Connecting North and South Dakota: A Motorcycle Journey Through the Dakotas

Connecting North and South Dakota: A Motorcycle Journey Through the Dakotas

As a motorcyclist who enjoys vacant, isolated roads, I stared longingly at the Dakotas on my National Geographic wall map while planning my next excursion. A childhood friend of my wife had recently moved to Sioux Falls with her family. The brother of a buddy who was a groomsman at my wedding 25 years ago had transplanted himself to Sioux Falls from California long ago. I figured I should check out the allure, but I also needed an angle to enhance the journey. So, much like my ride around the perimeter of Kansas (Rider, August 2004), I decided to circumnavigate the perimeter of North and South Dakota.

Fargo turned out betwixt and between, so I ended up starting there. North Dakota’s largest city is named for the co-founder of the famed Wells Fargo Express Company. It is also the hometown of baseball legend Roger Maris, and as a fan of the pastime I headed for the museum tribute to him in West Acres Mall. Not much else shakin’ in Fargo, if you discount the casinos, so afterward I pointed the Beemer’s nose northward up the Red River Valley on U.S. 81 paralleling Interstate 29.

Grand Forks stands along the Red River of the North, which provided flatboat transportation for farmers’ goods until the arrival of the Northern Pacific Railway in 1880. The great spring flood of 1997 displaced the entire population of Grand Forks (some 50,000), and ruined downtown historic buildings. The resilient folks went about rebuilding their lives by renovating and revitalizing. I headed for one resuscitated landmark, The Kegs Sloppy Joe Root-Beer Stand.

The next town at a Red River confluence is Pembina in the far northeastern corner of the state, where fur-trading voyageurs established trading posts. Strife among trappers and farmers resulted in the Massacre of Seven Oaks in 1816, when 20 settlers were killed. Nonetheless, Pembina (an Indian word meaning high-bush cranberry) became the center of European settlement in the state. Scandinavians and Icelanders were among the hearty immigrants who homesteaded here, and a Heritage Center in Icelandic State Park relates their story. The needlelike tower at the Pembina State Museum offers an expansive view over the drift prairie extending into nearby Canada.

Drift prairie results from glaciers, and the receding hunks of ice scoured out Pembina Gorge just west of Walhalla. It’s only a slight dip in the land, hardly enough to swallow the Beemer. Route 5 westbound traces the prairie potholes and sloughs, havens for migrating waterfowl, and their raucous babble could be plainly heard above the hum of the engine. I’m told that most of the ducks in North America are hatched in this habitat.

I didn’t park long, for I didn’t care to be nibbled to death.

Not an hour later I entered the lakes and streams, rolling hills and broadleaf forests of the Turtle Mountains near Rolla. The Turtle Mountains comprise the only woodland in the state, reason enough for quirky monuments and celebration. The world’s largest turtle squats just off State Route 5 in Dunseith, made completely out of old wheel rims. Another giant turtle sits astride a snowmobile in Bottineau. But these fanciful creations also serve to represent the Bill’s Terrapin, or mud turtle, that is part of the indigenous fauna hereabouts.

The Turtle Mountains add a natural beauty to the region, which is given even more impact by the appearance of the International Peace Garden. This colorful floral park was dedicated in 1932 as a memorial to friendship between the United States and Canada. Four towers rise 120 feet to symbolize the corners of the earth reaching common understanding. Serenity is further enhanced by the presence of a chapel and carillon chiming every 15 minutes. A more recent addition memorializes the devastation at the World Trade Center. With a campground and café on the grounds, I found it a most calming spot to stay.

West of Bottineau the Drift Prairie transitions to Great Plains, or what’s known geologically as the Missouri Plateau. Some travelers view this as flat, and consequently boring. But as William Least Heat Moon writes in Blue Highways, “Boredom lies only with the traveler’s limited perception and his failure to explore deeply enough.” I passed acre upon acre of sunflowers, their seedless heads dipping in forlorn resignation like the marching ranks of a defeated army.

