Up at dawn as usual to break camp and hit the road while others sleep. Fog was settled in the gullies making for a nice view. Breakfast was the usual standing at the bike
Headed north towards Medora and Teddy Roosevelt National Park. Route was an isolated gravel road up and over the many hills, saw deer and antelope, not one person for many miles-this was my favorite drive on the trip
Started to see the oil wells as I approached Medora, and the first Mancamp barracks housing the rush of labor to fuel the Bakken oil well development boom
There were about 15 wells from this corporation just down the gravel road I was on
Then into TR National Park. Even after breaking camp and riding scenic gravel, it was still only about 7 am so no one really up and about yet. I passed a picnic area along the little Missouri River, and saw restroom facilities that looked good for cleaning up a little. Drove on the little driveway thru the trees, rounded the last corner into the clearing and I was face to face with This Guy!
Didn't expect him so he really caught me off guard. Glad he just wanted to graze the groomed grass.
Since no one was around, I parked the bike right in front of the Mens room and found a nice clean facility with running water and a floor drain right next to the sink. Kinda showered off, shaved a little, washed out all my clothes and hung them to dry on the bike. Then the Ranger pulled up to clean the rooms... Very nice guy probably upper 20's, turns out he was a corporate auditor for about 7 years, then decided it wasn't for him so he signed up for the National Park Service. He's travelling the country at different facilities, and does a litlle of everything, probably going to be a Superintendent some day. I had to admire him for following his heart and not money like so many of us.
Made my way thru the 40-50 miles of park road in the south unit, and saw more beautiful views
Wild horses licking minerals
Then headed out of the Park and east to see some of the oil boom. The Engineering firm I'm at designed a 300-acre oil loading facility in this area where the trucks bring it in from the wells, offload into multi-million gallon storage tanks, then the oil is transferred to rail cars and pulled across country to the rest of us. Couldn't quite find the access road which turns out was just a small gravel drive for this high volume of trucks.
One of the goals on this trip was to see the Bakken Oil Boom and the effects on the landscape and people. I started seeing many, many trucks carrying pipe, equipment and men. Gassed up at the next town, and there were about 5 white pickups full of guys behind me waiting to fill up and make $. I headed south on the first road, and was stopped three times in about 5 miles as a local contractor from MN was out here reconstructing bridges to handle the truck traffic.
I saw enough of this and wanted back on the more lonely road without all of this. Hit the throttle as the road opened up and started cruising south while the white trucks were heading north. One of these white SUV's all of a sudden had red white and blue lights on top... So I got to meet the Slope County Sheriff. Apparently my bke was travelling 80 in a 65. Maybe it thought it was still in Montana... The nice deputy explained that I just needed to send in my $20 and their would be no points on my license. I haven't had a speeding ticket for decades, and it seems he left a 0 off, but I thanked him and went on my way.
Saw a sign for the highest point in ND, so thought I would check it out. My brother and I have done a number of state high points so this would be a chance to quickly add one-even if this one really wasn't too tall.
I saw a set of farmer tracks out into the fields and a sign that said road to White Butte 1 Mile East. At this point, my GPS was out with a pulled wire, and I thought east was down these tracks. Headed down these which had ruts that would get about a foot deep, but if found that I could keep it in 2nd gear and move along pretty well. After about 5 miles these tracks ended, so I gave up my quest and headed back out to pavement. Bike popped up out of the rut, down into a little grassy ditch on the side, got it back up in the rut, then it was out of the rut, then it started to tip to the right. Put my foot down to catch it and next thing I'm laying in the ditch with my foot under the sidecase. Pulled it hard and it didn't move... Pulled it harder and out it came (glad I was in grass and not rocks).
This bike may be small to some, but all loaded it was quite heavy to me (I'm about a Buck Forty with my gear on...). No leverage standing in the ditch, so I pulled the back down into the ditch for a better angle, took off some weight.
Did the stand backwards and lift with your legs thing, and got her back up.
Turns out that the little highway I was on had just turned 90-degrees, and what I thought was east was really south. The little sign was telling me to go 1 mile back down the paved road
Must've been flustered by the ticket thing...
That was enough farmer dual track for me today, so I gladly and a little more cautiously headed the 3 miles back out to the pavement.
I was now kinda tired out and still at the west end of North Dakota, but my goal for today was back to MN. And now I had to watch my speedo too...
Thru many small towns, and saw the sight of the Last Great Buffalo Hunt in 1883. This was shorlty after the cavalry wars and drivng the plains Indians onto reservations. The Indians did this last hunt as they had many many times in the past, herding the buffalo and running them off this rise to be slaughtered. This was about the end of the plains Indian nomad culture.
Kept on westward, thru many more small towns, by a few big Ethanol plants, thru Aberdeen where the road widened and the speed limit went up for a while (yes I was still watching the speedo...). Crossed into MN as it started to get dark. Here's Paul Bunyan's boat anchor in Ortonville
Had about 60 miles yet to go for my destination tonight, and it did get dark at the end. Spent most time watching for for deer in the ditches, and finally made camp on the far corner of a country church lot under some trees. Mosquitos were terrible back in the moister climate.
Woke up just before dawn to small sprinkles and flashing skies. Thought it might pass, but it only grew into a huge lightening/thunder/high wind/heavy rain thing. The radar on my phone showed it would probably last a while, so I decided to pack up in this. Got my gear on quickly without too much drenching, and had to work hard to keep the tent from blowing away as I took it down. Everything was soaked, but I was still somewhat dry in my gear as I headed into the small town of Starbuck for a some nice hot coffee and a real breakfast!
Back on the bike, followed the back side of the storm on the backroads and returned home to the Twin Cities before Noon. It was kind of a shock to be back in civilaization after 5 days on the backroads...
So ends my 5 Days West of MN