#84 PNW - Winds of North Dakota

2007 July 11
766 miles

PNW Trip
Day 4

Today will be a long day with lots of miles and, hopefully, a couple stamps on the far side of North Dakota.

I leave Watertown, SD at 7:45am after chatting with a couple other guests of the motel. I was hoping for a leave-time closer to 7am, but visiting with people along the way is also part of what being on the road is about. It's going to be a long day, but I feel sure the miles will wait for me. The road isn't going anywhere...it will be there when I get there. I ride north on I29 to Fargo, then take I94 all the way to Billings, Montana where I'll stop for the night. On the map, that's north half way across South Dakota, west all the way across North Dakota, and then half way across Montana. No wonder this will be a long day with lots of miles!
I made it through Fargo and started looking for a place to fuel up again -- second time already today. Those winds are doing a number on my mpg. I'm switching to my reserve tank after only about 110 miles now instead of the normal 125-135 miles. (I'm sure it has nothing to do with me cranking the throttle so far I have to re-set my throttle rocker.

I take the Casselton exit to fuel up and eat a couple crackers washed down with Gatorade.
Before facing the strong headwinds on the freeway, I find this field to show you an example of what I've been seeing for the last few hundred miles.
Back on the freeway...The wind is blowing 25-30mph sustained with gusts up to 40mph. Not the highest wind I've ridden in (that was North Carolina's Outer Banks), but a strong enough wind to wear one down after a few hundred miles of trying to stay upright in it. I am using the small deflector windshield this trip so I don't have much of a pocket to tuck into. I don't even know if it would help so much because even though this is mostly a headwind, there are strong gusts cutting in from my left side. So there's this rag doll effect with me playing the part of the rag doll. But it's my head and neck that are paying the biggest price. My head feels like a pinball caught between the bumpers on a pinball machine. Lesson learned: Take the aspirin before even pulling onto the freeway in this kind of blowing wind. I didn't take anything until noon at a fuel stop in Jamestown. While at the fuel stop in Jamestown, I meet the Coffmans from Minnesota on their way home from Billings riding their Goldwing. They confirm what I knew was sure to be the case -- it's windy on the west side of North Dakota also.

Huge, dramatic clouds overhead, but I can still see blue sky up ahead. Not too worried. I feel that even if it starts to pour, I'll be just a few wheel turns to the clear stuff again.I got a few large drops from that cloud before leaving it behind in central North Dakota. But it wasn't even enough to make me swipe my face shield. But I heard later that this storm spawned tornados further south.

After passing through Bismark, I slip by Mandan and notice that the landscape isn't quite so flat. Now I see a few bumps and hills. It makes a difference in the wind. It doesn't seem to have that full force strength from blowing unimpeded across open flat fields anymore.
Looky, looky! Something to look at besides wide open fields and sky...
A sign that the topography is soon to change.

It's haymaking time all across the Midwest and into the west. Here you see the grass cut and lying in rows waiting to be baled.
New Salem's claim to fame...The largest Holstein cow statue!
I get bored looking for something to take a photograph of. But, since there's not many choices when riding across North Dakota on a freeway, I resort to self portraits.
After hundreds of miles of flat fields, a big hole in the ground is quite appealing! Especially this one.
As I drive by, I look over and see a few horses staring into the Canyon. But they decide that I'm more interesting than a hole in the ground, so they come my way to check me out. Turns out that these are the wild horses that live at the Painted Canyon in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

The entrance to Roosevelt National Park.

I found a guy checking Fleeter out when I returned from the visitor center. He had some questions for me and a story to tell. Short version: His name is Ozzie Bender and he was a smoke jumper in 1947 and 1948 in Missoula. In 1948, on his way back home to Michigan on his Harley, he hit a horse near Miles City, Montana. That was back when the main road was a single blacktop that ran through open range country with livestock roaming freely. It was the vehicle operator's responsible to watch out for livestock. He was banged up and it took the local mechanic a day to get the Harley bent back into a shape that would make it back to Michigan. He thought it was a "good thing" that I was riding across country solo. "Good for you!" he said. Then his wife came looking for him and said it was time to get going. Bye Ozzie! Nice meeting you. Good story.

I never knew that you just had to take exit 7 off I94 to get to "Home on the Range."
Crossed the state line into Montana...

...and the sky suddenly got bigger.
...and another state gets its color.

Up here, the highway department must save lots of money in the mowing budget
... seems the locals put the grass along the freeways to good use as hay.

There's a bale getting spit out now.

Always helpful when there is a sign warning you of the "bad" ones. But not all of them have such signs.Sun is getting low, but I still have a lot of Montana to get across.
The sun sets over the Yellowstone River. Lewis and Clark most likely saw several sunsets across the same river as they traveled on it for a ways westward looking for the Pacific Ocean. I made it to Billing just after 9pm. I go find a burger down the road, take some more aspirin and try to get to sleep. Note about motel designs up here. Many of them are split level. Therefore, when I ask for a room on the first floor so I don't have to haul my stuff so far when unpacking the bike -- I go DOWN about six steps to the first floor, but the 2nd floor was about the same number of steps UP from the entrance. So no difference either way. More important to request a room closest to an entrance/exit. Actually, I still prefer the drive up rooms where I can park right in front of my room. I hear it's a hot and record setting heat in Missoula...guess I'll find out for myself tomorrow.

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