Austere State Route 5 beckoned toward a seamless horizon, vacant sky adding to the illusion of lost dimension. Chasing an ever-receding boundary and seemingly never gaining ground against a ceaseless, shoving wind intensified the disorientation. I searched for any landmark in order to regain perspective. The occasional abandoned farmhouse appeared like a derelict upon an eroded land. Such tumbledown homesteads commonly dot this vacated sector of semi-arid plains, leaving behind only ghosts wailing in the ever-present wind.

Fortuna lies in the northwest corner of the state like the remnant of a tattered rag. I quickly left the town headed south to shake the area’s depression and ended up retreating into the Mountain Man era at Fort Union. John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company built Fort Union in 1828 to control the trading economy of the Northern Plains. It’s now a museum of the fur trade. A tradesmen’s building was reconstructed using an adz to square the beams and wooden pegs to hold them in place. A fire crackling in the mammoth stone fireplace and a ranger in a period outfit added to the authenticity.

Riding out from this post I passed over the Missouri River where it joins the Yellowstone near the Montana border. I recalled camping along this confluence one year, only to awaken after an overnight rainstorm to find myself stuck in a quagmire of river bottom gumbo. I had to scoop muck from the wheel wells of the Beemer I was riding at the time. This Missouri River bottomland ooze, I eventually found out from a park ranger, is called bentonite, a mud that holds three to four times its weight in water and is used as a drilling lubricant.

State Route 16 pleasantly undulates for 60 miles across the Little Missouri Grasslands. I passed a solitary one-room schoolhouse and Lutheran church. Cows lined pastures against a dramatic backdrop of buttes. Farmers emptied their round harvesters of cylindrical hay bales. I began to spot herds of elk. Then I skirted Sentinel Butte, North Dakota’s second highest point, on my way into Medora, gateway to the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

A French nobleman, the Marquis de Mores, founded Medora in 1883, naming it after his young bride. The Marquis opened a meat packing plant and built himself a chateau atop a hill. Young greenhorn Teddy Roosevelt soon arrived from New York on a hunting trip. He ended up staying and establishing a cattle ranch. However, blizzards during the winter of 1886-’87 all but destroyed the Dakota cattle industry, including Roosevelt’s enterprise and the Marquis’ meat processing venture. But the legacy of both lives on, and one is able to visit the Chateau with its original furnishings, and Roosevelt’s Maltese Cross cabin. I even took in a musical revue honoring Roosevelt at the Burning Hills Amphitheater, built into a natural bowl of the badlands.

After a night camped in the solitude of the Badlands, I dropped down U.S. 85, virtually scraping North Dakota’s highest point White Butte, which rises 3,506 feet. An Indian archer’s silhouette pointed the way through Bowman, in North Dakota’s southwest corner. Then I slung down the arrow-straight highway back into open country in a rush to the Black Hills.

Unlike August when the Sturgis madness is in full swing, now in mid-September the road ahead and behind me lay vacant, urging me into the sweepers. Toe and shifter danced a tango as the Beemer pirouetted the hairpins and whirled around pigtail bridges on Iron Mountain Road. I nodded toward Messrs. Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt, begging forgiveness for the snub; I’d visited years ago and was anxious to see how another stone-faced icon was progressing. After poking through tunnels and threading the granite needles of State Route 87, I encountered the Crazy Horse Memorial back on U.S. 385.

Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski began blasting and chipping away his vision of Sioux warrior Crazy Horse in 1949 on Whiteface Mountain. Though overshadowed by Rushmore he chiseled on undeterred until his death in 1982 at the age of 74. Only the face is complete of an image that will include an outstretched arm and horse beneath, but his sons toil on without federal money, accepting only donations. Ziolkowski sympathized with the Indian and his brethren, who endured a string of broken treaties. When complete, perhaps generations from now, this image will serve as a counterpoint to the noted End of the Trail sculpture that depicts a warrior slumped in resignation.

