Wind Talkers

IN CASE YOU’VE NEVER CHOSEN to visit North Dakota for a week in the dead of winter, let me assure you that it’s really tough to explain why any fully evolved Homo sapiens would. Here, just shy of the Canada border, as you’re about to check in to the lonely Golden Hub Motel, in the town of Crosby, all you hear is the squeak of your feet on snow, and no horizon delineates the frosty sky from thousands of acres of frosty fields. Staring at this desolate scene is like being in a very cold cloud, or how I imagine we might greet the white light of death. The question Why are you here? is soon followed by Why? Yes, it’s the kind of place that can drive a man to commit philosophy.

Speaking concretely, I’m here to follow the To Cross the Moon (2XtM) expedition, a second attempt by three buddies to traverse the lunar-looking state, powered only by wind. Jason Magness, 32, Sam Salwei, 26, and Paul Cassedy, 19, plan to use snowkites large parafoils clipped to hip harnesses via 80-foot lines to tow themselves on skis and snowboards across North Dakota’s farms, ranchland, and frozen lakes. Starting in the far northwestern corner, they’ll head south to 150-mile-long Lake Sakakawea, cross it, and then glide on down to SoDak. At the same time, a four-person education team will bounce around drumming up popular support for wind farms while a rotating roster of volunteer photographers and videographers (the “media crew”) documents it all.

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