Cheyenne WY – Reeder ND
Sat Jun 25, 2022
My alarm woke me at 0345 and I set the room coffee to brew as I showered. At quarter past four, I left the room to make my way down to the rider meeting at 0430. James, showing concern that I appreciated, gave me a buzz while I was in the elevator to make sure I was on my way. Being late to a rider meeting is a no-no, and Paul had promised to shut out any latecomers, who would likely be held back to get their meeting after the rest of the riders left the parking lot.
I ambled into the nearly full banquet room with a few minutes to spare, feeling many sets of eyes on me as I was pointed to my assigned table and seat. Apparently, I was near last to arrive.
“Hey, I’m not late, no penalty!” I exclaimed, rousing some sleepy chuckles. I even had time to get some more coffee from the carafes that the hotel had thoughtfully provided, so not sure what the fuss was about. 😉
The lights dimmed and a video was projected to introduce the theme for this rally, which was “Founding Fathers”. While this phrase has traditionally been used to refer to all those “old white guys” who fought for and contributed to forming the US system of government, for this event the definition was broadened to include people of all occupations, fields of study, races, and gender. Significant people who in some way innovated, made discoveries, or acted bravely to piece together the history and character of our nation.
As the applause died down, our rallymaster strode into the room, fully attired as General George Washington, wig and all, to much laughter and renewed clapping.
We were finally given permission to break the wax seals on our twine-bound rally packs to review the Leg A rally book and materials. Inside the heavy envelope was a spiral bound full-color printed rally book, a USB thumb drive, emergency ID/contact badge, and our rally flags with red, white, and blue printed theme image emblazoned with our individual numbers.
One nice touch was that female riders received a flag with a female “founding father” silhouette! Opening a Paul Tong rally pack is like Christmas morning, and there were ooohs and aahs (maybe those were grunts of sleepiness?) from around the room as we dug in to start digesting the information, while Paul called our attention to the most salient points.
First things first – scheduling. It was now made clear there would be a group start at 12 noon today, so I felt an immediate release of tension because we would not be routing on the clock for Leg A. I enjoy the route-planning process and like to have at least one opportunity in a rally to dig into the map to figure out the puzzle. Riders needed to be at the checkpoint hotel in State College PA by 21:00 on Tuesday, June 28 to avoid penalty points. Arrival past 22:00 would mean a DNF (Does Not Finish) for the leg and rally.
We were guided on entering our scorer codes into the phone app in order to log in and receive our first leg bonus listing. I was in scoring group RED for this rally, which meant Jeff Konicek would be my guy. I was happy to see that the bonus listing on my new phone was bug free and scrolled quickly when I swiped. We reset our bonus sequence counter back to 1 and checked our email to ensure that the bonus files had arrived in our inboxes.
Paul then introduced the primary puzzle factor or “twist” for this leg, which involved an entire category of bonus locations about George Washington. These “GW” bonuses would increment a multiplier to add extra points on all the other bonuses that we claimed. Covered by three paragraphs and a sample scoresheet in the rally book, it boils down to:
- Every non-GW bonus in the leg is worth it’s own assigned points PLUS (N x 75);
- Each Washington bonus we claim would increase N by one. So, after the first GW we get, each non-GW bonus is worth an extra 75 or (1 x 75). After the second, tack on an extra 150 (2 x 75), and so on.
- A Washington bonus would only increase the multiplier (N) if not claimed directly after another Washington bonus, i.e. you must claim at least one non-GW bonus in-between.
- The GW bonuses themselves were always face value.
Now, this may not make immediate sense, so feel free to re-read that once or twice to fully get it. Sorry, not sorry! Imagine us at 0500 on morning of the start, trying to comprehend these convoluted machinations of Paul Tong’s mind! 🤔 My initial (and incorrect) takeaway from this part of the meeting was that only the FIRST non-GW bonus after a GW would receive the multiplier. The sample claim form in the rally book doesn’t cover a scenario where two non-GWs are claimed in a row.