Although Westerners nearly wiped out the bison in a strategy to destroy Indian culture, there are still plenty along the wildlife loop through Wind Cave National Park. I was sure one of the bulls wanted to mate with the Beemer, and seemed awful jealous of me as it snorted threateningly. I made it out of there, skirting the buffalo chips, and finding refuge and refreshment in the far southwestern Dakota resort town of Hot Springs.

I left the Badlands along U.S. 18, entering grassland and woodland that delineates the Pine Ridge. The Black Hills were traditional hunting, worship and burial grounds for the Sioux until the discovery of gold, and treaties were then revoked. Today, the Pine Ridge Reservation serves as a reminder to their disenfranchisement. It’s ironic that Dakota is a Sioux word meaning friend, or ally.

Underscoring the plight of these Native Americans was the next site I visited, Wounded Knee. In December 1890 cavalry troops surrounded a band of Lakota Sioux, who were forced to march here, and began disarming them. A shot rang out and the slaughter began, with troops opening up with rapid-fire Hotchkiss guns, killing nearly 200 Sioux. The image of Chief Big Foot’s frozen body contorted in pleading anguish lives on in perpetuity. This massacre effectively ended the Indian wars. In 1973 an armed group of the American Indian Movement seized the site to protest Federal policies toward them. The standoff lasted 71 days and led to two deaths, but consciousness was raised anew about their plight.

Route 18 now carried me across flat, featureless terrain past indistinguishable towns until I jumped the Missouri River again, and a series of border routes hooked me up with State Route 50 following the Vermillion River. I entered larger cities now, places like Yankton, cow capital of South Dakota, and Vermillion, home to South Dakota University and the National Music Museum. After I touched Sioux City, my final corner, I hightailed it north on I-29 to the next location named after an indigenous native tribe.

Sioux Falls is nestled in a giant horseshoe bend of the Big Sioux River, where the namesake falls tumble and cascade through and over a broad quartzite quarry. Many of the buildings in the downtown historic district, including the Old Courthouse, are constructed of stone harvested at this site. A bicycle trail follows a greenbelt that completely surrounds the river, with canoe access and fishing holes aplenty. Extensive parks make South Dakota’s largest city of nearly 200,000 more habitable and family friendly, according to my friends the Raffertys, who moved here for a job commitment but don’t intend to uproot themselves again, a testimony to the claim that Sioux Falls is one of America’s most livable cities.

For the 100 miles from Sioux Falls to Watertown I’m riding a ridge along I-29 that offers occasional sweeping views into neighboring Minnesota. At the Sisseton exit I followed State Route 10 west for 10 miles to check out a lookout tower I saw from the distance. This observation post sits atop a continental divide overlooking the watershed where liquid runoff shoves the Red River northward, one of the few North American rivers that do flow upward, so to speak. Runoff from here also trickles south into the Bois De Sioux River bordering Minnesota, and pulls triple duty by quenching the Big Sioux River. I know for a fact this water cycle is prevalent after splashing through a gusting thunderstorm days earlier on my way to Sioux Falls, and just missing a tornado that touched down northeast of town two hours after I arrived!

I returned to Fargo taking back-country roads that led me past Fort Abercrombie, established in 1858 to guard wagon trains and steamboat traffic on the Red River. I’m back at the crossroads of what has always served as a major transportation route throughout the Northern Plains after some 2,000 miles. Now I’m ready to research the next prospect for one of these perimeter runs because they are fast becoming habit forming.

— Alan Paulsen is the author of this story published in Rider Magazine.

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A 30 day hold on my credit card @ the Hilton Garden Inn?

