On the first day of our journey, we walked, guided by the force of an omnipresent 30+ mph wind out of the West, from the border of North Dakota with Montana, to the very top of Sentinel Butte. After 10 miles of walking, we arrived in the town of Sentinel Butte, which sits in the shadow of its neighboring promontory and shares its name. Ambling into the village, we gingerly approached a small service station, where we had hoped to replenish our water supplies.
I wasn’t certain that this would be possible as I had heard this place was famous for being un-staffed, dispensing gasoline on a sort of honors system, a testament to the trusting nature of its owners and the upright conduct of the area’s residents. As we collapsed on a couple of picnic tables out back, grateful for a place to sit that wasn’t the ground, a man walked out of the back of the station and immediately addressed us, “How about you guys come inside and eat some lunch?” This was Rick, the very first person we spoke with on our journey.
I guess it was the cynicism ingrained in me by city life, but I was concerned at first that he was upset we were using the picnic tables without permission, but no. He was genuine. FREE LUNCH: the leftovers of the weekly Friday lunch potluck, held that day at Olson’s Service Station. Rick and other area residents sat inside chatting, eating burgers, hotdogs and casseroles. We quickly yielded to the persistent pressure to eat some of these goodies. We sat and had nice conversations with several of these folks, including Wendy, a recent transplant from Montana. I asked her what makes ND special, and she responded that she felt North Dakotans have a unique way of looking at things: a very logical and smart approach to solving problems, but one ever so slightly quirky. I was so pleased at the serendipity of these moments and proud to come from a state where a high priority is placed on community and hospitality, that I couldn’t have asked for a better way to start the trip.