Paul went on to cover other critical information in the rally book, such as points/minute for the rest bonus, receipt notation requirements, etc. We were welcome to visit bonuses after hours as long as it is “safe and legal to do so”. Daylight only designation should be respected and to cut off any extended discussion of the definition of daylight, he simply said “use your common sense”. Oh, woe is us!
32,000 points would be the suggested goal to shoot for while routing, in terms of staying on track to be a finisher. Similar to the Heart of Texas, penalty points for arriving late would be exponential, valued at 2x, where x is the number of minutes late. That forgives being a few minutes late, but quickly jumps up to insane penalties for anything over 10 minutes.
After most questions were asked and answered, we were finally released to go plan our routes around 0545. That gives us about fives hours of routing time. I managed to get onto the first elevator load up to my sixth floor room and wished everyone else luck as we scattered to our rooms.
Upon downloading the rally files from my email, I didn’t immediately see the list of bonus data in the Excel file – there was just the utility form that Paul had included to help riders figure out the George Washington multipliers. I texted my buddies as well as Jeff, my scorer, to see if I was missing something. Several minutes later, I noticed the additional tab called just “A” in the Excel workbook that had all the bonus info. Ah, tricky! Whew. Did I mention it was before 06:00?
As I dug further into the rally book and went about my data preparation, I saw that in addition to the Washington multiplier puzzle, there were six decent-size combination bonuses thrown into the mix. Combo themes included: Goethe & Schiller, Native American, Sports Figures, Civil Rights, and Science Figures.
Wow, this was going to take some serious thought! The sixth combo involved claiming fifteen of the Washington bonuses, so it seemed worthwhile to spend some routing time looking at that, since it would allow for some double-dipping along with the multiplier.
The rally staff had a standing Zoom meeting available for any rider to hop on, in order to ask questions about the rally book or the rally in general while routing. This was a marvelous idea, as it saves so much time vs wandering around the hotel hoping to catch a rally staffer with a free moment. Plus, it was super nice chatting with Nancy Oswald first thing in the morning. 🙂
I took advantage of this little perk two times that morning. The first was to confirm how the Washington multiplier actually worked. They confirmed the extra points applied to every non-Washington bonus following each GW, not just the next one. I don’t recall now what my second question was. 🤷♂️
Besides an early break for coffee & breakfast retrieval from the lobby, I spent the rest of my morning routing. Once I pretty much had things nailed down, I took another quick break to stuff a small bag of belongings that I’d be leaving at the hotel during the rally. I brought that o a designated room on the 9th floor, and then got my thermos filled with some ice and water to check that off my list.
As time to pack up was drawing near, I finally settled on a variation of my initial route plan (funny how often that happens). In addition to the 15 Washingtons, I’d be targeting the combos named Sports Figures and Goethe & Shiller – a.k.a the “two guys combo”, as some of us would later call it, not being able to remember or pronounce the names under rally fatigue. 🥴 Bonuses for those two combos lay more or less along the same geographic path towards Pennsylvania, and there seemed to be more Washingtons to the north as well.
With that decided and bonus ETAs jotted down, I finished packing and suited up, leaving the room right about 11:00. The weather was stunning, clear blue skies, sunny and cool enough to be comfortable. I stowed my gear in the bike and cradled my GPSes, while chatting up the riders close by, wishing each other luck and a safe journey.
Pulling the bike around to the east lot of the hotel, I stopped in to have my badge verified, then went over to the end of the large double line of bikes that was being formed for the start and killed the engine. Nothing to do now but wait, say some goodbyes, take a few pics, have a last-minute pee, then wait some more.
I took the opportunity to introduce myself to Jeff Konicek, my assigned scorer, since we hadn’t really met. I thanked him for being on staff, saying I felt he should have a face to go with the rider number when he starting getting my calls/texts during the rally (if HoT was any indication).
