August 8, 2007

It’s turning into an adventure. First of, North Dakota is not flat and if anyone tells you that there is nothing to see, they are dead wrong. Where as the east was pretty and green with all its lakes, North Dakota is rugged and awesome. You would not believe the multitude of colors. I don’t remember having seen such a variety of greens, dark, light, silvery looking green.

Straw bales

Straw bales

Don’t get me started on the yellow, orange and gold of the wheat fields and the yellow of the sunflower

Sunflower field along highway 85 north of Bowman.

Sunflower field along highway 85 north of Bowman.

fields. All these colors intensify with the afternoon sunlight or during/after a thundershower. Can’t tell you how many “ohmygod” moments I had. The spaces are wide open, but not flat. The fields are more like rolling hills.

Driving from Fargo 350 miles straight west you get to the North Dakota Badlands. All of a sudden, the fields disappear and the landscape changes into all these free standing peaks. Think of it as if water washed through land, cutting hundreds of riverbeds into the ground and all that’s left standing are these peaks. This particular area is called Painted Canyon. Some of the tips of the peaks are red and I arrived just in time for sunset!

Theodore Roosevelt National Park - Painted Canyon

Theodore Roosevelt National Park – Painted Canyon

I set up camp just outside the Badlands park, pretty neat.

I almost was adopted by a cat. She came around while I was packing up, jumping up on the cabin of the truck watching. But she decided to go back to her family.

I saw my first prairie dogs, they are very cute, not much larger than a NYC subway rat, but much more adorable. I thought that was exciting. Not more than five minutes later a bison crosses the road, how cool is that? Just around the corner from that was a whole herd of about 100 bison, wow. They were just outside the parks campground. I had intended to stay there the night before. I am glad I didn’t; don’t know how I would have taken it if a bison would have knocked on my door. Spent almost an hour

Badlands National Park - Prairie dog

Badlands National Park – Prairie dog

watching these amazing animals. Sometimes one of the bulls would charge after another bull and parts of the herd would move across the road, where the cars were lined up watching. The bison were literally at arms length. Nothing could top this experience. After lunch I headed south to the South Dakota Badlands and Sturgis. The Harley rally is in full swing.

The drive was beautiful, more amazing colors. The great thing is that there is no traffic in North Dakota and the road I was traveling on was very, very empty, which made pulling over to take pictures that much easier.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park - Badlands, South Unit - Bison at Little Missouri River

Theodore Roosevelt National Park – Badlands, South Unit – Bison at Little Missouri River


There are hardly any towns along the way. They post the towns’ name, but don’t even bother with a population count; there might just be a dozen homes along the road. When the settlements get a little larger, they do post population counts. The lowest I have seen was in the low hundreds.

South Dakota’s landscape changes only slightly. The fields change into rugged grassing land. It was very hot all day long, mid 90s. It didn’t feel that bad with the wind. The wind was so strong that it blew me off the truck when I was standing on the rear bumper. Holding the camera still was another challenge.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park - Badlands, South Unit - Bison

Theodore Roosevelt National Park – Badlands, South Unit – Bison

Getting closer to Sturgis the number of bikers increased. They had been passing me in both directions all day long. These are crazy people. Most of them wear no helmets whatsoever and shirts are optional.

Driving towards Sturgis the mountains start to rise.

The Black Bear Butte is the most prominent peak. Sturgis is full with bikes and bikers. The streets are filled with the roar of their engines, cool.

Bikers at the entrance to I-90, exit 78

Bikers at the entrance to I-90, exit 78

I wanted to spend the night in the Badlands, just 1 ½ hours further south east. Make that 2 hours with stopping. I drove this last stretch on the interstate, usually an uneventful drive. Except there was this big rainbow in the sky. Behind me the sky was clear and beautiful; ahead of me it started to get dark quickly.

I had to pull off the interstate to just get the right picture. It had started to rain a little and the road was wet, that combined with the setting sunlight made for one heck of a photo. Driving on I could see the sun setting in my rearview mirrors. Sometimes the best pictures are behind you.

Old Highway 14-16 looking east intersecting with 173rd Avenue.  Wicksville Community Church on left.

Old Highway 14-16 looking east intersecting with 173rd Avenue. Wicksville Community Church on left.

That’s were the fun ended. I called the KOA campsite to make sure that they still have space and that they would be still open when I got there. Yes to both questions. However, I was cutting it close. The site was 30 minutes from the interstate. The rain had turned into a thunderstorm with lighting and somehow I didn’t feel like spending the night in a tent, call me chicken if you want. There were a couple of motels along the way to the campsite, but they were all sold out. It had stopped raining, but now it was just dark. Setting up tent in the dark was not my idea of fun. That’s when I came across the “Bates” motel. Funky old people running the place. They too were full, but they offered me a trailer which didn’t have hot water, but all other amenities functioned. This little old totally wrinkly woman showed me the trailer. The smell was not pleasant, as it turns out there were several leaks in the trailer, one of them above the bed. Thank God for the pull out couch. I had two choices, move on set up tent in the dark and get rained on or live with the smell and the springs of the mattress in my back. I opted for later one. I had my camping mattress and all would be fine. That is if I had my mattress. As it turns out I had left it at the last campsite. I had put it on the picnic bench when I was loading the truck and forgot it. The mattress goes in last since I don’t deflate it while traveling. Shit. What a lousy ending to a great day. A call to the campsite didn’t turn up anything. They will look again in the morning; they too had very strong winds. I would drive back if it wouldn’t be over 300 miles. I’ll keep you posted. I might find a place around here which sells those things or I have to order it from NJ and have them FedEx it. It is 7:30 am, I have to get going the sunlight is still nice.

More adventures to come.


P.S. I found a new mattress at Wall Drug. Works just fine.