Can you believe it has been three weeks, to the day, that I set out from Madison, WI? It feels like I’ve been on the road for so much longer than that. My entire recent memory is occupied by thoughts of cycling. Yet, it’s only been twenty one days. I’ve covered 1,120 miles, and here I sit in Williston, ND — 15 miles from the Montana border — to tell you that there’s much more fun yet to come.
In this part of the country, when they say “open road,” they know what they are talking about. From Bismarck to Williston I have ridden many a stretch of road that look exactly like this: long, rolling and complete bereft of another soul. It’s both frightening and awe inspiring.
I rolled out of Bismarck on Wednesday morning with not too far to go and a nice wind at my back (this, of course, would not last). For the first time in this trip, I encountered some truly outstanding scenic riding. Going across Wisconsin and Minnesota was nice and all, but the views from the road they offered simply do not compare to some of the views I had rolling up SR 1804 out of Bismarck.
It was a short ride — a touch more than 50 miles — the first day out of Bismarck, and I arrived at Cross Ranch State Park in the middle of the afternoon with some time to spare and hang out. The tent sites were right on the Missouri River and offered up some cool views as well. I rather enjoyed this campground. The tent sites were nicely laid out.
There was one other tenter at the campground this Wednesday night. There were a few RVers as well, but the RV sites were nicely isolated from the tent sites. We hung out, built a nice big campfire, and traded stories. Several other tent sites were marked as “reserved,” so we had expected a few other tenters to be around that night, but I guess everyone chickened out in face of the impending storm.
A storm, a storm, oh yes, a storm. We were right at the eastern edge of a tornado warning zone that covered a large swath of North Dakota’s Badlands that night. The ranger didn’t think any tornadoes would touch down near the park, since there were strong winds out of the southeast blowing things away from us, but we were warned about the heavy rain and lightning coming our way. My tent held fast against the onslaught of water from the sky, fortunately, and I had only a few things to dry out in the morning sun.
The winds had reversed on me by now, and I was to spend Thursday and Friday riding into headwinds gusting up to 25mph. I didn’t have much further to go on Thursday than I did on Wednesday. Another 50 miles and I was to Lake Sakakawea State Park. Along the way, I stopped in to check out the Knife River Indian Villages Historic Site. A very cool spot (and a nice break from cycling into the wind). Most notably, they have built a reproduction of a Hidatsa earth lodge.
Lake Sakakawea State Park was very nice as well. Interestingly enough, it’s the western terminus of the North Country Trail, a backpacking trail (not yet completed) that extends from North Dakota to upstate New York. The tent sites were less interesting than the sites at Cross Ranch, but they were very spacious. I encountered a couple of other tenters getting an early start on a weekend of boating on the lake. There was another nice campfire with more stories swapped. They were even nice enough to share some beer. They wanted to get an early start on the lake, and I knew I had a longer day of cycling on Friday, so we weren’t up too late. Good times, though. I’m enjoying hanging out with other tenters. Still haven’t run into many other cyclists recently (and none headed the same way I’m going), but this is still pretty good.
On Friday I had about 75 miles to cover. It was a fairly uneventful day, and I ended up camping very primitively at the Deepwater Recreation Area about 15 miles south of Parshall, ND. Deepwater is little more than a clearing with a boat ramp maintained by the COE. Nothing impressive but it served it’s basic need of allowing me a place to sleep for the night. I set out early on Saturday, knowing that I would have 95 miles to cover that day, if all went to plan (I had camping options near New Town, about 40 miles out from Deepwater, but fortunately I didn’t need them).
It was a hilly 95 miles, but fortunately it was far less windy, and the slight wind was coming out of the south now, which gave me a bit of a boost on a few stretches of road. Some of the views along SR 1804 coming out of New Town were outstanding. What can I say? I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
That last picture is my favorite of the trip so far. Go on. Click on it. Seems almost magical, doesn’t it?
Anyways, that about brings you all up to date. Tomorrow I set out from Williston, cross into Montana, and keep rolling on down the Lewis & Clark Trail. Much excitement lies ahead!