p.m. it was empty. Now, by 7:45 p.m. it was fairly active. Easily enough to keep it open. It's Wednesday night, Bible night in the Deep South, but up here, I don't know. I was just impressed how busy Fuddruckers is in the middle of the week.
It's also the end of tourist season, so these folks can't all be tourists. During the boom, those coming to restaurants were 90% male and all working in the oil and gas industry. Tonight, almost every other table is a family, with an average of 2.5 children.
Next year at this time we will know who the survivors are. This will go down as the year the Bakken caught its breath between the boom and the (coming) mini-boom.
One of the things I think folks forget is, "if they build it, they will come." Even before the boom, Williston had a pretty good draw from eastern Montana and Canada. But now, with the new Menards, and the new Sportsman's Warehouse (next to Menards), the draw will be even bigger. During the winter months, a lot of folks in the region take weekend vacations to local motels with swimming pools, and instead of folks driving all the way to Minot or Bismarck, they are only going to have to drive as far as Williston. It's going to be interesting to see how this plays out.
One can compare Williston, 2015, to Williston, 2012, or one can compare it to Williston, 1967. In all cases, there is "no comparison."