Teddy Rosevelt is a fascinating man. I’ve read quite a bit about him seeing that he is one of my favorite presidents. And, although he appears to be a walking contradiction at times, my favorite part about his legacy is the establishment of the National Parks System. Over the years, millions of acres have been protected for both the conservation of wildlife, and for people to reconnect with the world as it once was. Teddy had the keen insight to know that if areas weren’t protected, they would be transformed beyond our wildest imaginations. One lesser known fact about Teddy is that before he was truly successful in politics, he retreated from being a city slicker after his wife’s death to become a cattle rancher in North Dakota. He arrived as a rich kid and left as a hardened northern rancher, making sure that he earned the respect of all the actual cowboys around. Through years of doing this, which culminated in him losing the majority of his cattle in a blizzard, he exposed himself to the realities of the American people. This story, in part, is what helped lead to the establishment of Teddy Roosevelt National Park, right outside of Watford City.
While driving earlier, I couldn’t help but notice how bizarre the park proximity was to the oil facilities. Both sides of the road were lined with fences. On one side, a National Park with a seemingly endless wilderness breaking off into the horizon; the other side containing industrial buildings, flaring towers, and diesel trucks. The irony was comical. Laughing to myself, I thought about what the local religious communities would say if I replaced their WWJD bracelets with WWTD. In the author’s opinion, I don’t think Teddy would be very happy. But, I digress…
The industrial towers disappeared behind me and the badlands opened up in front of me as I drove, and my heart began to feel a little bit lighter. The sun was starting to set and hues of pink and purple reflected off of the white snow. A random bison grazed in the distance. The caw of a crow could be heard echoing out, from where who knew. Since it was December, the depths of the park were closed to cars but available to snowmobiles, a method of transportation that could truly enjoy the area. I pulled off where the open road ended and preceded down a slow 40 min drive into the hills—eager to watch the sun go down.
What is it about wandering through our mind in the driver’s seat of a sitting car? I found myself reflecting about the trip and the people I had met and learned about. The American Indians of course. The people that lived here who suddenly had had their lives changed for the better. I thought about the government with its lack of empathy and its capitalist motivations; about all the life—domesticated humans and wild animals—that had been affected through this whole ordeal; and the oil spewing out of pipes that would remain hidden. My mind exhausted itself as it circled the unending intellect, and the air I breathed felt thick in the chambers of my lungs. Even though it could have been a combination of factors, I wanted to blame it on the factory’s ebullition of pollution that was all too abundant. I wanted to be angry at all of the oil executives for pushing money into the communities to keep them quiet. I wanted to be furious at how no one seemed to care. It all seemed like such an apt analogy for the way our American society deals with life on a daily basis, so myopic they are blind to what is really happening. As the sun disappeared behind the hills, I thought about who I was. Who am I to judge the world. Am I that much better? The honest answer is no. My life contains multiple habits that contribute to what I have been writing about here. Can I make a difference? That is yet to be seen but I can be aware, and I can tell this story.
It was the next morning and I was leaving Bismarck with the plan to cut through the fields straight down to the 90 in South Dakota where there were superchargers. I was putting myself at risk of running out of battery going this route, my 300 mi battery was more like 240-250 in these cold conditions and the supercharger was 260 away, but it would cut time off and get me out of sub-zero temperatures much faster. Knowing that I only had about 20 miles on an interstate before I turned onto a rural highway, I set my cruise at 50mph, got in the right lane and flipped my hazards on to inform everyone around me that I would be going consistently slow. Not 3 miles into the drive, a sheriff pulls up behind me and starts to tail me. He tailed me for about three miles, and getting tired of being followed, I pulled down the next exit. Immediately, I saw the lights go on and stopped for the officer.
“I had you clocked at 49” he said as I rolled my window down.
“That makes sense. I had the cruise set at 50.” I replied and then explained my situation and the concept of “hypermiling” to save battery.
“Wow, that’s crazy… I’ve never seen the inside of a Prius before.”
“Tesla.” I said without even thinking.
“It’s a Tesla, not a Prius.” I replied, feeling like an ass for correcting him.
“Will your car use battery while we sit here?” He asked, somewhat concerned about my voyage.
“Yeah, it uses it as long as it’s on.”
“Why don’t you come back to my car with me while I run your licence. I just need to make sure you’re valid to drive.”
I got out of the car and let him pat me down. I was transported back to being a teenager and felt like I was doing something wrong while I got into the car with him.
He tried to make small talk while he waited for dispatch to run me through the system, asking about my license plate and where I’ve traveled. All of a sudden he looked straight in my eyes.
“Do you always get nervous around law enforcement?”
“No, I always get nervous when I’m being detained though.”
“You don’t have any weed on you, do you?” he asked.
“No. I leave all that stuff in California.” I replied jokingly, trying to lighten the mood.
“It’s legal there right?” he inquired.
“Hmmm. It will be here soon enough. You sure you don’t have any? Not even a little bit of personal?”
“I’d like to search your car.”
All of a sudden, his radio crackled alive with dispatch responding with my info.
“Arthur Driessen. Male. 33. California. Valid.”
“Ok, you can get out of here.”
“You don’t want to search my car?”
“No. Even if you’ve got something, I’m looking for the big stashes and I don’t think you have that”.
I got back in my car and drove off. I was ready to get out of North Dakota.
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