Day 41-42: Beach, North Dakota to Dickinson, North Dakota

The Badlands Westgate Motel, North Dakota. I had the room on the right end.

Leaving the Badlands Westgate motel in Beach, ND, I rode back to the highway to pick up some Gatorade. I didn’t want to be out there on the prairie with just water. The heat here has been extreme and the body needs more than just water.

The day proved too hot and there was a big climb out of Medora, North Dakota. Much of today’s ride is on Interstate highway. There are areas where this is no way to get from point A to point B without using the interstates, so they allow it. Most of the time it is from one exit to another, but sometimes one has to cross exits and caution is the rule. It all works well as long as one pays close attention to traffic.

I planned on stopping in Medora for lunch. If the previous day had not been so hot, I would have been there, instead of Beach. I’m glad I stayed at Beach, Medora was more of a tourist town and everything was priced accordingly. My lunch was a potato skin appetizer and lemonade and it came to $16.00. Sticker shock!

The climb out of Medora was long and hot. By mid-afternoon, the temperature was 103° F (39.4° C) and I was fading. About two miles out from Belfield, ND, I was riding along, lost in misery, when I heard a loud screech and then something blasted by my head, only inches away. I can honestly admit to being very shaken, it came out of nowhere. It was a hawk or falcon and it was angry, very angry.

Maybe some of my birding friends can identify the bird?

It swooped up into the sky, screaming all the way, and then, at about a thousand feet, it turned for another attack. I stopped. Watching, and not believing my eyes this bird came in at full force and speed, maybe 100 MPH (160 kmh) and hit my helmet as it blasted through again, screaming all the way. It took a chunk out of my helmet and knocked my headlamp to the side. This was too much, this bird was in full attack mode.

Birds of prey have intensely sharp talons. Their handlers that work with them wear protective clothing for just that reason. I didn’t want to get hit in the neck or elsewhere with this crazed bird. I grabbed my full water bottle and camera figuring on the third attack I would knock this bird silly. As if sensing I now had a defense, it stayed a little further away, but kept screaming and circling.

For the next mile or so, stopping when I thought there may be another attack, I kept an eye on the sky and eventually escaped my attacker. In Belfield, ND, I stopped and asked the women working in the convenience store if there had been reports of bird attacks. She said no, and I showed her the video on the phone, stunned, she couldn’t figure it out either. I also noticed lots of  these birds dead along the road, probably hit by vehicles they were attacking. Weird. Alfred Hitchcock would have been pleased, I’m sure.

When I had entered Belfield, the thermometer at the gas station showed 103°. I drank several quarts of cold drinks. Leaving, the wind had picked up and it was now much cooler, only 100° F. Wanting to reach Dickinson before dark, I charged on.

After about three miles I just knew I had to take a break, the heat was getting to me. I spotted the only shade for miles, a lonely hay bale roll. I leaned the bike against it, took out my sleeping pad and laid in the only shade I could find. I immediately fell asleep, for about 40 minutes.

The only shade for miles around!

After drinking a whole bottle of Gatorade and the nap, I was ready for the last 15 miles or so.

I arrived in Dickinson just before sunset. I scrambled around, looking for a motel that I could stay in for two nights. The first place I checked was full, the next I couldn’t find anyone that was working the office, so I left and finally, at the Motel 6, I found a room. For a Motel 6, the room was really nice. I have a king sized bed and a big, soft, easy chair recliner. Life is good.

Day two in Dickinson, ND:

I had a very much needed restful night. I awoke, went for a waffle breakfast across the street and then returned and slept for three more hours.

Jane had shipped me a new sleeping bag via On the way into town last night I received a call from Fed-Ex. They couldn’t deliver the package to the Post Office and wanted to know if they should return it, or if they could hold it and I could pick it up? I told them to hold it, of course. This morning I discovered that their depot was right across the street from the motel, so I walked over and picked up my new sleeping bag. It is a bit larger than my current one, but that is because most of the down filling is now gone out of the old one.

The new bag is a mummy bag that can zip together with another bag of like design and will help keep Jane warm when we hike the Francigena Camino in Italy. I will need the warmth as I near the east coast later in this ride.

Speaking of the ride, I often get asked: “Which is more difficult, hiking or biking?” It would seem biking would be easier, it is not. There is a lot more weight to pull up the hills and headwinds can really add huge amounts of work to the travel. I may have addressed this in another posting. I’m so glad to be getting out of the mountains and, hopefully, the travel will be easier. Now I have to watch for the prairie headwinds, I hope they’re tailwinds. With a good tailwind, this could be easier than hiking.

This second day involves eating. I went to the Country Kitchen restaurant up the street and had a fantastic chicken penne (pasta) dish. After hitting a million diners where burgers are the main meal, this was a welcomed change. It was very good and I even followed up with a small sundae and hot tea. I almost felt human again. The server was very nice and attentive and made me feel like the only customer in there (I practically was).

After going back to the room and updating this blog, it was time to go to the Jaycees Park in town and see how my ham radio would work out. So, just before sunset, I arrived at the park and started setting up. The procedure is simple. First, I connect a partially filled water bottle to the antenna string and toss it up into a tree. This, in turn, is used to pull up the antenna wire.

Next, I hook up the cables, the Chromebook computer, and the battery power and I’m ready to go. Tonight was a good night and conditions worked well. I talked with folks in Illinois, West Virginia, Virginia, Indiana, and Montana. The Montana contact was a bit difficult because I’m actually too close for the short waves. The station was AG7KZ, Brian, the fellow that helped me out with electronic repairs when I was in Missoula, Montana. His antenna, like mine, isn’t very impressive so it was fun to make contact.

I tore everything down around 10 pm and rode back to the motel having finished a good day. The only place I could find an evening meal was MacDonalds, so got something to go and ended my day.

With luck, I will make it to either Glen Ullin, MT (50 miles) or New Salem, MT (about 65 miles) tomorrow. If the weather holds, I should be in Minnesota by next Monday or at least close. With 42 days I haven’t had to ride in the rain yet.


Author: Dennis Blanchard

Dennis Blanchard was born in Bristol, Connecticut. He and his wife Jane moved to New Hampshire in 1980 where he has climbed thirty 4000-foot mountains, biked the trails and enjoyed the wilderness. Never living very far from the Appalachian Trail, Dennis was always aware of the seductive siren’s call to hike it. Dennis is an electronics engineer who has freelanced for amateur radio, technical and motorcycle adventure magazines. He now lives in Sarasota, Florida.

3 thoughts on “Day 41-42: Beach, North Dakota to Dickinson, North Dakota”

  1. I spent much time in Dickenson…My receive site had a VHF TV Tropospheric Curtain Antenna just west of town.. You are now in Praire Wasp territory…more of problem then birds!

      1. Yes.. Invented by a Canadian…a VHF antenna cut to frequency…pointed at a reflector curtain..long range over the horizon pick up of Bismark from Dickenson…technology in the middle of ND..enjoy the with the wind at your back.

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