The Great Northern

Following US‑2 through wide-open spaces is guaranteed to bring new meaning to the expression “getting away from it all.”

Ross and Stanley

East of Epping toward Minot, US-2 twists up and through a hundred miles of gentle, chocolate-drop hillocks, residuals of the great Ice Age glaciers, with some beautiful rises and plateaus capped by an occasional abandoned squad of dwellings. Along the way, podunk villages whiz by, full of boarded-up buildings, grain silos, and occasional surprises: Ross (pop. 106), for example, is a typically funky old town with some dilapidated, boarded-up buildings and huge grain elevators that look more like spacecraft engines. This unlikely-looking place is home to the first mosque built in the USA. Constructed by a Syrian farmer back in 1929, the original mosque was replaced by a newer, nicer temple in 2005, next to a cemetery holding the remains of Ross’s early Muslim settlers.

The one sizable place, Stanley (pop. 1,814), resting along the horizon-straight railroad tracks 7 miles east of Ross and 47 miles west of Minot, is worth a stop to sample the world’s last working Whirl-a-Whip milk shake machine at the old-fashioned soda fountain inside the Dakota Drug Store (107 S. Main St., 701/628-2255), a mile north of US-2. There’s also a municipal campground at the north end of town.

The First Masjid (Mosque) in America
Dakota Drug Store (107 S. Main St.)