Statistics Great Plains:
Distance: 2246 km
Daily Average: 94 km
Days in the Area: 22
Days on the Bike: 21
Elevation covered: 9800m
Daily Average: 470m
Nights in the Tent: 17
Nights in Houses: 5
Breakdowns: Flat tire in the back, Screw on the carrier brocken
Daily Expenses: 10,00€
crossing the great plains
on my way out of Minneapolis I got lost on the confusing Bikepaths along the Mississippi River and in the Residential Areas of the Wealthy People. Once out of Town it went straight again. I followed another Rail-Trail for almost 100 Miles. Wow.
I covered a lot of distance the first days and as I wanted to take a break the third day I came into the Town of Dalton. There a historic Tractor.Show was going on. A short conversation with the Lady at the gate and I was inside for free while she took care for my bike. Beautiful old Machines from companies I never heard about in Europe. Back to the days of the first motorised steam machines they showed and also worked on them. Cool, my technic affine little boy inside was taking somersaults.
The next day I reached Fargo and also reached North Dakota. The State half the size of Germany has just 750.000 Citizens. A Hundredthousand of them live in Fargo the biggest city. Not much left for the rest of the big state. The City has Charme, a few old buildings, a bunch of new Ideas make it colourful and exiting. The Wind was my friend so I went on and made another 60 Miles that afternoon. Short after the City I realised what is coming the next days. Soy on the right and corn on the left side of the road, or opposite. There was not more variety out there. The few people I met were sitting in their cars lazy raising one hand. pure desolateness.
Little Anecdotes made my day, I will tell you a few of them:
In Hope i was invited to Breakfast. The local Veterans invited for a Benefit Breakfast for a Father waiting for a Heart Transplantation. Having no Healthinsurance brought him into real trouble. Not able to work for the family and also not able to pay the surgery. So the community helped. Coming together giving donations and bringing in Stuff to be sold that day made the problems a little bit smaller. Nice sign and Shows the huge sense for community out here. A social security prevented that situation, but the people don´t want it out here. America at it´s best.
In the next Town the christian Sunday Church Community invited me for their Picnic. Barbecue, Cake and at the end a little donation for my travel purse. No one really could imagine what I´m doing out there, but we had a wonderful conversation… On the way out of town I came along an Auction. The local barber was retiring and selling his complete shop and collection. Getting a professional Auctioneer made him get the most out of it. Cool things and cool action.
I rode past a lot of squared fenced areas along the street that looked like underground water reservoirs, but they didn´make sense cause it was a total flat area. One day I came to a sign that showed a historic place that looked exactly like that. After visiting it I knew it all. The fenced Areas were hiding the nuclear defence of the USA. The Museum was emptied while the START-Convention in the late 80ies. Instead of being destroyed they made a Museum out of it. In every one of the around 1500 Silos there is a „Minuteman III“ Rocket that has the 43times force of the Hiroshima Bomb. Unbelievable that a lot of the people living in that Area didn’t´t even know about what they dig in their ground at all. Felt very uncomfortable to cycle there.
The next days temperature went up. They almost reached 100F/40C and was a hard fight to get forward. On an Afternoon I crossed a Hill and seen the Haze from the Wildfires in Montana moving in. It smelled smoky, itchy in the throat and the light went into twilight. The sun raised and set dark red. Scary. A rain shower the next day cleared the air and let the temperature drop. It just went up to 45F/10C the next day.
In New Town in the west of the State I took a break at the Library having a nice conversation with the librarian. The question what the story behind the name New Town she answered with showing me two big folders full of newspaper snippets. In the 40ies the Land was dispossessed by the government to build the dam that now formed the artificial Lake called Lake Sakakawea. The lost Towns moved to New Town on the Hills. The money they get for their lost land was just a quarter of the amount they have to pay to get new „dry“ Land. Lots of people lost a lot in that times. By the way the two towns of Danish and Van Hook couldn´t stand each other. This is very nicely documented in the Folders. In the Meantime they found oil in the region and ten years ago they started the business over with fracking the oil out of the ground. She told me that the town changed drastically. Noise, crime and impoliteness are normal now. The price for the Oil…
The Northwest of North Dakota is an Eldorado for the Oil Companies. On the way into Montana I crossed countless Oil pumps and Drilling Tools, the Gastorches burn around the clock. Around Williston the last town in ND it looks the same. Industrial Areas full of Drilling Stuff and a loud and hectic City. When the Boom leaves town desperation left behind. Remembers me of the Yukon and the Goldfish of the last century.
In Montana the Oil is deeper and harder to get so it doesn’t´t worth the effort. Less Pumps and more normal Landscapes are around her. Nice. Montana has the same size than germany and only a million people living in it. It´s getting even lonelier…
It started raining and so I cycled wet to the core through a Landscape with 35F/5C. In Culbertson I warmed up in the Local Museum and later found a place to stay in the local church. Perfect place to dry the stuff and sleep in a dry room. After that I could go on with less rain.
On the Map I found a nice Backway up to Lake Fort Peck, another Dam project of the first half of the century. I underestimated the local mud and got stuck out there. The first part was wonderful, Asphalt and gravel until I reached 25 Miles away from the Highway. After a few hundred meters it was clear that I can’t go on neither back. Thinking about a Plan B a pickup approached and offering me a ride back to Town. It was the only couple living behind that point on their way to Church. Lucky me.
The announced west wind got me one day and made cycling a pain. With 6 mph I fought with all my power against it. That was quite exhausting, the cold wind cooled me additionally. Arriving in Shelby I was done. The Invitation to a Open Door Celebration in the new Rest-Station in Town was perfect. Having Coffee, a hot Soup and some cake I started warming up. A local senior started the project, bought an old carousel and renovated it together with volunteers from town and build the Reststation around it. This Day they were showing the work to the people in town asking for donation to finish the work. Nothing goes forward in the states without donation. I ended up in the House of the daughter of the Senior and was affiliated as a lost son. Wonderful. The night in a real bed was paradise…
The morning, thanks to the clear and cold air, I could see the Rocky Mountains from the farm. Even when they are still 100 Miles away from Shelby. The end of the Plains is almost reached.
It took me two more days to reach the Foot of the Rockies. My plan was to cross the Glacier National Park on the „Going to the Sun“ Road. But cause to the wildfires it was closed for the Fall. So I had to cycle around the park. Even from the outside the Nature looked very beautiful and mighty.
On the other side of the Mountains I came into a green wide valley. Breathtaking beautiful after all that yellowish meadows of the great plains. I cycled south heading towards Missoula. Here I planned to take a break before I want to follow the Main Ridges of the Rockies southwards to Salt Lake City. Hoping that Winter comes late and the roads stay accessible.
What a Ride! Three weeks and over 1400 Miles of cycling westwards. Once from Hamburg to Sizilia. Unbelievable Distances. It was a mainly psychological Challenge. Without any eye-catchers at the horizon and without any variety in nature having a maximum of 30 minutes of conversation a day cycling alone through that wastelands. That was tiring. The groping temperatures were sucking the energy out of me I was so happy to see mountains, realising how much I missed them. I was so done in Missoula. Time to take a break.
But it went different ways, that´s a different story I want to tell you the next time.