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A trip that seems to never end

North Dakota Game and Fish Department Courtesy Photo The six-and-a-half hour trips to Watertown, S.D., seem to last a lifetime, but nature is always abundant no matter how small.

It's a drive that takes four mugs of coffee, blaring techno music and turning on the air conditioning.

The air conditioning is needed no matter how cold it is. If the heater is on, there's a greater chance of falling asleep.

Oh, and did I mention I take this trip at midnight, so I don't have to spend one quarter of the next day driving home.

This is the routine I use when I make the six-and-a-half hour trip home, but when leaving Dickinson to go to Watertown, S.D. it takes seven-and-a-half hours due to the time change.

The first time I made this trip was in November for Thanksgiving. At that point in time, I was worried about snowfall and meeting a deer. The reason why I'm worried about meeting a deer in the road is because I drive a 1996 Saturn Ion. A newborn fawn would total that car.

Throughout the trip, I didn't see anything scurry across the road until I was one mile outside of Watertown. I saw two deer hop across the road.

That was it? Two deer, that I could barely see two miles up the road.

My next trip back was two days before New Year's Eve. That trip was awful. Instead of the normal six-and-half hour drive, it took 30 minutes to travel through Bismarck, because of rainfall that turned into ice.

The scariest part came right outside of Jamestown. I turned the radio station and immediately the road got icy. In the words of my dad, "It got a little slickery."

The road was fine until the off-ramp to the Jamestown exit. I nearly lost control of the car, but I managed to maintain and when I was filling up with gas, I took a sigh of relief and cracked a laughed. I wasn't laughing because I almost went off the road, but that I thought to myself, "I didn't want my last song I'll ever hear by Selena Gomez."

My most recent trip back to Watertown started last Thursday night and ended Tuesday afternoon. This trip was different.

It was the first time I saw a deer in North Dakota on the side of Interstate 94. It was spotted midway through Bismarck and Jamestown. I got that adrenaline rush coursing through my veins and had an instant boost of energy.

The adrenaline rush wasn't the best part. It was what I noticed on my left. I had to do a double-take at first -- it was a string of northern lights.

It wasn't the dark green that lit up the sky, but it was a noticeable faint green traveling down the road at 75 mph. Since there aren't many people driving down the highway at 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning, I was able to take multiple glances of the northern lights until Jamestown.

After seeing something that I haven't seen since I was young boy, I knew the trip home was going to go smoothly.

I always gave my dad grief, because he would pay more attention on what nature was doing around him than attention to the road. I always played the game, "Let's see how many times he hugged the shoulder." It was so many times that I lost count.

Now that I'm an outdoors reporter, I'm always looking to see what I see in nature. I will admit I've heard that terrible sound the tires make that can wake even the most tired passenger.

The one thing I've always found out driving home is that no matter if nothing happens or something huge happens, nature is always there to keep you company. You just have to be looking for it.

McGregor is the outdoors reporter for The Dickinson Press. He can be reached at