15th, Windham, Maine, Stop: June 23rd, Sturgis Distance: 3157 km (1973 miles), Total Distance: 7191 km
After passing through the forests of the Upper
Peninsula, we go shopping in Duluth, drive the longest straight stretch
of road in the States, and finally enter the mid western prairie landscape.
Thunder, hail or rain won't stop us, even though it tries its best.
And why visit Sturgis in August, when it's a lot less crowded in June.
The Upper Peninsula
Mackinac Bridge, crossing over from
Lower to Upper Michigan and dividing Lake Huron and Lake Michigan.
Yoopers they call them selves in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, or
UP in short. Coming from the Lower Peninsula, it was like leaving
civilization, leaving behind towns and holiday resorts. In the
UP people were scarce and in the first bar we stopped at, after
driving with escort over the Mackinac Brigde, dividing Lake Huron
and Lake Michigan and connecting the two peninsulas, an escort
needed due to the strong winds, the furniture and the guests all
looked more like the rural America we were looking forward to
One of the guests, a bearded construction worker in his forties
with bad teeth and a belly that suggested that he liked beer,
kept his eyes locked on me for the whole time we were there. I
didn't know what to make of it, so I pretended not to notice.
When we left, we went back into the forest that the whole peninsula
seem to consist of. The road was a long perfect straight, and
with the trees locking out any potential sights, the ride got
We headed for the Whitefish Point shipwreck museum, located by the
lighthouse inside one of the most hostile areas of Lake Superior. A
lot of ships have gone down in these waters, and we studied the worst
catastrophe of them all, the iron ore carrier Edmund Fitzgerald, that
mysteriously sunk in 1975 in one of the worst storms ever and took with
it 29 men. The museum was quite laid back in style and was a good break
from tourist traps like the Niagara Falls.
Bente smiles, even though she lost
the pool game, because she won big time in darts.
After a night in Paradise - which was the name of the little town and
not necessarily an adjective - where me met, finally, another
dual sport rider on a Kawasaki KLR on a two weeks trip up from
Detroit without rainwear, which he didn't hesitate to emphasize,
we headed west through more forest and another tourist trap. I'm
sorry, I really love traveling in the States but sometimes there
seem to be no limit to what they call "scenic" and charge
you to see. A sign said there was a water fall a little off the
Going in, we were stopped in the gate where we were prompted
to pay to continue. So we did and drove in to a huge parking lot,
left the bike and walked hundred yards to see some gallons of
water fall over a rock. The souvenir shop on the other hand, was
huge and displayed, among hundreds of artifacts, a steel moose,
welded together of two pieces of crude steel. I believe the price
was 250 US$. We looked at each other and left the place in a hurry.
When we passed the next sign saying something like "The Upper
Falls" we made face and continued.
Fellow Norwegian Leiv Erikson. The
monument in Duluth, raised by the Norwegian League in 1956, claims
that he was the discoverer of America.
I had studied the map in the morning and wanted to take the dirt road
that would lead us along the shores of Lake Superior in a general westerly
direction. When we finally found the road, it wasn't actually dirt,
it was mud. The heavy rains the last few days had turned the surface
into a slippery brown substance. I said to Bente that this was no match
for us, and off we went. After a couple of miles of driving with my
heart beat way up in the hundreds, with a couple of near misses and
with Bente's gradually stronger protests as the road quality got worse,
we stopped and cowardly turned around. Even my own argument of how good
the practice would be to us before going south fell on stone ground,
even to myself.
Back out on the main tarmac we decided to get some mileage done and
headed straight for Houghton, where we spent the night. The night we
arrived was the main night of the "Houghton Seafood Festival"
with the central recreational area turned into a festival area with
food tents, live music and all the beer you could drink. We had our
dinner in the open, drank a couple of beers and watched the fireworks
that signified the end of the festival. Houghton was a nice town with
a bit more of a town center than most towns we'd been to. Also, they
have a wonderful central bridge that was quite a sight in the evening
Wisconsin, our eighth state so far, didn't stay with us more than six
hours before we entered Minnesota and Duluth. This town of 80-100 000
inhabitants has the world's largest freshwater port, shipping especially
iron ore destined for the car industry in the Detroit region. It's also
a beautiful town. The center had been completely rejuvenated with nice
shops and brick paved streets. Also, our part sponsor, Aerostich Rider
Wharehouse had their office and shop here, and I was in the mood for
Shopping in Duluth
West Fargo at night. To get a decent
meal we had to cross a four lane highway, a typical traffic ore
in a typical American city.
