Any Road Tour: Day 32 – Badass in the Badlands way

Before we begin today’s tale, I need to clear up something from yesterday. I did indeed cross into the Mountain time zone late yesterday.

Last night I splurged for a decent hotel and had dinner at a sit down restaurant. Salad and jambalaya. The portions were huge. The walk back to the hotel was mostly a waddle.

At hotel breakfast this morning I met Peggy an Jeff who were traveling to Milwaukee by bike. They are known on Crazyguyonabike as PB&J.

The way west was aided once again by a mild tailwind. I must have been good because Bike Santa is sure being nice to me. The road climbed gradually and rolled a big bit I was having no problems. Then I realized that’s The Mule had achieved a milestone coming out of Dickinson.

The number and size of buttes increased today as I rode west. I startled a pheasant in the tall grass next to the road and he blasted up and away. I also spotted another fawn.

Frankly I thought the green hills and buttes were quite pretty. After a few miles the route took me into I-94. The shoulder is paved, ten-feet wide, and has a rumble strip so I felt very safe. Interstates tend not to have steep hills which made my legs happy.

I noticed the soil near the road was not brown. Instead it was white like a sandbox or gypsum in wallboard. I spotted a couple of cool looking mesas in the distance. Then I went around a big grassy hill. When I came to the other side of the hill I saw it. The Painted Canyon of the Badlands in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Not only had the terrain changed in what seemed like an instant, but it was spectacularly beautiful. I rode to the scenic overlook, parked my bike, and walked around for over a half hour.

The road to the scenic overlook contains a cattle guard, a metal rumble strip that catches the feet of large animals. The large animal here is the buffalo. Sadly I didn’t see any but when I got back on the interstate I could hear and see prairie dogs. (No pictures though because I was going downhill.)

I left the interstate to visit Medora, a funky western town that looked cheesy to me.

I stopped at a pub for lunch, a steak salad. Delish.

When I started up again the wind direction had changed. The headwind increased in intensity for the rest of the day as a storm passed through, mostly to the south and east.

Also the hills increased, or seemed to. A bike tourist zoomed by me in the opposite direction. He waved as told me that the food in the gas station in Sentinel Butte was great.

This gave me something to look forward to as I fought the wind and the hills. It also began to rain, not hard but the raindrops were big and cold.

I stopped at the gas station that looked like the one in Mayberry. Inside three men were packing up a burgers and snacks lunch. They offered it to me but I had eaten only a couple of hours earlier. Instead I asked for some ice cream. One of the men paid for it. Then another mad opened up a container on the table. Cookies. I had one, again for free.

Heading west was one big hill then a long downhill through rollers to the town of Beach. Here the route took me back to I-94. And the storm started building over me. Fortunately the road began to angle to the northwest. Into Montana. Note the selfie path.

There were two signs that just might have been related.

For the last five miles I had a strong tailwind. Despite very tired legs I flew along at 17 miles per hour until I exited the freeway at Wibaux. All the rain had convinced me to grab a hotel. I found one just outside of town in a gravel road. No lie.

Time to take the gas station dude’s recommendation and head into town for some pizza and beer.

My thanks to the people of North Dakota for a pretty awesome week that began with colorful ASL bike racks and ended in jambalaya and gas station freebies.

Miles today: 76

Total miles: 2,395

Any Road Tour: Day 31 – A dirt road and a gift brick

The day began with me wondering how I’ve finally gotten used to sleeping in a tent.

I broke camp and headed to the local diner which was on the short side of mediocre but the only game in town.

I sat at the counter and talked with an old man who spent his life making drag lines. I looked it up later. Suffice it to say, drag lines are one of those things you didn’t know had a name but are used in big construction projects.

Off I rode after bidding adieu to Salem Sue who is one of those inexplicable roadside attractions that make America surreal.

The route goes on I-94 but most people take a dirt road instead. The shoulders on I-94 are 10 feet wide and paved. Some genius at the North Dakota DOT put rumble strips across all ten feet. If you rode the entire 10 miles of the route on this, you could forget about having usable personal parts for a year or two.

The dirt road was a little bumpy. I was concerned about breaking a spoke so I took my time. The scenery was splendid. Whoever said North Dakota is boring got it totally wrong.

One downside to the dirt road was the cloud of dust that was kicked up by passing trucks. I pulled out my bandana, which I had hoped to use to rob a bank. There were no banks just my rather delicate lungs.

Along Big Dirt Highway I passed my second Twin Buttes. I figure if both DC and Baltimore can have a Washington Monument, North Dakota can have two Twin Buttes. This one did not have an ugly McMansion in the middle.

The scenery was pretty and interesting (to me at least) wherever I looked

Once back on pavement I rode into Glen Ullin where I snacked in the shade of a gas station convenience store. Up pulled an eastbound tandem pulling a trailer. Gail and Bill Buckley were riding to somewhere on the New Jersey shore.

Back on the road the ranchland gave way to farms. I guessing this yellow stuff was mustard. (Post tour note: It’s alflafa in bloom. Pollinated by the bees owned by the owners of the Honey Pot bike shelter in Gackle.)

I rode into Hebron and saw bricks being staged for transport on trains. I went into Pizza Pantry and had lunch. As I was paying the proprietor, gave me a small brick so that I’d always remember the Brick City. We agreed that it would be too heavy to haul all the way to Seattle so we settled on him taking my picture with it.

The road to Dickinson passes through Taylor. I saw an interestingly weathered old building with a note on the front door. Condemned. As I read the note I could see that the structure was crumbling away.

The last ten miles featured a hill that went on for miles. At the top we’re two geodesic domes under construction. They looked a bit like the space ship from Lost in Space.

Dickinson is a bustling town of about 18,000 people. I decided to check into a hotel to clean up and do laundry. Then I went out and had a massive dinner of salad and jambalaya. I can barely move.

Medical update: The compression sleeve did the trick. My left calf is now almost back to normal size. It doesn’t seem to like confinement though. It’s been itching and sending me little pain shocks all day. Small price to pay, I suppose.

Sociology observation: The people of North Dakota are incredibly polite. It’s a bit hard to get used to. Also, they are whiter than a cue ball, both in terms of complexion and demographic make up. I’ve seen one person of color since Morehead Minnesota.

Chronological note: My maps said that I crossed into the Mountain Time Zone after Hebron but the next set of maps says the time line is the Montana border. Either way my body is still inexplicably on Eastern Daylight Time.

Miles ridden: 73.5

Total tour miles: 2,319