Jennifer Haigh and I set out from Bismarck first thing Thursday morning, under broad, blue skies. North of the city, the land is flat – almost featureless – with only the occasional farmhouse and grain elevator breaking the horizon.
Heading west from Minot, agriculture began to give way to energy, first in the form of wind turbines, then oil derricks, nodding their heads at the ground like giant metal birds. By the time we reached our destination, whole flocks of them crowded the fields.
Williston is a boom town, and has been since 2010, when the Bakken shale that lies beneath this region began to give up its oil to fracking. Though the crash in oil prices has slowed things down a little in the past couple of years, the town is still thriving. It is a strange place, filled with itinerant workers, enormous vehicles, and many, many hotels.
Here's a very short documentary to introduce you to Williston.
I was one of five Scottish writers chosen by Edinburgh International Book Festival to undertake extraordinary journeys across the Americas in spring and summer 2017.
I will be travelling through the United States for three weeks, from north to south, beginning in North Dakota, through Appalachia, and ending in Louisiana. For much of this time I will be accompanied by the novelist Jennifer Haigh.
You can follow my progress on Twitter and Instagram, and keep up-to-date with all the travellers using the hashtag #Outriders.