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Introducing North Dakota

'Magnificent desolation.' Buzz Aldrin used it to describe the moon and it applies just as well in North Dakota. Fields of grain – green in the spring and summer, bronze in the fall and white in winter – stretch beyond every horizon. Except for the rugged 'badlands' of the far west, geographic relief is subtle. More often it is the collapsing remains of a failed homestead that breaks up the vista.

Isolated in the far US north, North Dakota is the least visited state. But that just means that there's less traffic as you whiz along at the usual legal limit of 75mph. This is a place to get lost on remote two-lane routes and to appreciate the magnificence of raw land.

But note that despite those seemingly endless summer fields of grain, the state's economy is tied to large oil deposits in the west. Soaring energy prices have turned once-moribund towns such as Williston and Watford City into boomtowns, with vast trailer encampments for oil-field workers and roads clogged – and battered – by huge trucks. Most are surprised to learn that North Dakota is the fastest growing state in the US.