On the following day I had been driving for hours through nothingness accompanied by snow flurries. It was -20º F and the world seemed like it was dead. The only other cars I had seen in the span of a few hours were pickups most likely headed to oil fields. Eventually, an aptly named gas station appeared out of nowhere—“Sweet Crude.” I laughed to myself. As the day before had proven, the interpretation of the word “crude” definitely was debatable. I entered a room packed with workers headed out to the fields. As I filled up a coffee cup with my sweet crude, I overheard a man grumbling to himself. “No fucking toilet paper.” His grizzly voice muttered, “What the fuck. The oil boom is the worst thing that ever happened to North Dakota. The worst! This place used to be nice. You used to want to live here.”
I chuckled to myself as I walked away. I may have at least one person in the area on my side.
I got close to Edinburg and pulled over to get my bearings. As I zoomed in on the map via my GPS, I noticed a huge black area a mile outside of the town. “Is that it?!” I gasped to myself. “It can’t be! There is no way it’s that big!” I couldn’t believe my eyes. From everything I had read, the spill was supposedly contained and not that big, about 500,000 gallons, which for context is about the size of an olympic swimming pool. That’s definitely big, but not seen from a satellite big. It was supposedly a mile outside of the city, so I walked into a gas station to see if I could get some info. An older heavyset woman with curly blonde hair stood at the counter.
“Good morning ma’am, I was hoping you could help me.”
“Mmmhmm.” She replied without looking up from her paper.
“I’m out here trying to find some people to talk to about the oil spill that happened recently, especially someone from the company cleaning it up. I heard that it happened pretty close to here. Would you happen to be able to point me in the direction of it? I’d really appreciate it.”
She immediately set her papers down and peered over her glasses, staring at me.
“You won’t be able to talk to anyone. It’s right down the street and they have the road up to it closed off.”
“Thank you.” I replied and I turned away to head to the restroom.
Upon exiting, I could feel the woman’s eyes following me out the door, and was surprised to now see a cop sitting next to my car. I pulled off, a little apprehensively, and was (not quite) surprised to see that the cop pulled off shortly after me. About a mile down the road I saw the street that was closed off with a security station at the corner making sure only authorized personnel could enter. I checked the map and saw that this road led directly to the black area on the screen. It was the oil spill and this thing was massive. I kept going straight not wanting to bring attention to myself as I was apparently being followed by the policeman. About a mile after the street, I pulled a u-turn to try to find another way around. The cop immediately turned around as well and stayed twenty feet behind me—he was on my tail for the next five miles. It didn’t help that I was going 50mph to conserve battery. I pulled onto a side road hoping he would keep going straight but he followed behind as I drove deeper into the dirt roads.
After another ten minutes, and with him still behind me, I pulled over to the side of the road ready to get confronted but eager to get it over with—and he just kept driving. All I can think of was that he was intent on making sure I didn’t go to the spill but otherwise didn’t care all that much. I grabbed my drone hoping to get some aerial footage.
As I stepped outside, the cold wind bit my neck through my scarf and coat. The thermometer read -15º still and with heavy gusts of wind, I couldn’t guess how cold it really felt. I sent the drone up and it was immediately overtaken. I had to fight directly against the wind, offering a challenge on directing it once it got out of sight. After about five minutes up and a mile away, I realized that the wind and the cold was killing the battery quickly and I needed enough juice to bring it back. The flight was over before it started.
I felt defeated as I got back into the car. What had I accomplished? I didn’t talk to anyone and I didn’t get any footage. This part of the trip seemed like a waste. But then I thought about the story and smiled—I stuck out like a sore thumb, I was targeted by the police, and the oil industry really didn’t want me here. I drove off into the sunset feeling better about my work, and knowing tomorrow I’d be heading up to Watford where the majority of the fracking fields were.
Closest Level 2 Charger
Ready for Pt 5? Find it here!