After two weeks in North Dakota, we are starting to learn our way around. As with any new place, this one has its quirks. We are quick learners and like to explore, but sometimes all the newness at once can be overwhelming. So far we have explored grocery stores.
Two weeks in we have been to three different grocery stores. We went to the first one after just a couple of days on the job. We were out of milk and bread, so we didn’t need to do a big grocery run but we did need some basics. The closest grocery store is in Fairview, Montana, about 10 miles from the Fort: Neu’s SuperValu. Fairview has fewer than 1,000 residents, but it is a nice little town with a town park and a community swimming pool. There are a couple of bars, a really good pizza place (we’ve heard) and the SuperValu.
Neu’s SuperValu is either a very large convenience store or a very small grocery store. The aisles are narrow and everything is very crowded together but they had a nice variety of stuff. The ready-made food section was especially good with dinners made from scratch in the kitchen. The bakery also had a surprising selection of stuff that looked yummy. Tom and I went between work and supper, so that probably wasn’t the best time to go because everything looked really good. They even have a decent produce section. The only ding for Neu’s was the prices. Because it is the only place to get groceries in a little town, the prices were a little high. But we appreciated the convenience and the proximity.
The second of the grocery stores is Albertson’s in Williston, North Dakota. Williston is an oil-boom town that jumped from 15,000 residents in 2010 to 30,000 residents by 2020. Because of this quick growth there is lots of new in Williston. It is the closest good-sized city and we will probably go there for most of the things we need. It has a Walmart, a Menard’s, movie theaters, and many restaurants. Williston is 25 miles from the Fort.
We shopped at Albertson’s when we worked at Death Valley so we knew we could find most of what we need in groceries there. Unfortunately they don’t have our low-sodium deli meats, but they had everything else on our list. Albertson’s is a normal grocery store with a decent produce section and decent bakery. We got some brookies that were very good. The store seemed a little crowded, like it used to carry less stuff but had crammed more in the store when the town boomed. The aisles were narrow, but we found everything on our list except for the low-sodium meats.
The third grocery store is Reynold’s in Sidney, Montana. Most of our rangers live in Sidney so they are always talking up their town. In their view Williston is grimy and crime-ridden. Sidney is a typical small county seat with about 5,000 residents. There is a wide Main Street with a nice selection of restaurants and stores. Sidney is 20 miles from the Fort.
Reynold’s Market is in a new shopping center on the north side of town. The building is large and the store is very clean with wide aisles and a spacious feel. The rangers kept telling us it has the best produce, and they are probably right. Reynold’s also sells a lower-sodium turkey breast that isn’t as low as Boar’s Head but is better than nothing. The prices are a little higher than Albertson’s, but if we lived in Sidney we would definitely shop there all the time. We couldn’t find all the items on our list but we found enough to get us through the week.
After trying all three grocery stores, Tom and I agreed that we will probably alternate between Albertson’s and Reynold’s. We could get most, but not all, of the items we wanted at each grocery store and the other store had the remainder of the items. Now that we know what each has we can stock up in what the other lacks.
The final important item for being at home in an area is a laundromat. Most parks provide laundry, but Fort Union does not have a community laundry. There is a washer and dryer in the seasonal rangers’ housing, but we had to get permission to use that. So, the first week, Tom and I headed to Bubba’s Bubbles in Williston to do laundry. The advantage to going to a laundromat is getting all your laundry done at once. I did the equivalent of three loads of laundry in 1.5 hours. The disadvantage is, of course, the price. It cost me $14.
Bubba’s Bubbles was clean and cheery looking. We went on a Tuesday morning and it wasn’t very busy. There were plenty of machines in lots of different sizes. Prominently displayed on half of them was the sign “No Oilfield or muddy clothing in this machine.” The other half of the machines had a sign that said “Greasers.” Because Williston is an oil-boom town, the laundromat made provisions for washing oilfield and non-oilfield clothing. I, of course, chose the non-oilfield washers and dryers, although there are times Tom’s blacksmithing clothes could qualify. There was a Magnum washing machine that took my three loads of laundry in one batch. All three loads also fit in one dryer.
We have since gotten permission to use the washer and dryer in seasonal housing but we can only use it Tuesday and Wednesday during the day when one of the rangers is present. We may be heading back to the laundromat just for the ease of use.
Tom and I are gradually getting acclimated to our new state. We are enjoying learning about the area and exploring. Now that we have taken care of the necessities, we can branch further afield.