We crossed the US/Canadian border at Fortuna, in the far northwest corner of North Dakota; I believe I could see the edge of Montana on the horizon. It was a quiet place; we saw no other vehicles crossing either way.
The traffic picked up as we approached Williston, ND, the epicenter of the Bakken Oil Fields. We stayed the night further south in Watford City thinking we would be out of the oil rush area. Bad assumption. Whether the resource being extracted is gold, coal, or oil, the effect on local communities is the same; what once were sleepy ranching communities became booming oil towns. In time the rush will bust and a mess will be left behind.
We beat the rain, but not the wind on our way south to Theodore Roosevelt National Park; constant 20 to 40 mph crosswinds and gusts made the trip a challenge. Teddy spent a lot of time in the North Dakota badlands after his first wife and mother passed away. For a person born to wealth and privilege in the east, his experience here had a defining influence on his perception of the west, its beauty and need for protection. The park memorializes the 26th President for his enduring contributions to the conservation of our nation’s natural resources.
As we approached the Badlands National Park in South Dakota, our destination, the number of Harley Davidson motorcycles increased considerably. The annual pilgrimage to Sturgis had already begun, although the rally doesn’t begin until next week. Sturgis is the Mecca of Harley culture; thus an obligatory pilgrimage by all Harley riders, whether the bike is ridden or hauled. Sturgis was on our way, so we stopped for lunch.
“Do you boys have pilot’s licenses for those Beemers?” Billy was sitting on the porch of the Iron Horse Lodge and saw us pull up. He was stereotypical Harley, weathered with faded tattoos, beard, rings on every finger and jewelry pinned and hanging from his leathers. He was a nice fellow, even charming.
“Pilot’s license? Don’t quite know what you mean,” Richard said. “Yeah,” he said. “I heard you needed one to ride a BMW because they fly so low and fast.” Billy’s observation surprised and puzzled us. Perhaps that is a general perception by Harley riders of BMWs. Most BMW riders are not as complimentary of Harleys. I heard one characterize the Harley machine as “a mid-20th century agricultural implement.” Not totally fair; their new engines are now more sophisticated and water-cooled; a well-disguised fact. But both piston rods on the same crankpin, as they were back in 1915, keeps them shaking.
The morning light on the otherworldly landscape of Badlands National Park was perfect to capture the vibrant colors of the clay and silt layers and interesting textures and forms of the mounds and pinnacles. And the place was buzzing with wildlife and very few humans—deer, bighorn sheep, and antelope browsing; prairie dogs scampering; birds in full song all around. A beautiful place hard to capture in a photo, but I tried:
It was a great ride——-