Day 4
June 8th, 2007
Roseau Motel
Roseau, Minnesota

What a difference a day makes.  Last night I went to bed to the sound of a cold rain, and a gale wind, this morning I was strapping my bags down in a bright sunshine.  It was a little after 6am, the air was still cool, but the wind had died down to manageable levels.  Weather Channel radar showed NO rain on the screen all the way to the Pacific Ocean.  NICE.

On such a nice day the 37 degree temp didn't seem so bad, I knew it would warm quickly.

I turned my room key in to the nerdy guy, and went outside to finish gearing up.  The wind banged the halyard on a nearby flag pole, and a 18 wheeler was idling noisily in the parking lot while the driver ate breakfast in the cafe.  I squinted in the bright sunlight, as I cinched down the Helen 2 Wheel straps.

"Today will be a good day," as I made my way out of the parking lot to the service road.  It was near 6:30am.  The custom route for today starts just west of Icelandic Park, because I didn't make it there yesterday I let the Zumo auto route me from Roseau.  It pointed me to SR 11, and I was underway.

I was now disembarking on a 2 day ride across the Great Plains of the north.  From here to the Rocky Mountains the landscape would be flat.  I wanted to ride SR 5 across North Dakota, to sample the true meaning of what life here is really like.  It will take me pass a series of towns and hamlets and thousands of acres of farmland.  It was one of the specific goals of this tour.  To get there I hitched onto U.S. 75 to SR 175 and crossed into North Dakota.  

It was beautiful morning to be on a ride.  A brilliant eastern sun, freed by the dark clouds of yesterday, was at my back, casting my shadow directly on the road in front of me.  I brought the screen up high to quiet the air, and settled in.  Just 10 miles south of Manitoba, the high moraine wheat fields took up the whole landscape.  There was nothing else but piles of stones like Viking burial grounds in the verges of large tracts.  

This land could have easily been Canadian territory if not for the fur traders and mountain men that held the ground on British expansion from the north till help arrived.  For whatever the reason I guess the British out of Canada figured the land wasn't worth fighting for because they already owned large amounts prairie all the way to the Pacific.  "I reckon we'll just let the Americans deal with the place," was pretty much how it went down.

SR 5 went on and on and on.  Straight and straight, foreword and aft.  It ran through me like a arrow.  North Dakota up here is a curveless place; not just the road but the landscape.  The line of a fence, the lay of a crop, the flight of a bird.
​North Dakota State Route 5
A sign pointed the way to Backoo, so I slid off 5 to go see it, or as it turned out what was left of it, which was a railroad track, a boarded up school and church, and a tiny post office.  I spotted a middle aged man wearing a plaid shirt leaving his truck for the post office.  He looked curiously to me as I came in beside him, the smooth running motor of the 1300 impressed him.

 "Nice looking motorcycle you have there son." 

"Thanks, look here, just what is a Backoo?" 

"River in Australia, and don't ask me why a town in North Dakota is named in a honor of a river from there, cause I don't know."  "Well that was gonna be my next question, so I guess I'll move on."  

My time in Backoo was brief, and I went back to 5 to continue my ride.

I struggled mightily trying to keep the 1300 at 65 mph, but the appalling featureless yonder got the best of me.  At 90 mph the Honda seemed to have a mind of its own, it too wanted to escape this barren place.  But the land is so immense, so open, not even 90 mph can make it pass quick enough.  But I loved riding it, it optimizes the feeling of being a free man in a free land.  The towns came and went, places like Olga, Langdon, and Clyde all looked the same, waiting for a Long Rider like me wander in. 
​I'm not sure what this means, but I found it on SR 5, near

In Langdon, a tiny Nordic town of swept streets and tidy pastel houses with pastel shutters at the picture windows, a place with blonde mothers pushing blonde babies in strollers, I topped off the gas tank in a off brand con store.  After filling up the ST I moved it out of the way and went inside for something to drink.  "Hey how y'all doin," as I stepped in.  Two clerks, one a large buxom lady replied, "We're good."  "The storm last night do y'all any harm?"  "No, just lots of rain," the smaller lady remarked.  Mountain Dew had a special going on, buy a 20 once bottle and get 4 ounces free for a total of 24.  If I went that route I'd never get to Montana for the restroom breaks.