Sherry, our contact at Aerostich, took good care of us while we stayed
at the shop. We had Bente's jacket slightly redone to improve the fit,
and bought a handful of necessary or fun gadgets and items to fill up
the bags and any spare space on the bike. The converted bicycle panniers
used on each side of the tank were replaced with the slightly more stylish
and rugged panniers made by Aerostich. My eager browsing in the store
made Bente come up with a few comments that made Sherry laugh out loud,
and a little mishap with the language caused more laughter. We were
looking at an air cushioned seat cover, meant to improve comfort, and
I told Bente how to blow it up and close the valve, using the sentence,
"First you blow then you screw". Looking at Sherry going red
by laughter I realized what I had just said.
We crossed Minnesota in one rainy day, making a couple of wrong turns
that once again brought us into mud infested roads, destined to reach
Fargo where supposedly there was a "Hjemkomst (homecoming) festival"
for the big Norwegian descendants community. Fargo was not a letdown,
because we didn't expect anything. We never saw anything of the festival,
and decided to push on the next day to catch up a little on our, although
random, delayed schedule. There wasn't really much to see in the southern
North Dakota, according to our guide book, so why not drive the supposedly
longest straight stretch of road in the States. Highway 46 goes westwards
a little south of Fargo, and stretches 175 kilometers without a turn.
Or so the book say. We found several turns, although turn is a strong
word, but the road is definitely not one hundred percent straight all
the way. Don't tell anyone though, since it might be a well kept lie
to attract stupid tourists like ourselves.
When Rocinante started to cough
and the engine threatened to die, we emptied the tank. It was also
an excuse to find the allen key that got trapped under the tank.
The long and not winding road
Half an hour into the stretch Rocinante started coughing and the engine
almost died on several occasions. The only thing I could think of was
that I maybe got some bad gas on the last stop. At the first, and one
of the very few, gas stations along the road I removed the tank and
emptied it in a bucket, then filled it up again. It seemed to do the
We meant to go to Bismarck to try to find a pair of decent hiker shoes
for Bente, something she'd been looking for since we started the trip.
As we got closer, we saw a storm center hanging dark and ugly right
over the city. Every other second lightning lit up the sky. We didn't
want to challenge this kind of weather, so we turned south along the
east side of the Missouri River, ended up far into the fields along
some very loose graveled roads, and finally we stopped at a farm to
ask for directions. I don't know what the woman was thinking, but after
giving us directions and telling us that, yes, the storm was heading
our way, she exclaimed her surprise in that we were riding on a motorcycle.
We had walked over to her fully dressed in protective gear, with helmets
in our hands, and she didn't understand why we were so anxious to get
out of the storms way, at least not until she saw Rocinante. Maybe she
took us for hockey players on a jogging trip.
The reason why we never visited
Bismarck. We escaped south and just beat the weather. Half an hour
after checking in at the motel in Mobridge, the storm caught up
We were getting close to Linton, a tiny town in the middle of nowhere,
when finally the landscape changed to what we had been waiting
for. For three weeks we had ridden through woods similar to those
back home, or through boring flat land with nothing to see, but
now the golden fields that we had in our minds started to show.
Sweet clovers were flowering, and with the golden sun to the west
and the dark wall of a storm behind us, the colours were breathtaking.
We stopped at a small bar in Linton, escaping from 35 degrees
Celsius, and met a retired truck driver. He ran the little bar
and when asked how he ended up in Linton - he told us he was from
Florida - he said he got drunk one night and the next thing he
knew he owned the bar. During his 30 years as a truck driver he
had covered six million miles, about ten million kilometers, over
the whole North American continent, including Mexico and Canada.