Recently I stayed at the HIlton Garden Inn and even though my room was prepaid through Hotwire it was their policy to get a credit card for incidentals. The authorized the card for .00 to be released when I checked out. I know that a credit card for incidentals is common. What is not common however is for them to hold the funds for 30 days after check out. Not only have I been in the hotel business for over 20 years I travel once a month and I have never encountered this. I have used the same credit card at every other hotel I have stayed at and have always had the hold released back to my card (and available for use) with in 2 calender days. I have called my bank to see why after 2 weeks the money is still being held. The bank told me that the hotel has a 30 day hold. Sorry I am rambling but I am angry. Anyone else experience this?
The hotel doesn’t pay Hotwire. Hotwire is paid in full at the time of booking. The only reason the hotel touched my credit card was for the incidentals. Which there were none in my case.

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Vacation areas that are toddler friendly and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg?

Next summer when my kids are 4 and 2 years old we want to take a family vacation. We do NOT want to go to Disneyland. Where can we go that is kid friendly that will amuse them? We prefer to drive, not fly.

We live in Northern California. Thanks

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Does anyone know anything on the humboldt squid?

I am studying on humboldt squid.I currently know that they hunt in groups, but i dont know much more……..I NEED HELP!

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Where would be a nice place for a weekend vacation in Southern California?

It’s my wife’s birthday this weekend. I would like to take her on a weekend two days and one night trip. Any idea?

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What to See And What to Do in Sonoma County

What to See And What to Do in Sonoma County

Are you among the many others who hear of Sonoma County and immediately conjure up elegant images of clinking wine glasses? Do your nostrils begin to twitch in anticipation of intoxicating aromas? Does your mouth start salivating with eagerness to receive scrumptious beverages when Sonoma County is mentioned merely in passing? Is Sonoma County synonymous with California’s wine country in your mind’s eye? Well, you are not wrong by any stretch of the imagination but you are not exactly correct either. If you allow me some time, I will be happy to widen your perspective about Sonoma County and I promise to be as brief as I possibly can.

Yes, you are absolutely right; Sonoma County is all about wine, all kinds of wine. As a matter of fact, Sonoma County is more about wine than it is about anything else. However, one must not overlook its many other aspects which are so readily available to all its residents as well as to those visiting the area on their vacations, on business or are simply passing through on their way to elsewhere.

Without further ado, here is the multifaceted Sonoma County which can also serve as your travel guide if you ever decide to visit and want to know what to see and what to do there:

1. Sonoma Coast State Beach is a seventeen mile stretch of scenic land along the Pacific Ocean owned by the State of California. It consists of several named beaches such as Arched Rock Beach, Gleason Beach and Goat Rock Beach. Sonoma Coast State Beach features fine sand and dramatic vertical rock formations.

2. Lake Sonoma is a manmade lake that was formed by the construction of the Warm Springs Dam and is located in northern Sonoma County. With fifty miles of shoreline and 2,700 acres of surface area, this tranquil lake provides water for agricultural irrigation, for industrial uses and for year-round recreation.

3. Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve is an 805-acre California state park densely populated with majestic Sequoias and offers visitors self-guided nature trails, an outdoor amphitheater and well maintained picnic facilities.

4. Jack London National State Park is also known as the Jack London Home and Ranch and is a National Historic Landmark to be found on the east side of Sonoma Mountain surrounding the property which belonged to Jack London (a well known American author between 1876 to 1916). The burnt remains of his home, the Wolf House, are still visible in the park.

5. Gold Ridge Experiment Farm is what remained of the farm purchased by Luther Burbank in 1885 to perform his astounding feats as an American botanist, horticulturist and an agricultural scientist who developed eight hundred varieties of fruits, flowers, grains, grasses and vegetables.

6. Fort Ross was as a Russian settlement in the early 1800s and has since been designated as a National Historic Landmark. The Rotchev House which served as the official residence of the settlement’s Commander still stands unharmed but the rest of the structures on the site have been reconstructed with the help of Russian architects.

7. Sonoma County is also abundant with elegant hotels, modern shopping malls, lush golf courses, wide range of restaurants and eateries, theaters, night clubs, spas and, of course, wineries.

