Wednesday, August 29, 2018

A sunny day in North Dakota

Finally - a sunny, gorgeous day on our cross-country motorcycle trip! We started the day in Carrington, ND with temperatures right at 50 degrees, and ended the day 9 hours later in Bowman, ND with temperatures in the 80's. I started the day wearing all of my warm jacket liners, full set of gloves, and raingear - not due to rain, but to keep me warm. By the end of the day everything but the standard motorcycle gear was stowed in the waterproof duffel as we enjoyed the sunshine and warm temperatures.

As we headed west from Carrington the landscape changed from flat farmland to more rolling hills, pastures, and acres upon acres of sunflowers. South and North Dakota produce the largest amount of sunflower seeds and oil in the country.

We passed by several small lakes, many filled with a variety of water birds. We even saw hawks and owls sitting on top of the large round hay bales.

Lewis and Clark came through this area in the summer of 1806, tasked by President Thomas Jefferson to explore the country west of the Mississippi River that was part of the Louisiana Purchase. We stopped at the Garrison Dam on the Missouri River, constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers beginning in 1947 at a spot where Lewis and Clark also stopped. The dam created the reservoir known as Lake Sakakawea, the third largest man-made lake in the U.S. behind Lake Powell and Lake Mead in Arizona. The lake is named for the Lemhi Shoshone woman who met up with Lewis and Clark in North Dakota and traveled with them to the Pacific Ocean.

We eventually turned south onto U.S. 85, and entered the Little Missouri National Grasslands, at over 1 million acres the largest area of protected grasslands in the country.

We often have difficulty finding a place to eat lunch because we prefer to travel on smaller roads in out-of-the-way areas, but today we hit upon a fantastic lunch spot:  The Trapper's Kettle in Belfield. The restaurant is filled with stuffed animals and birds and hosts a Trapper's Hall of Fame. The salad bar is housed in a canoe, soup bowls are small metal cooking pots, and meals are served on metal fry pans instead of plates. The atmosphere was fun and the homemade soup and extensive salad bar made this one of our favorite lunch spots of the trip.

During the planning for this trip we decided to visit the Teddy Roosevelt National Park that is located within the grasslands, and it exceeded our expectations. Our first stop was at the Painted Desert visitor center, where we were greeted by a herd of bison grazing near the visitor center and wandering through the parking lot.

We traveled a few miles further to the southern entrance of the Teddy Roosevelt National Park and rode the 28-mile scenic loop through the park. Roosevelt came here in 1883 to hunt bison and loved the area so much he built a ranch. Living in North Dakota played an important role in developing his interest in conservation, and the park was established in his honor in 1947.

The park features badlands, native grasslands, wooded areas, streams, campgrounds and hiking trails.

We're thankful for national parks that preserve the unique beauty of our country, especially in areas like this that are surrounded by energy development. Riding through the park on a motorcycle, feeling the breeze and the sun and smelling the pine trees was the highlight of today's trip.

About an hour after leaving the park we pulled into Bowman, ND, our stop for the night. It took us longer today than we anticipated, primarily due to several spots where we were delayed due to road construction. During the delays we chatted with the friendly flaggers while we waited for the pilot car. North Dakota ranks #48 in population and #17 in size, so it's no surprise that the towns are small and far apart. One of the flaggers told us that yesterday only 3 cars passed by the stretch of road where she's working. No wonder she wanted to talk to us!

We're looking forward to tomorrow's ride to South Dakota, the last new state on our trip.  Here is today's route

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