The Great Northern Route

Just north of Lake Sakakawea and the Missouri River, a dozen miles east of the Montana line, Williston (pop. 14,716) has always been a boom or bust kind of place, and in recent years it has been enjoying a boom in its primary industries—wheat-growing and oil-pumping—which by some measures made it the fastest-growing small town in the USA. Motels are often booked up by crews of “fracking Bakken” oil field workers, but the downtown area is still an all-American scene straight out of Our Town.

Apart from filling the tank before a trip to Fort Union or farther afield, one more good thing to do in Williston is eat: Responding to an impromptu poll, locals will likely recommend the classic truck stop Lonnie’s Road House (226 42nd St., 701/774-1103), north of downtown, or will point you toward Big Willy’s Saloon & Grill (3701 4th Ave. W., 701/577-3703) as the eatery of choice. Big Willy’s is famous for its “Frack Attack”: a double-height grilled cheese sandwich split by a full one-pound burger, all yours for $25. (You get a chance at a free T-Shirt if you finish it off in less than 30 minutes.)