Road to Kentucky Derby: Scared out of North Dakota

Right out of the gate, our trip to the Kentucky Derby took an unexpected turn. We had left Missoula, MT, planning to go to Glendive, MT, and then across North Dakota, when our friend in Missoula texted this picture from the North Dakota Department of Transportation:

Maybe South Dakota would be a better choice. Not that we are afraid of driving in snow. Especially in my Dodge Ram truck with four new all-weather tires that cost more than my first car. But we are not in the truck. Because of high gas prices, we decided the Toyota Camry hybrid was a better choice. And for gas prices, it has been. For snow, not so much.

Once we crossed out of the land of high gas, house and food prices in the state of Washington, we have not found any gas stations that charge above $5 per gallon as in the Evergreen State where filling the 24-gallon tank in the truck cost more than $100. Wattabout $5 per gallon? Mostly they have been under $4 per gallon: $3.86 in Bonner, MT. $3.96 in Hardin, MT. $3.88 in Kadoka, SD. But the cheapest gas so far has been at the Pony Express at the WinnaVegas Casino in Sloan, IA: $3.75 per gallon (more on the WinnaVegas in the next post).

Detouring to South Dakota meant a long day of driving before we reached Deadwood, SD, home of Wild Bill Hickok’s fatal card game. We avoided the deadly casinos and stayed in a slime plant. The slime plant did have a casino, which we avoided, and is a hotel built in what used to be a plant that processed gold slurry (known as “slime”) from the mines in nearby Lead, SD. The plant closed in 1973, and in 2010, a group of preservationists and businessmen decided to save the building by opening a hotel there. Nice rooms for $119; dining and gambling inside the building. Looking down on the main part of Deadwood, we could see the melting drifts of snow that were left over from what must have been a winter with many snow storms. Fortunately, the roads across South Dakota were dry and bare of snow as we continued the next day.

Holiday Inn Resort Deadwood Mountain Grand (Photo by Kathy Triesch Saul)

Ever in Glen Ullin, ND? Visit the Wet Spot, Mile Marker 69

June 13, 2018 – Medora to Glen Ullin, ND

First biker
We met our first biker of the trip. He was headed west to do the Continental Trail and figured riding out from the East Coast would get him in shape.

Breakfast at the Farmhouse and then on our bikes for the pedal across North Dakota – where we thought the winds would come out of the west and blew right up our back and push us across the state. But there was an easterly wind right from the start, and it got stronger as the day went along.

We made a few turns during our route to Glen Ullin, which made me realize that no matter what happens in North Dakota, the wind never stops and it always blows right in your face. It was almost impossible to get going more than 10 mph even on the down hills because of the wind. We still managed to average 9.7 mph. Not sure how we did that. Longest and hardest ride of the trip, but there were better things to come: A woman in the Taylor Nursery shop said that once we got beyond Bismarck, there would be nothing but “table tops” to cruise across.

But for today, we crossed a time-zone change out here in the middle of the state and did not finish our 86.2 miles to Glen Ullin (pop. 800) until late.

The only place to eat, according to Margaret at the Red Roof Inn B&B, meant either driving 20 miles back to Dickinson or going to the Wet Spot Liquor.

Did I hear that right? That’s right, Wet Spot at Mile Marker 69. We had to go there.

Inside Wet Spot
Three milquetoasts, who were not offended, at the Wet Spot bar.

Outside Wet Spot

Frozen pizza on round cardboard, which was not too bad at all. Great selection of liquors, and the bar maid said she did not think a bunch of milquetoasts like us would be offended by their double-entendre name. She pointed out the mile marker out front was designating 69. Not fake news here.

But we didn’t want to sleep on the wet spot though, and we headed back to the Red Roof.

Medora to Glen Ullin

No country for mixing rugby and biking

The idea was to ride my bike across Montana and North Dakota and keep track of the Seattle Seawolves rugby team at the same time.

It was an idea doomed to fail.

The Seawolves vs. Austin Elite game on Saturday, June 9, was not carried on TV networks available in Jordan, MT, (pop. 386). Especially since the game was played on Friday, June 8, which shows you how out of touch I was after four days of bike riding (246 miles). I heard it was a nail-biter with Seattle winning, 20-19.

And Seawolves vs. Glendale Raptors on Saturday, June 16, while in Lisbon, ND, (pop. 2,124)? Forget it. Yes, really forget it. Seattle lost 33-11.

But I did get to see the U.S. team beat Scotland, 30-29, which bodes well for the national team going forward. Maybe a win or two in the 2019 Rugby World Cup? That would be welcome across the land – even in Jordan and Lisbon, should they hear of it.

About this bike ride: It was not my idea. My sister gets credit/blame for that. It’s her goal/obsession to ride across all of the lower 48 states. We did Iowa and Nevada in 2017. Arkansas, North Dakota and the rest of Montana were on tap for 2018. I promised to ride across Arkansas with her, but our plans fell apart due to other priorities.

I said I would be support and gear/guidance (SAG) for her on Montana/North Dakota. But when her riding partner backed out, what kind of brother would I be if I left her pedaling alone somewhere between Great Falls, MT, and Fargo, ND?

KT at truck
Kathy preparing lunch the first day at the SAG wagon.

SAG duties fell to the spouses, and Kathy and Don can never be thanked enough.

JB and Don
With Don along the way in Napoleon, North Dakota.

It all started on June 4 when Kathy and I started the drive from Seattle. . .