 "Look here m'am, reckon if I buy one of the specials, I could get a discount?" 

 "Well no, and where are you from if you don't mind us asking?  

"Take a guess."

 The big lady came back, "I have it narrowed down to 3, but I'll say Mississippi."
 "Close, Alabama.  And what were the other 2?" 

 "Georgia and Alabama." 

 "Very good m'am, I'm impressed."

"I was always good in geography."

I chatted with the ladies for 15 minutes, enough to see everyone in town pass through.  "Ladiies I better get goin, I'm sure its all over town some Long Rider is in here trying to pick y'all up."  "I'm sure it is, but they took note the minute you hit the city limits.  Now how many times do you think a guy on a slick motorcycle stops at this PLACE?" 

"I couldn't guess."

I was trying to get out the door but the questions kept coming.

"Do you come to North Dakota often?"

"Every once in a while"

"where are you going today?"

"Malta, Montana I hope"

Nothing close to a signal in the Langdon, so I was unable to check messages or gather recon.
I finally made it outside into the bright sunlight and hit the starter to bring the Honda back to life.
Temp was still a chilly 56 degrees, but warming quickly.

The Plains were already beginning to weary me, and the only escape seemed to be the potholes ice sheets carved out in winter.  They were common on the shoulder of the road and in the fields.  Mallards, Geese and long legged Huron played in them.  You'd think anything giving variety to this near total bleakness would be prized, but when the a pond got in the way the road cut right through it, not even yielding its straightness to nature.
​Winter ice sheets carved out these watering holes.  Note
the farm house on the hill surrounded by trees.  I assume
they were planted around the house long ago to form a 
shield against the untiring and cold Dakota winds.

I played leap frog with a 18 wheeler and RV.  I'd pass them, and they'd pass me back when I stopped for a picture.  I'd take them again a few miles later.  It ceased being amusing after 50 miles or so.
"A friendly looking church called to me for a picture.  It was located down a packed and rocky dirt road.  I left the highway  to scout it out. "
I went by what I guessed to be an old Air Force installation.  It had all the associated buildings but the tip off was an old baseball field near the highway.  The service men had to do something to combat the boredom of being stationed out here.  North Dakota was the home of the cold war missile silos now deactivated.  I think the base  housed support personnel, and the locals haven't found much to do with the old buildings.
​Abandoned military base somewhere on SR 5
Because I was still on Central time, all my clocks (Ironman, the ST, GPS) told me it was time for lunch when I hit Mohall.  One of the bigger towns along SR 5.  Like most of the towns along 5 it consisted of a water tower, school, and neat houses with well kept yards.  SR 5 was Main Street through town, and I saw my reflection in the store front windows when I eased by.
​Lunch time downtown Mohall, North Dakota.
After some checking around, I asked a lady getting in her car for the best place to eat.

"Try the Burger Shack on the east side of town."


The Burger Shack was a retro place from the 50s, and the hamburger I had there was excellent.  The place was staffed by young ladies out of school for the summer, all 4 were blonde.  True to her Nordic heritage, the last name of the young lady that took my order was Olson.

I continued west on SR 5 and closed in on Montana.  It had been a long ride across North Dakota, and as I was riding through this rugged and sometimes tumultuous land I thought about a few things I was lucky enough to find out early in life.  I never worried much about making a living, I was more worried about making a life.  Sometimes its hard to know the difference, and the area must be getting grayer all the time judging by so many in today's world that have no idea at the difference.  The best way to tell?  If you're trying to make a killing, the only thing that's going to get killed is your life.

