Tag Archives: driving in North Dakota

Things To Keep In Your Vehicle In North Dakota

I have written blog posts similar to this one in the past, but I want to add a few more items to the list, and emphasize the importance of other items.

It has been very, very cold in North Dakota for this past week of February into the beginning of March 2019.  During the day and night, with the low temperature and the 20 mph to 35 mph winds, the temperature outside with windchill effect has been -30 to -40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Even though I have been wearing sweat pants and sweat shirts underneath quilt-lined winter overalls, with the high winds these past couple of weeks, I have found that I have become very cold when standing outside for more than ten minutes, particularly in my feet and hands.  Without gloves on, especially if you are handling metal objects, your hands can become painfully cold within five minutes in this below 0 degree F, windy weather.

One of the reasons why I am writing this type of blog post again, is because I did have a vehicle break down in December of 2018, and again in March of 2019, so here is my list, with an explanation:

  1. Cell Phone.  The most important thing to have with you in your vehicle in North Dakota is your cell phone.  You can call someone you know to come and get you, call someone to come and help you, call a tow truck, call the Highway Patrol, or call work to let them know where you are.
  2. Heavy Sleeping Bag.  The reason why I am putting a Heavy Sleeping Bag at #2 on my list, is because you can go more than a day without water, more than several days without food, but with the cold temperatures that we have been having lately in North Dakota, you could die from the cold within a couple of hours.  Women and young girls in North Dakota, have a very bad habit of not wearing heavy enough warm winter clothing, thinking that nothing bad is going to happen to them, or that there will always be someone else around to help them, which is not true.
  3. Tow Insurance.  On my State Farm Insurance vehicle insurance policy for instance, it costs about $8 additional per six months, to add “roadside assistance”.  This tow insurance paid for a $365 tow that I had in 2016, and a $510 tow that I had in 2018.
  4. A Firearm.  The reason why I am putting a Firearm higher on my list than jumper cables or fix-a-flat, is because more important than getting your vehicle moving again, is being able to defend your own life.  North Dakota may not be as bad as other states, but the older that I get, the more places that I have been, the more that I have learned and experienced, the more that I know that there are depraved people that attempt to prey upon and victimize other people.  (For those of you who do not live in states like Idaho or North Dakota, there are many states that have gun laws that are meant to allow law-abiding people to be armed, especially when traveling.)
  5. Heavy Duty Tow Strap.  It is good to have a Heavy Duty Tow Strap that is at least twenty feet in length to use to pull your vehicle if it becomes stuck, is off the road, or needs to be pulled home or to the nearest town.
  6. A Good Battery Jump Start Box.  An example of a Good Battery Jump Start Box, are the 1000 peak amp jump start boxes made by Stanley that cost about $80.  I have used several of these Stanley 1000 peak amp jump start boxes on dead batteries on big V8 engines, and they have plenty enough power and energy capacity for multiple starts.  These jump start boxes also have a built-in air compressor and power outlet ports for charging things like cell phones.  It is safer to use these jump start boxes to start a vehicle, than using jumper cables, to avoid potentially damaging your own vehicle or someone else’s vehicle.
  7. Heavy Duty Jumper Cables.
  8. A can of Fix-A-Flat for large size tires.
  9. AlumaSeal or Bar’s Stop Leak for radiator leaks.
  10. Bottle of Heet Gas Line Anti-Freeze.  It was so cold in Dickinson recently, that my vehicle would not start after I stopped at a service station to fill it up with gasoline.  I either had water in my vehicle gas tank from condensation, snow had blown into the service station tank when it was being filled, or my vehicle gas line froze.  In any case, it started very quickly after adding a bottle of Heet Gas Line Antifreeze to my vehicle fuel tank.
  11. Extra Coolant, Engine Oil, Transmission Fluid, Duct Tape, Vice-Grips, and Flashlight.
  12. Small Mechanic’s Tool Kit.  You can go to any hardware store, Menards, Runnings, or WalMart and find a small Mechanic’s Tool Kit with an assortment of metric and SAE sockets, wrenches, bits, and drivers for $50.
  13. Several Bottles Of Drinking Water.

