It was a day of accomplishment, a successful day. I awoke early, camped out at a KOA not far from Rapid City, South Dakota. I was there for a rally called Braveheart, a group of friends that get together every year having met on a web site. The friends you make like that can sometimes be the best kind This story involves one such friend.
Unlike the previous 5 days I rolled up my sleeping gear, packed my luggage, and took down the tent. See, the rally was over and everyone was going home. Everyone but me. I was only partway through my trip. In previous summers and this one included I had conquered 46 states and two Canadian Provinces. This day would round out the contiguous states and accomplish a motorcycle traveling goal.
On the way to the hotel where most rally attendees stayed I stopped by another where two friends from Iceland had stayed. Earlier that summer they purchased a motorcycle from another friend and rode that across the United States. Their trip was an impressive one and still going too, but they would have to turn home soon. I was unable to wake our friends, affectionately called the Bezerkers due to a patch on Tommy’s vest. Nanna was his wife and riding partner, and the two of the made quite a pair and quite a site.
Since they weren’t answering the call it was time to meet up with the others. Some of the people I knew from past rallies and others I had only met days before. Two of those people are Trapper_Canada and his wife Kat who had ridden in from Saskatchewan. They are a neat couple and fun to ride with. Others like Raymond and Emu and Chuck are old friends that meet up whenever the opportunity arises. They’ve ridden together extensively, and just to see them grouped together will make you laugh; wait till you hear them talk. There were many more people at that rally, around 80 in all, and all are worth mentioning and will be soon.
This day wasn’t a normal day however, not even for the last day of a rally. Two people I had met that week were Frmrpat and Plowboy. These guys are brothers raised on a farm up in Circle, Montana. They invited me to ride with them and see their place only about a day’s ride away. Farmer knew of my desire to see as much as possible along the way and offered to show me the more scenic route. And by more scenic route I mean more of the same but in a less direct manner. See, when you get in that part of the country things don’t change much, not for a long time.
After saying goodbye to our new and renewed friends the farmer and I headed west on Interstate 80 towards Sturgis, SD. This is a neat little town famous for another motorcycle rally. We were only two weeks early for that, but as I understand it it’s nicer that way. Since we had already gotten all the souvenirs we wanted earlier there was no reason to stop, and we rode on past the currently barren one horse town.
Before long our small gas tanks needed a fill and us a rest. The climate in the west is arid, and it takes a lot of water to maintain one’s hydration. I remember purchasing a little beef jerky at the gas stop to supply my energy. Breakfast obviously wasn’t keeping up. We said goodbye to Plowboy and his wife who were headed with the van and trailer on the faster roads, and the farmer and I turned north.
This was really nice for me and more special than even he knows. I’ve ridden quite a bit, and most of that was alone. There were only two times I can recall from before that time that I had ridden any distance with another person, traveling I mean. Many times, at rallies for instance, I had ridden with people and ended up at the same place for the night. But only Strider1 and Trev had ever ridden with me outside of their own area. Farmer would be the third person to do this, and until now the last. This means a lot to me, and even though it may be only one day’s worth of riding it sticks in my memory. That and the rest of the day.
The road was a straight one, almost inperceptively straight. It endured hours with nary a curve. One could ride days up there is seems and see little more than road and grass, not even the bank of a curve breaks the vastness of it. If you look at a road map of that corner the Dakotas you’ll notice the lack of roads, maybe 2 per county. There’s no natural boundary to cause builders to make a curve. It’s a hypnotizing experience, and pretty soon one can lose concentration. Usually at times like this I find myself singing, sometimes the urge to sleep is strong. But there are ways to break the monotony like moving around, and of course picking favorite tune and shouting it out loud. Before long our tanks were low and it was time to stop again.
Somewhere in there we were passed by two other travelers; you can see them in that second picture. In the town of Buffalo there were approximately one gas station, one house, and one post office, so it was eventual that we would see each other again. Bikes cannot pass up gas stops when they are that far apart. It was a father and son crew both riding older Gold Wings headed somewhere further north. While we drank orange Gatorade to cool off and rehydrate, they took off and were long gone before we hit the road again. There was no reason to hurry; the company was too good.
We had at some point slipped into North Dakota. Politically we were in a different place, but the scenery didn’t change. The farmer graciously consented to me looking around for a pin to fit on my vest. I had started collecting pins after my second trip, and this meant usually it was my second visit to a state before buying the pin, but I didn’t have a plan to make it back to ND anytime soon, so this was my one chance. We found a pin soon enough, quite a nice one with a duck on it suggestive of hunting, and it was time for the road again.
