Billings and Bismarck and Fargo, Oh My!

Written Thursday, August 16th, 2013

This morning I woke up unsure of where I’d end up for the night.  My original plan was to ride from Billings, Montana to Bismarck, North Dakota – an uncomfortable 420+ miles.  However, I also wanted to get to Minneapolis, Minnesota at some point on Friday and get to spend as much time as possible with my friend Brynne before leaving Saturday.  Minneapolis is another 400+ miles from Bismarck, which would not be fun to do two days in a row.

I woke up around 7am, submitted some homework I had due before the end of the week, and departed around 9am.  From Billings to the border of North Dakota, the scenery consisted of interesting rock formations, flat landscape, and very few towns.  I wouldn’t say it was boring, but it had nothing on the Columbia River Gorge; yes, I am partial to my scenic home state.  North Dakota on the other hand… super boring.  I stopped at a couple viewpoints highlighted by massive blue highway signs that were each dubbed “scenic view point,” and the views were decent.

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Somewhere between Eastern Montana and North Dakota. Beginning to get into the Badlands.

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North Dakota Badlands from a viewpoint. No Bison or Buffalo, though.

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Informative sign, to prove my location.

There were the badlands, which consisted of unique rock formations created by lightning striking soil and causing rock to melt together in a way that created hundreds of these above-ground shapes, and there were many rolling plains views.

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Another view point in North Dakota.

I managed to stop every hundred miles or so just to refuel, stretch my legs, drink some fluids, and eat.  I kept entertained by listening to the fifth book of the Chronicles of Narnia, called the Silver Chair.  I find books on mp3 to be particularly entertaining because, not only do you hear the entire story, but the person reading the books has to do several different voices for all the characters; it is educational and entertaining.  By about 3pm (Mountain time), I had already crossed into the Central Time Zone (so it was really 4pm), was just getting to Bismarck, and had plenty of gas to continue rolling on through, so I did.  I ended up refueling about fifty mile West of Jamestown, North Dakota where I hung out for “dinner,” checked in with my family, and met a biker on a Goldwing going the same direction as me.  He told me how he’d just come back from Sturgis in South Dakota, rode on the Bear Tooth Pass in Wyoming to Montana, and was hoping to make it to Fargo for the night.  I was already tired because I rode over 450 miles and wasn’t sure how much more I could go.  Once he took off, I hung out for a little longer, got myself together and thought “if he can make it to Fargo, I can.”  So I just kept riding (insert Forrest Gump voice).  I figured I would see signs for camping near Fargo and just pick a spot to go to.  About twenty miles before Fargo, I saw a sign that had the little tent logo on it… clearly that means camping.  I took the exit, rode the 3 miles down the road, and followed another camping sign down a long gravel road… with a dead end.  The sun was already setting and I detest riding on gravel, but to come to a dead end with no actual campsite was infuriating.

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Sunset off of the highway, almost to Fargo. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it in my mirror, so I pulled over to photograph it.

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A train passing by at sunset while I was lost looking for a campground.

Plus, I get hangry when I don’t get substantial meals, and I was definitely there.  On top of that, my fuel gauge was telling me I was low.  Fortunately I had seen a gas pump just before the gravel road.  I decided I’d go back, get gas, head to Fargo, and figure it all out from there.  The gas pump was another one of those ancient pumps that was a pain to try to use, and it declined my card.

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Old school gas pump that you seen in farm areas.

I guess Chase finally thought it was odd that my debit card was getting gas every 130 miles heading a decent way away from my place of residence.  Odd that they took about 1500 miles to come to that realization, but oh well.  Good thing I had my gas can filled a decent amount.  Remember how my gas can sucks?  Yeah, using it this time was worse than before.  For some reason, the cap wouldn’t screw on right and I was just so frustrated that I decided to go for the straight poor.  It was messy.  Gas was all over, most in the tank but a great deal on the tank.  I ended up just rinsing it off with some spare water I had in a bottle.  Still low on gas and even more livid, I headed back toward interstate 94 and made my way to Fargo.  Once in Fargo, I saw no signs for camping.  Then, unexpectedly, I passed the sign welcoming me to Minnesota.  Oops, I didn’t realize Fargo was literally on the border.  The second exit had a sign that said camping, but no clear direction as to where that was after exiting.  I stopped at the first quick-e-mart place I could find and the man behind the counter directed me back to Fargo, to a city park called Lindenwood Park, I think.  So back I went to North Dakota.  I found the entrance to the park around 10pm, found an open campsite, and unloaded my stuff.  I was so tired that I made sure to set up my tent quickly and correctly.  All in all, it took less than 20 minutes.  Traveling on the road and camping with Brian back home had certainly prepared me well!

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No bison/buffalo, buuut there was a sign about bison poop. You all know I love poop conversations, so this one’s for you!

The biggest disappointment about North Dakota, I have to say, is that I didn’t see any buffalo or bison.  But, that is my own fault for going through the whole state so darn fast.  Maybe next time… or next state?

The best part about North Dakota was that I was torn between getting to stay the night in the state or being able to say I crossed the whole state and part of Montana in one day on my motorcycle.  Out of sheer luck, I was able to do both!  The park I stayed in was on the river’s edge that creates the border between the two states.  I would estimate that it is smaller than 1% of the size of the Columbia… puny little thing looked more like a creek.

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This little river is the border between North Dakota and Minnesota. This was the edge of my campsite.

Up next, I have about 235 miles to go to Minneapolis tomorrow.  I’m excited to see my college buddy and former lacrosse teammate, Brynne.  I haven’t seen her since February 2012, so it’ll be great to catch up.  She was the only person not in my immediate family to attend my actual 21st birthday in Hillsboro… it was awesome!

Until next time.

-H

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