Week Five

July 17
July 18
July 19
July 20
July 21
July 22
July 23
July 26
July 28
Wednesday, July 17, 2002
Daryl Dammel picked me up at 8am and we headed out of town in his white van that was equipped with snow tires. He used that type of tire because of the rough terrain out near the white cliffs area. He was able to offer this tour because his father’s ranch was adjacent to them. Officially, the white cliffs area is part of the Upper Missouri National Wild and Scenic River and is managed by the BLM or Bureau of Land Management.

We drove across the range-land when we reached the ranch. There were just tire tracks to follow. Daryl said that after a good rain he could not offer the tour because the ground became too soft and muddy and the van would get stuck. We drove a number of miles through this slightly rolling treeless plain to the edge of the cliffs. He parked the van and we got ready to hike. Daryl had a backpack in which he carried our water supply and my two cameras. He also had two ski poles. He gave me one saying that it was to be used to poke the bushes and under rocks for rattlesnakes. Said it would be rare to see one. Lightly poking ahead of where you would walk or climb was just playing it safe. He also calmly explained that these particular snakes didn’t rattle but were just as poisonous. Then we started our decent into one of the canyons or coulee.

I was seeing these fabulous rock formations much closer than I would from a canoe in the river. Many of the formations that we would view all day appeared to be manmade in that they were geometric. They resembled ancient ruins of buildings and temples. Many others seemed to have been “carved” with an aesthetic of contrasting proportions in mind. Occasionally, some resembled weird creatures or “hoodoos” as Daryl called them. One struck me as resembling some sort of cat-like animal. Its pose was very clearly like the Sphinx of Egypt.

Daryl was a great guide. He pointed out many different geological aspects of the formations. He said that they were not really that old - only about 10,000 years. The layers of rock exposed by the river were originally laid down as marine sediments beneath a great inland sea that covered most of the Great Plains 80 to 70 million years ago. During the recession of the glaciers of the last great ice age, the river started cutting through the layers of rock. Once the rock was exposed to the elements, it was also worn down and shaped into the myriad of forms that make up this region. There were some formations that looked exactly like the ruins of walls. They projected out from the cliffs in a perfectly straight line that slowly crumbled away to the canyon’s floor then reappeared on the opposite side of the canyon. Their color was a reddish brown with traces of black. In places where they do not exit the sides of the canyon they could be seen as dark vertical seams in the beige colored rock. Daryl explained that these were magma that had been forced through fissures in the rock from volcanic pressures far below.

We climbed out of the coulees about 1:30 and had lunch at a picnic table near the van. Daryl erected a large sun umbrella for some very welcomed shade. Afterwards, we started down another coulee. This was to be the longer hike of the two. More wondrous formations at every turn. The floor of this coulee became green as we gradually ascended. Tall thick grass hid a small rivulet of water and wide beds of mud. We saw some deer, swallows, pigeons, two red-tailed hawks, and no snakes. The swallows made their unique nests in the cracks and under the overhangs of the rocks. The hawks screeched at us as if to scold us for interrupting their hunt of the pigeons. The rivulet became a free flowing small spring pouring out of the rocks as we climbed out of the coulee. Daryl said that we were about a mile from the van. We walked and talked about our experience and the incredible hardships the pioneers had to face. This is a very harsh yet incredibly beautiful land. The temperature today was 102.


"White Cliffs"

"White Cliffs"

Me in the "Hole-in-the-Wall"

Prairie Cactus Flower

Confluence of Marias and Missouri River

Thursday, July 18, 2002
I visited the grave of “Shep” before leaving Fort Benton. Filled the bike up with gas then headed northeast toward the town of Havre. Along the way was the tiny town of Loma. It was here that the L&C Expedition had to decide which river to follow on their outward journey. Here the Missouri divided in two. L&C chose the correct river and named the other the Marias after Lewis’s cousin Maria.

The landscape was loosing the mountains for every mile I rode east. The land, in certain places, gave the illusion of the sea. No landmarks - just gently rolling “swells” of grass. I covered a lot of miles quickly by cruising at about 85.

Passed through Malta and Glasgow and made a stop at Fort Peck Dam. Took a few dam pictures and continued on to Wolf Point. Did 331 miles.

Friday, July 19, 2002
I had left Wolf Point at 7:15am and stopped at the Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site at 8:15. It was located near the confluence of the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers and played a major role in the development of the West.

I pushed on into North Dakota and the town of Williston. I had been following route 2 since Havre and here turned south on route 85. I made a stop at the Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Unit) after traveling about 56 miles. Very hot, as usual. The park road goes 14 miles into the park and has numerous parking areas and hiking trails. The rock formations here are quite different from the White Cliffs. The park offered great campgrounds but decided not to camp because of the heat and very little food. No towns nearby. Continued on to Washburn and Fort Mandan. Did 335 miles today.


Fort Union Trading Post

Fort Mandan Replica

Mandan Earth Lodge, Knife River, ND

Interior of Mandan Earth Lodge

Saturday, July 20, 2002
The morning was refreshingly cool after a night rain. The L&C Interpretive Center was a short ride from Washburn. It was a very impressive building that featured an outside deck with a panoramic view of the surrounding Missouri River Valley. The Center’s exhibits included interactive questions and devices. For instance, a buffalo robe that could be worn. On the wall, next to it, was information regarding the psychological aspects that wearer expressed depending on how they wore it. There was a whole gallery of Karl Bodmer prints depicting the Indians at Fort Mandan. These were copies of paintings that he did on site in 1833-34.

The reconstructed Fort Mandan was about a mile away and its Welcome Center had even more Indian artifacts and information. The Fort’s cabins held many items of period clothing, instruments, weapons, and other assorted materials.