Not long later we were to head west again. We were in South West North Dakota as I like to say and turning away. The farmer knew of some neat sights along the way, and he made sure we stopped at Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Unfortunately our ride that day would be a long one, and we only had time to stop for a picture and some ice cream. The ice cream was delicious on that hot dry day, and the rest very worth the time. I still had my National Parks entry card and stopped in just for a map before we headed out.
I asked the farmer at some point what made the park worth of even being there. It seemed that this part of North Dakota was only flat and that there wasn’t much to see. I realized soon enough what the attraction to ND’s only National Park was. We began riding into canyons and the scenery changed quite a bit from less than exciting to something special. I had never seen anything like this before and really enjoyed it. The dryness of it all and color of the rock walls running alongside of the road was only a hint of what the rather large park offered. Of course my riding partner had seen it already and once remarked how he had canyons like that on his very own property. I could hardly wait to see it.
I was taken off some that the government would take the only nice peice of land away from North Dakota. I thought it a shame the state’s biggest attractor should be federally run and the proceeds out of reach for them. It is however a nice memorial to a great president and a testimonial to his forethought and legacy.
It was another long stretch to the border, but I anticipated every minute. Up to then I had ridden in 47 states and my last was only minutes away. The anticipation heightened my awareness, and every sign on the horizon piqued my attention. Each time one would come into view I’d strain my eyes to read it. Most left me wanting more, some were interesting like “Home on the Range”. I still wonder what is over there. Soon though the one I had waited so long for was in sight and I snapped a quick shot. I was in Montana!
This is again one of those times most people can relate to. Remember when you were a kid and in school you talked about Maine, or France, or Australia, and as a kid with a still small world view you remember thinking “that is so far away, I’ll never get there”? The world is a big place, but each time you break down that barrier it feels a little smaller. Montana was one of those ‘too far away’ places I would never see; only there I was. I still remember the feeling of hair raising excitement upon entering the state.
Now, Frmrpat is from Montana, born and raised. And I am from Texas, so of course there is some rivalry between us about how big things are. And to this day I have never set foot on property larger than his. That’s not to say it doesn’t exist, and if I do say so myself there are many such places here in Texas. Don’t tell him that though, he prefers to live in that state of denial. 😀 I guess this is as good a time as any for me to tell his joke but in my own words.
“Two ranchers were talking, one from Montana and the other from Texas. The Texas farmer, bragging about his property, speaks up and says his is so large he could get in his truck in the morning and ride all day. The sun would set before he reached the end of his land.
‘The Montanan thinks about that for a minute, always having to one up the Texan, and says ‘yea, I used to have a truck like that too.”
The farmer loves that joke and of course switched the roles of the two gentlemen in the story from the original telling to fit his needs. When he did that I found my own version about how the Montana man’s cow was so big that the beef had lasted an entire year, and the Texan replied “I had a cow like that once too”. He didn’t laugh as hard at my joke.
He and I swapped lots of stories like that, and at our last gas stop for the day he presented me with a state pin in the shape of Montana. The farmer is a gracious man and quite generous. That would not be the end of his hospitality. We rode on in to his town sometime before dusk and took the nickel tour. There would be more time later on land and by air to see Circle, Montana so I didn’t press for too much. Plus we were exhausted; it had really been a long day, and the heat made it even more tiring.
I said his town earlier, but what I really meant is the town nearest to where he lives. See, the farmer and his brother with their wives and father live out in the boonies as we used to say. Directions to his house might read, “follow the one road out of town till it turns to gravel. Eventually it will turn to the right and you’ll be in the neighbor’s farm. Go several more miles and there’ll be a driveway on the left…” His place is really secluded, and that’s a nice thing.
Remember how I said the farmer was gracious? Well he really is. Upon arriving he fired up the grill and asked what we should put on it. See, the farmer raises cows and keeps a few pieces in a freezer. I chose rib eye, and that was a good choice. The meat was excellent, hand cut and home raised. I can’t remember a better one I’ve eaten. This was a great way to end a great day.
Later that night I went outside to reflect a little. This is when I noticed how close the stars were. They don’t call Montana Big Sky Country for nothing. You can see so much of the sky, and it was so clear I bet there are few places even in Texas that can rival his view of the night. I snapped a couple photos to remember it by.
That was a pretty cool day in my life, and I took plenty of photos to remember it. Here are all of them. And sorry about not posting a story last week, I was real busy with graduation and work. I did write one, but you’ll have to wait to read it.
Good night and Merry Christmas.