Walking up and down the line, everyone looked happy and/or intensely ready to get moving. It’s a special moment, this calm before the storm, the atmosphere charged with excitement and hope. You are surrounded by some of your best friends for this last half-hour, knowing that you will all be practically alone in your own heads for the next 72 hours, lucky to get a word exchanged with a convenience store clerk, as far as human contact.
The final rider’s meeting was at 11:40 at the front of the line, where we received instructions on start/exit logistics from the parking lot and around the block to access the interstate. Cheyenne PD had a couple units there to assist us with the lot exit and the bigger intersection that we had to get through.
IBR winner Wendy Crockett and IBR finisher Ian McPhee came tearing into the lot as the meeting was getting started, leading to a buzz amongst the riders, possibly wondering whether this had something to do with The Plan. But no, the timing was just coincidental as they were merely stopping by to witness the start of the rally. There were no further changes or additions to the rally book at this time, so we were released back to our bikes to await the top of the hour.
At T minus five minutes, all riders were getting seated on their bikes. Engines were started with two minutes to go. And we’re off!
The police did a decent job of getting us all out of there, but several of us got held up at another light just before the onramp to I-80. My first bonus would be in Cody WY, just under 400 miles from the start, up near Yellowstone National Park. I’d be on the federal highway system for a few hours to start my rally.
As a bunch of us turned westbound onto the interstate, I spotted Jim Owen continuing by himself north into Cheyenne. That sight would entertain my thoughts for a while on the road, wondering where in the heck he was headed through city traffic. It’s always interesting to watch where people scatter to and who’s around you on your own route. You wonder how and when your paths will eventually diverge (and re-converge!) or when someone will need a break, or gas compared to you. Eventually, we almost always end up alone, one way or the other. This early in the rally, on a long highway stretch like this, you can afford to wonder about the possibilities to keep your mind occupied!
There was quite a large bunch of us for those first few miles of I-80, then exiting northbound onto I-25. Looks like heading north was a popular choice! We quickly cleared out of the city onto open highway. I had planned my route aggressively, and knew I had to keep a decent average speed where possible in order to pull it off. Luckily the speed limits out west are much more accommodating to chewing up miles, so I opened the throttle a bit and gradually worked my way up through the pack. Very shortly, I actually came riding up behind Ken, which I never thought could happen in a rally! 😉
Since we’d linked our Senas during the odometer check yesterday, I pushed the button to give it a try and what do you know, we were connected and chatting just like that! We usually don’t discuss our route plans this early in the rally, so we chit-chatted about the start and other miscellany while we were still in range of each other, for the next 50 miles or so. After the highway began it’s long curve to the west towards Casper, our connection became spotty as we lost line-of-sight through the hills, then eventually cut off for good. There were options to turn north sooner to chase bonuses in northeast Wyoming, so figured he’d probably gone off in that direction.
I caught up to one final lone rider around Casper, who was pulling off the highway (for fuel, most likely), and he was the last rider I saw for the next few hours. I left the interstate behind now as well and continued west on two-lane US 20 at that point. Somewhere along this stretch, I spotted pronghorns off to the side, lending a bit of a thrill to see local fauna. A small wayside area in the vicinity of Hiland provided my first opportunity to get off the bike for a quick nature stop, which I kept to under three minutes. It was all about remaining focused and in the groove!
US 20 makes a sharp right turn to the north in Shoshoni, and the surrounding terrain gets much more interesting. The Boysen Reservoir, which lies almost entirely within the Wind River Indian Reservation, comes into view on the left as you start to roll over some gentle hills towards the small mountain range looming ahead. Having never ridden this section of road before, I figured I’d be going up and over them hills next, and looked forward to getting off the flats!
Little did I know. After a final pass close to the water through Boysen State Park, the stunning entrance to Wind River Canyon was revealed, leading me literally through the mountains! The sheer height of the canyon walls upon entering is dizzying after riding flat landscape for the past three hours. Despite the rally clock, I slowed down to take in the beauty, knowing that this was probably going to be one of the prettiest riding days of the entire rally. This was my first run along this particular stretch of US 20, and I’d really had no clue what a treat I was in for!
