Epic Ride, Day 2:
As my friends Rick Ryan (who will accompany me on a lot of my Epic Ride), Jim Moore and I were riding to North Dakota on Thursday, I kept thinking about “No-Dak” jokes. You used to hear a lot of No-Dak jokes in Wyoming. They were kind of like jokes about Poles, the Irish, and Texas Aggies. They weren’t very politically correct. But they were kinda’ funny.
I was thinking about them because we were riding to North Dakota just so I could color in another state on my “states-I’ve-ridden-in” map on the NT-Owners Forum. I had driven to North Dakota one other time, but it had been dark by the time I got north of Belle Fourche, and I wasn’t prepared for how beautiful the ride would be. It’s been a wet spring and early summer up here and the grass was green. We saw lots of cattle, quite a few pronghorn antelope, some sheep, and thousands of round bales of hay. What we didn’t see that I kept imagining was the vast herds of buffalo that once roamed the Plains, herds so big that it would sometimes take more than a day for them to pass a single spot.
We got to Bowman, North Dakota, and rode past three or four gas stations. About 10 miles east I remembered that Rick had told me that he would need gas in another 140 miles when Jim and I were fueling up in Belle Fourche. It had been 120+ miles. I used the search function on my GPS to look for fuel opportunities along our route. All the little arrows in the list were pointing south and the closest gas, according to Garmin was 110 miles away. Oops!
But we could see two large grain elevators in Scranton, four miles ahead, so I pushed on, hoping Garmin was wrong. Sure enough, there was a gas station in Scranton – thank you, CENEX!
At Gascoyne, the next town east on US-12, I thought we needed to turn south. Garmin said, “No, it’s 6 miles east of here,” but I’d lost faith in Garmin.
You guessed it…this time I was wrong and we turned around. As we rode back through Gascoyne (Pop: 10-15), I was the only one to see the old historic marker for the “Yellowstone Trail.”
At Reeder, we did turn south on ND-22, which became SD-79. There was a sign warning us of 14 miles of road construction, but we didn’t see hide or hair of it. In South Dakota, Garmin was wrong again. Ralph was 5-6 miles away from Garmin’s guess and Reva was “out-of-place” by 3 miles.
South of Reva, there was another warning sign, promising 50 miles of road construction, but we weren’t worried.
We should have been. After about 15 miles, we came to flagger. He had several cars and a couple of trucks stopped, but waved us and the two Road King riders who had passed us to the front of the line. The pilot car came in just a few minutes. He led us down the road for 12 miles, riding in loose gravel, parallel to the clean side of the road that was waiting for oil and gravel. All the construction was in the first ¼ mile of the flagger. After 12 miles, he left us to our own devices and for the next 28 miles we rode on the cleaner side of the road. But when we’d meet a northbound truck on the loose gravel, we learned to duck the flying gravel
We made it to Sturgis, a nice, clean, and quiet little town for the next 2-3 weeks, and took a well-deserved break for cold liquids and refreshing food.
After lunch, I headed to Rapid City, to pick up Jim Rau, who was leaving his bike at the Honda dealer for an 8,000 mile service. Jim will be riding to Alaska with me, standing in for Rick, who’s got to resolve some family issues before he rejoins me on the road.
Between North Dakota and Sturgis, we had seen temperatures of 105-107F, but by the time I got to Rapid, it was “only” 104. On the way home to the campground, it cooled off to 98F. The wind was incredible, turbulent when the hills were close to the road, and so strong on one short stretch that even after downshifting to 4th gear, I couldn’t maintain 60mph.
But we made it back and I slept the sleep of the just Thursday night. After all, I had just colored in another state!