He remembered the time when the Teamsters, the truck driver union,
were strong with Hoffa in charge, and also the fall of the union
over the years. Now he was ready to move on, a few months after
he took over the bar. Not so strange maybe, considering the restless
nature a guy must have who actually lived in his truck for seventeen
years, not even owning an apartment.
Welcome to the Mid West in our dreams
Into the Sioux reservation west
of Missouri river in South Dakota, the Sitting Bull monument gave
us a reminder of who once ruled over these lands.
We got to the motel in Mobridge just in time. Half an hour later the
rains poured down and lightning were all around us. I sat stupidly
for an hour in the door opening trying in vain to catch some of
it on film. The next morning the skies were clear and we got going
early. Sturgis or Rapid City was the goal for the day, and we
crossed the bridge over Missouri River into the Standing Rock
Indian Reservation. We were finally in the mid west we had dreamt
of. Here personalities like Sitting Bull rested in peace close
to his birth place. Together with Crazy Horse, the Cheyenne chief,
he was in charge of the victorious battle against General Custer
at Little Big Horn.
By his monument there were bones and artifacts, probably left
by Indians as offerings for him. He is still remembered. The scenery
was fantastic. There is no other word for it, and the whole day
we rode on main roads and back roads through a golden prairie
landscape. A little east of us were the site for the TV-series
"The little house on the prairie", a big hit in Norway
in the seventies, and a lonely church were just as lonely as I
remembered it from a dozen western movies. A shortcut took us
off the tarmac into a one hundred kilometer stretch of gravel
road. We were all alone in the world. On a stop we turned around
360 degrees and saw nothing but prairie, still yellow from the
clovers. A gate with a post box next to it said the name of a
ranch three miles, or five kilometers, down the road, a long way
to go to pick up your mail. It was the best day of our trip so
far, and we lost words when trying to express the beauty that
Another storm was building up in the distance when we got closer to
Sturgis and Rapid City. Since it seemed to hang around Rapid City,
we decided to stay in Sturgis. Sturgis, famous for the annual
motorcycle rally in August that attracts half a million motorcycles,
is a small and peaceful town the rest of the year. We found a
motel in the center with two bedrooms, a kitchen and a living
room for forty dollars. Even though it was slightly higher than
our budget, the kitchen was too tempting to let go. We went to
the grocery store and bought ingredients for a pasta dinner, together
with a few beers and a bottle of wine.
What we had planned to be a home cooked dinner and a visit to
the local bars, turned into a night in the apartment with good
food and lots to drink. In the middle of our dinner the thunder
started, then came the rain and finally the hail. It sounded like
a machine gun on the outside when hails the size of grapes hammered
down. Rocinante had no cover and was receiving quite a beating.
According to our host the hail was of the soft kind, and didn't
do other damage than rip leaves of the trees. Since the treat
of hail was for the next night as well, he prepared a sheltered
space for the bike.
Now, if only the thunderstorms and hail can get out of here, maybe
there's a chance we'll see the Badlands, Mount Rushmore and herds of
bison in Custer Park.
Welcome to South Dakota. Finally
we were there, in the America we longed for.
An hour's riding in South Dakota
collected this display of bugs.
"The loneliest church in the
west", according to the plaque one of the most photographed
and painted typical prairie churches in the States.
Not an unusual sight along the
highway, a house is on its way to the buyer, complete and ready
to move into. Maybe they already had...
A highway chic wonders how hot it can get in the South Dakota
The open country. Our superlatives
weren't enough to describe the wonderful landscape of South Dakota.
Pavement Ends. Yeah! A slogan taken
from somewhere. A hundred kilometers on gravel back roads in perfect
South Dakota weather was awesome.
Finally I got to smoke the cigar
I got in New York. It has to go with a cognac or a whisky, and when
we moved into the lovely little apartment in Sturgis and had our
first home made dinner, it was due time.