I am going to finish this blog post by giving some very important advice that I believe many readers have not thought about.  Especially during this very, very cold weather that we have been having in North Dakota, be very careful and cautious about helping other people.

Sometimes, the most likely people to be having vehicle problems on the side of the road, are the least intelligent, mentally handicapped, bad judgement, lifetime problem people, and you have to be very wary and cautious about helping these people.

For instance, many, many people will not hesitate to hook up battery jumper cables the wrong way on your car battery, which could destroy your vehicle’s electrical system, not only causing you thousands of dollars in vehicle damage, but leaving you without a running vehicle, stranded on the side of the road with them.

Or, people who have slid off the road onto a steep embankment beside the road, may not hesitate in trying to talk you into attaching a tow rope to your vehicle in order to try to pull them back onto the road.  Do not do this if there is deep gorge or drop off below, if their vehicle continues to slide downhill, it may pull your vehicle all the way down to the bottom of the gorge.

It may be safer for you to offer to call the Highway Patrol or a tow truck, rather than risk your vehicle and your own safety trying to help someone else, who may have extremely bad judgment, not care about causing you problems, or who could even be a threat to you.

More About Survival In Western North Dakota

In the South, where I lived for most of my life, you don’t absolutely need a four wheel drive vehicle. I will concede that you might live at the end of a muddy road, and you don’t like getting stuck, but it’s not like you are going to die if you get stuck.

In North Dakota, it’s not that you own a four wheel drive vehicle because you like driving off road, you own one because you are trying not to drive off road. You own a four wheel drive vehicle in North Dakota because you are trying to stay on the road. Going off the road in North Dakota might cause you and your passengers to die, yes die.

Unlike the South, in North Dakota, most often there is no guardrail along highways where there is a several hundred foot drop, less than twenty feet from the edge of the road. On Hwy 85 just south of Watford City, even at the curves, there is a very narrow road shoulder, then a very steep embankment, then a several hundred foot drop. I know from experience, that if you get off the narrow flat shoulder, and onto a wet embankment, Don’t Move!

In North Dakota the embankments contain a clayey soil, they contain bentonite, which is far more slippery than dish soap when wet. If you are on a wet embankment, that has more than a slight incline, Just Stop! If you are just a couple of feet from the edge of pavement, stop, and keep it that way! Even if you have a four wheel drive vehicle with all four wheels locked, if you drive forward or reverse, you will begin sliding laterally, downhill, all the way to the bottom, however far that is. Let a heavy truck that is completely on the pavement, pull you back onto the shoulder from behind, while you are still only a few feet from the edge of pavement. Even then, it is dangerous for the tow vehicle. In wet or icy conditions, even a heavier tow vehicle can get pulled over the side from a lighter vehicle that suddenly gives way.

In the several winters that I have lived in North Dakota, the coldest it has gotten has been about 25 degrees below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. With a small amount of wind, with wind chill factor, it might have been -40 degrees Fahrenheit. If you had on just blue jeans and a hoodie, and tried to walk, you might have hypothermia in about ¼ mile. If you didn’t reach a warm shelter within that ¼ mile, you would die.

In North Dakota, you should do everything you can to avoid unintentionally dying in the Winter. Four wheel drive is not for monkeying around in the Winter, it is for staying on the road, and helping you get back onto the road. If you are driving out of town, you need to make sure that you and all of you passengers have warm enough shoes, clothing, and jacket to be outside for at least ½ hour, because you might be. No kids, especially teenage girls, just wearing pajamas, thinking that they are only going to have to walk no more than thirty feet to and from the car.

Unfortunately, many people do not have extra radiator coolant, aluma-seal, or tools in their vehicle, nor do they know if they have an inflated spare tire or a jack. Their preparedness plan is to try to get somebody else to pull over and help them, using their extra coolant, aluma-seal, tools, fix-a-flat, jack, air compressor, etcetera, give them ride. This plan is not always going to work.