Quickly ducking through a couple of short tunnels blasted through the protruding cliffs, I emerged fully into the gorgeous canyon. The next 10 miles was an absolute feast for the soul, of scenery and sweeping curves presenting that age-old motorcyclist’s dilemma – look up or down? From gentler, vegetation-covered slopes, to vertical rock faced cliffs on every side, carved by the beautiful Wind River. I was exclaiming with joy into my helmet the whole length of the canyon.
Cool trivia: the river changes name to the Bighorn River upon exiting the canyon at Wedding of the Waters – a unique anomaly in geographic naming practices.
Finally exiting the canyon into more open terrain, I quickly came into the town of Thermopolis, an interesting name bringing to mind ancient Greek volcanoes (well to my mind at least). I had first intended to visit this town as a possible rest stop on the 2017 How the West Was Won rally, before having that adventure suddenly cut short by a randy wild bovine up in Yellowstone. There is a small, yet distinctive lone peak overlooking the town called Roundtop Mountain, which looks like a small volcano.
Here I pulled in for my first fuel stop of the rally, which I kept to a satisfying six minutes, including restroom. In the center of town, I turned left/northwest on WY 120, skirting in front of Roundtop. It was a beautiful ride up through Bighorn Basin, especially after crossing the Greybull River. Looming in the distance, Heart Mountain provided a stunning backdrop for the vegetated green flats and roadside wildflowers along the highway here.
Route 120 hits US 14 at a T-intersection across from Yellowstone Regional Airport, where I turned left to head into downtown Cody. This is a big tourist and outdoors town, playing up its place in western history with a wide main boulevard with all manner of saloons, shops, and hotels. Adding this to my list of places I’d like to visit again at some point. I worked my way patiently through the busy parts to the other side of town, and pulled into the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. My first bonus of the rally is ANA20 – a statue of the Shoshone woman, Sacagawea, explorer and guide on the Lewis and Clark expedition.
This would be the westernmost and largest-point bonus I would claim for this leg of the rally. There were a couple more large bonuses up in Helena MT that might have swayed me to choose a different route by chasing several other big rocks in the western states, but most of the roads through Yellowstone and Red Lodge MT were closed to the public at this time due to a recent flooding disaster, and I didn’t want to run the risk of road closures.
So as planned, I rode back through Cody on US 14 and proceeded east through more agricultural landscape. It was pretty riding, but around the town of Burlington there were some construction zones with long stretches of grooved pavement. Usually not a big problem, but this road crew had left some pretty abrupt transitions between the grooved sections and the good pavement left over small bridges and culverts. These were giving me serious jolts even when I slowed down a bit. Just past town, about 10 miles short of Greybull, I hit the mother of all pavement edges, looked down a minute or so later, and realized my Garmin XT GPS was gone! Ah fuck!
I pulled over to the narrow shoulder (though there’s not really much traffic out there to speak of) and did a careful inventory of all the nooks and crannies of the bike and my clothing, just to be sure the device wasn’t still stuck on something. Nope not there – it must be back near that last cliff I rode over. I pulled a u-ey and cruised slowly back in the opposite lane, figuring it could have landed and skidded off to either side of the road. A couple cars actually went by from either direction while I was looking, and I just hoped they wouldn’t run over the GPS if it was in the road!
I’d almost made it back to the scene of the crime, when I spotted the GPS lying face down over on the other shoulder. Hoping for a miracle, I wheeled around and parked. Luckily, there were barely a couple scratches on the casing and the screen was just fine! So far so good…pressed the power button and … YES! It’s alive! 🎉
Wow, what luck – the device could easily have gone careening into the bushes or into the middle of the lanes and gotten run over by one of those cars. I do have a stormy relationship with the XT and wouldn’t have cried too hard if it got broken on any other day, but it’s comforting to have continuity once you’re in the middle of a rally.
