"America is so vast that almost everything said about it is likely to be true,
and the opposite is probably equally true.
"
- James T. Farrell

TODAYíS ROUTE:
Bismarck, ND to Williston, ND: US-83 North to Washburn, West on SR-200 past Hazen, Zip, Killdeer to US-85 North to US-2 East to Williston. (
MAP)

THE DETAILS:
Itís been raining all morning, so I get a late start, hoping to wait it out. I donít mind riding in the rain so much, as my gear keeps me very dry, but it makes it difficult to take pictures and shoot video. And it is quite cold. The temperature wonít reach much past 50 all day. Combine that with the wind-chill of a moving motorcycle, and you can get pretty cold, pretty quickly. My heated vest is working overtime, but the heated handlebar grips could be a bit warmer.

I turn north out of Bismarck and head up the Missouri River towards Washburn. There I start west on Route 200, the Sakakawea Trail, traversing open ranges and rolling grain-fields. From the unspoiled banks of the Missouri to the striking mesas and buttes of the Badlands, this road runs virtually traffic free through scenic western North Dakota. Even through the gray rain, Iím captivated by the beautiful landscape. I ride past miles of sunflower fields and nothing towns with names like Dodge, Zip, and Beulah. The road condition is excellent, especially considering the harsh winters. I stop for lunch and some much-needed hot chocolate at the Crossroads Restaurant in Killdeer.

Just up county road 37, through Stanton, I visit the Knife River Indian Village National Historic Site. For centuries this part of the Upper Missouri River Valley was a lifeline for the Northern Plains Indians, specifically the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara tribes, and this site celebrates their culture and history. During the harsh winters they lived in earth lodges and during warmer months they hunted bison. There were so many buffalo that in one dayís hunt the warriors could kill enough for the entire year. Tragically, contact with Europeans wiped out these tribes, not through war but through disease. In 1781, a smallpox epidemic killed half of the population.

When I reach US-86, I turn north again, and shortly after Grassy Butte, the landscape turns wicked. Iíve entered the Badlands of North Dakota. Rounded buttes surround me. The multicolored rock formations are layers of sandstone, clay, shale and petrified wood deposited millions of years ago. Easily eroded by the elements, the rocks take every shape from drip castles to capped pillars and buttes. In 1864 General Alfred Sully described the area as "hell with the fires out."

A few miles up the road I enter the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Teddy first came to this area in 1883 to hunt bison. He started up a ranch here, the Elkhorn, and often returned to find solace. The park memorializes the 26th President and the scenery he worked to conserve. A 14-mile scenic drive provides ample opportunities for viewing wildlife and the wonderful rock formations. I also get my third stamp of the day, as the Knife River site had the bonus of the Lewis and Clark Historic Trail stamp, which I did not expect.

THE DAILY TAKE:
Miles Today: 263.6
Total Miles: 6,667
Time on Motorcycle: 4 Hours, 54 Minutes
States Visited today: 1 (ND)
Total States Visited: 19
National Park Service Passport Stamps: 3
NPS Stamp totals: 52 Stamps, 16 States
Weather: Intermittent Rain Showers All Day Long

SEEN ON THE ROAD:
"Donít Blink. Hensler" Ė sign on SR-200 in downtown Henlser, ND, Population about 2.

RANDOM PASSINGS:
A few months ago, a fellow BMW enthusiast told me to watch out for bison during my trip out west. Apparently, these animals donít much enjoy motorcycles and have been known to charge them. Like all the other advice I glommed over the past few months, Iíve filed it in my memory, keeping it handy if needed. Well, I needed it today. After the Oxbow Overlook in the Theodore Roosevelt Park, I turn around, heading back the way I came. About two miles down the road I run into my problem: a huge buffalo right in the middle of the road! The beast is about eight feel tall, and weighs 2,000 pounds. Heís way bigger than I am. Fortunately Iím behind him as he meanders down the road. I stop about 500 feet behind and keep my distance. About ten minutes later, an enormous Winnebago comes from the opposite direction and the bison yields to this much larger creature. But then he returns to saunter down the road. Is he going to walk the entire 14-mile route? I get a bit closer and he turns when he hears my motor. Damn, I've gotten too close.  He has very big horns. I turn off the bike, which I suddenly think may be a mistake, but he has reached his turn-off and heads into a grassy plain. See you later big guy.

 


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