At last I went by the big blue Montana State line sign, and for the first time this tour felt like I was in the "west."  Two lazy cow birds were perched on top looking for a herd to hook up with, but none were in sight.
The route remained 5 and I followed it down to Plentywood where I stopped for gas.  I still had 2 bars showing on the gauge, that from now on it will be the signal to top off, because out here you just don't know where the next gas might be.

After gassing up I went to the side to enjoy a Mountain Dew and a low fat fig bar, somehow it made me feel better after the disastrous, but good, lunch I ate.  Two HD riders from Alberta joined me, they were on their way to Glacier and then Seattle.

They rode deep into Mexico last year, but this year wanted something different.

"nah never been into Mexico, but came within a few feet of it last March."

"well it was ok, but dunno if I'll go down there again."

About that time Debbie called me, and I was unable to finish the conversation.

From Plentywood I went south on SR 16 to Medicine Lake.  I still had a long ride if I wanted to reach Malta, so I turned it up a notch.  The route emptied onto U.S. 2, known in these parts as the "High-Line."  Many miles of the highway are routed through the Fort Peck Indian Reservation.
Riding the "High-Line" across Montana-U.S. 2
With a tank full of gas, I was riding to Malta non stop, everything else "be damed" I said.  I pushed the ST 1300 to near 100 mph on the barren roadway.  I failed to live up to my words when I say a disabled motorcycle on the road ahead, the rider standing to the side starring at it.  I cut the Honda back and coasted in behind him on the wide breakdown lane.  It was a BMW 1200 LT with Wisconsin tags, with a rider in a Firstgear Riding suit.

"yeah, I just hit a dog, right back there, dam that scared me!"

"did you go down?"

"no but look at my bike," as he pointed down to the lower fairing.

The dog broke the plastic in several places, and he said some kind of nut or cover missing off the front fork.  He wasn't sure if it was safe to continue without it.  The canine was not so lucky, he lay dead a quarter mile east on the shoulder.
The LT had a  cracked lower, leaking radiator
(water spot on ground) and something missing off the
lower fork.

"look I dunno what the missing part does if anything, but you're radiator is leaking" I told him.

 "I don't feel safe riding it."

About that time a car pulled in and asked if we needed help.  We explained the situation and the mother and son said they knew a man close by that had a shop, and he might be able to fix it, if all the LT needed was a bolt.  The leaking radiator was another matter.

The rider thanked me for stopping (on his way to Washington) and sent me on my way.  He said, "I can take if from here."  The last time I saw him he was following the car to a nearby ranch.

Time for the road.  My ride across the Plains was near the halfway point, before me, another day's ride away, lay the mountains, but right now I was in the east Montana Grasslands.  Miles of it.  Here large herds of Buffalo once roamed the countryside, but now the land is fenced and home to cattle.  U.S. 2, more or less, strikes a straight line across the north for a thousand miles.  Glaciers sweeping down from the Artic eons ago, cut the tops of the hills so the highway had an uninterrupted surface of flatness.
Sometimes folks just get up and leave.   A common
site not only on the High Plains, but the Central Plains of

I was still fighting a strong headwind, as the winds funneled down out of the mountains across the prairie unimpeded by trees or anything else.  The Honda was on 90 mph, devouring cars and miles by the dozens every few minutes.  I swept around 18 wheelers, RVs, Mini vans, and sedans with ease.  There is no better motorcycle for this kind of riding than the Honda ST 1300.  I was the envy of everything out there on this early June day.
Racing across the grasslands at such speeds was risky, even in Montana.  I'm sure if I had been seen by some deputy or state trooper, I would have been tagged, but I felt lucky on this day, and I was.