The GPS locked firmly back into the cradle, making me wonder what had actually caused it to get released. This is the first time such a thing has happened with any of my Garmins. The windshield had been flapping quite a bit over those big bumps, so I believe that the lip on my center air vent was actually contacting the GPS release button if the shield was at just the right height. I’d need to pay attention to my windshield height from now on!
Entering Greybull, I immediately passed Ken on his FJR going in the opposite direction! He didn’t spot me, so I called him up to say hello and warn him about the pavement issues he had ahead of him. A few hours into the rally now, it was clear we were running bonuses in a very different order, so we chatted a bit about our general plans. He was coming from Gillette (up ahead on my route) and going for several of the big bonuses down through Utah and Colorado after collecting the large points for Sacagawea in Cody. He’d been having a great riding day as well, and we both exclaimed about the scenery. He’d also seen a dead moose along the route and told me to keep my eyes peeled for wildlife as evening came on.
Greybull seemed familiar, and then I got quite excited when I realized that I was about to ride though Bighorn National Forest on US 14. I had run this beautifully scenic and curvy stretch of pavement in the opposite direction, during the 2019 IBR. That time it was right at dawn as I’d tackled the twisties rising up from Dayton on the far side. Now, it was getting close to sunset and I looked forward to seeing the route again from a new angle and time of day.
The mountains loomed ahead as I drew near quickly and then entered amongst them into gorgeous Shell Canyon. Another one of those darn impossible choices: trying to gape at all the sheer rock walls, while enjoying the twisty switchbacks rising steeply up through the canyon. It had already been getting cooler as the day waned, and now the higher elevation was making things downright chilly, which I felt especially in my hands. However, I can’t work the phone camera very well with thicker gloves, so I decided to just put up with it for the time being.
Because I was often passing slower vehicles and trying to keep the pace up, I decided to focus more on the ride and not stop for many photos though here. Nothing worse than passing a cager, then stopping for an awesome photo opp and having him drive past so you have to repeat the whole process! However, once I was up on the plateau, and spotted a few cars all pulled over to the side at the same spot, I had to slow down for a gander. Holy moose! A baby moose!
I pulled right over and snapped a few shots of mama and her adorable offspring munching yummy grass in the meadow, scarcely able to believe my luck. I’ve only ever seen a few moose in my life (and eaten a couple – yum!) and certainly never a juvenile. It was worth the extra few minutes just watching them do their thing, and exchanging smiles with the other folks (most with big fancy cameras) who were stopped nearby for the show.
I motored onward, only to pull over a quarter mile later because now there were TWO MORE MOOSE, a couple bulls. One was having a lie-down and just watching the funny humans go by, I guess. So neat!
Shortly after moving on again, I did spot the dead moose that Ken had mentioned lying in the shoulder of the road (how can you miss it!). I pulled over for a quick look and to get an idea of the sheer size of the animal… I’d hate to see the damage on the vehicle that hit him.
The long twisty switchbacks down the east side of the range began at last. I remember how much fun it had been gunning it up these curves at dawn with no traffic back in ’19. It was harder to pass cars ahead on the frequent curves, but I picked my way forward where possible to keep my pace up. The speed limit through most of Bighorn NF was a theoretical 55, I think, though it’s pretty hard to maintain that in the twisties. I had lost a little time overall, based on average speed and the couple photo stops. No problem, it was worth it!
Coming down into the Tongue River Valley, I passed through the small towns of Dayton and then Ranchester. Then picked up I-90 for a few miles down into the city of Sheridan WY, to nab my next bonus. It’s always a bit frustrating to bring your riding down a notch for the urban areas after running free through the open country, but Sheridan was a new place for me with more of that interesting western vibe. After several blocks down the main drag, the GPS led me to a municipal park containing bonus AED16, a statue commemorating one Edward Whitney, a local benefactor.
