Day 45 Entering the West

7/11/18

At peace with the world, I stare heavenward and listen to the cottonwoods whisper a welcome to the West.
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Across the way stands a wall of the Badlands , it’s maze extending miles around me North, South, and West.
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Tomorrow I will leave North Dakota and begin my arduous journey through the endless fields of wheat of Eastern Montana.
Today we leave Hebron at 7AM knowing we have significant headwinds all day on our 78 mile ride to Medora. 15 minutes into the ride we are given a gift of an hour with the change to Mountain Time. Not that that moving the hands of a clock backwards does our buns any good…saddle time stays constant from Bar Harbor to Seattle.
At first the winds seem to be from the North as we head West. It gradually changes to push back against our forward progress at 15-20 mph. There is nothing one can do but pedal on.
For some reason this year’s group is hesitant to ride and draft so I am left to my own devices though out the 8 hour ride.
These winds are much tougher on others than on me since I train in such weather back home…I have no mountains but rather constant winds on the Coastal Plain.
As I ride I think back to my travels through this state and marvel at the value of the land. Everywhere each square mile is put to use by farmer and their families separated by miles on the Great Plains.
Each part of the State has its major crops but diverse farming is widespread.
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In addition today I notice bee hives all along my trek, the billions of wildflowers and millions of acres of crops supplying the nectar to the bees delight.
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I find that North Dakota is the largest producer of honey in the US with nearly every county bursting to the brim with apiaries.
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Recent oil and natural gas finds
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have brought the state wealth but agriculture and bee keeping remain the main source of income throughout.
I pass today through the southern oil and natural gas fields but most lie north where at one time the Northern Tier Cyclists rode.
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Now that trek is too dangerous given the narrow roads and heavy traffic from the oil fields. The original route followed that same one used by Lewis and Clark along the Missouri River but these days we do not pick up that trail up again until the second day in Montana as we head north to the river at Wolf Point.
Late in the day we enter the Badlands…
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not only does the landscape change abruptly but so too the weather…we leave behind the Plains Storms and enter a near rainless zone from here to Seattle. The humidity has dropped to 30% from the mid 70%, the soil has changed to a dusty red from deep fertile brown, the crops are yellow brown instead of green, and the rivers have become trickles that dry in the summer…all this within a 20 mile span.
The Badlands appear out of nowhere and the roads must quickly descend to wind between the buttes…no longer are we on top of the Plains but 300 feet down. Good news for us though as the headwinds are high up there some where above our crowns.
The ride into Medora is an easy jaunt and we find our campground for the night. Clean showers, a laundry and stores in town simplify our lives.
I will miss all the green fields, wildflowers, and vistas that span the horizon. But I know that this will soon be replaced by an alive ocean of wheat which ripples, shimmers, whispers, and hypnotizes those who dare to pass through the keep. And like tonight the rain flap on my tent will not be used so that when I wake from time to time the twinkling Stars snd whispering cottonwoods will put me back to sleep.
At peace with the world…what a wonderful place to be…

 

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