Learn more about Sonoma County Real Estate and homes for sale in Sonoma County by visiting us today.

My vacation last year. Rode my SV1000S on a 2500 mile round-trip to Redwood National Forest & Yosemite. A small part of my trip down the Avenue of the Giants while visiting the Redwood National Forest in northern California last year.

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selling a hotel voucher to Hilton Garden Inn Indianapolis DT anyone wanna buy?

I need to sell this hotel voucher Hilton Garden Inn In Indianapolis Downtown if you or anyone you know is going please e-mail me
the voucher is a weekend stay (2 nights) this is a up scale hotel about 119-199 a night.
it includes a free breakfast on the first or last day. and will expire at the end of 2010.
i am selling this at 175$ either way it will be saving you money. any questions or anything just e-mail me. paypal is the way to pay and i will send you my info when we have an agreement and i will not send it until i have payment in full. i can get you verification of the vouchers. and i am 100% serious about this. i don’t need it am not going to Indianapolis in the near future or for anything i can think of. thanks for looking. :)

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Top Ten Travel Nursing “Hot Spots”

Top Ten Travel Nursing “Hot Spots”

The great thing about being a traveling nurse boils down to one key component – it’s about the travel! For those of us who love moving around and seeing the world, travel nursing is the profession of our dreams. There are many travel destinations available, based on weather, activities, cost of living, and salary. Therefore, I have gathered a list of my “Top Ten” destinations that nurses choose, based on the number of travelers who inquire about each location every month. Are you a travel RN scouting a new assignment? Then I’d like to suggest the following ten “Hot Spots”:

HAWAII – It’s no shock that Hawaii generates over 500 travel nursing inquiries per month. The wide range of outdoor activities from snow-capped mountains to snow-white sandy beaches elevates Hawaii to one of those meccas where you can build a snowman or a sand castle all in one day. Nurses tell me that you’ll discover virtually every type of outdoor activity imaginable—hiking trails that wind through erupting volcanoes, secret beaches, and lush green ranchlands. Many travelers also hunt, mountain bike, go rafting, and golf on some of the world’s most extravagant courses.

ALASKA – Travel nurses are intrigued by the possibilities of Alaska’s rugged mystery. Alaska is a huge wilderness with beautiful scenery, and travel nursing assignments offer plenty of time to see and do everything you want, whether in winter’s darkness under northern lights, or the glorious spring and summer where it’s light most of the time. Outdoor enthusiasts enjoy Alaska for its’ wildlife, spectacular natural landscape, and fishing expeditions where the fish really are as big as the stories about which they’re told. Countless day cruises and sightseeing expeditions abound, as well as opportunities to hike, kayak, canoe, ski… Need we say more?

MONTANA – Whether photographer, adventurer, or both, Montana is truly a state that beckons with open arms. River trips, fishing and camping, history, snowy mountain ranges, and waterfalls are what you’ll encounter, along with plenty of open space to explore. Assignments in Montana appeal to those travel nurses who just need some time to break away from their city grind to enjoy marching to the beat of an entirely different drummer. The Big Sky Country boasts some of America’s most famous mountains, canyons, river valleys, forests, grassy plains, badlands, and caverns, and many travelers find it just irresistible enough to keep coming back.

MAINE – Maine’s splendor has inspired artists like Georgia O’Keefe and three generations of the Wyeth family, since the mid-nineteenth century. Travel nurses can’t resist at least one adventure in this charming getaway. Whether you embark on outdoor adventures like skiing and snowmobiling, or if you prefer the cozy ambience of antiquing through charming villages or just strolling or riding horseback on miles of sandy beaches in the smell of salt air, Maine is legendary and offers some wonderful travel nursing experiences. Its’ unique culture is outdoorsy and quaint, and of course you get to enjoy lobster as the locals do—fresh from the ocean!