The rally book is filled with paragraph upon paragraph of descriptions and quotes about the various groups and persons honored by the bonus locations we would be visiting. Some are more familiar than others. After reading the tidbit on Mr. Whitney, I still wasn’t quite sure what he was all about, so some post-rally Googling turned up a bit more about his life and legacy. He’s certainly a founding father of Sheridan, though turns out he’s a Massachusetts native like me, which is a cool connection. Aside from living a very full life of travel and means, he left a unique will behind after his death, creating a foundation from his significant estate that still benefits the citizens of the Sheridan area to this day.
It should have been a quick mile back out to the interstate, but I was caught on the wrong side of the railroad tracks, blocked by a long freight train coming though. As I waited, I noticed the big old steam locomotive sitting in a small part to my right. I spotted a small ID plate on the front “MD 20-20”, which struck me as amusing. I snapped a pic to share with the Mason-Dixon 20-20 rally community later on. You just never can tell when an unexpected delay will result in an equally unexpected memorable moment or sight.
I later learned this is CB&Q steam locomotive #5631, built in 1940. No idea what the MD 20-20 designation actually means here.
That pickup truck in front of me took its dear sweet time after the train had passed, so the half mile or so to the freeway seemed like an age. Finally, I was back on I-90 for a long run eastbound. It was closing on 22:00 back on the east coast, so I caught up with Charlotte by phone before her bedtime.
We had noticed, over the course of the day, that the group satellite tracker page on spotwalla.com was doing something a little bit different (this is Paul Tong after all!). In the IBR, they usually assign random numbers to the different riders’ markers on the map, in addition to delaying the actual location updates, to obfuscate the exact whereabouts of any particular rider at a given time.
Well apparently, Paul (or someone) decided that numbers were just not fun enough, and assigned amusing names to each rider’s marker. Based on my current position, I had apparently been dubbed “I Hate Wind”, perhaps as a nod to my unfortunate weather incident yesterday. 😆 I asked Char to grab screenshots of the group Spotwalla page over the course of the rally, to help tell the story later. Here was the rider scatter pattern at about 20:00 MDT:
I took my exit into Gillette WY around twilight, and navigated to City Hall, located on a rather nondescript road away from the more commercial areas. Here I snagged my first George Washington bonus, APR90 – a statue of the president sitting on a bench with a sword in hand, and a satisfied little grin on his face.
The first photo was taken from the saddle, but I remembered that Ken had mentioned something on our last call about an email from the rallymaster about photo angles. I got off the bike to stretch and pulled up Gmail on my phone. I found the email in question, which was a generous reminder from Paul that photos would only be accepted if it was clear we made an effort to reproduce the same angle as in the sample photograph from the rally book.
Some rallies are more specific about that than others, so I know I’ll need to pay more attention. While in shorter rallies, I generally prefer to do everything on the bike when possible, I don’t mind getting off the bike during the longer events, as it allows for a combined stretch break after long hours in the saddle. I was pretty sure my first couple of photos would be OK. I quickly reviewed the photo via the app, got off the bike, and walked over to get a better matched photo of George. That starts my multiplier at 1, so now every non-GW bonus would be worth at least 75 extra points from here on out.
I needed fuel and also felt like Gillette would be a good place to take my first meal bonus. The next bonus is in Rapid City SD and there wasn’t a whole lot in the way of civilization between here and there. I found a nearby gas station around the block and pulled in to fill the tanks. I didn’t immediately see any restaurants around that met my needs, so I checked Google and found a Mickey D’s right by the interstate. Darkness was coming on quickly, so it was a perfect time to stop and rest my body and eyes a bit, while mentally preparing for the night riding conditions coming up.
Similar to my experience in the Heart of Texas rally, the 45-minute meal bonuses were being used as exponential modifiers to our rest bonus points. The number (N) of meal breaks we took would multiply our rest points times 2N. There were three meal bonuses available on this leg so I was shooting for the 8x multiplier. One of the breaks had to be taken today before midnight. I try to make use of the time to review my route progress and look for adjustments while I’m eating, so I look for fairly quiet and roomy establishments, easy in easy out. So that often means fast food.
