It was immediately obvious on the morning leaving Fargo that our planned 4 day blitz across North Dakota was probably a little unlikely. Firstly we had a super leisurely breakfast then went across to a coffee shop to wait on the bike shop opening so Eal and Flavia could score some new tyres. We then navigated to the west half of Fargo to seek out a Walmart for groceries and a sporting goods store so Flavia could buy more warm clothes…
I don’t recall what time we actually started riding but the days destination had already been shortened a great deal to the settlement of Tower City. In North Dakota its legal to ride on the interstate, for people back home that’s the equivalent to the A1. As services are so limited across the state we had decided on the advice of several eastbounders to come off the northern tier for a few days and stick on the freeway where stops and small towns were roughly 30 miles apart rather than 70.
On arrival in Tower city we setup camp behind a motel which offered a shower into the bargain and hit the gas station, only source of food in the area, for some ice cream and talked about how lousy the freeway riding had been. The shoulder is huge by its very monotonous with nothing in the way of conversation possible. Each exit ramp also causes a problem as you have to check for traffic and skip over a lane across the deep rumble strips.
The following morning we returned to the gas station as it was adjoined by a decent little cafe which was serving up some mean looking breakfasts to the truckers stopping by. Heading to Jamestown, ND we had checked with some locals about possible respite from the freeway by taking some of the small roads that run alongside it for a while. We came off for around 15 miles before the roads turned to gravel and we had to rejoin the freeway. Many of the small roads in the area just have loose gravel thrown down to reduce future maintenance and costs.
Me and Eal arrived in Jamestown a little before Flavvy so we hit the library where we met up later on. She had been to the Frontier Village attraction in town which she later visited again to give us the guided tour! It was a neat little attraction with old buildings transported and rebuilt similar to the olde town street at Preston park back home. They also boasted the worlds largest buffalo, see picture below…
After we located the campground on the edge of town I spotted the park office had a football! The lady let me borrow it for a while and me and Eal went over to the large grassy area to ping it around, first time I had kicked a ball in about 12 weeks, still got it.
The fog leaving our Jamestown camp spot the next day was horrific.Hi viz tops all round, it was made all the more uncomfortable given we were riding on the interstate again. Thankfully the sun burnt through after a couple hours and we stopped for a second breakfast in the tiniest town cafe. An older couple had gotten talking to us and said they were from Defiance, OH as if we had never heard of it, we rode through Defiance! They were delighted and wished us luck. Unfortunately our luck abandoned us. Flavvy had been checking weather on her iPad as a big weather front moved its way in with very strong winds and storms forcast in the next few hours. The sky ahead looked grim enough for me to pull into a rest area where there was at least benches, shelter, free maps! and a vending machine. You can ride 20-30 miles without seeing a rock out here so its wise to make use of shelter when you see it rather than gamble getting caught in it.
The wind was so strong that the 10 miles to the rest area was brutal, sadly flavvy had stopped at the opposite side freeway rest area about 2 miles back. We stayed in contact via phone and resolved to have another shorter than planned day to Steele. Me and Eal trucked on into winds another 12 or so miles to Tappen after the skies brightened a touch. Then finally slugged on lowest gears up the freeway to Steele, ND. We had squared another good camp deal, inc shower behind a motel in town for $5 when Flavia text me to say she had made it to Tappen but was going no further in the wind today and would meet us in Steele the next day for breakfast. I joked me an eal were going to the bar to get drunk, I joked…:s
The bar in town was called The Depot, after a bottle or two we decided one more than hit the hay, the locals were friendly and it was still reasonably early. Eal asked for a scotch and rather than pour him a double, she filled his glass! After that round we were litteraly standing of our stools to leave when the owner Tanya waltzes round wanting to talk and buy us a drink, we couldn’t refuse her generosity. I don’t think I paid for another drink the rest of the night, of which there were many, Eal even won some money in a game of pool which he put back into the bar to buy everyone a drink back. We had a great time with all the guys in The Deport, especially the bartender Tom who was heading to Bismarck tomorrow so might pass us on the road, if we can ride.
The following morning I felt ok, I had stuck to the beers. I thought the scotches Eal had moved onto could mean a slow start so I was planning on giving him my phone and maps for the ride to Bismarck and he could sleep in. Flavia caught up with us behind the motel amused by our party night in Steele. At that moment, to our surprise, Eal sprung from his tent ready to ride.
It was evident he was still going to take it slowly but the gang was back, me and Flavski road ahead, it was one road all day and we had told Eal which campground in Bismarck to head for when he arrived. There were fields of glorious sunflowers as far as the eye could see for most of the day, unexpected beauty in the middle of North Dakota. Its tricky to get riding clothes right at the moment, the mornings start frosty and cold but by 11am its super hot, I shed a layer every 30 minutes. Just outside of Bismarck, Tom from last night caught up with us! He had stopped and talked with Eal back down the road and said he was trucking through. Me and Flav had a great afternoon in Bismarck, farmers market, coffee shop then the Blarney stone pub where Tom met us for a third time after seeing our bikes outside. We road slightly misguided by Flav-Nav (I have retired from navigation duty whilst I can) to the campground and found Eal already setup ready for bed.