Reaching Wolf Point I knew I'd better gas up.  I was on half tank, my cruising speed combined with the headwind meant I'd be lucky to get to Malta without more gas.  Not sure of what lied between here and there, I topped off.  It was a quick stop and I was back on the road.
​More property just left behind
It was more of the same all the way to Malta.  By the time I came into the city it was late afternoon, and 661 miles from Minnesota.  I made up for the miles I lost yesterday without too much trouble and where I wanted to be this day of the tour.  I followed a sign to a private campground on the west side of town, and headed there to put my tent up in exchange for the 10 dollar fee.

The facility had a motel, RV hook ups, and a large grassy site for tents.  I was on the west side of the Milk River from town, but still within walking distance of downtown.

So far I w was the only joker in the area and staked out a nice spot under a tree.

My phone was dying again, battery down to 1 bar.  "That can't be, I just charged it all night, it should be good for a couple days, no more then I'm using it."  The 2 year old battery must be dying.  "I'm going to have to check that tomorrow, I can't be without my phone."

Just after unloading my things, a van pulled in carrying 2 BIG people and a large dog.  They proceeded to set up a off ground tent.  "Now how ya reckon those TWO big ole folks is gonna fit in THAT tent?"  They did me one better and put the DOG in there too.  "Man thats awesome, no way I sign up for those sleeping arrangements."
Don't ask me how, but all 3 slept in this tent.
While sitting up my tent I was eaten up by large mosquitoes.  It was terrible.  I was itching like crazy.  After squaring away my camp site I went for a shower in the nearby bathhouse, then took a half mile walk into downtown for something to eat.  It felt good to move some air, but not the same as a nice run, or long bike ride.  I didn't when I might get to those again.

A long train came through town and I was forced to remain in one spot for 10 minutes. I thought I was standing in high grass when I looked down to my legs to see them covered in the same large mosquitoes.  I panicked and took off running.

The train came right through the middle of town at 60 mph.

Supper was at the Stockman's Hotel where I had baked chicken and a large baked potato.  It was good.  A wedding party was in the adjoining bar, and kind of noisy.  I was the only patron in the small dining room, so received special attention.  I had a long conversation with the waitress/cashier who was from Southern California.  She said the high taxes, hectic lifestyle beat her husband down to the point he sold out and left.  They bought a small farm near town and so far loved it.

"yeah but don't the winters get cold and long?"

"yeah, but you deal with it.  I see you met our mosquitoes by the way you are scratching your legs."

"man they ate me up just walking here"

"they're really bad this time of year, here let me get something for you'

she came back with a spray to sooth my itching.

She said she used it on her kids all the time.

After supper I went back across the railroad tracks, and  Milk River, but not before stopping at a con store for something sweet.

It was almost 9pm and still had 20 minutes of light, but that didn't matter, I went in my tent to escape the bugs.  At 9:30pm a loud siren in town went off.  The campground clerk said it would.  "When it does pay it no attention, it just means it's 9:30pm, not a air raid."  "Well thanks for that tidbit."  I ignored it just like he told me, but it was LOUD.

As quick as I went down I was as asleep, but not for long.  Soon a loud roar was coming at me, and the ground shook.  A train was heading for me!  The lights lit up my tent and passed so closely and quickly I thought it was going to suck my tent up!  "Geezus what the hell??"  It roared by for several minutes and was gone.  That was not the worst of it.  From now till daylight, at least 7-8 more shot by.  I got zero sleep.  I noticed the trestle when I came in, and didn't think much of it.  "That joker didn't tell me this when I checked in.  I should get my 10 dollars back."

It was a long night.

Update 7-23-06- I received the following email from Lisa in New Jersey:
"That monument you saw with the arrows and cross stuck in the rock was a
monument to honor 100 years of Catholic faith, but to also remember their
Native American traditions. Apparently, the native Americans who came there
were persecuted so in order to be welcomed, they had to join the Catholic
church or risk being run out of town.

To keep their Native American traditions alive, one head of cattle is
slaughtered and the skull is placed on the base of the monument to honor the
gods who fed them through the long ND winters by making cows appear to them
when they were most hungry."