I pulled into a spot right around 21:00 and was briefly concerned that there might be no dine-in allowed, as has been the case at several McDonald’s I’ve tried to visit after dark during the pandemic. Luckily they were open for another hour, so I started my meal bonus timer in the app, grabbed my laptop and paperwork, and headed inside. I ordered a chicken sandwich, fries, and small decaf, cleaned myself up in the washroom, and set about getting the bonus photo of my receipt with my flag.
I munched while reviewing my route, and it felt good to have a warm meal and coffee inside me after a long day riding hard. I was running pretty close to my estimated schedule, which was encouraging. It had been a fantastic day of riding around Wyoming and I was in high spirits despite the late hour. It was going to be hard to top today’s scenery and roads as I started heading east.
Tonight’s plan was to ride straight through the night, stopping for a roadside nap as needed. I verified which roads I’d be taking from Rapid City up to Bismarck ND, and I knew I’d need to find someplace to stop in-between the two. It looked like a very rural route, so I figured that would make it easy to find a spot to lie down away from people. That was pretty much all I needed to do at this point, so I was packed and ready to leave when my 45 minutes were up.
Another 140 miles through the night on I-90 to I-190 got me into Rapid City, South Dakota just before midnight. As I cruised down a wide boulevard, I spotted statues on the sidewalks here and there, and remembered hearing that there was one for every US president scattered around the city blocks. Apparently, it’s called the City of Presidents project, a tie-in to nearby Mount Rushmore.
The streets were still buzzing a bit with Saturday night carousers, but there was little traffic, and I followed the magenta GPS line to bonus APR81 without any delay. This was my second Washington bonus in a row, which means my multiplier will not increase for this one. Try as I might, I simply hadn’t been able to work my route to nab a bonus in between here and Gillette, but I was collecting it for its own points and combo value.
Backtracking on I-90 to Sturgis, I pulled off to fuel up at the same station I’d used during my 48-10 certification ride in 2020. Looks like the hotel next door where we’d stayed that night had already changed brands since then. I wasn’t quite on empty, but from the looks of the map, there was a whole lot of nothing along my planned route to North Dakota, and I didn’t want to get caught out for gas.
That turned out to be a wise decision, as state route 79 did indeed seem to lead me into the middle of nowhere. A two-laner, it led me through miles and miles of nothingness in full darkness. I was riding through the void. No towns and not even any paved crossroads to speak of. Certainly no vehicles on the road with me at this time of night. At the time, it felt a bit claustrophobic, but later I checked out Google Street View to see what it looks like and it is actually wide open prairie and ranchlands as far as you can see. Crazy how your mind perceives things, especially when tired.
With nothing to look at beyond the glare of my own LED-generated light bubble, I began to feel the weariness of the day’s ride set in, with the standard telltale signs that I needed to find a place to nap. The trouble was, there was literally no place to pull over. The road was well-crowned, with a high speed limit, and the shoulders only a couple feet wide in most places. I wasn’t passing any public facilities or even commercial parking lots of any kind that I could see – it was just road and more road, with ditches on either side. So I kept on going, at a much reduced speed, as I looked for someplace to rest.
I barely registered crossing into North Dakota, don’t recall if there was even a sign or not, but saw that I was now riding ND route 22. A bigger road was coming up soon on the GPS, which turned out to be US 12. Looks like I’ll only be on it for a few miles, so I hoped to find someplace to pull over near the little town of Reeder. However, while riding by that wayside community, I didn’t notice any spots that looked safe or private enough for resting, so I pushed on a bit further until reaching my next turn to continue north on ND 22.
Right then, I spotted a gravel road opposite my turn with what looked like a wide open dirt lot area close to the intersection. I didn’t see any houses or building lights around anywhere and it was dead quiet, being 02:30, so pulled over into the entranceway for that lot and switched off the bike. Brr, it was cold out – down in the 40s! But I needed rest, so I quickly set my alarm for 30 minutes, got something to cushion behind my neck and laid down next to the bike, taking a literal dirt nap!
Bonus stops today: 4