CALIFORNIA – Warm weather and world-famous beaches make California a favorite choice for traveling nurses. Nine-hundred miles of coastline gives nurses in all locations the chance to spend many hours near the waves; and for nature lovers, California is home to many wildlife parks, remote wilderness areas, and safe-havens for endangered animals. If you’re an excitement junkie, you can scout out a wide selection of theme parks; and no matter what your taste in music, concerts abound in every type of venue. Historic sites and museums invite, as do five-star restaurants and clubs in which to see and be seen. The shopping is unparalleled, whether it’s trendy Melrose Place, La Jolla, or the strand in Venice Beach; and of course it’s home to Hollywood, and, yes, movie stars. Whether northern, southern, or coastal locations, traveling nurses return to California time and again.

WASHINGTON – The Evergreen State boasts the gorgeous Pacific Ocean, the Cascade Mountains, desert experiences, rain forests, towering volcanoes, glaciers, and lush wine country. Washington State rates high on the list of many nurse travelers. Must-sees are the Space Needle and Coulee Dam. The culture here is incredibly diverse; sophisticated, outdoorsy, and loaded with resorts, history, parks, museums, and botanical gardens. Whether touring downtown Seattle for cozy antique and book stores, exploring ancient Indian grounds, or hiking and biking mountains or trails, Washington holds a strong allure for many nurse travelers.

SOUTH CAROLINA – Endless adventure, excitement, fun and exploration represent why South Carolina is always a favorite destination for travel nurses. America’s oldest landscaped gardens frame mansions rife with historical heritage, in addition to pristine beaches and legendary marshy wetlands. For all you golfers, with over 330 golf courses, there’s always a new place to swing your clubs. But what fascinates many traveling nurses is the rich heritage in which South Carolina has paved the roads of culture, art, and folklore in our past. You can visit several historical areas and discovery centers of American history, including the American Revolution and the Civil War.

COLORADO – World-class winter skiing and summer music festivals in the mountains are just two reasons that nurses love traveling to Colorado. Boasting four spectacular seasons, Colorado is where travel nurses get to explore the state’s 18 million acres of state and national parks, forests, and monuments for biking, hiking, fishing, mountain climbing, and kayaking, to name a few. Colorado has many cultural treasures, including ancient Native American sites and dinosaur fossil exhibits, historic ghost towns, and even award-winning vineyards in Grand Junction. And for those who enjoy city life, amid all this natural beauty lie wonderful metropolitan areas like Denver and Boulder, full of shopping, performing arts, and professional sports.

TENNESSEE – From energetic nights of blues on Beale Street, to gorgeous rolling acres of Tennessee Walker horse country, to peaceful Smoky Mountain sunsets, Tennessee is a vacation that offers many world-renowned attractions. Nurse travelers who visit Tennessee will find that they’re within a day’s drive of 75-percent of the U.S. population via quality interstates and highways. Attractions in Tennessee include the Jack Daniels’ distillery, Elvis’s Graceland, the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, and lots of southern hospitality. And don’t forget the crown jewel of the southern Appalachians, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

ARIZONA – If you adore the outdoors, then the Grand Canyon State might just be for you. The nurses who go there just rave about Arizona’s landscape which takes in tall mountain ranges, swift rivers, grasslands, sand dunes, and cactus forests all set against a beautiful sky that glows pink in the sunset. The traveler nurses who enjoy history will find plenty of it here, including Old West reformations, Native American nations, and Spanish-influenced areas all in one state. Arizona is also home to the nation’s greatest golf courses, resorts, spas, cabins, and ranches.

As you can see, limitless possibilities exist for those nurses who want travel, fun, and adventure to be part of their daily lives. If you’re a nurse who travels and it’s time for you to move on to a new location, try one of these top travel nursing destinations and see what new experiences lie ahead.

Janet Fikany is a “Placement Diva” for HealthCare Staffing Network. For travel nursing advice, please visit HSN online at, or call Janet toll free at 1-800-388-2610.

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