The next stop was the Knife River Indian “Village”. It wasn’t a whole village. Just one Hidatsa Indian Earthlodge. It was a marvel of construction. Wood logs of various diameter, twigs, and earth were used to create a simple yet very stable and strong dwelling. It was about thirty feet in diameter and could house from 10 to 30 individuals. Walking into it on this very hot day felt like air-conditioning. I assumed that it was also snug and warm in winter.

Left about 1:00pm and continued east on route 200 that merged into route 52. I began seeing ponds. Lots of them. They grew in size as the land became greener. Saw my first cornfield since leaving the East. The air became excessively muggy - another indication that I was putting the West behind me. There should have been a roadside sign that read - “Moisture Ahead”. I was still rather north, so I angled southeast following 52. I got on the interstate to rack up a few more quick miles and I-94 led me to Fargo, where I stopped for the night.

I did not want to return by the same route around Chicago and have to deal with the smelly and dangerous herds of semis. I decided to cross Lake Michigan by auto ferry instead. The earliest reservation would be Tuesday at 1:15pm. They do a brisk business in the summer transporting large, over-sized truck loads, all sizes of campers and RVs, along with autos and motorcycles.

Sunday, July 21,2002
A very heavy rain fell throughout the night. It diminished into a light rain by the time I started east on route 10 into Minnesota. Occasional high wind gusts. Exited off 10 at Detroit Lakes and followed route 34. The farms gradually gave way to wilderness areas of lakes and evergreen forests. In the town of Walker, the highway became route 200 again. Dark clouds were forming to the southeast and were heading northeast. I was positive that our paths would cross so I stopped and zipped in the Gore-Tex liner of my jacket. I already had my rainpants, boots, and gloves on from the morning. Intersected the storm after about twenty miles. The gloves started leaking a little.

I was passing through some small town when I saw four bikers at a gas station. They did not have any raingear or helmets on. It’s kind of customary for the biker “brotherhood” to wave to each other on the road. Now, there are many forms of the “wave” and each, as far as I know, are okay. So, when I saw some fellow bikers, I waved. Only one noticed my greeting and did not wave back. This occurs the most, for some reason, with Harley Riders. These were wet Harley Riders and I figured they might be a bit ornery. So, I rode on getting wetter myself. They followed me out of town and, after a couple of miles, one of them suddenly rode up along my right side. He stayed in that position for a few seconds then, in a showy roar, blasted ahead. I was impressed. Without a helmet, the rain must really be stinging his bald head. Then the others passed me on my left. I really didn’t mind this show either but I did not relish the idea of riding behind this noise pollution for an unknown amount of miles. On my homepage, I said that I love motorcycles. But I do not love excessive noise. Especially in all of the natural wonders that we share and ride in. But, I don’t want that noise in the confines of the city either. Straight pipes or modified mufflers belong on the dragstrip or racetrack.

The noise was finally drowned out by the deluge that suddenly dumped on us from above. I could hardly see them through the water. Although they slowed considerably, they stubbornly traveled on frantically wiping away the water from their eyes. But it was just too much and they slowly moved to the edge of the road to stop. I continued on with wet hands and a moist crotch. The pants soon gave way and my crotch was totally soaked. But, my head was dry as were my feet. Eventually, the rain eased up and the air became misty enhancing the northern Minnesota wilderness. The sun finally broke through in the late afternoon when I stopped for the night in Ashland, Wisconsin. I had a great view of Chequanmegon Bay and the Apostle Islands and Lake Superior. Did 310 miles today.


Monday, July 22, 2002
Left Ashland at 8:30am. A beautiful rainwashed morning with lots of sun and a cool temperature. Great riding and ditto scenery. A wilderness filled with many lakes and marshes. My route was 51 south. Ate breakfast in Tomahawk at about 10:45. Very developed along the road from now on. At Wausau, turned east on route 29. Became I-43 and I followed it around Green Bay. Exited at Bellevue and followed 29 to Kewaunee on the shore of Lake Michigan. I then took route 42 south along the shore. I noticed numerous vineyards and wondered how their wines tasted compared to Lake Erie shore wines. But, of course, drinking and riding do not mix.

The green and wooded landscape made me feel comfortable. I was almost home. The West is filled with vast, harsh spaces and many things are big. In the East, I like to think that it’s softer and more inviting with more manageable sized things. It’s more personable. Lake Michigan was so blue and the sand so white it was almost tropical. Actually, the temperature was finally comfortable. I was back in the green, moist, and earthy lands.

Arrived in Manitowoc at 3:30. Followed the signs to the dock of the auto ferry and purchased my ticket. Rode 335 miles.

Tuesday, July 23, 2002
A crisp sunny day with whitecaps on the lake. The auto ferry “Badger” is 410 feet long and 59 feet, 6 inches wide. It was built in 1952 to carry rail cars. It was reoutfitted in 1992 but still burns coal for steam. My bike was on the first deck secured with tie-downs.

I was to meet my wife and step-children and her relatives at a cottage on Lake Michigan near Ludington, Michigan where the ferry would dock. I was looking forward to it after being on the road by myself.


Ferry to Ludington, MI

Jane and Me on Beach near 

Ludingtion, MI

Friday, July 26, 2002
Spent the last two fun and relaxing days with family and relatives. Left late morning for Grand Rapids, Michigan to visit my sister and brother. Took the “back” roads. Did not record number of miles traveled.


Sunday, July 28, 2002
Left Grand Rapids around 9:30am. Rained lightly for some of the way. The very heavy rain was always further ahead of me. Arrived home about 6:30pm. Rode 405 miles today.

My odometer reading, at the beginning of the trip, was 51662 miles. At the end, it read 59343, making the total mileage for the trip to be 7681 miles.


Week 4       Up